PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Panthers to host Hornets

Sports, TeamFYNSports, UCHS Football
Playoff

If the Union County Panthers want to earn the first state playoff victory in school history this Friday night, Nov. 15, they’re going to have their work cut out for them.

Playoff

Union County Head Coach Brian Allison is seeking the school’s first playoff win.

This is the second-straight season the Panthers have lost the region title game to Rabun County with both teams coming into the game undefeated.

Union County is the No. 2 seed from Region 8-AA and will have to get over the 49-7 loss to the Wildcats quickly to make it into the second round of the playoff bracket.

South Atlanta (7-3) comes to town as the No. 3 seed from Region 6-AA. The Hornets bring with them a whole lot of speed and athleticism.

The South Atlanta offense is putting up 29.3 points per game this season, while giving up just 16.5.

The Hornets are led by a dynamic running attack that features strong athletes all over the field.

On offense, senior swing back Pete Boyd (5-foot-5, 160 pounds) will show the Panthers a little more than they’ve seen so far this season coming out of the backfield. Boyd had a 53-yard run last Friday in a 20-6 win against KIPP Atlanta Collegiate.

On the outside, the Hornets have freshman wideout Ricky Lee, who stands just 5-foot-9, but runs the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds.

Freshman Jontez Adams, always a threat to take off out of the backfield, will run the quarterback position for the Hornets.

Starting running back, junior Quintavious Frazier, also plays middle linebacker and is also an excellent athlete.

On defense, South Atlanta is led by senior cornerback Duane Russell, whose 6-foot, 155-pound frame holds a whole lot of speed and an ability to bawl-hawk.

Union

Senior quarterback Pierson Allison will lead the Panthers against the Hornets this Friday.

But the Panthers (9-1) have weapons of their own.

Senior quarterback Pierson Allison has thrown for more than 2,500 yards and 27 touchdowns this season. He leads an offense that has put up 40.9 points per game so far.

Allison has great options at the wide receiver position, including senior Sawyer Drake. Drake surpassed 1,000 yards receiving on the season last week and has caught nine touchdowns.

Fellow senior Kyle Morlock was leading the team in receiving yards before going out on the first offensive play from scrimmage in the team’s sixth game.

While he dressed for the region championship game against Rabun County last week, Morlock never stepped onto the field.

Head coach Brian Allison said Morlock will be a game-time decision against South Atlanta.

Playoff

Junior Jonah Daniel carries the ball for Union County.

Seeing the bulk of the carries for Union County will be junior Jonah Daniel.

Daniel has 1,375 yards rushing on 140 carries this season to go along with 14 touchdowns. He’s also proven to be a threat out of the backfield with 211 yards and two touchdowns on 14 receptions.

On defense, the Panthers are led by senior defensive back John Mancuso (108 total tackles) and senior linebacker Sloan Sutton (90 total tackles). Juniors Noah Underwood (73 tackles, three sacks) and Kaston Hemphill (71 tackles, three interceptions) also figure in on a defense that is allowing just 18.3 points per game.

Both Allison and Drake will also see time in the secondary for the Panthers’ defense.

South Atlanta is coached by WB Stephens, who is in his second season at the helm.

The Panthers and Hornets are set to kick off the first round of the Class AA state playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, in Blairsville.

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TeamFYNSports Writer’s Player of the Week: No. 9 John Mancuso

Player of the Week, TeamFYNSports, UCHS Football
Mancuso

While there were very few brights spots for the Union County Panthers in a rough, 49-7, loss to Rabun County on Friday night, there were some.

One of those, the biggest one, was the play of senior defensive back John Mancuso.

Despite going up against the top-ranked Wildcats offense, Mancuso was all over the field Friday night.

There were very few stretches when Mancuso’s name wasn’t being called over the loudspeaker for making tackles. Without Mancuso, the score could have been much worse for the Panthers, who now turn their focus to the state playoffs.

