Rebs win vs. UC has much meaning

Rebs win vs. UC has much meaning
Rebs win vs. UC has much meaning

Obion Central’s Skylar Hopkins takes down Keylon Hyde with help from Kevin Cumana during Friday’s victory.
Shawn Jackson called it “the first good team we’ve beat.”
To Obion Central’s players and fans, it was far more than that.
The Rebel Nation earned bragging rights for just the 11th time in the 49-year history of its county rivalry with Union City, dominating the second half on the way to a 19-14 victory over the seventh-ranked Tornadoes before a huge War Memorial Stadium crowd Friday night.
“I really don’t see the rivalry aspect, so I guess that part of it is not a big deal to me,” Jackson, who got his first win in three tries in the series, said afterward. “(Union City head coach) Darren (Bowling) and I are friends, and I just see it as us beating a good football team and a good football program.
“I know it’s big for our kids and our fans, though. And I’m glad they’re getting to enjoy it. We needed it going into the bye week and the meat portion of our schedule with nothing but district games coming up.”
The win was OC’s sixth in the last nine meetings between the two schools and its fourth in the last five games on the Twisters’ home turf.
More importantly, it snapped a three-game Central losing streak against quality competition and was achieved by righting several of the wrongs that led to those previous back-to-back-to-back losses.
Easily the most noteworthy areas of the Rebels’ improved play was on defense, where they shut down a UC offense that came in averaging 33 points per game and nearly 400 yards-per-game in their first three outings.
After giving up nearly 200 first-half yards and a pair of touchdowns, though, the much-maligned OC unit stuffed the Tornadoes’ triple-option attack to the tune of 23 yards and one first down over the final two quarters.
Noseguard Skylar Hop-kins spearheaded Obion Central’s inspired play with 11 tackles in the middle to essentially close down the Twisters’ midline offense. Linebacker Joe Ferguson (14 total stops) and safety Tanner Miller (11) were in on numerous plas as well, with Jackson especially lauding Hopkins for his standout play.
“More than anything else, we just got lined up right,” the Rebel head coach said of his defense that had given up 36.6 points and 462 yards-per-game over its last three outings vs. unbeatens Sikeston (Mo.), Crockett County and Cape Central (Mo.).
“We had a couple of breakdowns in the first half and Union City took advantage of those. In the second half, we played responsibility well and did a lot of things right.”
The Rebels also made some huge plays offensively — especially on third down and long yardage — converting on four separate occasions on either third- or fourth-down and 10 or more yards.
Quarterback Trey Phipps was the triggerman on several of those key pickups, hitting on 16-of-25 passes for 229 yards in all. Phipps, who also ran for two of his team’s three TDs on short keepers, picked Nathan Ward as his favorite receiver with Ward snagging seven catches for 86 yards. Four of those grabs resulted in first downs.
Scatback LaDevin Fair gave OC nice balance with 134 yards rushing on 27 carries and scored the Rebs’ other touchdown on a 13-yard run in the third period.
On the flip side, Union City was its own worst enemy at times with nearly 100 yards in penalties, one that negated a long kickoff return for a touchdown by Keylon Hyde. At least two more infractions wiped away big gainers, and a huge pass interference flag on 3rd-and-17 kept Obion Central’s second scoring drive alive.
The Golden Tornadoes’ inability to make key stops on third and fourth down was critical, and a pair of turnovers and a drop of what looked to be a sure long touchdown pass after a goal-line stand midway through the third period also was telling.
“We just couldn’t overcome all the mistakes we made,” said UC head coach Darren Bowling, who suffered his first loss in the series in his third game in Purple and Gold after toiling for four seasons (2003-06) at Obion Central. “The penalties really killed us.
“If we could’ve moved the chains in the second half like we did in the first, it might’ve been a different outcome. We had some poor play-calling in the second half, and that was my fault. And Keylon (Hyde) getting dinged up there in the first half slowed us down, and I don’t think we ever really recovered from that.”
Bowling admitted that fatigue may’ve been a factor in the second half too, after his troops — most of whom went both ways while the Rebels two-platooned — were outgained 237-23 over the final two periods.
“Yeah, probably so,” the coach responded when asked if his team tired. “Fatigue hurts you a lot more defensively than it does on offense. It slows you down, and you can’t afford that when you’re trying to stop good backs like (LaDevin) Fair and a good passing offense.
“We just couldn’t get off the field defensively in key situations there in the second half.”
A 61-yard pitch-and-catch from Phipps to Steven Patton on the second play of the fourth quarter on which the OC receiver broke and tackle and sped down the sideline and into the redzone, set up the game-deciding touchdown.
Three plays later, Phipps scored the second of his two TDs, carrying a keeper over right guard with 10:40 to play. Ward’s point-after accounted for what would be the final margin.
Union City got its only first down of the second half on its ensuing possession, but a poor option pitch thwarted any hopes of another frantic finish for the Tornadoes, who’d been involved in such finishes in each of their previous games.
Justin Wiles ended any last-second drama with an interception of Chase Bowling with 53 seconds to play, setting in motion a celebration of Central players and fans.
Union City took a 14-6 halftime lead with a pair of second-quarter scores.
Bowling capped 10-play, 69-yard drive with a two-yard QB keeper on the second play of the second quarter to put UC on the scoreboard first.
Victor Panetta’s successful PAT was the difference then for the Twisters after Central answered with the first of Phipps’ short scoring runs and after a trick play on the conversion failed.
A 29-yard pitch-and-catch from Phipps to Mason McGrew on 4th-and-11 set up the OC touchdown that came at the 8:59 mark of the second period.
Union City wasted no time in answering and stretching its lead to 14-6 at the intermission as Bowling threw deep to Travis Rutland who used a pair of nice stiff-arms to ward off a Rebel defensive back and complete a 76-yard scoring play.
The second half though, belonged to Obion Central.
After seeing their initial possession stopped at the Tornado one after 12 plays and 55 yards, the county locals stuffed the host team and immediately got the ball back.
Fair, who kept the 40-yard touchdown sequence alive with an 18-yard catch of a Phipps pass on 3rd-and-10, did the honors on a 13-yard scoring scamper two plays after a pass interference penalty on Union City.
A game-tying two-point conversion pass failed, leaving the gap at 14-12 at 4:31 of the third stanza.
The first of two UC turnovers — a Hyde fumble recovered by Hopkins on the first snap after Hyde’s 75-yard kickoff return for an apparent touchdown was called back by holding  — gave Central the ball back and killed any momentum the Twisters might have had.
Linebacker Brett Gore and cornerback Chris Boucher were both in on nine stops, while Kelly Scales and Trey Maddox were credited with eight solo tackles apiece to top the Union City tackle chart.
The Twisters (2-2) will host Trinity Christian Academy this week, while OC — following an open date Friday — travels to Covington, Oct. 1, for its next game.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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