No-quit Twisters oust LC

No-quit Twisters oust LC
No-quit Twisters oust LC | No-quit Twisters oust LC
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
Never quit.
That simple-but-pointed motto has served Union City well in a season that has seen as many downs as ups in what has been a sometimes-trying year filled with injuries, youth-related inconsistency and mistakes and a murderous schedule.
And it served the Tornadoes well at the most critical time of the 2011 season.
UC rallied from a three-touchdown deficit in the second quarter and avenged a heartbreaking regular season loss with a rousing 42-33 win over Lake County Friday night in Round 2 of the Class A playoffs.
The stirring comeback on the Falcons’ home turf got Union City to the break-even mark record-wise (6-6) for the first time this season but, more importantly, has the fourth-seeded Twisters in the state quarterfinals where they’ll play at No. 2 West Carroll — a 35-14 winner over Gleason — this week.
Having spotted LC a 21-point lead in the first 16 minutes of Friday’s second-round rematch, the Tornadoes — rather than roll over — got off the deck and methodically battled their way back into contention and ultimately the lead on Keontre Murrell’s 32-yard interception return for a touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter.
After the Falcons closed to within a single point (34-33) and barely missed out on taking the lead when a two-point conversion was stopped inches short with 4:55 to go, UC mounted an eight-play, 58-yard touchdown march that essentially ate up the rest of the clock, a spectacular individual effort by Khiry Lewis on a 27-yard scoring run that sealed the comeback.
Darren Bowling didn’t attempt to hide a smile afterward.
“That’s the one thing about these guys, they’ve never quit,” the Twister head coach said. “Not when they were getting their brains beat out early, not when we were turning the ball over four and five and six times a game, not when our quarterback was hurt and we’d used four different centers in our first four games. There’s no quit in them. That’s why folks keep coming out to watch them.
“I’d said all along if we could just hang around and give ourselves a chance in the playoffs, when we got healthy and got some experience, I thought we could do some things. And that we’re in the quarterfinals after all this bunch has been through is amazing.”
Having been forced to throw as many as five freshmen into the mix due to injuries that included QB Travis Rutland, who missed the first five games, Union City enountered its share of lumps this season against a schedule that included three teams still playing in this week’s quarterfinals in their respective classifications — including unbeatens Huntingdon and Wayne County, who’ll meet in another Class 1A Round 3 game.
Along the way, the Tornadoes have gotten healthy and gained valuable seasoning.
More telling, they’ve limited their turnovers and self-inflicted mistakes and made plays on defense and special teams during two playoff victories than pushed them to an Elite Eight status.
Multiple examples of that was on display on Friday vs. Lake County as UC made plays in the kicking game and with its much-maligned defense that proved to be difference makers.
Lewis, who has emerged as the team’s top multi-purpose threat after transferring from South Fulton in the offseason, scored TDs three different ways.
He took a short screen pass from Rutland and darted 68 yards to paydirt to get the Twisters on the board midway through the second period, then jetted 79 yards for a touchdown with a kickoff return to knot the game at 27 late in the third period.
On his clinching scoring run with less than a minute to go, he dodged two would-be tacklers and broke through two more.
Lewis was also in on seven tackles and had an interception that closed out the first half when the Falcons were threatening to add to their 21-14 lead.
Murrell, who earlier this year had a long fumble return that helped beat Trenton, made a huge play when he stepped in front of a Nick Price pass and sped 32 yards to the endzone that gave UC the lead for good and the first time early in the fourth.
He also had a fumble recovery following a long Falcon kickoff return after Lewis’ return TD had evened the count.
“We made some big momentum-building plays after we got down by three scores,” Bowling agreed. “We had the kickoff return  and the fumble recovery. And then Keontre’s pick-six was obviously huge.”
Thundering fullback Keylon Hyde made his presence felt in the second half when he repeatedly punished Lake County tacklers and ran for 166 of his 174 yards.
Hyde, who posted his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season and has 1,651 yards for the season, had scoring runs of three and 15 yards, ran for a pair of two-point conversions, and kicked two PATs.
Lake County (7-4) dominated the early-going behind the play of Devon Jones, who scored two of his three touchdowns in the Falcons’ quick get-away. Jones ended up with 123 yards rushing and 94 yards receiving, scoring via both ways.
Price threw for 246 yards and two TDs, the other to Rafael Tyler, who had another big game vs. the Tornadoes with 121 yards on seven receptions.
Tymaine Strickland was Union City’s top tackler with eight and a forced fumble, while freshman Jamie Pirtle had seven and linebacker Brett Gore six plus a sack.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 11.14.11

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