Although the 2012 realignment left Union County and Greer in separate regions, there will be a lot on the line Friday night and Head Coach Steve Taneyhill is anxious to see how his Jackets will respond after last week’s 28-21 loss to Gaffney.
“This is what I call a flip game,” said Taneyhill. “A win can propel us and a loss can knock us back even further.”
The battle of the Yellow Jackets could easily turn into an offensive shootout with both Union County and Greer boasting some play makers with big numbers.
Union County quarterback Keiston Smith is coming off a stellar performance against Gaffney where he threw for 245 yards with two touchdown passes and rushed for 105 yards, adding a touchdown and a two-point-conversion from the ground.
Wide receiver Chris Booker offers Smith a consistent target, collecting first downs on six of seven receptions in last week’s contest, collecting 108 yards and a 41-yard kickoff return.
Union County features four wide receivers that, according to Taneyhill, could be the star on any night.
The Jackets also have a pair of running backs that Taneyhill would like to see become a bigger part of the offense on Friday.
“We can’t keep depending on Keiston to run the ball,” he said. “Tray (Davis) and Adrian (Brown) are too good of players not to be in the mix. We’ve got to get them more involved.”
Taneyhill is also well aware of Greer’s prized stallion — running back Quez Nesbitt.
“We gotta focus on 20 (Nesbitt), he’s awful good,” said Taneyhill. “He’s not the biggest back, but he’s quick and he’s tough in the open field. Hopefully we can bottle him up — they’re gonna get him the ball — he’s the focal point of their offense.”
Last week, Nesbitt contributed 388 yards to Greer’s 579-yard total offense as the Jackets went on to take a 63-14 win over Riverside.
Greer lost quarterback Reece Hannon — a finalist a year ago for the state’s Mr. Football award — to graduation and senior Emmanuel Kelly was thought to be the heir before transitioning to wide receiver. Senior Josh Gentry has filled the void and finds Kelly to be a valuable mark.
Union County’s defense was led last week by senior Derek Goode who racked up 12 tackles, an interception and two tackles for loss.
Union County will need a solid overall defensive effort on Friday to control Greer’s running game and force Gentry to pass.
“If we stop the run — make them throw the ball to beat us — then we’ll have a better chance,” said Taneyhill. “We want to take away their strength and that’s running the ball. I thought we did a good job last week of cutting down the big plays and that’s what we’ve got to do this week. If 20’s (Nesbitt) going to beat us, make it be thirty carries — don’t let them have twenty carries for 200 yards — lets eliminate the big plays.”
Last week, the Union County Stadium was filled to capacity and the Yellow Jackets are hoping to see the same support this Friday.
“We talked with the kids about making this one of the toughest places in the state to play,” said Taneyhill. “I think our crowd will help determine that.”