UP Seeks Reversal of Fortunes
Tonight is Homecoming for the Union Pines football team, as it squares off against the Gray's Creek Bears in a Cape Fear Valley (CFV) conference contest that kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
The Vikings will try to break a two-game losing skid against a Bears' squad that is 4-2 on the season and won its last three contests, scoring 104 points in the process. Last week, Gray's Creek knocked off Douglas Byrd, the 2008 4A state runners-up, by a score of 33-20 in its CFV season opener.
"Gray's Creek was impressive on film," said Vike head coach Ryan Riggan. "They have a lot of weapons including two good running backs and a big time receiver that caught 16 of the19 passes that we saw during our sessions. So he is a constant deep ball threat.
"To prepare for the Bears, we got back to trying to play sound defense and focused on our guys reaming true to their on-field assignment and responsibilities. If our guys can do what they are supposed to do, they will have many more chances to make plays, in contrast to free-lancing out there and doing their own thing."
Union Pines (0-1 CFV, 3-3 overall) has struggled over the last two weeks, not only battling the opposing teams, but also themselves by committing countless penalties and turning the ball over eight times.
"We have done as much as possible to address the problems we have had with penalties this week during practice," Riggan said, "including several different game time simulation drills, which we hope will equate to less mistakes come game time.
"As far as ball security, we have gone back to basics by focusing on sound technique and fundamentals. The idea is we want to eliminate making mistakes and turnovers as much as possible in situations where we have total control."
In their last two games, the Vikes have scored one touchdown and are coming off a 35-0 loss at home to the Overhills Jaguars (1-5 overall, 1-0).
"The first quarter will be a key for us, especially on offense," said Riggan Having only scored 6 points in our last eight quarters we worked a lot on some things in practice, and how we execute when we have possession of the ball will tell us a good deal about how this game will play out."
The Vikes will have a few players back from injuries tonight, which Riggan feels will shore up the defense and special teams. Andrew MacPherson, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury, will handle the kicking duties, while linebacker Dario Poulson returns after a week's absence due to an injured wrist.
"Having those two guys back should help us out a lot," Riggan said, "as they are both tough veteran players."
Last week against Overhills, Union Pines did not fare well through the air. Vike junior quarterback Taylor O'Neil was under heavy pressure for most of the game. He was sacked three times and hurried on a majority of his pass attempts. He ended the game completing eight of 17 passes for 75 yards and had three interceptions.
"We did much more work on pass protection this week," said Riggan. "In our team periods we sent lots of blitzes and defensive line stunts to try and put our offensive line in a situation where tonight's game will not be as hard as our practices were.
"Taylor has bounced back well," Riggan said, "he has thrown some great ball this week and we are really looking forward to getting him on the field tonight and seeing what he looks like."
Contact F.W. Manning II at 639-5481 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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