For his efforts, Mancuso is the TeamFYNSports Writer’s Player of the Week!

Mancuso

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Panthers struggle, fall to Rabun County in Blairsville

Sports, TeamFYNSports, UCHS Football
Union
Union

Senior quarterback Pierson Allison evades defenders during the game Friday night.

Ten drives and just seven points told the story Friday night for the Union County football team in Blairsville.

The Panthers (9-1, 6-1 Region 8-AA) lost to top-ranked Rabun County (10-0, 7-0) for the second-straight season in the region championship game, this time by a score of 49-7.

While the weather was cold, the sky was clear and the conditions seemed poised to help the Panthers rushing attack.

Instead, Rabun County quarterback, sophomore Gunner Stockton, put on a show, accounting for seven touchdowns. Six of those came on the ground as the Wildcats came to town and beat the Panthers at their own game.

The seven points are the fewest Union County has scored in a game this season.

The game was still in reach for the Panthers at the start of the second half. Rabun County held a 21-0 lead after a rough start for the Union County defense.

In the third quarter, the Panthers turned the ball over on down and were forced to punt, but kept the Wildcats off the board to stay within striking distance at 21-0 heading into the final frame.

Junior Kaston Hemphill (No. 3) and senior John Mancuso (No. 9) make a tackle Friday night against Rabun County.

The defense, which had held strong for nearly a quarter and a half, finally broke in the fourth, giving up four scores in the final quarter in the blowout loss.

The one offensive bright spot for the Panthers came with 2:22 to go in the game as senior quarterback Pierson Allison hit junior Mason McCombs for a 15-yard score that moved the score to 42-7.

Apparently offended that Union County scored, the Rabun County coaching staff decided to keep in the starters and march down the field to score with just 55 seconds left. The Wildcats could have taken a knee and let the clock run out, but decided that Stockton needed just one more score as he ran in his sixth rushing touchdown of the night to end the game.

Union County had seven turnovers on the night, including three fumbles, two interceptions, and two turnovers on downs. The Panthers were forced to punt twice and scored once to account for all 10 drives on the night.

Union County will have to clean up the turnovers before next week. The Panthers, the No. 2 seed from Region 8-AA, will face South Atlanta (7-3, 5-2 Region 6-AA), the No. 3 seed from that region, next Friday in Blairsville for the first round of the Class AA state playoffs.

The Hornets are coming off of a 20-6 victory against KIPP Atlanta Collegiate on Thursday, Nov. 7.

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Sanchez brings home state title to Blairsville

Sports, TeamFYNSports
Sanchez
Sanchez

Senior Sadie Underwood

CARROLLTON, GA – Zoe Sanchez is a back-to-back state champion.

The senior ran a blistering pace of 20 minutes, 6.82 seconds to take home her second-consecutive Class AA cross country state championship Saturday, Nov. 2, at Carrollton High School.

The state title comes nearly a week after Sanchez took home her second-consecutive Region 8-AA individual championship in Lexington.

Sanchez won her first cross country title last season with a time of 20:04.45

The senior finished nearly 30 seconds ahead of second place, Bleckley County freshman Tristen Crosby (20:34.20).

Bleckley County was well-represented as Austin Perez, a Bleckley County senior, placed third (20:49.20).

Monticello senior Mari Jablonski was fourth (21:26.35), and Berrien senior Rebecca Chandler (21:36.47) rounded out the top five finishers.

Sadie Underwood, a Union County senior, ran well with a time of 23:36.44 and was the 30th finisher out of the 194 participants.

Union County Sophomore Hana Gregory ran a time of 24:36.18, which was strong enough to place 49th.

Lexi Ochoa, a Union County senior, came in 57th with a time of 25:02.96, while fellow senior Allison Vincent was 77th with a time of 26:30.82.

Jessie Holbrooks, senior, was 85th with a time of 26:51.36, and sophomore Campbell Chamber placed 97th with a time of 27:25.86.

