Union County still unbeaten after defeating Dixie
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 12:19 a.m.
CROSS CITY — For a quarter, the first quarter, Dixie County had Union County right where it wanted it. Down a couple of touchdowns in a battle of Class 1A, District 7 heavyweights.
But the No. 2 Tigers have been down before this season and have answered the call every time.
On Friday night, they did it again, in convincing fashion.
Union County scored 28 unanswered points, getting an outstanding performance from junior Walter Mabrey and cashing in on a pair Bear turnovers in the second half en route to a 28-14 win at Bruce Boyette Stadium.
Third-ranked Dixie County (4-2, 1-1 in district) entered Friday's game winners of four straight, averaging nearly 300 yards a game on the ground. But Union County's defense, although pushed around early, didn't let the Bears gain any offensive momentum after the first, limiting Dixie to just 60 rushing yards the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the Tigers (6-0, 2-0 in district), which made a habit of scoring on big plays a year ago, had some in this key District 7 matchup.
Prince Alexander started it early in the second, turning a short screen pass from Chandler Mann into a 42-yard touchdown, trimming the Bears' two-touchdown lead to one.
And although Dixie County kept Union out of the end zone late in the first half after a threatening drive, the momentum had started to shift the Tigers way.
“We've been there before,” said Union County coach Ronny Pruitt. “I guess those three games that we had been so tight and behind, the Lord did that for a reason. At halftime, they didn't panic.
“I am so proud of these kids, they never quit. They have taken on every challenge that has been given to them.”
And Mabrey was leading the way.
After a Prince Alexander interception, Mabrey, who finished with 147 yards on just nine carries, darted through a huge hole on the Tigers' first offensive play in the second half, going 47 yards untouched to tie the game at 14-all.
Another interception of Dixie County quarterback Shaquille Mitchem, this time by Geordyn Green, who returned it 38 yards, setting up Prince Alexander's 4-yard TD run, and a 21-14 Union lead with 10:36 to play.
After a 49-yard run by Mabrey, Mann hit Dylan Clark for a game-clinching TD pass of 13 yards, making it 28-14 with just 4:51 left.
Bears junior Duke Dawson, who is being recruited by the likes of UF, FSU and Wisconsin, had more success passing the football when called upon. In fact, it was Dawson who opened the scoring with a 37-yard TD pass to Cody Mitchell on Dixie's first offensive play of the game.
For the game, Dawson was 3-of-3 passing for 62 yards while Mitchem struggled, not completing a pass in seven attempts with two interceptions.
“I felt pretty good, even at halftime,” Bears coach Brent Wilkerson said. “I knew points were going to be hard to come by against their defense, which is really good. The biggest thing that was our problem were turnovers which gave them great field position. Turnovers killed us in the second half. We just couldn't get that momentum back.”
Both teams are out of district next week, with Union hosting P.K. Yonge and Dixie traveling to play No. 1 Trenton. The Tigers remaining district game are Oct. 19 at Baldwin and at home on Nov. 2 against Newberry.
The Bears still have to play at Newberry on Oct. 19 and host Chiefland the following week, on Oct. 26.
“We just have to keep winning,” Wilkerson said. “We have two more district games to play. We win those, we play our way into the playoffs. That is basically it. Maybe we can see Union County again in the playoffs.”
Union players felt they had something prove since dropping from No. 1 in the state two weeks ago.
“We were the underdogs the last couple weeks and we wanted to come out and earn our respect,” Mabrey said. “ We had a scare at the beginning tonight. But I had faith in my team and in the second half we got it done.”