By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
Beating a good team twice in the same season is tough.
Union City Middle School got it done anyway.
The Golden Tornadoes — a 28-20 winner over Martin during the regular season — topped the Panthers a second time this year 8-6 in the TMSAA playoffs Tuesday night at War Memorial Stadium.
UC kept its perfect record intact with its eighth win in as many games this season and advanced to the semifinals next Tuesday when it will travel to play Paris Inman — a 28-6 victor over Northview in another quarterfinal round game Tuesday.
The Bulldogs, who earlier beat Martin 22-0, will enter next week’s game with a 4-2 slate.
Having rallied from a 20-8 halftime deficit with three touchdowns over the final two quarters to win its regular season matchup on the Panthers’ home turf, UC found itself locked in another tight game with the Panthers in Tuesday’s rematch.
The Tornadoes failed to come away with points twice in the first half after threatening inside the redzone, but made the third time the charm when Jalen Crumble bolted up the middle on a trap play and ran untouched on a 31-yard scoring scamper on Union City’s first second-half possession.
Jeremy Bumpus — the game’s leading rusher with 115 yards on 13 carries — barely broke over the goal line on the ensuing conversion play, a two-pointer that proved to be the ultimate difference.
Martin answered by taking the following kickoff and moving 63 yards in 10 plays to draw within 8-6 when Joe Perry powered his way through two would-be tacklers for a one-yard TD.
The Panthers’ attempt to tie the count — a direct snap to D.J. Coffman — was stuffed by a host of defenders led by Santiago Ruiz and Ashton Webb with 5:16 to play in the contest.
UC ate up the remainder of that time, though, never giving the visitors a chance for a game-winning drive.
Bumpus converted a 2nd-and-long and a 4th-and-4 and picked up 48 yards on six carries as the Tornadoes moved all the way to the Panther 14 before quarterback Cooper Hurt took a knee to run out the clock.
“I’m sure having played them before had a lot to do with it being a low-scoring football game,” UC head coach Bobby Williams said afterward. “I know we were really prepared for them defensively, and I feel like they were for us, too. It was two good defensive efforts, I thought.
“The key for us was that we stopped them early and kept the ball out of their hands. We were able to run off-tackle, then got in the T (formation) the second half and ran the old ‘Twister’ play and the trap.”
Union City threatened twice in the first half, reaching the Panther 14 with a aid of a couple of big gainers by Taeshawn Allen, but the drive stalled there when Hurt was sacked twice, the second time by Coffman on fourth down.
After holding Martin to a three-and-out on its first series, the Tornadoes advanced to the visitors’ 19 before twice being dropped for lost yardage — the first time after a fumble.
The Panthers made some noise on their second possession when Joe Perry and Tavien Holland hooked up on a 46-yard bomb that advanced the ball to the UC 16.
But consecutive big plays by Ruiz — the first a QB sack, the second a tackle behind the line of scrimmage — and then a fourth-down batted away pass by Austin Meadows stopped Martin before they reached the goal line.
“I’m really proud of the kids and the opportunity we have now to play on against a very good Paris Inman team,” Williams added.
The coach lauded the play of linemen D.J. Kendall, Matthew Atwill, Ruiz, Thomas Barnes, Tucker Kennedy and Webb for paving the way for his running backs to gain 193 yards all totaled.
Hurt was the top tackler (6) for a defensive unit that surrendered just 127 yards and six first downs to Martin. Crumble, Bumpus and Ruiz were in on four stops apiece.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.17.12