As a team, Union County placed ninth overall with a collective time of 1:59:53.22, for an average of 23:58.65.

Twenty-nine teams competed at the state championship.

To view the complete results from the state championship race, click here.

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TeamFYNSports Writer’s Player of the Week – No. 11 Cayden Rich

Player of the Week, TeamFYNSports, UCHS Football

When standout wide receiver Kyle Morlock went out a month ago with a severe right ankle injury, someone was going to have to step up in the receiving corps for the Union County Panthers.

This week against Social Circle, that player proved to be senior Cayden Rich.

Rich hauled in just two catches against the Redskins, but had nearly 100 yards receiving and a big touchdown in Union County’s 41-6 win.

Rich has been a steady producer all season, catching just 20 passes but scoring four touchdowns and providing senior quarterback Pierson Allison a safety valve when his main target, senior Sawyer Drake, is locked down.

Rich, who also plays linebacker on occasion, is this week’s TeamFYNSports Writer’s Player of the Week!

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Union County dominates Social Circle 41-6 to stay unbeaten

Sports, TeamFYNSports, UCHS Football
Union County
Union County

Junior Jonah Daniel (No. 24) is hoisted into the air by fellow junior Aaron Helton in celebration after a touchdown run.

SOCIAL CIRCLE, GA – If the Union County Panthers had played flat Friday night at Social Circle, it would have been understandable.

If the Panthers, currently ranked eighth in the state, had come out with little-to-no enthusiasm against Region 8-AA’s last-place team, in a game that had no effect on next week’s region championship showdown with Rabun County, no one would have been surprised.

But that’s not what happened.

Union County (9-0, 6-0) came to Social Circle like it was a business trip and the team had a job to accomplish before being allowed to take the three-hour bus ride home.

The Panthers handled that business and finished the job in a 41-6 demolition of the home team Redskins.

Other than a few plays ran before halftime, Union County had six drives in the first half.

Union County

Senior Josh Orr puts a defender on the turf with a move after making a catch Friday night. Orr finished with three catches.

They scored touchdowns on all six and the outcome of the game was never in doubt.

Efficiency proved to be the keyword for the Panthers, as senior quarterback Pierson Allison threw just 14 passes for 10 catches and two touchdowns.

Junior running back Jonah Daniel carried the ball just 10 times, but scored three touchdowns and went for more than 100 yards for the seventh time this season. One of those runs, a 48-yarder in the second quarter, was the last score of the game for the Panthers.

Union County

Senior Cayden Rich sprints during his 72-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.

That score came with a few minutes remaining in the first half.

Senior Sloan Sutton added a score running the ball, an 8-yard burst that put the Panthers up 34-0 early in the second quarter.

Allison hit four different receivers on the night, with senior Cayden Rich and junior Mason McCombs each catching a touchdown.

The festivities started early for Union County, who kicked off to Social Circle to open the game.

On the Redskins first play from scrimmage, the quarterback muffed the snap and the ball hit the dirt.

Sutton, who starts as the team’s middle linebacker, fell on it, giving the Panthers their first offensive possession of the night.

A few plays later Daniel hit a big hole, rumbling 19 yards untouched into the end zone to give the Panthers the lead for good with 11:04 left in the first frame.

The defense then forced the first of the four punts from Social Circle in the first half.

Allison got into the mix on the ensuing drive, hitting Rich on a straight post route for a 72-yard touchdown to put Union County up 14-0.

The theme continued for the remainder of the first half, as the Panthers were too big, too strong, and simply too talented for the Redskins to keep up with.

Daniel scored his second rushing touchdown of the game with 4:54 left in the first quarter. The point-after attempt went wide right, and Union County led 20-0.

Four minutes later, McCombs made a beautiful, toe-tapping catch in the corner of the end zone to give the Panthers the 27-0 lead.

Junior Noah Underwood continued to play well leading the defense. He recovered a fumble on a kickoff and then recovered another fumble in the early minutes of the third quarter.

