Union City’s Chase Bowling runs during the Twisters’ victory on Friday.
Darren Bowling cracked an ‘I told you so’ grin.
It spoke volumes, meaning the Tornado head coach didn’t have to.
Bowling was all smiles after watching his son, Chase, throw three long touchdown passes Friday night to lead 10th-ranked UC to a 29-26 victory over Huntingdon.
The win was the Twisters’ first at Paul Ward Stadium in 10 years and erased some of the bitter taste left by a last-play 29-28 loss to Trenton the week before.
And it was achieved in un-Bowling-like fashion.
Having claimed in the preseason this UC team would have to throw more efficiently out of necessity, the elder Bowling stayed true to his word — finally — after the Purple and Gold had completed just two passes in eight attempts in its first two games combined.
Shellshocking both a Mustang defense and a Union City fan base who has grown accustomed to his methodical, smash-mouth midline/veer offense, the coach uncharacteristically called for long pass plays that combined for 181 yards in all.
The younger Bowling, who completed just 19 passes all of last season ( for 331 yards and 2 TDs) while leading the Tornadoes to the Class 1A state title, hooked up with three different receivers on scoring plays that all covered 50 yards or longer.
Keontre Murrell (65 yards), Chris Boucher (50 yards) and Travis Rutland (66 yards) all were on the catching end of Bowling’s big-play paydirt aerials.
“A lot of people didn’t believe me when I said we’d throw it more this year,” Darren Bowling said after Friday’s game. “I knew we’d have to because people are going to continue to crowd the box against the run and we’re not as experienced or as good as we were last year up front.
“We didn’t necessarily throw it a lot, but we were effective when we did because people don’t expect us to pass. Credit the receivers for making good catches and good runs afterward, and Chase for making good throws.
Two of the three aforementioned connections were indeed pretty plays and well-thrown balls with a darting Boucher snatching a post route and going the distance while Rutland outjumped a Huntingdon defender on a fade pattern and running to the endzone.
The first of the touchdown plays, though, was the result of a good adjustment made by a wide-open Murrell on an underthrown effort by Bowling over the middle.
While Union City’s big plays on the offensive side were most noticeable, equally noteworthy was the Tornadoes’ improved defensive effort in the second half after the host team had scored on three of five first half possessions and taken a 20-19 intermission lead.
A ‘spirited’ halftime talk by former coordinator and current UCHS Principal Wes Kennedy, sparked considerably improved play by the defense over the final two periods and speculation that Kennedy might return to assist the program on a part-time basis the rest of the season.
Bowling confirmed as such afterward.
The Twisters allowed just 38 total yards and two first downs on Huntingdon’s first four series of the second half before Huntingdon punched in a late TD following the second of two Union City turnovers in the final seven minutes.
“We were just lifeless in the first half and Coach Kennedy really lit a fire under the kids with a passionate talk at halftime,” Bowling said. “We didn’t change anything at all. We just started hustling to the ball and playing with some desire and fire.
“And no question that was a huge key — just as big as the touchdown passes — to us being able to win the ballgame.”
Linebacker Brett Gore led the Tornado defense with 14 solo tackles, while Trey Maddox was in on nine stops, two for lost yardage. Michael Dysart — subbing for the injured Abram Carroll on the interior — had a big game with six tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Huntingdon scored a pair of first-quarter TDs on runs by Chance Carlton with UC countering with the first of Bowling’s scoring passes and a one-yard touchdown by Keylon Hyde midway through the second frame.
The Twisters held a short-lived 19-13 lead just before the half after Boucher’s score before the Mustangs punched in a six-pointer in the final seconds of the second quarter with Jorge Perez’s PAT putting them up a point at the break.
A 22-yard field goal by Victory Panetta capped Union City’s opening possession of the third period that was highlighted by a 23-yard burst by Hyde and Murrell’s 26-yard run that advanced the ball to the five. Panetta’s kick accounted for the last of three lead changes and put the Tornadoes up 22-20, though the contest was not decided until the final minute when UC recovered an onside kick and made one final first down.
“Every game is critical for us — whether they are district games or not — with the playoffs being the way the are,” Bowling added. “And it was real important for us to bounce back from last week by beating a good football team. We sort of put ourselves behind the eight-ball by losing to Trenton, but this helps.
“It’ll help our young football team to get home and play at our place next week, too, I believe. Our fans have come on the road and supported us well, but we’re ready to play at our place. And I’ve about had enough of this late-game drama stuff.”
Union City indeed plays its first game at War Memorial Stadium this season this Friday, hosting county-rival Obion Central.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.