By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
There was a simple explanation for what happened to Union City against Huntingdon.
And, it cerainly didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how the Golden Tornadoes were beaten convincingly 63-27 by the visiting fourth-ranked Mustangs in their Class 1A second-round playoff game.
“As bad as people hate to admit it, sometimes there’s just no answer other than they were better than us,” UC head coach Darren Bowling said after his team was on the wrong end of a woodshed thrashing in a rematch of a regular season game that Huntingdon had won 38-22 on the same perfectly-manicured War Memorial Stadium turf.
“They just beat us decisively up front. If the other team can knock you off the ball continually and there’s nothing you can do about it, there’s no defending that. It really doesn’t matter what you do, what scheme you have or what you try differently when they’re better than you.”
Unequivocally, the Ponies (10-2) were far superior to the No. 8 Twisters (7-4) on Friday.
Mr. Football Back of the Year finalist Jacob Warbritton riddled the overwhelmed Union City defense for the second time this season, rushing for 253 yards and five touchdowns while also throwing for a sixth score in Huntingdon’s throwback single-wing offense that exploded for 42 second-half points.
Running basically “power, counter and trap,” Warbritton took direct snaps and followed the lead of his lineman — mainly toward his team’s sideline — and with great success as the Mustangs averaged over 11 yards-per-play on their 38 offensive snaps.
While Warbritton was quick to step on the accelerator while breaking off gainers as big as 64 and 57 yards, he was also patient while setting up blocks by his trenchmen and also relentless — especially on a long scoring run early in the second period in which he was seemingly stopped by a host of UC defenders, only to break free of the pack and dash to paydirt.
Warbritton had rushed for 207 and thrown for another 109 while accounting for four TDs in the teams’ earlier matchup.
The 63 points marked the most the Tornadoes have ever given up in a playoff game — Friday’s contest marking the 53rd such contest in Union City High School history. The 36-point final margin represented the second largest margin of defeat during that time with only a 42-0 loss to Trinity Christian Academy in 2007 being worse.
“It just came down to blocking and tackling and they were way better in both of those areas than we were tonight,” Bowling added. “I truly believe they’ll go on and win the state championship.
“Warbritton is as good as advertised. We’ve faced him twice, tried some different things to stop him and couldn’t either time. He’s definitely worthy of being a Mr. Football finalist, but he’s also got great people in front of him that make it happen.”
Though it never really slowed down the Ponies — forcing them to punt just once while the outcome was in doubt — Union City seemed to be in decent shape at halftime, down just 21-14 and set to receive the third-quarter kickoff.
A one-yard touchdown plunge by Ricky Henry just 18 second before intermission capped a 14-play, 71-yard drive that included an uncharacterstically-prolific passing attack and appeared to give the home team momentum heading into the locker room.
Travis Rutland completed two passes to Khiry Lewis covering a combined 40 yards in the drive and one each to Keontre Murrell and Javonte Moffatt as the Twisters survived another injury (ankle) to standout running back Keylon Hyde that forced him to the sideline for the remainder of the game.
UC went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the third quarter though, while Huntingdon, scored twice in five snaps — a short pass from Warbritton to Hunter Bush that ended up going 56 yards for a TD, and a 43-yard scoring burst by Steve Stover — that made it 35-14 halfway through the stanza and essentially signaled the beginning of the end for the Purple and Gold.
The Tornadoes did show some fight and grit by moving 80 yards in 12 plays to close within 35-20 after Joseph Shanks scored from three yards out following a big 36-yard completion from Rutland to Murrell. But a pair of interceptions deep in their own territory set up easy Mustang TDs with Huntingdon scoring on four consecutive plays at one point during a span of less than two minutes from late in the third quarter until early in the fourth.
A 90-yard TD kickoff return by Lewis — who ended up with 288 all-purpose yards and had Union City’s first touchdown on an electrifying 62-yard endzone sprint — briefly halted a continuously-running clock before Glynn Hillard scored his third touchdown with 10:26 to go to again put the mercy rule into effect.
Hillard scored on half of his six carries — the first on a 43-yard dash on the second play of the game.
The contest was the last for nearly a dozen UCHS seniors, including the speedy Lewis and Shanks, who played practically every position on both sides of the ball during his prep career. Other players finishing up their eligibility included Murrell, Rutland, Hyde, Caleb Long, Emery Whaley, Brett Gore, Walker Barnes, Walt Williams and LaDarius Fulton.
Huntingdon advances on to the quarterfinals of the postseason next week with the chance to avenge one of its two regular season losses at West Carroll.
The War Eagles (9-2), who beat Huntingdon 30-24 the week after the Mustangs defeated UC during the regular season, punched their Round 3 ticket with a 28-13 victory over Halls Friday night.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 11.12.12