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War Memorial Stadium no longer scary place for UC playoff foes

War Memorial Stadium no longer scary place for UC playoff foes
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
What advantage?
The only one of the three Obion County entries with a home playoff game in Round 1, recent history suggests Union City playing within the confines of War Memorial Stadium might not necessarily be an edge for the Tornadoes.
Union City — which plays host to Memphis Academy of Health Sciences Friday night — is just 1-4 at home this season, that lone victory coming vs. winless Greenfield.
The Twisters have been outscored 161-80 in their four losses. And while those futile results have come vs. a collection of strong foes (Wayne County, Dresden, Lake County and Humboldt) that have a combined 34-6 record and three state rankings heading into the postseason, the locals’ lack of recent home dominance flies in the face of what is generally considered a decided advantage.
This year’s home struggles come on the heels of a 3-3 War Memorial Stadium record last season that included a 28-21 first-round playoff loss to Bruceton.
Those records are a far cry from what used-to-be when the Tornadoes’ turf was essentially a house of horrors for visiting competition.
Union City posted an amazing 67-4 record at home from 1992-2001 that included three consecutive unbeaten seasons (1999-2001). In fact, its only home loss from 1997-2001 — a span of 40 games — was a 10-0 setback vs. Milan in the semifinals of the Class 2A playoffs.
And while recent times have not been good at WMS, they’ve not been as bad as the 2003-04 campaigns when the Tornadoes failed to win any of 10 home games.
War Memorial Stadium first opened prior to the 1954 season, and UC’s all-time record there is 211-117-2.
• GAP NARROWED — There has a been a period of time when a playoff game vs. Memphis competition was a sure death sentence for Obion Central’s season.
Not so anymore.
In preparation for their journey to Crump Stadium and a first round Class 4A matchup with Fairley, the Rebels can gain confidence that they’ve been largely on even ground with their athletically-blessed competition in more recent times.
Central’s last three postseason games against Memphis teams have all been decided by respectable margins with their two losses by eight and six points, respectively. That includes a 34-28 loss to Fairley two years ago  and a 28-20 setback against Kingsbury in 2002.
The Rebels’ lone playoff victory in 10 previous games came in 2003 when they beat Kingsbury 24-10 in 2003.
OC’s all-time record in the playoffs vs. Bluff City entries is 1-6 with two losses each to Kingsbury and Ridgeway, and one apiece vs. Westwood and Fairley.
The average margin of those earlier losses was 35 points.
• STOPPING THE BLEED-ING — A win over Gleason would not only validate South Fulton’s regular season triumph over the Bulldogs, but would also slow down a recent disturbing late-season trend for the Red Devils.
SF has struggled miserably down the stretch during each of Kelly Spivey’s four years at the helm and will enter Friday’s game on a three-game losing skid.
The Redmen lost their last three outings a year ago — including an injury-plagued playoff setback against Huntingdon — and were 1-3 in the final month of 2009, their only victory a postseason triumph over Gleason.
South Fulton lost its final four games of Spivey’s first season (2008) after six consecutive wins to open the year and missed the playoffs.
A tougher late-season schedule and multiple injuries to an already-depleted roster have been the main, but not only, culprit in the Devils’ consistent late slide
The coach insists he has not ignored those struggles as his club heads into this postseason.
“We’ve addressed that multiple times,” Spivey claimed. “I think there are several reasons for it, but we just have to play better — no matter the circumstances.
“It’s a new season. Our slate is clean this year. I believe we’re in a good situation and in a playoff quad where if we can play like we’re capable, we can erase a lot of that.”
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Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 11.2.11

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