By Gary Smith
Peabody was perplexed by Union City’s flex-bone offense in a 28-21 loss in the TSSAA Class 2A quarterfinal round of the state football playoffs last week.
With the loss, Peabody concludes an outstanding 10-3 season and due to the win, Union City (11-2) advances to the semifinal round, where the Tornadoes are bracketed to play Columbia Academy on Friday.
Last week, Union City simply had more offensive options than Peabody. The Tornadoes efficiently executed their triple option offense to storm the field for 410 yards on 52 rushes (7.8 yards per attempt). All three components contributed as fullback Trey Jones carried 14 times for 86 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Braxton Waddell kept the ball 16 times for 188 yards and one score and tailback Conner Hurt ran 21 times for 133 yards and a six-pointer.
Meanwhile, Peabody’s offense was limited due to an injury to feature running back Jarel Dickson, who had rushed for over 1,100 during the season. In the game, the Tide rushed 20 times for 59 yards (2.95 yards per attempt). Relegated to an aerial attack, sophomore quarterback Cooper Baugus completed 18-of-32 passes for 228 yards. He threw three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.
Things looked promising for Peabody as the Tide offense rolled downfield 59 yards on 11 plays to score on the game’s opening series. A scrambling Baugus connected with Noah Halbrook for a 27-yard touchdown on a corner route and Zach Grooms kicked the extra point to boost Peabody to a 7-0 lead at the 8:04 juncture of the first quarter.
Following two three-and out series, Union City tied the contest on Conner Hurt’s 11-yard touchdown scamper around the right perimeter and Jalen Woods’ extra point kick.
The next three possessions resulted in turnovers thanks to (UC) Andrew Easley’s interception, (PHS) Je’Nevee Robinson’s fumble recovery and (UC) Preston Little’s interception in the end zone. The home team missed a 34-yard field goal with 10 seconds left and the first half ended in a 7-all deadlock.
Both offenses lit up the scoreboard in the third frame as Union City scored three touchdowns to Peabody’s one. Accounting for the scores were Peabody on Halbrook’s 19-yard TD reception of a go-route pass thrown by Baugus and Union City on Trey Jones’ five-yard dive play and 10-yard burst and Braxton Waddell’s 50-yard quarterback keeper.
Trailing 28-14 at the end of the third frame, Peabody attempted a comeback in the last stanza. Midway through the period, Halbrook ran an out-route and comeback for an eight-yard TD touchdown reception and Grooms booted the extra point to narrow the deficit to 28-21.
Trenton’s defense executed a stand to fend off Union City’s fourth down play from the Tide 44-yard line to give the visiting squad one final chance to tie the game. Starting the series with 2:23 left, Peabody was unable to negotiate first down yardage on three passes and a scramble and eventually forfeited the ball. UC ran victory formation plays to preserve the 28-21 win.
Evaluating the Tide’s performance, PHS Coach Shane Jacobs explained, “We could not have played harder and I am proud of that effort. We gave ourselves a chance to win the game, but we did not execute in certain spots at the end. It just did not work out for us.”
Statistically, Peabody managed 287 total yards and 13 first downs. Union City amassed 410 total yards (all on the ground) and 14 renewed series. The Tide did not fumble the ball, and the Tornadoes lost their only bobble. PHS was penalized on nine occasions for 52 yards, and UC was flagged 11 times for 106 yards.
Offensive leaders included Baugus with 12 scrambles for 45 yards and Halbrook with 10 receptions for 175 yards and three touchdowns.
Top defenders included Hunter Hudson with eight solo tackles and eight assists; Marvin Cliff with six primary strikes and two secondary hits; Brantley Whitwell with four initial contacts and five help-outs; and Eli Hammonds and Je’Nevee Robinson with four tackles and two assists each.
Seniors playing their final football game for Peabody were Robert Clark, Marvin Cliff Jr., Zach Grooms, Khance Hill, Mitch Hill, Hunter Hudson, Quentin Jumper, Matthew Martin, Lavoskiae Pirtle, Je’Nevee Robinson and Brantley Whitwell.
“This was as good a senior class as a coach could ask for. They are a great group of kids. They are going to be tremendously missed and extremely difficult to replace,” praised Coach Jacobs.
Analyzing Peabody’s 10-3 season, Coach Jacobs acknowledged, “Expectations in this town are for a state championship. I hate to say the season was a disappointment. I was disappointed in the outcome, but not disappointed in the kids. We wanted so much to keep advancing in the playoffs, but that is the way it goes some times.”