Oh how sweet it is
Jackets avenge early season loss to Clinton


By: Graham Williams
Managing Editor - Union Daily Times

CLINTON - In a game that was decided by who had the ball last, Union County survived a late Clinton rally and held on to beat the Red Devils, 26-20 Friday night in the second round of the state 3-A playoffs.

For the Yellow Jackets, the win avenges a 14-13 loss to Clinton earlier this season, but more importantly, sends them into the third round of the playoffs, where they will play Greenville, a 26-24 winner over Blue Ridge.

"Our players refused to give up," coach David Lipsey said after the game.

"They played four quarters. They had it in their minds to come over here and win. It was an outstanding effort."

In a game of big plays, the outcome was nearly decided by missed extra points. All of the Yellow Jackets' touchdowns came on plays of 20 yards or more, while the Red Devils used big plays to set up two of their scores. But when it came to extra points, neither team had much luck - Union County was unsuccessful on three PAT attempts while Clinton failed on two.

Unable to get its offense going in the second half, Union County found itself trailing, 20-18, at its own 20-yard line as the third quarter was coming to a close.

Quarterback Dwight Brannon took matters in his own hands, keeping the ball for runs of 15 and 11 yards. On third and nine at the Clinton 45, Brannon found Kierre Smith racing toward the end zone. Smith tipped the ball to himself and eluded two defenders to score the go-ahead touchdown with 9:42 remaining in the game. Marcus Whitener scored on the two-point conversion to give the Yellow Jackets a 26-20 lead.

Clinton took over with plenty of time left to move downfield, grinding out yardage as it used up the clock, hoping to score the winning touchdown in the game's waning seconds. The Red Devils almost succeeded, driving 60 yards behind Matt Ligon, Kelton Hall and Taviouzie Booker, while quarterback Taylor Cook hit Ligon and wide receiver B.J. McGowan for crucial first downs.

The drive stalled, however, at Union County's 10-yard line, and on fourth-and-six , Cook's pass attempt to fullback Trobias Brown sailed out of bounds with 1:56 left in the game. The Yellow Jackets then ran out the clock for the win.

"We've got a lot of seniors and they just want to keep playing," Lipsey said. "We've rode their backs."

Union County drew first blood, driving 87 yards in nine plays with Whitener scoring on a 27-yard burst. The point-after kick was wide, however, and the Yellow Jackets led 6-0.

Clinton came right back with a 67-yard scoring drive, 54 of them coming on a Ligon run. Arsi Roberson tied the game with a two-yard run. Clinton took the lead at 8-6 on a fake PAT kick when McGowan, the holder, ran for the two-point conversion.

A Marcus Lott fumble recovery set up Union County's second score. On first down, Brannon faked a handoff to Whitener, turned the corner and sailed 56 yards for the touchdown. Brannon led Union's ground attack with 115 yards on 10 carries, while Whitener had 70 yards on 15 rushing attempts. Brannon's pass attempt for the two points was incomplete and the Yellow Jackets led by 12-8.

A 20-yard punt by Union County led to Clinton's next touchdown. After a 39-yard run by Ligon gave the Red Devils a first down at the Yellow Jackets' 5-yard line, Roberson scored from three yards out for a 14-12 lead. Ligon led the Red Devils' rushing attack with 134 yards on 13 carries.

Whitener returned the ensuing kickoff to Clinton's 49-yard line with 2:51 left in the first half. On third and seven, Brannon connected with Smith, who pitched the ball to Whitener on the hook and ladder play which gained 30 yards. Two plays later, Brannon found Deion Thompson on a 21-yard scoring toss. Brannon's point-after pass was incomplete and Union County led by 18-14.

Clinton took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 75 yards in eight plays for the go-ahead score, a 52-yard pass from Cook to Roberson, setting up the game's heart-pounding finish.

Union County 26, Clinton 20
Union County    6  12   0  8 - 26
Clinton              8    6  6   0 - 20

UC - Whitener 27 run (kick failed)
C - Roberson 2 run (Roberson run)
UC - Brannon 56 run (pass failed)
C - Roberson 3 run (kick failed)
UC - Thompson 21 pass from Brannon (pass failed)
C - Roberson 52 pass from Cook (pass failed)
UC - Smith 45 pass from Brannon (Whitener run)

First downs - Union County 10, Clinton 11
Yards rushing - Union County 185, Clinton 225
Yards passing - Union County 140, Clinton 79
Passing, A-C-I - Union County 17-7-0, Clinton 8-5-0
Fumbles-lost - Union County 1-0, Clinton 2-1
Penalties - Union County 4-33, Clinton 4-30
Punts - Union County 4-30, Clinton 4-35

Individual statistics
Rushing - Brannon (UC) 10-115 yards, Whitener (UC) 15-70 yards; Ligon (C) 13-134 yards, Booker (C) 11-35 yards, Roberson (C) 9-32 yards, Hall (C) 8-30 yards.
Passing - Brannon (UC) 17-7-0, 140 yards; Cook (C) 8-5-0, 79 yards.
Receiving - Smith (UC) 3-105 yards, Thompson (UC) 1-21 yards; Roberson (C) 1-52 yards, McGowan (C) 2-18 yards.


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