Gaffney brings expectations into sharper focus
By: PAUL DAVIS
Friday night will find Union facing Gaffney, the final game in their pre-region season, against yet another Big 16 Top 10-rated team. While Gaffney’s last two three-point wins have been by the skin of their scalps, they are wins. And while the win last week over a potent Greenville offense wasn’t dominating, it would be foolish to conclude that the Indians are anything but a good bet to have another great year.
“The only thing you could call this game was a track meet,” said Gaffney coach Phil Strickland, “whoever had the ball last was going to win.”
While Gaffney only had 73 yards on 30 rushing attempts, they grabbed 241 yards through the air on 14-30 with one interception and three touchdowns of 10, 20 and 24 yards. Their go-to guy, at least against Greenville, was No. 10, wide receiver Terry Barnes, who caught the three TD passes. Their other score came on a 13-yard run by senior running back, Anthony Tyus.
The Gaffney Indians are very well coached and are explosive on offense as seen by their quick-strike scores against Greenville. They have several skilled players who are capable of making a big play at any time. Their quarterback, Malcolm Long, can make plays both as a runner and passer and is very athletic. And, no surprise here, they are very physical.
Long can line up either under center or in the shotgun with one or two backs and will have three or four wide receivers. On third and long, Gaffney likes to use a screen, draw, or throw the ball to one of their talented receivers. Their passing game is good at any range and they will use their tight end as a receiver on occasion.
The big question is the offensive line. “Right now,” explained Coach Strickland, “if there is a glaring weakness in our system, it’s (the offensive line). Some young kids are going to develop quickly in order for us to win games.” And he may be right as Gaffney has run for a total of just 174 yards in two games this season.
On defense, Gaffney has given up 309 yards through the air and 387 on the ground in its first two games.
Still, the Indians are fast on defense and quickly get a lot of tacklers to the ball. With their speed, they are able to recover quickly should they make a mistake or guess wrong.
Their base defense is a 4-4, daring teams to run the ball and they like to blitz their linebackers. Their experienced defensive line is not big going 220, 205, 265 and 226 across the front with linebackers weighing in 163, 185, 185 and 170. J. B. Shippy, Jr. led the linebackers last season with 11 tackles for loss and 83 total tackles. Defensive end Grayson Gentry is another player to watch and had 24 tackles for loss and 95 overall last season.
The secondary will usually go to a cover three with some man-to-man coverage and are considered to be very strong against the short pass, but only fair against the run.
On kickoffs, Gaffney usually gets it to the 10-yard line and will punt out about 35 yards. Field goal distance is around 35 yards.
Like the Yellow Jackets, the Gaffney Indians have high expectations for themselves and their communities expectations are even higher.
Friday night’s game will help both teams and their communities bring their expectations into sharper focus.
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