By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
In this particular instance, the numbers didn’t tell the entire story.
Union City dominated essentially every statistical category but was victimized by a handful of big plays and their own shortcomings at critical times in dropping a tough 30-27 decision to visiting Trenton Peabody Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.
The loss was the third in their last four games for the suddenly-reeling ninth-ranked Tornadoes, who are almost certain to fall from the state rankings with a now 4-3 overall mark. It was UC’s first setback in three District 14A games.
Peabody, meanwhile, got the signature win first-year head coach Joe Gaddis said his club desperately needed beforehand and improved to 3-3 overall and 2-0 in league play. Each of the Tide’s three losses have come vs. state-ranked 5-1 teams.
A glance at the final stat sheet would lead one to believe the Twisters won easily.
• Union City outgained Trenton 489-283, both outrushing the Tide (426-239) and passing for more yards (63-44) than the visitors.
• The Tornadoes ran an astonishing 80 offensive plays to just 32 for Peabody and had 27 first downs to just seven for Trenton.
• Two players (Khiry Lewis and Tymaine Strickland) ran for more than 100 yards for the Purple and Gold, while two more (Ricky Henry and Travis Rutland) totaled 60 or more as the Twisters ran the ball 73 times to just 24 for Trenton.
Delving deeper past the surface of those statistics, though, and one can get to the true difference-making points of the contest.
• Peabody scored on three of its first four plays and first after UC fumbled on its initial snap from scrimmage.
• The Tide’s other scoring plays covered 56 yards, 71 yards on a kickoff return and then the game-winner with 11 minutes to go on a 79-yard sprint by Tavarian Barnett, who also had the aforementioned special teams touchdown.
• Twice in the second half, the Tornadoes failed on fourth down deep inside Trenton territory while nursing a 27-24 lead, and the Twisters then missed a chance to send the game into overtime when freshman Case Cook was wide right on a 25-yard field goal that would have tied the game with just 22 seconds to play.
UC head coach Darren Bowling admitted afterward that his team was at a crossroads in a season that started with lofty aspirations.
“Definitely, we are right now,” Bowling said. “We’ll find out Monday how we react in practice and then how we respond next Friday night where we go from here.
“We’re all obviously really hurting right now. We’re a little down, a little upset, and if we weren’t I’d be disappointed. Maybe if it doesn’t kill us — like the old saying goes — it’ll make us stronger.”
The coach did find some promise in a performance he claimed could eventually become a turnaround point to the Tornadoes’ season.
“You look at the stats, and we had nearly 500 yards of offense and that was without Keylon (Hyde),” Bowling continued, noting the absence of the star Union City fullback who returned from a concussion last week, only to suffer a sprained AC joint in his shoulder in the first quarter. “We controlled the line of scrimmage and kept the ball essentially the entire game, and we played through some adversity.
“The other thing was that I thought we made some strides defensively. After the first four or five minutes, we made some stops, we came up with some turnovers and played considerably better — especially in the second half. We can build on that.”
Lewis scored all four UC touchdowns and had a fifth negated by penalty.
Regularly scooting to the outside and picking up big yardage while also breaking off nice gains on a counter play inside, Lewis — who was most effective in the first half when he had 146 of his 162 rushing yards — had TD runs of 24, 10 and 33 yards, and was on the receiving end of a 52-yard pitch-catch-and-run pass play from Rutland.
Strickland was also productive on the outside for UC, finishing with 108 yards.
Peabody scored 21 first-quarter points and led 24-13 with a little under eight minutes showing in the second quarter before Lewis scored his third and fourth touchdowns in the final 2:47 to give the Twisters an advantage they’d hold until early in the fourth period.
That’s when Barnett exploded over right guard and into the clean on the game-deciding long TD dash.
Union City threatened on its final two possessions, its first drive stalling on 4th-and-2 at the Peabody 37, before the Tornadoes then mounted one final push that got as far as the Tide eight yard-line.
A 42-yard scamper by Strickland postured the locals deep inside the redzone, but two runs by Henry netted just four yards and Lewis was stopped for no gain before Cook was called on in the waning seconds.
After a couple of time-outs, his kick was barely outside the uprights.
“Failing to convert the couple of times in the second half really was the difference, I thought,” Bowling concluded. “We had the lead, and if we could’ve stuck another one it, it becomes a two-score game the one big play doesn’t end up being the difference between winning and losing.
“We put ourselves behind the chains and into long yardage situations though, and we just couldn’t overcome them.”
Union City plays at Lake County this week.
GAME NOTES: Hyde gained just 12 yards in four carries before leaving the contest and still needs just nine yards to become the school’s all-time leading rusher. His shoulder injury will be evaluated this week and his availability for Friday’s game vs. the Falcons is unknown. ... No tackle chart was submitted by the UC coaching staff.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.1.12