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Champion Tornadoes heavy on Region 7-1A hardware

Champion Tornadoes heavy on Region 7-1A hardware
The All-Region 7-1A football team could well be renamed the ‘Union City All-Stars.’
League champion UC dominated the glitter unit — chosen by a vote of league coaches — honored with three MVPs, the coach of the year and eight other all-region selections.
Mr. Football finalist Colton Speed was chosen 7-1A’s overall most valuable player after leading the Twisters to a 10-2 campaign and unbeaten regular season run through the league.
The Tornadoes’ prowess in the trenches was also recognized as center Will Arnold was selected the offensive lineman of the year, while standout tackle Ronnie Fair earned the same accolade on the defensive side of the ball.
First-year head coach Darren Bowling earned the respect of his region peers and the coach of the year award for directing Union City to a 10-game winning streak and league championship.
Seniors Peter Wilkes, Brandon Easley and Julian Moss — along with juniors Josh Nicks, Kendrick Price, Jacob Worley, Stevie Gossett and Rance Barnes — all represented the Purple and Gold as first-team all-region selections.
South Fulton, which won its first six games in a program revival under rookie head coach Kelly Spivey, put four players on the all-region squad, including Corbin Hawks, Skylar Cherry, Jonathan Avent and Sam Curtis.
League runnerup Lake County had seven honorees — including multi-purpose standout Carlos Young, who was voted the offensive MVP. McKenzie, which placed third during the regular season but avenged losses to both Union City and Lake County in the playoffs on the way to the semifinals, put six on the all-league squad.
Among the Rebel honorees was Harris Laughery, picked as kicker of the year. Bruceton’s Ryan Ernsberger was chosen the league’s top punter
Greenfield linebacker Chase McMullen was recognized as the defensive MVP.
Union City’s 11-player contingent was headlined by the selections of Speed, Arnold and Fair for special distinction.
Speed accounted for nearly 2,200 all-purpose yards and 29 total touchdowns while quarterbacking the Tornadoes to the league championship. His 1,496 rushing yards were the most ever by a Union City QB.
Arnold was the anchor for a Twister line that produced more than 400 yards and nearly 38 points-per-game. Strong and agile despite carrying more than 300 pounds, he regularly opened holes in the middle of the line and often won battles against the opposition’s best defensive linemen.
Fair served as a big-play artist on the defensive side, regularly harassing opposing quarterbacks and dropping ball carriers for losses. He recorded 10 sacks and had 16 tackles for lost yards among his 60 solo stops.
Both Arnold and Fair are juniors.
The emergence of Nicks at fullback late in the year made the Tornadoes considerably tougher to defend. He rushed for 773 yards and eight TDs — averaging 9.2 yards-per-carry — and had four 100-yard games in UC’s last five outings. He also had 30 tackles, including nine for losses, and three interceptions as a safety.
Price also came on late with a pair of 100-yard rushing games and finished with 589 yards and six touchdowns. Price averaged a whopping 14 yards-per-rush and had a 96-yard touchdown dash against Gleason that was the second-longest in UCHS history.
He also shined at times as a linebacker with 29 tackles — eight behind the line — and recorded a pair of interceptions.
Worley was perhaps the Twisters’ most versatile performer with a team-high 68 tackles at linebacker, 343 rushing yards and six touchdowns, and six pass receptions for 147 yards and two more scores.
Gossett — like classmates Nicks and Price — played his best ball at the end of the year.
As a high-motor defensive end, Gossett matched Fair’s team-high sack total with 10 and had 13 of his 45 solo stops for minus-yardage. He also shined as a member of the offensive line.
Wilkes gave Union City an extra weapon on special teams with 49 made PATs and more than a dozen kickoffs that went for touchbacks. Additionally, he snagged a team-best four interceptions at safety and had 44 individual stops — mostly while playing with a bum shoulder and the effects of a knee injury suffered last season.
Easley was the Tornadoes’ top receiver on the rare occasions when UC threw the ball. Three of his 11 catches went for TDs, with those receptions going for nearly 26 yards on average. He also handled the team’s punt return duties and had 35 tackles defensively from his cornerback post.
Moss tied for fifth on the final tackle chart with 44 stops and also had five catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.
Barnes provided a physical presence in the middle at linebacker and was sorely missed over the Twisters’ final two games with an ankle injury. He finished with 31 tackles and three interceptions and also was a quality backup at fullback, where he rushed for 210 yards and a pair of TDs.
At South Fulton, Avent was an easy selection after leading the Redmen in virtually every offensive category as a running back.
The versatile junior ran for 696 yards and nine TDs, caught nine passes for 159 yards and two scores and ended up with a team-high 76 points. He also made 34 tackles defensively.
Hawks was a deserving choice, too, as a playmaker on both sides of the ball for the Devils.
Switched to quarterback from receiver for his senior season, he threw for 454 yards and seven touchdowns, ran for another 191 and three six-pointers, and grabbed a team-high four interceptions while logging 55 tackles at safety.
Cherry, SF’s unquestioned leader — according to Spivey — led the Big Red with 60 tackles at linebacker despite being hobbled with several injuries. He also had 217 rushing yards and four touchdowns as part of the team’s fullback rotation.
Curtis lived up to his billing as a possible star with his work along the defensive line and up front offensively for South Fulton. He was third on the team with 41 tackles and constantly drew double-teams and forced opposing teams to attack in the opposite direction.
Union City also had four players to receive honorable mention, including linemen Trey Maddox, Wyatt Carr, Caleb Poore and Brandon Crume.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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