Tuesday February 20th, 2024 8:52PM

Football: Union County faces tough test against No. 3 South Atlanta

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. — When Union County and South Atlanta tee it up on Friday, it'll be a massive clash of styles. 

South Atlanta (11-0, Region 6-2A No. 1 seed) likes to run the ball, and Union County (8-3, Region 8-2A No. 3 seed) can both pass and run. 

The Panthers' balanced ability certainly gives them an edge on paper, but what's on paper doesn't always translate to the field.

Union County coach Michael Perry knows the stats and has watched several hours of game film on the Hornets. 

"They just have great athletic ability," he said. "Their secondary is so fast that if you're late on the throw, they'll come back and make you pay for that." 

The Hornet defense, led by East Carolina-commit senior hybrid linebacker Taye Seymour (57 tackles, 5 tackles for loss), has recorded 100 TFLs, 58 QB hurries, 23 sacks, five interceptions and forced 10 fumbles over 10 games this season, making it the sixth best defense in Class 2A.

Of course, Seymour isn't the only playmaker on defense. Senior defensive end Cevan Edwards, a 247Sports 3-star, leads the team in TFLs with 21 and has 18 QB hurries. Senior linebacker Davante Warren leads the team in tackles with 66 and 11 TFLs. 

"Offensively, we've got to strike right from the beginning and put pressure on them," Perry said. "If we can get a lead on them and hold on to it, it could alter what they can do offensively."

The Panthers have executed their game plan on offense pretty well this season, averaging close to 40 points per game. 

Junior quarterback Caden Tanner, whose 2,617 yards is good enough for 11th on the state passing list, will have to strike fast and on time. 

He'll count on Jensen Goble (81-972 receiving yards, 9 TSs) and Griff Young (50-718 receiving yards, 7 TDs) as his primary targets. Tanner has completed passes to eight different receivers this season, six of which have 180 yards or more. 

Braylen Raider is the top running back in the Panthers' stable, rushing 130 times for 805 yards and 9 TDs. Sophomore Connor Schuknecht is second on the list with 92 carries for 464 yards.

The rushing attack has complemented the Panthers' passing game, which Perry says has come in handy this season.  

"Our attack is dictated in the boxes we see, and it comes in handy because you're going to play some defense whose strength is stopping the pass, so you have to run the ball. If you're going to beat somebody more talented than you, you're going to have to run and pass the ball." 

Defensively, the front seven of the Panthers defense has to be on their toes. 

Purdue-commit Keyjuan Brown leads the state, in all classifications, in rushing this season with 2,504 yards on 208 carries and 29 touchdowns. He's also second in the state in scoring. 

"He's an exceptional player," Perry said about Brown. "He's definitely a team-first guy. He's their bell cow who everything goes through."

The Panthers have a linebacker corp totaling 213 tackles, 44 for a loss, and a defensive line with a combined 112 tackles. Seniors Elijah Helton, Gage Barnes, and junior Kooper Ashcraft have been really good in the second level of the Panthers' defense. 

Up front, junior Lane Lance, David Heredia, and senior Elijah Haynes have also been solid. 

"Our box is pretty good. They do a great job," Perry said. "It's definitely going to be strength on strength right there.

"Defensively [Friday night], we've got to do our best to contain the tailback. We've got to rally and get guys to ball and make them left-handed, making them do what they don't want to do."

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Friday Game Night
  • Associated Tags: High school football, Union County football
© Copyright 2024 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.