“We tried to replicate in practice what they do in games, but you can’t replicate that,” said Trigg head coach Shannon Burcham, adding that Union City is one of the most physical teams he’s seen Trigg play. “We knew coming into the game that if we didn’t win on the front line, we’d be in trouble, and we didn’t win in any way, shape or form.”
Union City attempted only four passes in the contest and flexed its muscle on the ground, rushing for 270 yards. The onslaught began on the game’s first drive, a nine-play, 70-yard march capped by a 1-yard run by quarterback Chase Bowling.
Trigg junior Andrew Stewart, starting for the first time at quarterback, found Jonta Barksdale for a 17-yard pass to give the Wildcats a first down on their initial possession, but the drive stalled after a holding call, Trigg’s only penalty of the night.
Union took a 14-0 lead after another time-eating drive (11 plays, 49 yards, 5:51 off the clock). Running back Josh Nicks ended the drive with the first of his two touchdowns.
The Wildcat offense looked strong on the ensuing drive. Trigg notched back-to-back first downs after a 12-yard catch by Josh Adams and an 11-yard run by Stewart. After a pair of short gains, Stewart found Barksdale again, this time for 35 yards to put Trigg inside the Union City 5-yard line. After a Tornado offside penalty, Stewart punched into the end zone from two yards out for Trigg’s first score of the year.
Union City answered with a nine-play, 64-yard drive that ended when Jacob Worley scored from a yard out to extend the gap to 21-6.
Trigg looked ready to answer when the Wildcats took the ball into the red zone on the next drive. Three big pass plays – Barksdale for 20 yards, and Jaron Gilbert for 16 and 27 – put the ‘Cats on Union City’s 13-yard line. But the drive stalled after a pair of incompletions and two quarterback sacks.
With 2:25 left in the first half, Union City continued the running attack and closed the half ahead 24-6 after a 44-yard field goal by Jorge Guerri.
To start the third quarter, Trigg opened with two solid plays but lost momentum when a bobbled pass was intercepted by Union City’s Keylon Hyde. Nicks ran to the end zone from 26-yards out on the next play.
After a three-and-out on offense, Trigg’s defense recovered a fumble on Union City’s next play, but the offense stalled again and the Tornadoes got great field position after a bad snap sailed over the head of Trigg punter Ethan Sweno.
Hyde closed Union City’s next drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, and on Trigg’s next play, Zack Cavness recorded the Tornadoes second interception of the night and ran 36-yards for the final score of the game.
Burcham said he did see some positive things from the offense, but Union City’s size and strength was an obstacle all night.
“We blocked and pass-protected well at times, our receivers did some good things and we ran the ball well a few times,” Burcham said. “Defensively, I tried about four different things up front, and there was nothing we could do. We’ve got the people that we’ve got to get it done with, we’ve just got to find a way. The bottom line is, we’ve got to find a way to win. We’ve been here before and we don’t like it at all, but we’ll come back and go to work again.”
In addition to Union City’s physicality, Trigg also had to battle a series of injuries that kept key players on the sidelines in critical situations.
“It was hard for us to get momentum,” Burcham said. “We’d have a kid go down, and that changed what we had to do. Coach [Coby] Lewis did a good job of putting people out there that can make plays, but it became difficult with so many people going down.”
Trigg played the contest without senior wide receiver Mitch Rogers, who sat out with a back injury. Burcham said Rogers will be evaluated day-to-day.
Nicks, who carried 22 times for 149 yards on the night, was the star of an offensive strategy Trigg will see again Saturday at Graves County. While the Wildcat defense will have a better idea of what to expect after Friday’s loss, Burcham said the front line must match the Eagles’ intensity for that experience to make a difference.
“If we don’t get physical, it won’t matter,” Burcham said. “Graves has to like what they see right now. We’ve got to come off the ball, stay low and get to it.”
Saturday’s game is part of the Jackson Purchase Alliance Bowl and will begin at approximately 8 p.m. after Mayfield finishes its contest with Trousdale County, Tenn.
Union City, Tenn. 45
Trigg County 6
Friday @ Union City, Tenn.
Trigg 0 6 0 0
Union 7 17 21 0
First downs 9 15
Rushing 20-(-6) 45-270
Passing 9-24-2 3-4-0
Pass. yards 147 29
Total yards 141 299
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties 1-10 8-42
MC: Cionko 4-25; Wilson 3-8; Tyler 1-0; Josh Adams 1-(-3); Jamaal Adams 1-(-4); Stewart 9-(-9); Sweno 1-(-31)
MC: Stewart 9-24-2, 147
MC: Barksdale 3-72; Gilbert 2-43; Watkins 2-9; Wilson 1-11; Josh Adams 1-12