The starters for Union County played just one series in the second half, before head coach Brian Allison sent the junior varsity on the field for some much-needed game experience.

With the score at 41-6 to start the half, the referees went with a running clock and the score remained the same as the junior varsity squads went at it.

Union County faces No. 4 Rabun County, who is also undefeated, at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8, in Blairsville. The winner will be the No. 1 seed from Region 8-AA headed into the state playoffs.

Seniors

The Union County seniors gathered for a picture after the win against Social Circle on Friday night. Pictured are, from left, front row: Cayden Rich, Sawyer Drake, JJ Engle, Josh Orr; and standing: Drake Groves, Pierson Allison, John Mancuso, Lance Patton, Sloan Sutton, Nathaniel Ledford, Joseph Rockenbaugh, Zion Ross, Bobby Rogers, and Kyle Morlock.

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TeamFYNSports Writer’s Player of the Week – No. 16 Noah Underwood

Player of the Week, TeamFYNSports, UCHS Football

In football, holding a team to zero points is difficult. Holding a region opponent to zero points is even more so.

But that’s just what the Union County defense did Friday night at home against Oglethorpe County in a 43-0 win in Blairsville.

The defense was led, as it has been all season, by junior Noah Underwood, who found himself showing up in big spots all over the field against the Patriots.

The Underwood-led defense held the visiting Patriots to zero points, just one first down, -8 yards rushing and zero yards passing.

For his efforts, Underwood is the TeamFYNSports Writer’s Player of the Week!

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Defense leads the way to big Panthers home win

Sports, TeamFYNSports, UCHS Football
Win
Defense leads to win

Junior Jonah Daniel carries the ball for Union County on Friday.

BLAIRSVILLE, GA – A suffocating defense and a high-scoring offensive performance pushed eighth-ranked Union County to a 43-0 win against Oglethorpe County on Friday, Oct. 25, in Blairsville.

With the win, Union County (8-0, 5-0 Region 8-AA) secured home field advantage in the first round of the state playoffs.

The Panthers offense scored on its first possession – thanks to an 18-yard scramble score from senior quarterback Pierson Allison – but then seemed out-of-sync across their next three possessions.

Also during that first possession, senior running back Jonah Daniel busted off a big run to put his season total yardage over the 1,000-yard mark, making him the first Union County player with more than 1,000 yards since 2003.

With Allison missing last week’s game at Banks County, it seemed to take the offense a few possessions to get on track.

Win

Senior Sloan Sutton celebrates a score in the 43-0 victory.

A punt and two turnovers followed the score, which would normally have put the visiting Patriots in position to tie the game and possibly take a lead.

If only it weren’t for that pesky, powerful Panthers defense.

Oglethorpe Co. managed one first down during their opening drive, but ended up punting the ball. Their next two possessions were three-and-out punts, followed by a turnover-on-downs.

In all, the Patriots had just one first down on the night to go with -8 yards rushing and 0 passing yards.

After Daniel, who played some linebacker in the game, sacked the Patriots quarterback in the end zone for a safety to put the Panthers up 8-0 with 8:15 to go in the second quarter, the Union County offense finally went to work.

Win

Senior quarterback Pierson Allison surveys the defense Friday night.

Allison hit senior Cayden Rich with a 5-yard touchdown strike on the ensuing possession. The quarterback then found senior Sawyer Drake for a 9-yard pass in the back of the end zone as time expired in the half to give the Panthers a 23-0 lead at the break.

The second half saw much of the same as senior running back Sloan Sutton punched in a pair of scores and junior Mason McCombs hit a pair of field goals.

Sutton’s second touchdown, a 15-yard burst with 2:30 left, put the game on a running clock and effectively ended things.

In all, the Panthers defense forced seven punts, two turnovers-on-downs, a safety, and six three-and-outs.

Union County will travel to the region’s last place team, Social Circle, next Friday, before hosting fourth-ranked Rabun County the following week.

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