UNION — Union County is set to face Wren tonight in the first round of 3-A playoffs and Head Coach Steve Taneyhill feels good about his team’s chances.
“I think we got a good draw,” said Taneyhill. “If we go and play 48 minutes of football it should be ours to lose.”
The Jackets have been working this week to correct mistakes that have plagued them all season, focusing on special teams.
“That kickoff return for a touchdown in the game last week was really the momentum shifter,” said Taneyhill. “Wren is a good football team and they’re very well coached. They’re efficient in what they do on offense — I’ve seen them have a 16-play drive — but our problems here this year have resulted from our own mistakes.”
Union County is coming off a 42-26 loss to Region III-AAA champion, Chester. The Jackets will have to deal with an up-tempo Wren offense that is led by junior quarterback Jacob Clarey who threw for 320 yards and three touchdowns during a 55-13 Region I-AAA win over intra-district rival Palmetto last Friday.
Clary and the Wren offense, which totaled 507 yards, scored on six of its seven drives in the first two quarters.
“At any point in time they can go 80 yards,” said Taneyhill. “They throw a lot of short passes and they’ll occasionally run a couple of double moves to try and get you deep but it’s mainly a zone read.”
The Wren defensive line is bookended by D.J. Jones, a Shrine Bowl selection, and Mario Tackett.
“They’re very good upfront,” acknowledged Taneyhill. “It’s one of the best front fours we’re gonna see. Number 44 (Jones) is probably the best d-lineman besides Gaffney’s that we’ve seen all year. Then they’ve got 90 (Tackett) who’s good. Those two guys really stuff runs inside and I think they are Wren’s defensive strengths.”
The bottom line for Union County will be taking care of the ball on offense and avoiding turnovers. The Jackets will also need to cut down on penalties and be fundamentally sound on special teams in order to escape Wren High School with a first round playoff win.
“I think when you get in the playoffs, it’s gonna always be the same things,” said Taneyhill. “You can’t have a lot of turnovers or dumb penalties — the 15-yard unsportsmanlike, the holds on third and 1 — those things will be important.
“Especially in the playoffs, if you’re sound on special teams I think it gives you a chance to win. If you make mistakes on special teams, then the other team wins. I think those three things will be key to us winning the game.”
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Wren High School.
Sports Editor Tiffany Grady-Hudgins can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell at (864) 251-4330.