For a coach who has looked at the Obion Central-Union City rivalry from both sides, Darren Bowling said the view is no different.
The former Rebel and current Tornado skipper, who has never been on the losing side in any of his six previous experiences in the OC-UC matchup, insists all parties involved and fans alike place equal significance on the annual matchup.
“It’s important to both sides; both obviously want to win very badly,” said Bowling, who was 4-0 against Union City while at OCCHS from 2003-06 and is 2-0 vs. the Rebels heading into Friday night’s intra-county matchup at War Memorial Stadium.
“It’s a typical rivalry game with bragging rights at stake. I think people from Obion Central and Union City generally get along with each other — I know I have friends at both places — but they really want their team to win when they play the other.”
The Union City coach insisted, however, his coaching preparations wouldn’t — and hadn’t — ever been altered when getting a team ready to play with such stakes on the line.
“I don’t get caught up in all that stuff and any talk that might be going on,” Bowling said. “I’m just trying to get a young football team ready to play in a game where there’ll be a little more emotion than usual involved.
“We’re going to do what we do, and we’re going to try to make some strides defensively toward stopping a very explosive Obion offense. Anything else, I’m not concerned with.”
On the other side, Obion Central head coach Shawn Jackson is aware of all the variables that go into such rivalry equations.
“It’s a rivalry game, and that means either team can win and anything can happen,” said Jackson, who is experiencing his third OC-UC encounter.
The Central mentor hopes the prospects of beating a program that has dominated the long-running series (38-10, UC leads) will be a boost to the Rebels, who are in need of a lift after dropping three straight games against teams that have yet to lose this season.
“I knew our schedule was front-end loaded with tough teams, and you can put Union City in there with the rest of them,” said the Obion Central mentor, whose squad has lost to 4A Missouri unbeatens Sikeston and Cape Central, and Tennessee’s third-ranked Class 4A team, Crockett County.
“I know Union City’s not the same team that won the state championship last year, but it’s a good program, and it would be a shot in the arm for us to beat them.”
Jackson went on to say that his team’s rugged schedule to-date against schools from larger classifications, wouldn’t cause his troops to look past the single-A Twisters.
“Focus won’t be an issue. We are on letdown-alert,” said the Central coach. “We’re the underdog. We know we have to play well to beat them.”
Though the Tornadoes won the last meeting at War Memorial Stadium (42-14 in 2007), OC has won three of its last four visits to Union City.
The Rebels have won three of four of the matchups to go to overtime, including a 17-14 decision in 1999 when Union City was ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 2A.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.