Jackets take it to the Bears


By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
Managing Editor - Union Daily Times

Marcus Whitener felt he had something to prove.

Snubbed by the Shrine Bowl and then the North-South team despite running for more than 1,400 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns this season, Whitener took it out on Belton-Honea Path Friday night.

Union County's senior running back gained 291 yards on 20 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 35-7 victory over the Bears in the first round of the state 3-A playoffs.

"I used that as motivation," he said after the game, adding that the offensive line "stepped up great" and opened some huge holes for him and quarterback Dwight Brannon.

"I felt like I was walking in the end zone," he said, describing his three scores.

Coach David Lipsey knows just how talented Whitener is, having coached him previously at Jonesville High School.

"He's special," he said.

The Yellow Jackets planned to run the ball against the Bears, using two tight ends, Lipsey said.

"We call that our airplane formation," he said. "I have to give the offensive coaches a lot of credit."

Forcing the Bears' defense to concentrate on the run opened up Union County's passing attack, Lipsey said.

Brannon completed six of 11 passing attempts for 91 yards and two touchdowns, a 10-yarder to Deion Thompson and a 41-yarder to Kierre Smith.

"The offensive line did a fantastic job," Lipsey said. "They're playing their best football. We're riding their backs."

The fans had scarcely settled into their seats when Whitener gave them a taste of what was to come, taking a handoff on the first play from scrimmage and racing 64 yards to the B-HP 13-yard line. Two plays later, he ran it in from 8 yards out and Alex Tucker's PAT gave the Yellow Jackets at 7-0 lead with 11:11 remaining in the first quarter.

Brannon's scoring toss to Thompson completed Union County's second possession, capping a seven-play, 47-yard drive.

Less than three minutes later, the Yellow Jackets stretched their lead to 21-0, as Whitener scored from 19 yards out and it appeared a rout was in the making.

The Bears, however, thought otherwise.

Early in the second quarter, after forcing Union County to punt, B-HP faced second-and-8 ant its own 27-yard line. Quarterback Matthew Moore found running back Brandon Owen in the flat and he escaped from two defenders before streaking untouched down the sideline for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 21-7.

The Bears threatened again before halftime, when Jacob Tavernier intercepted a Brannon pass and returned it to the B-HP 44-yard line. Mixing the run with the pass, the Bears moved the ball to Union County's 18-yard line. But on fourth down, Moore's fade pass was caught out of the end zone.

Whitener picked up where he left off in the second half, gaining 14 yards on his first two carries before breaking loose for a 49-yard scoring dash, giving the Yellow Jackets a 28-7 lead with 9:02 left in the third quarter.

Defensive lineman Calvin Rice stopped B-HP's next possession when he caught a Moore fumble in the air at the Yellow Jackets' 37-yard line. After Brannon gained 32 yards on a quarterback keeper, he hit Tim Duckett for nine yards and then found Smith for the long scoring strike.

Union County (7-4) travels to region rival Clinton next Friday in a rematch of a game in which the Yellow Jackets saw victory slip from their grasp.

"We wanted them again," Whitener said. "I think we can do it."

UCHS 35, BHP 7

B-HP        0  7   0  0 - 7
UCHS     21  0 14  0 - 35

UCHS - Whitener 8 run (Tucker kick)
UCHS - Thompson 10 pass from Brannon (Tucker kick)
UCHS - Whitener 19 run (Tucker kick)
B-HP - Owen 73 pass from Moore (Kibler kick)
UCHS - Whitener 49 run (Tucker kick)
UCHS - Smith 41 pass from Brannon (Tucker kick)

Statistics
First downs - B-HP 9, UCHS 13
Yards rushing - B-HP 75, UCHS 393
Yards passing - B-HP 167, UCHS 112
Passing, A-C-I - B-HP 23-9-3, UCHS 14-8-1
Penalties - B-HP 7-28, UCHS 9-85
 
Individual statistics
Rushing - Owen (B-HP) 7-23, Mitchell (B-HP) 9-33, Tavernier (B-HP) 3-11; Whitener (UCHS) 20-291, Brannon (UCHS) 7-67, Edney (UCHS) 9-27, Worthy
(UCHS) 2-6
Passing - Moore (B-HP) 9-23-3, 167 yards; Brannon (UCHS) 6-11-1, 91 yards, Whitney (UCHS) 2-3-0, 21 yards.
Receiving - Owen (B-HP) 1-72, Phillips (B-HP) 2-27,  Lollis (B-HP) 2-20, Clinkscales (B-HP) 1-23, Tavernier (B-HP) 2-18, Oglesby (B-HP) 1-6. Smith (UCHS) 2-48, Thompson (UCHS) 1-10, Grady (UCHS) 2-22, Duckett (UCHS) 1-9, Funderburd (UCHS) 1-9, Porter (UCHS) 1-6.

 

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