Scrimmage Offers Some Answers for UP Coaches
Friday in Sanford, the Union Pines Viking football team played in its second set of scrimmages in three days at a six team jamboree hosted by Southern Lee High School.
First the Vikes faced Knightdale High in a 30-minute scrimmage featuring alternate possessions of 10 play sets. Union Pines then took the field for a 50-minute "real game" situation scrimmage with Chapel Hill High School at 7 p.m.
Vike head coach Ryan Riggan felt the evening served as a great preparation tool to ready both his team and his coaches for its season opener Friday at Red Springs.
"Tonight allowed us to experience what the whole Friday game day scenario will be like," said Riggan. "The kids arrived at the school early and we went through everything that will happen on a normal game day. That way there should be no surprises."
"As for me and my staff, tonight was also critical," Riggan said between his team's first and second scrimmage. "As a coach you might think you have an idea of where your team is at, but once you get to see it firsthand against quality competition everything becomes much clearer.
"Once my coaches and I sit down and watch the tape of these scrimmages, I think as a staff we will have many of our questions answered about where we stand as a team and what needs to be done for us to get better."
Union Pines' defense struggled mightily for a majority of the night, giving up several long passing and rushing touchdowns on Friday. However, on the offensive side of the ball several players shined. Quarterbacks Taylor O'Neil, a junior, and Garrison Peele, a senior, both demonstrated the ability to lead the Vikes spread-style offense down field on sustained runs against Chapel Hill.
O'Neil showed off a strong arm as he made many accurate long passes, including a 45-yard touchdown toss to senior wide out Brandon Brown. In contrast, Peele used his legs and vision. On the night he picked up several scrambling first downs while also completing a high percentage of short passes, many of which were caught by three-year veteran receiver and senior Dakota Gallant.
"It was great to get to play an actual game style scrimmage on the full field," Gallant said, "and get the chance to hit somebody besides ourselves. Both (O'Neil and Peele) are good in their own ways. Taylor has a rocket arm and Garrison can run over anybody, so it was encouraging to see them both have great days. Each has the ability to hurt defenses differently."
Another offensive player who excelled for Union Pines was senior running back Mitchell McNeil. On the night he had three rushing scores and several long runs from scrimmage.
McNeil and senior fullback Graham Haulsee also stood out in Union Pines' Wednesday scrimmage with East Montgomery. While Haulsee ran with power, breaking tackles to pickup several gains in the 20-yard range, McNeil used his explosive speed and elusiveness to break open three long touchdown runs from out of the backfield.
Near the end of last season, McNeil came on strong as a game breaking back for the Vikes. In his last four games as a junior, he scored four times on the ground and amassed a total of 248 yards in 16 carries. In contrast, Haulsee was a season long workhorse during his junior campaign. On the year he pounded out 1,100 rushing yards, 110 receiving yards and scored 10 touch downs on his way to being Union Pines' lone 2008 All-conference selection.
Contact F.W. Manning II at 639-5481 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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