Fast starts led local teams to successful seasons
Posted: Friday, August 17, 2012 10:59 am
By KEVIN WEAKS
All great football seasons have to start somewhere.
More often than not, that “somewhere” is the very beginning.
An upset or a close game decided in the final minutes or a blowout to kick off the season just right, they all have played roles in those magical seasons.
The Messenger takes a look back through the archives to find three season openers that led to three special seasons for Obion Central, South Fulton and Union City.
An impressive passing attack installed by a well-traveled coach came into its own and led the Rebels to the playoffs in 2002. The Red Devils reached 10 wins, improving on its win total of nine the previous year and reaching the second round of the 1A state playoffs, in 1999. In 1937, Union City’s road to the West Tennessee Conference playoffs actually began in Kentucky.
n Year: 2002
n Head Coach: Chris Hill
n Record: 8-3
n Opener: OC 24, McKenzie 14
The hype surrounding the ’02 Rebels going into the season was like no other, but so were the warning signs for that opening game.
Skeptics of Hill’s pass-happy offense, which produced 200 aerial yards-per-game the year before, were finally coming around, and the players were all-in with the system.
Still, OC had finished 5-6 the year before. And, season-opening opponent McKenzie had produced second-half rallies to defeat OC in their previous two meetings. In fact, Central was 0-4 all-time vs. the Carroll Countians..
Defense ruled in that opening game as Central forced five McKenzie turnovers and shut out MHS in the fourth quarter while scoring 10 points to break away from a 14-all tie after three periods.
Wes Moore began his assault on the Rebel record book in the game, perhaps his biggest completion going for 20 yards on a 3rd-and-16 on OC’s first scoring drive.
Moore would go on to pass for 3,179 yards and 37 touchdowns, earn three Associated Press state Player of the Week honors, become a finalist for the Class 3A Mr. Football award and earn all-state honors.
OC’s 8-3 season included a 27-7 win at arch-rival Union City, at that time only its sixth in 41 meetings and the first at UC since 1974.
Central hosted the first round of the 3A state playoffs but were doomed by missed chances and Kingsbury’s speed in a 28-20 loss to the Memphians.
The Rebels also endured tragedy in the season as Chris Phelon died in an automobile accident a little over 24 hours after Central’s thrilling 34-28 overtime win vs. Ripley.
n Year: 1999
n Head Coach: Gwin Wood
n Record: 10-2
n Opener: SF 13, Ballard Mem., Ky. 0
The fourth year in a six-year run of Class A playoff appearances, the ’99 season was likely the best of that bunch.
Ten wins remains tied for second most for a season in school history, joining 1921 and 1966 and behind only 1979’s 11 wins.
Big, deep and experienced with seven starters back, South Fulton was favored by rival Region 7-1A coaches to win the league, showing that respect had been restored to a program that had suffered through an 0-10 record just four years before.
There were dark clouds going into that opening against the Bombers, however, as several players suffered injuries in the week of practice leading up to the game.
In a low-scoring game where defense was the key for SF, running back Craig Dame did just enough for the Red Devil offense as he rushed for 86 yards a touchdown. Charlie Wieber threw for 122 yards, including a 12-yard TD to Bryan Doty.
SF would win its first seven games and earn a No. 6 ranking in the state 1A polls before losing a heartbreaker to Bruceton as Adrian Jameson scored on a 20-yard run with 50 seconds to play in the game.
Dame was the state’s co-player of the week the following week for his 295 yards and six touchdowns on 23 carries in a 42-28 win over Dresden. He then rushed for 203 yards and a score in a season-ending win over Greenfield.
Another heartbreaking loss came at the hands of Bruceton in the second round of the playoffs, though. Rallying to within 24-22 after trailing 24-0, SF had its comeback hopes dashed by an interception at the goal line with 29 seconds to play.
Dame finished the year rushing for 1,482 yards and 21 TDs.
n Year: 1937
n Head Coach: T.F. Wallace
n Record: 10-2
n Opener: UC 20, Mayfield, Ky. 0
A year that started across the border ended in the postseason with the first playoff games in school history.
While a good season doesn’t necessarily hinge on the opener (UC lost 19-6 to Mayfield in 1933 and then won 10 straight), this particular campaign got off to a great start and kept right on rolling.
UC had actually enjoyed success against the Kentuckians when the series first began, but Mayfield had taken over the dominant role to the point that winning the season opener had become an annual occurrence.
That, however, was not the case in this contest.
Union City took control from the opening kick-off, scoring on the game’s first series, and never looked back in a shutout win.
Roy McDaniel had a 34-yard run to set up the Tornadoes’ first score, and then Joe Hudgins hit Red Kallenberg for a 43-yard touchdown play in the second period.
Kallenberg took an interception back for a score in the fourth quarter to seal the outcome.
In reporting on the game, The Messenger said the UC squad played as a team with no “grandstanding.” UC needs to “brush up on its blocking and tackling.”
“There are still some rough edges. The team is showing up better than expected and looks very, very promising,” according to The Messenger.
UC proved that assessment to be true by shutting out its next five opponents, including a 44-0 win over Fulton and a 33-0 verdict over Trenton.
The Tornadoes stumbled against Jackson, giving up 13 points in the fourth quarter of a 25-6 loss, but then counted a 67-6 win over McKenzie (the “Yellowjackets”) and a 71-7 win over Paris (Grove High School’s Blue Devils) and its touted passing attack as part of a four-game winning steak to close the season.
UC was seeded third in the West Tennessee Conference playoffs and knocked off top-seeded Covington 32-20 behind two TDs from McDaniel.
The win earned Union City a rematch with Jackson in the championship game, with the winner slated to play Chicago Austin in a regional matchup at Memphis.
UC was blanked 20-0, and then the Bears fell 13-0 to the Chicago team.
As an aside, Huntingdon actually finished with the best record in the conference at 11-0 but could rank no better than fifth because of a “weak schedule.”