Union County's goal same - playoffs
Published: Friday, August 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 2:15 p.m.
A few plays and a few injuries have kept Union County out of the state final in Class 1A the last two seasons, even though the Tigers entered the playoffs ranked No. 1 in the state.
Union County Tigers
2012 record: 11-1 (1A regional finalists)
Coach: Ronny Pruitt (Fourth year; 58-25 overall, 28-7 at Union)
Key games: Oct. 4 at Dixie County; Oct. 18 vs. Newberry; Oct. 25 at Chiefland
Players to watch: Buddy Edwards, RB, Sr.; Austin Dukes, OL/LB, Sr.; Talon Tyler, OL, Sr.; Geordyn Green, RB/WR, Sr.
(All games at 7:30 p.m)
Aug. 30 Jacksonville Potter's House
Sept. 6 at West Nassau
Sept. 13 Keystone Heights
Sept. 20 at Interlachen
Sept. 27 at Hamilton County
Oct. 4 at Dixie County*
Oct. 11 Idle
Oct. 18 Newberry*
Oct. 25 at Chiefland*
Nov. 1 Williston*
Nov. 7 at Jacksonville Eagle's View
Unbeaten the last two years as champions of District 7, considered the toughest league in the classification, Union enters this season looking to be more versatile offensively, and hoping to be healthier and a little luckier down the stretch.
In their regional final loss at home to Newberry (18-13) in 2012 and their state semifinal loss at Jefferson County (27-6), the Tigers played without their starting quarterback. Injuries are certainly part of football, but unfortunately for Union, 22-2 the last two years combined, they seem to come at the worst time.
The Tigers graduated 23 seniors from last year's 11-1 squad, but plenty of talent returns, led by seniors Buddy Edwards, Austin Dukes, Geordyn Green and Talon Tyler.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” said Ronny Pruitt, who is also the school's athletic director. “I am expecting a lot of young guys to step up and fill the shoes of 23 seniors we lost last year. We've got a good core group of guys and some very talented young guys coming up.”
Edwards, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound power back, is the leading rusher returning, and pounded out 642 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. Green will play at both running back and wide receiver on the offensive side and cornerback on defense.
Tyler and Dukes also play both ways, with Tyler playing on both offensive and defensive lines, while Dukes is also an offensive lineman and linebacker (team-leading 119 tackles in 2012).
Junior Caleb Cox (6-1, 180) steps in as starting quarterback.
“He is a totally different type of quarterback than we have had the last two years,” Pruitt said. “He can throw the ball. He is a taller kid and a little more rangy. We are going to try to utilize that and get the ball in the air more than what we have had.
“We got two new young kids, Darrian (Robinson) and Isaiah (Johnson) that are small kids with good speed. That's the big thing, you can't run the kind of offense we run with two running backs, you need three to play. And you need a couple of good backups. We try to spread the ball around. We are not going to have one key running back. That's the way it has been the last two years.”
Newberry's playoff win in Lake Butler in 2012 broke a 14-game home win streak by the Tigers, who host Jacksonville Potter's House in the season-opener Aug. 30. Union will also host rival Keystone Heights (Sept. 13) in a non-district game with its first big district contest coming Oct. 4 at Dixie County.
“I don't think anyone can argue we are in the toughest district in the state for our classification,” Pruitt said. “What makes it that much more exciting is that we are all in each other's backyard. A lot of times you have districts that are spread across the state.
“You look at Dixie County, Chiefland, Williston, Newberry, anyone of those can step up. It is going to be interesting. I like our odds. We just have to go out and work hard and not make mistakes. That's the main thing at this level.”