UNION COUNTY — The Highway Eighteen Rivalry will be renewed this Friday night as the Yellow Jackets will make the short ride over to Gaffney to take on the Indians.
Everybody has memories of games in Gaffney or games at Union County Stadium against Gaffney. Tales of rocks and eggs being thrown at buses, insults and curse words being hurled at players, fans, and even the band. Hard to tell now which stories are actually fact or merely just legends that have been passed down through generations of Yellow Jacket fans. My personal favorite story is the one of Joe Montgomery and Roscoe Crosby.
Coach Joe Montgomery guided the Indians for twelve seasons from 1991-2002, which included four State Title game appearances, two of which resulted in two Big Sixteen State Titles for the Indians.
We all know of the athletic prowess of Roscoe Crosby, and all he accomplished on the gridiron as well as the baseball diamond for Union. Roscoe was a rare talent, blessed with colossal speed, power, and agility, and one of the things he did best was return kickoffs for touchdowns. In fact, he even returned the opening kickoff of the 1999 State Title Game for a touchdown against Dillon.
The legend has it that Coach Montgomery was heard several times, throughout the week prior to the Gaffney vs Union game, stating that he wasn’t scared of Roscoe Crosby or his speed and that Gaffney would kick to the Mr. Football candidate.
And he did just that. Once. Roscoe took the opening kickoff back for 6 points and Union jumped out to an early lead, and another kickoff didn’t go towards Crosby the rest of the night. The Jackets would go on to win that matchup 35-28. That was the Jackets first win over Gaffney since 1994 and was the first of three consecutive wins over the Indians.
Former Union Coach Mike Anthony remembers the moment, “Roscoe caught the ball on the baseball field side, there were around eight division one coaches standing under that goal post. I talked to most of them before the game, and when he scored I glanced back at them and they were all shaking their heads.”
Another great memory for me is the very next year when we went to Gaffney. Union never faired well at the “old” Reservation, but that night was different. Mickey Rice blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown early in that game and the Jackets cruised to a 51-28 win. The next year was particularly sweet for me as I was a member of the team that claimed a third consecutive win over the rival Indians.
Many of you have memories that predate mine. Maybe they are memories of the 1971 team that claimed the first win against Gaffney, or some other legend that you recall, whether or not it ever actually happened. Playing against Gaffney is something players have always looked forward to. Our communities are so close geographically that the rivalry just makes sense. Despite limited success over the years this will always be a rivalry.
As I get to know more fan bases here in the upstate, covering teams in Spartanburg I have found out that most teams in our area feel the same way and have similar stories about playing the Indians as we do. At the radio station I currently work at we have jokingly dubbed Gaffney #everybodysrival.
This year’s game should be no different. Union County goes to the “new” Reservation to make more of those legendary memories. The Jackets will go in with a young quarterback who did show some promise last week in a loss to defending 3A champion Chapman. Three Turnovers, including two very costly fumbles, helped Chapman secure the 35-20 win over the Jackets.
Gaffney also lost in week zero. The Indians lost to a tough TL Hanna squad by two points when Gaffney failed to convert a two point conversation at the end of the fourth quarter.
Union County will have to limit the mistakes and keep the ball away from Gaffney’s very good senior quarterback Tyshun Sarratt if they want to be successful. Gaffney has switched from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 this season, and their defensive line is uncharacteristically small for a Gaffney team, who usually has the biggest and strongest. This will hopefully allow the Yellow Jackets to establish a running game early in this contest.
Other Picks For This Week
Ashley Ridge over Boiling Springs
Broome over Christ Church
Chapman over Seneca
Dorman over Northwestern
Blue Ridge over Landrum
Hanna over Spartanburg
Woodruff over Abbeville
Byrnes over Greer
Whitmire over Great Falls
Tyler Shurgart can be reached at [email protected]