BLAIRSVILLE — Union County football coach Brian Allison feels like he’s playing with house money as the Panthers travel to Metter in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs tonight.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at The Jungle in Metter.
But even though he kind of sorta believes that, the competitive nature of Allison will not fully allow him to get behind the “house money” statement.
“There’s a part of me that wants to say, well, we’re playing on house money right now,” he said. “But the competitive part of me says, it’s the next ball game and we’re getting ready to play.”
The Panthers continued practice, as usual, this week, in the cool breezy climate of the Blue Ridge mountains, prepping for Region 2-2A No. 1 seed Metter.
The mood and preparation have been even-keel, laid back if you will, but Allison says that’s not unusual for his program.
“The funny thing about this football team is they’re just a really even-keel football team,” he said. “They really don’t get excited about a particular game or they don’t really get down for any game. I can count on my hand how many bad practices that we’ve had over the course of the season. When we get down, we battle back.”
The proof is in the results, according to Allison, and just like last week against South Atlanta at Mike Colwell Stadium -- in which the Panthers won their first-ever playoff game 19-15 -- the Panthers calmly rallied to be the victory.
“Last week was a good example,” he said. “We were down 15-12 and the next series the offense goes down and scores. So I believe the even-keel nature is a result of this group playing together, running the same offense and defense, since the sixth grade.”
Union will enter the rushing zone when they step on the field in The Jungle at Metter. The Tigers run a Wing-T offense and run it well, posting 385 total yards of offense out of the backfield in the 27-19 win over Screven County in the first round of the playoff.
“It’s a deception offense,” Allison said. “I don’t think it’s a secret. I think we’re just going to have to put as many people in the box as we can and get our reads. We have to get ourselves to the football and take care of our responsibilities.”
Senior safety, John Mancuso, says the Panthers will have to play physical against the Tigers' offense.
“We’ve had to play some physical teams all year,” he said. “Being able to match that physicality will be key for our defense. We need to be able to stop the run and force them into some passing situations.”
Ahmod Collins rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns last week in Tigers’ win over Screven County. But he’s not all they have. Antwan Coney turned in 102 yards and Aaron Collins had 83 yards -- all on the ground.
Defensively, Metter is just as athletic and are No. 2 in Class 2A in points allowed -- 87 points, 7.8 ppg.
The Panthers offense, however, has proven to be explosive this season, averaging 38.9 points per game -- No. 7 in Class 2A.
Senior quarterback Pierson Allison has watched plenty of game film to realize Metter’s defense is legit.
“They’re really physical and quick on defense,” he said. “They play together. We’ve got to get in a rhythm. We can’t have plays where multiple people mess up, miss a block…everybody has to play good and do their job.”
Senior wide receiver Kyle Morlock returned to the line up last week after battling an injury. He’ll be suited up and ready to go again this week, which will fortify the Panthers’ starting receiver corp alongside senior Sawyer Drake.
Junior fullback, Jonah Daniel, who rushed for 79 yards and a score last week against the Hornets, will add the balance coach Allison is looking for this week.
“I think one, we're going to have to be able to pass protect and then be able to throw in space,” coach Allison said. “If we’re able to throw the football and loosen their defense up a little bit, then we’ll be able to get Jonah the football. Hopefully, he’ll be able to run it for us.”
The Panthers understand the magnitude of this game. They also understand what a major step the program could take with another playoff win.
“It’s a big game,” Brian Allison said. “To get a win of this nature and of this caliber would be unprecedented for Union County football. “I have no doubt that we will play hard and play our guts out for four quarters and at the end of the game, we will walk off the field with our heads up and see where we’re at.”