Jackets rebound big time
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
Managing Editor - Union Daily Times
GREER - An overpowering ground attack propelled Union to a 41-28 victory over Blue Ridge Friday night.
After last week's disappointing loss to Riverside, the Yellow Jackets' coaches made some changes in an effort to bolster an anemic running game. Defensive linemen Sam Hammond and Tishawn Dawkins also played on the offensive line while defensive end Devon Thompson saw action at fullback.
The result was more than 500 yards total offense, including 346 yards rushing. Kierre Smith led the ground attack with 187 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Quarterbacks Cameron Willis and Bo Whitney only attempted 10 passes, but they completed seven of them for 155 yards, including three for touchdowns.
"I'm real proud of our effort, especially early in the game," coach Tommy Bobo said. "Kierre ran really hard. Hopefully we will continue to get better."
Union scored on its first two possessions to take a 14-0 first quarter lead. After a holding penalty pushed the Yellow Jackets back to their own 49-yard line, Willis connected with Rodrick Gilmore on a 51-yard scoring strike. Brooke Jackson's kick gave Union a 7-0 lead.
With 52 seconds left in the quarter, Smith scored from 12 yards out, capping a seven-play, 71-yard drive.
Billy Jennings' fourth interception of the year set up Union's next touchdown when the Yellow Jackets got possession of the ball at the Tigers' 23-yard line.
On the very next play, Willis found LJ Mobley in the back of the end zone for the score, giving Union a 21-0 lead with 2:50 left in the first half.
Momentum from the first half carried Union on its first possession of the second half as Willis scored from eight yards out on a quarterback draw to complete a nine-play, 61-yard drive. Along the way, Willis completed 11-yard passes to Mobley and Thompson, while Smith gained 30 yards. Jackson's PAT boosted Union's lead to 28-0 and it appeared a rout was in the making.
Blue Ridge quickly answered, however, as M.J. Suber returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards for the Tigers' first touchdown, cutting the margin to 28-7.
"The runback was disappointing," Bobo said. "We had worked hard on it" during practice.
Smith scored his second touchdown on a 24-yard run during Union's next series. The play was set up by a 24-yard pass from Willis to Mobley on third down. The point-after attempt failed, however, and Union led 34-7.
Bo Whitney entered the game later in the third quarter and kept the offense moving. After Whitney ran for 37 yards, Smith added 18 more and Whitney found Jakaia Anderson on a 23-yard scoring strike for the Yellow Jackets' last touchdown. Tyler Page kicked the PAT for a 41-7 Union lead.
Blue Ridge scored three times in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers couldn't overcome their slow start and fell to 2-3 in Region II 3-A and 4-4 overall. The win improves Union's record to 3-2 in the region and 3-5 overall.
Union plays host to J.L.Mann in its final home game of the season.
The Yellow Jackets have yet to win at home this year.
Union 14 7 20 0 - 41
Blue Ridge 0 0 7 21 - 28
U - Gilmore 51 pass from Willis (Jackson kick)
U - Smith 12 run (Jackson kick)
U - Mobley 23 pass from Willis (Jackson kick)
U - Willis 8 run (Jackson kick)
BR - Suber 76 kickoff return (Crawford kick)
U - Smith 24 run (kick failed)
U - Anderson 23 pass from Whitney (Page kick)
BR - Hughes 3 run (Crawford kick)
BR - Suber 42 pass from Morton (Crawford kick)
BR - Leppard 9 pass from Morton (Crawford kick)
First downs: Union 16, Blue Ridge 10
Yards rushing: Union 346, Blue Ridge 132
Yards passing: Union 155, Blue Ridge 129
Passing, A-C-I: Union 7-10-0, Blue Ridge 12-30-2
Penalties: Union 5-40, Blue Ridge 3-20
Punts: Union 3-35.6, Blue Ridge 5-34
Rushing: Smith (U) 22-187, Worthy (U) 6-22, Thompson (U) 5-13; Booker (BR) 13-106, Morton (BR) 8-13.
Passing: Willis (U) 5-8-0, 120 yards; Whitney (U) 3-3-0, 35 yards; Morton (BR) 12-30-2, 129 yards.
Receiving: Gilmore (U) 2-63 yards; Mobley (U) 3-58 yards; Suber (BR) 2-54 yards; Leamon (BR) 3-39 yards.
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