Twisters’ well-tested game plan too much for Devils

Twisters’ well-tested game plan too much for Devils
Twisters’ well-tested game plan too much for Devils | Twisters’ well-tested game plan too much for Devils
Messenger Sports Editor
Union City did what Union City does.
And despite its best effort, South Fulton couldn’t stop it.
The 10th-ranked Golden Tornadoes pounded the interior with fullbacks Ricky Henry and record-setting Keylon Hyde and sprinkled in a handful of big plays on the perimeter in a 37-12 victory over a game SF squad Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.
The Senior Night District 14A victory — UC’s 13th in 14 all-time meetings vs. the Red Devils — puts the Tornadoes (6-3, 4-1) in position to clinch an automatic berth in the Class 1A playoffs with a likely first-round bye that goes with such a standing. Union City can achieve that by beating Humboldt (6-3, 4-1) in the final Friday of the regular season with the victor in that game placing second in the league standings behind champion Trenton Peabody.
South Fulton, meanwhile, was forced into a wait-and-see mode to discover its postseason fate. The Redmen (3-7, 1-5) will sit through an open date in the final regular season Friday, hoping to sneak into the 24-team 1A bracket as the last seed — a position they held coming into the UC game.
The Tornadoes hammered SF between the tackles with their trademark midline/veer attack Friday, gradually and effectively wearing down a Red Devil unit that showed fight and determination that had been missing in blowouts the two previous weeks.
Henry, a sophomore who stepped into a starting role after Hyde was injured three games ago, negotiated his way for a career-best 140 yards, while Hyde became the school’s all-time leading rusher on his second carry — a 13-yard pickup late in the first half — on his way to gaining 104 yards.
Hyde, who showed no ill effects of the concussion and/or shoulder separation that forced him to miss nearly all of the past three games, surpassed Mario McElrath on the UCHS career rushing list with his 18th 100-yard game. He now has 3,913 all-time yards.
“I’m proud for Keylon (getting the record), and obviously glad to get him back on the field,” Union City head coach Darren Bowling said. “And Ricky (Henry) just continues to get better and better every game. Our inside game was very good, and we always try to establish that first.
“We were able to pound them early, and those two- and three- and four-yard gains turned into six- and seven- and eight-yard gains in the second half when South Fulton wore down. And it opened up some things on the outside with Khiry (Lewis) and the touchdown pass to Keontre (Murrell).”
The Twisters scored on five of their seven possessions in all and never punted — stopped only by halftime, then at the South Fulton two-yard line, and on their final series when they ran out the clock. Union City outgained the Big Red 476-145 and racked up 27 first downs while dominating time of possession and averaging nearly nine yards-per-carry.
UC scored three straight times on methodical marches in the second half to pull away after the Red Devils had closed to within 14-12 on J.P. Fowler’s 12-yard TD run.
Hyde’s two-yard score capped a 10-play, 60-yard sequence; a 26-yard dash by former SF standout Khiry Lewis capped a nine-snap, 86-yard drive; and Travis Rutland’s QB keeper from the three culminated a six-play, 72-yard march.
The Redmen kept things close until the host teams’ two fourth-quarter TDs and drew the praise of their coach after a much more inspired performance that the previous two weeks.
“We’re going to watch film Monday and see mistakes, but they’ll be mistakes of effort,” Kelly Spivey said. “Some losses you can be proud of because of your effort. This was one of them.
“We didn’t do anything wrong. We did a good job. We just didn’t win. I’m extremely proud of our effort.”
South Fulton countered Union City’s opening-possession score with a TD of its own when JaQuay Garmon threw to a wide-open Skylar Britt for a 20-yard touchdown on the Devils’ first series to cap a 10-play, 70-yard drive. The Tornadoes had scored when Caleb Long fell on a Henry fumble in the endzone after the UC runner was hit and fumbled just before crossing the goal line on a run from the three.
Both teams missed their extra points.
The Twisters then took the lead for good when Rutland lofted a 31-yard touchdown pass that Keontre Murrell ran under at the 10:18 mark of the second period. Hyde’s conversion run made it 14-6.
SF threatened to pull even in the latter stages of the first half when it was the beneficiary of 47 yards’ worth of penalties (two pass interference flags and a personal foul) in a drive that reached the Union City nine before stalling on downs.
The Tornadoes also came up empty when their ensuing sequence hit a wall at the Red Devil two-yard line as time ran out in the second quarter. Hyde was stopped just short of paydirt on the 16th play of a drive that started at UC’s 13.
Bowling acknowledged the work of his offensive line — namely Brett Gore, Kane Taylor, Walker Barnes, Joseph Shanks and Tristian Jernigan — and also had praise for a defensive unit that allowed just two plays of 20 yards or more.
“After their opening drive, I thought we did a good job defensively. We’re really starting to play better there,” the coach insisted. “A quarterback like Garmon would’ve torched us for 250 or 300 yards last year, but we’ve done a much better job in pass defense this season. We were able to contain him.
“South Fulton always plays us tough and we get their best effort. As a head coach, I’m always nervous, and I was tonight into the fourth quarter even though I didn’t feel like they could ever stop us. A lot of that was because of our offensive line.”
Spivey was matter-of-fact when discussing his team’s slim playoff chances.
“Our seniors have one more week to think about football, whether they get to play in another game or not,” he said. “We’ll take the day off Monday, and then just start figuring out who we should scout as far as who we might play if we get in. It’s out of our hands now. And that’s the disappointing thing.”
Tackle-wise for Union City, both Joseph Shanks and Walker Barnes had six tackles apiece with one stop for lost yardage to top the Tornado hit list.
For SF, linebacker Willie Kneuppel recorded an astonishing 17 tackles, while Landon Nevil was in on 11 and Fowler had 10 stops.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at

Published in The Messenger 10.22.12

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