Saturday May 25th, 2024 4:11PM

Q&A: Allison hopes Panthers can get over playoff hump in 2018

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Under Brian Allison Union County has become one of the more consistent winners in northeast Georgia over the past 20-plus years in two differents stints at the school. The Panthers in 2018 (8-0, 5-0 Region 8-2A) already have clinched their seventh straight winning season, a school record.

Allison, now in his 17th season (1996-2001; 2008-present) is the program’s all-time winningest coach by a long margin with 106 wins. The next closest is Terry Rogers with 56 wins in 14 seasons (1980-1993). The Panthers have finished .500 or better in 13 of his 17 seasons.

Last week the Panthers set a new school record for consecutive wins (10) breaking the old mark of 9 established by Allison’s 2001 squad. However, two things have so far alluded Allison and the Panthers to date: no region titles and no playoff wins.

They are hoping to put both of those dubious marks to rest in the coming weeks. Union County already has clinched a playoff berth and a home playoff game. They will take on Social Circle this week before a monster showdown on Nov. 2 with arch-rival Rabun County for the Region 8-2A title.

AccessWDUN’s Jeff Hart asked Allison about his current squad, the streak, and if they can get over the region title and playoff humps in 2018.


QUESTION: Coach, thanks for taking some time. This team just set the all-time program record for consecutive wins (10) breaking the record set by your 2001 team. How do the two teams compare and what makes this team special?

ANSWER: Like I said (last week), we’re very excited about the streak. It means a lot for us. As far as comparisons, that’s tough to do. Football has changed a lot since 2001. We ran the wing-T back then. Now we run the spread. The spread in general has really changed things for the sport. That’s not a positive or a negative, just the way it is. The spread is tougher on the kids I think because there are almost double the number of plays from back then. But it’s more exciting for the kids and the fans and that has helped build interest so, again, it’s good and bad. That 2001 team was probably bigger on both lines and the teams are similar athletically. I think that 2001 team would have run the spread very well. This current group has grown up playing together for a while. They are a selfless group and just do whatever it takes to be successful.


Q: Offensively your teams of late have been juggernauts. Last year y’all where in the top 10 in Class 3A and right now you sit No. 2 in Class 2A. It starts with your quarterbacks -- Cole Wright the last two years and Joseph Mancuso before that for three years -- and now your son (junior) Pierson Allison. What are the secrets to y’all being able to develop so many good quarterbacks?

A: I don’t know if there are any secrets to it. We’ve just been blessed to have some guys here that were, and are, talented. Honesty I think it’s more of just the God-given ability they had more than anything else. But that being said, our middle school program and even the rec leagues run the same style of offense and defense we run at the high school level and we work well with those coaches in creating a lot of continuity. By the time they get here they have a good idea of what to do. 


Q: It’s a team game so no one person can do it all. But are there a few guys that have been the unsung heroes and leaders for this team?

A: I think (senior) Kanon Hemphill is definitely one of those guys for us. He does so many things for us that don’t show up the stat sheet. He’s a tremendous blocker and is huge in opening things up for the offense. He can also catch the ball but he’s just an unselfish player. Our center (senior) Coleson Daniel is a leader for us on the line and gets our guys in positions to make plays. On defense we have a guy in (senior) linebacker Jack Colwell. He’s had a good season in the middle and does a good job calling the check-offs and getting guys in the right spots.

Q: This is the seventh consecutive season with a winning record. You already have clinched a playoff spot and a home game in the first round. However, the program is still searching for that first-ever playoff win. Region 8-2A matches up with Region 5-2A with teams like Heard County, Bremen, and Callaway. Is this the year y’all get over the playoff hump? What will it take regardless of who you play?

A: We’re proud of the sustained success for sure but it would be nice to get over the hump. We’ve had some chances in the past. We lost to Bowden in overtime in 2015 (56-55), lost to Morgan County by three (31-28) in 2001,  and ran into Cedar Grove, which went on to win the state title, in 2016. I think this team is capable of being able to get us over the hump, but it really will depend on who we get in the first round. That’s a tough region over there. Two of those teams (No. 2 Callaway and No. 4 Bremen) are ranked in the top 5 and the other teams that could make the playoffs over there are all pretty good. We know it’s going to be a tough opponent no matter who it is. The key is just not making mistakes and executing what you do well. But we feel confident in ourselves and that we’ll be able to compete and have a chance to get that first playoff win.

Q: You finish the season against arch-rival Rabun County next week (Nov. 2). The Wildcats have won the last four meetings, including in 2014 and 2015, which decided the Region 8-2A titles. This is the first meeting since then and once again the two teams will be playing for the region title. Two very similar teams with high-flying offenses and defenses that have been stingy in region play. What will it take to break the streak against the Wildcats and claim y’alls first-ever region title?

A: Well, (Rabun County coach) Lee (Shaw) has done a great job over there and it’s always a tough game. Like any other game we’ll have to block and tackle and throw and catch the ball well to be able to get a win. I don’t really know whether to expect an offensive game or a defensive game. I’m guessing the team making the fewest mistakes and things like turnovers will decide it. It’s a rivalry probably more for the fans than the teams. Of course, being another mountain school it’s always a big game us. But we haven’t really looked at them yet. We’ve got to get by Social Circle this week then we’ll look at Rabun.

Q: Finally there are some great restaurants in Blairsville. If it was your last meal in town, where would you go? What would you order?

A: Well, to be honest I really don’t eat out that much. I just don’t have the time too often to go and sit down somewhere. There are a lot of places around here I have not been too. But the last time I went out to eat was a place called The Sawmill. I had breakfast: an omelette and biscuits and gravy. It was delicious. I admit that I probably need to get out more.

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Friday Game Night
  • Associated Tags: High school football, Union County football
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