A week after upending Greer, 31-14, Union County is preparing for round three of Class 3A playoffs and will travel to Columbia’s Memorial Stadium on Friday night to face A.C. Flora.
The Falcons have been on a tear since their lone loss to North Gwinnett (Ga.) on Sept. 1, winning eight in a row by an average of 51 points per game.
Last week A.C. Flora tangled with Belton-Honea Path in an offensive shootout before securing a 59-42 win.
Union County’s defense has shown significant improvement during the post-season and on Friday night did something no other team has done this year — shutout Greer in the second half.
Wide receivers Chris Booker and T.J. Foster have served as safeties in recent weeks and have been dynamic additions to the defense. Booker was in on three of Union County’s four turnovers and Foster snagged an interception.
“Adding Chris and T.J. to the defense has made a big difference for us. An average defense can look really good when they’re forcing turnovers and an average defense can look really bad when they don’t force turnovers,” said Union County Head Coach Steve Taneyhill. “We’ve done a good job of that in the playoffs and it’s been the difference. If our defense can force turnovers again on Friday night then it definitely favors us.”
The key for Union County will be containing Falcons quarterback Jake Lewis.
“He’s their leading rusher with over 900 yards on the year, but he can throw it,” said Taneyhill. “He’s obviously the key to stopping them. I like him because he can run and throw. They don’t throw as much as they run but he’s very capable to drop back and throw the football. I think the way you do a good job is to take away the run and put pressure on them. The quarterback has a lot of time back there so we’ve got to put some pressure on him and force some mistakes when they do throw the ball.”
A.C. Flora features a stable of running backs that includes Aven Pollard, Keith Goss, JuWan Simon and R.J. Joyner along with a pair of talented wide recievers, Shelton Whittaker and Schroder Carlton who along with Lewis accounted for 605 yards of offense last week.
Defensively, the Falcons favor man-to-man coverage behind a blitz but according to Taneyhill, nine of 12 teams the Jackets have faced this year have shown different defensive packages against Union County than they did on film.
“I’m going into this game thinking they’re gonna probably give us a little bit different look,” he said. “They do blitz a lot and I’ve seen them play a lot of man coverage but are they really gonna play us man coverage with the way our wide-outs have been playing?”
Union County’s shrine bowl quarterback Keiston Smith has four capable receivers at his disposal including North-South selection Booker, Foster, Victor Ruth and Kalay Jones.
Last week Smith completed 13 of 30 pass attempts for 231 yards and three touchdowns.
Union County’s playmakers gave Greer fits last week and if the defense is as stout on Friday as it has been the last two weeks, A.C. Flora will have its hands full.