Sports Editor - Union Daily Times

Union was one win away from playing for a state title last year. The Yellow Jackets expect more in 2006.

"We've got a lot of players, maybe not starters, but who got a lot of playing time, returning this year," said coach Tommy Bobo. "Hopefully, getting a taste of what it was like in the playoffs and advancing to the upper state title game gave them some positives that we can build on. At the same time, we hope they remember how that final game felt when they got beat. Hopefully, we can build on that and carry some positive energy into the season."

Union's got the talent with 92 athletes, 58 seniors and juniors, on the roster. The Jackets have five returning starters on offense and six on defense.

"We've got a good nucleus of seniors that are going to be starting for us," said Bobo. "We feel like they really bought into the leadership that last year's senior class was giving - never give up, stick together and believe in one another. We're hoping this year's senior class will carry that on, because they were a part of it. We felt like they saw what it meant to be a leader. We're counting on them to step up and take charge of the team. We always tell them, we'll be as good as our seniors allow us to be."

On offense, Union will run a spread variation.

Cameron Willis is back at quarterback. Freddie Bates becomes a full-time starter at running back. Calvin Rice and Mark Worthy are competing for playing time at full back.

LJ Mobley, Travis Sims and Rodrick Gilmore all started last year at wide receiver. Jack Arthur, Jay Crawford and Kierre Smith will fight for playing time at the position.

Josh Lawter and Jamison Jones return as tackles on the offensive line. Brian Gossett looks to step in at center. Brad Shetley, Tray Crumlin, Jordan Hager, Matt Gregory and Kelvin Booker are looking for spots on the OL. Devon Thompson, Sam Hammond, Tishawn Dawkins and Jamal Young are in the mix at tight end. Young also is in the mix at tackle.

On defense, Union will run a 3-3-5.

Thompson, Hammond and Dawkins return on the defensive line. Chris Dudley and Michael Pack are vying for a position on the DL.

Seeking a position at inside and outside linebacker are: Chad Johnson, Philip Rice, Paul Teague, JJ Hughes, Zavier Whitmore, Clay Alexander, Gerone McBeth and Jay Crawford.

In the secondary, Billy Jennings returns and Brandon Jeter got some starts last year. Rodricius Henderson, Colby Hawkins and Marcus Lott round out the defensive backs crew.

On special teams, Tyler Page returns at kicker. Brandon Williams and Brooke Jackson are vying for the spot. Cameron Willis or Jakaia Anderson will punt.

The coaching staff has five new additions: Caleb Clark (fullbacks), Dave Maness (tight ends, tackles), Rocky Cooper (linebackers), Cedric Jeter (middle linebackers) and Todd Davis (assisting OL, 9th grade).

Union had close to perfect participation during off-season and summer workouts. And the Jackets looked good in fall practice and scrimmages. Now comes a tough schedule.

Once again, Union opens with three Big 16 juggernauts - Spartanburg, Dorman and Gaffney.

"It's good competition," said Bobo. "They're as good, if not better, than anything we'll see the rest of the season."

The new Region II-AAA has Union rivals Clinton and Greer, plus Riverside and Eastside from last year's III-AAA. New opponents for the Jackets will be Wade Hampton, J.L. Mann and Blue Ridge - all playoff-caliber teams.

"I feel like it's going to be a tough region from top to bottom," said Bobo.

"We look forward to defending our region title."

And beyond that ...

"I feel confident this team can reach some high goals," said Bobo. "They know what is expected, not only within the coaching staff and players, but the community also. We feel like we have an opportunity to have a very solid football team this year."


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