Talk about great timing …
Union City’s open date last Friday has helped the 10th-ranked Golden Tornadoes both heal from a rash of injuries as well as allowed them to re-focus on two important remaining regular season games that will be critical to their postseason positioning.
Wins against South Fulton Friday and in their regular season finale vs. Humboldt would give UC (5-3) an automatic berth in the Class 1A playoffs and likely a first-round bye in the West quadrant of the 24-team field.
The Tornadoes have already locked up at least a wild-card postseason berth but would likely benefit from another week off once the postseason begins to start what is hopefully a deep playoff run.
On the injury front, three two-way starters who were out in Union City’s thrilling 34-28 overtime victory over Lake County in their last outing, have all been cleared to practice and will see action Friday night vs. the Red Devils at War Memorial Stadium.
Fullback/linebacker Keylon Hyde, who needs nine yards to become the all-time leading rusher in UCHS history, should be back in some role. Hyde, who suffered a shoulder injury vs. Trenton on Sept. 28 after being sidelined with a concussion the week before against Dresden, had another medical issue last week when he had to have several teeth pulled.
Head coach Darren Bowling said Hyde “will be worked in” at fullback, but was non-committal on whether he or backup Ricky Henry would start vs. South Fulton. Henry has been impressive in a fill-in role for the Twisters, rushing for more than 80 yards against both Trenton and LC.
Slot/defensive back Khiry Lewis will be a “go” — though maybe not in a starter’s role. Lewis had surgery for a broken finger the day before the Lake County game, an injury he suffered against Peabody.
Lewis, the fastest player on the UC team who played his first two years at South Fulton, could also see action at split-end, according to Bowling.
Kane Taylor — a regular on the offensive line and at linebacker — for sure will be ready for duty Friday, his coach said.
Taylor was believed to have suffered a serious foot injury against Trenton, but further tests revealed the issue to be just a bruise. He practiced last week and has shown no ill effects this week in drills.
Hyde and Lewis will be a part of Senior Night ceremonies prior to Friday night’s 7:30 kickoff.
STILL IN IT — A win, and they’re in.
It might not even take that.
As of the Week 8 projections listed on the TSSAA’s website, South Fulton is the last team in the Class 1A state playoffs despite its disappointing 3-6 overall record.
It is generally known as an unwritten rule that teams with four wins in the lower classifications will get in under the state’s still-hard-to-fathom “Z-Plan” playoff format.
The Red Devils would all but seal the deal with a win over Union City on Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.
A loss, however, does not necessarily knock out the Redmen. But, it would force the South Fulton contingent to watch for the outcomes of games that would otherwise be meaningless not only to Red Devil fans in particular but rural West Tennessee fans in general.
There are three teams right on SF’s heels for that final playoff spot in 1A — Cornersville, Red Boiling Springs and Sunbright, all with 3-5 records and two games remaining.
After SF plays at Union City this weekend, the Red Devils’ regular season will be complete.
If the Devils lose that finale to the state’s 10th-ranked 1A team, then the outcomes of those other three teams will be closely monitored in the SF camp.
Likely, the final playoff spot will come down to the final week, and it could be centered on one game in particular.
All three teams have tough Week 9 tests as Cornersville travels to Collinwood (6-2), RBS hosts defending 2A state champion Friendship Christian (7-1) and Sunbright is at home against Oneida (7-1). Losses for all three then delays the bracket spot until Week 10, where Sunbright hosts Wartburg Central (3-5), RBS entertains Trousdale County (5-3) and Cornersville visits Richland (1-7).
RBS is likely to lose its final two games, Sunbright will be the underdog against Oneida while its game with Wartburg will be, at best, a pick-em, and Cornersville is not favored against Collinwood.
So, after 10 straight weeks of trying to determine its own fate, South Fulton might not know if it has a postseason until the result of the Cornersville-Richland game is posted.
See, it makes perfect sense.
ADJUSTED GOALS — Having started the season with promising expectations due to a large senior class, the assertion of head coach Shawn Jackson that “there would be no significant drop-off” and hoping to the build off the success of last year’s record-breaking campaign, Obion County Central has instead struggled.
Needing wins against Haywood Friday and next week’s vs. eighth-ranked and once-beaten Dyersburg to even have a chance for a fourth consecutive playoff campaign, the Rebels instead are now focused on another immediate goal — a win in the final home game for more than 20 seniors.
“That’s our priority right now,” Jackson said after OC was beaten handily by No. 2 Covington 56-6 last week. “That bunch has been with us — most of them — for four years, and that would be a great way for us to honor them and their commitment and contributions to our program.”
For those who have been with the Central program for four years, that group has currently posted a 22-20 record during that time heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
Included during that period have been two winning seasons — 6-5 in 2009 and 9-3 a year ago — and just the second playoff win in school history last year.
and Kevin Weaks
Published in The Messenger 10.17.12