A lot on the line when Barnesville visits UL
MORRISTOWN – Playoff positioning, bragging rights, momentum and the coveted Milk Jug Trophy, those are just a few of the things that will be on the line Friday night when streaking Barnesville travels to take on arch-rival Union Local in a key week 10 high school football battle.
Coach Blake Allen’s Shamrocks are riding a five-game winning streak, including last week’s 46-20 victory over Shenandoah, while Bernie Thompson’s 5-3 Jets have endured a brutal four-game stretch and have lost three of those contests and will be looking for momentum heading into the playoffs.
Barnesville is currently sitting at No. 5 in Division VI, Region 23 while Union Local is 12th in Division IV, Region 15. The top 16 teams in each region qualify for next week’s first round of the playoffs.
“I have been telling the kids that the easiest way to look at this game is to consider it a playoff game,” Allen said. “There is an awful lot to play for and the atmosphere and excitement levels are going to be unreal. They are a huge rival, there are playoff implications and so much to play for. This is going to be a four-quarter dogfight.”
Thompson also knows there is plenty at stake and believes his team might have a slight advantage.
“When you play your biggest rival you can pretty much throw everything out the window,” Thompson commented. “But we have played a lot of very talented teams recently and I honestly believe we have had a tougher journey than they have. Nothing against them, but I think our schedule is going to help us and make a difference.”
Both teams have plenty of weapons and the ability to put points on the scoreboard.
The ‘Rocks are led by junior quarterback C.J. Hannahs who had a huge game against the Zeps last week, rushing for a pair of scores and throwing for two others. Hannahs tossed scoring passes of 72 yards to Chase Conner and 14 yards to Spencer Bliss, who finished with four grabs for 57 yards and also had a 10-yard touchdown run and an 80-yard kickoff return for a score.
Senior Owyn Wise had a 55-yard scoring burst included in his 11-carry, 160-yard performance as Barnesville rushed for 294 yards on the night.
Since a 35-14 loss to Shadyside Allen’s crew has rattled off five wins in a row, outscoring their opponents by a whopping 230-53 margin, which includes a pair of shutout victories. The Shamrocks have also scored at least 37 points in each of those five victories.
“It’s a huge rivalry game, there is a ton to play for and they are a talented 7-1 record football team,” Thompson added. “It is going to be a very fun week. The team wearing green, I can’t say their name (Thompson joked), will be ready to play and so will we. They have outplayed us and outworked us the last two years, but we are coming to handle our business this year.
“We got a few kids back last week and are getting healthier by the day. We didn’t show up a few weeks ago against St. Clairsville, but I think we gained some confidence and showed what we were made of last week. Our kids beat Bellaire in every category but the final score.
“People around here are saying this is the biggest game the Jets have played in four years. It’s Senior Night, it’s Homecoming and it’s trying to get a push in the right direction heading into the playoffs. It’s always important to win this game, and our seniors have not beat them yet. We had a chance last year and didn’t get it done, which has left a bad taste in our mouths.”
Union Local has its share of athletes as well, led by junior running back Hayden McCrate, who has rushed for 969 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. Quarterback Carter Blake has completed 54 of 122 passes for 850 yards and 12 scores and has plenty of receiving threats.
Leading the way in the receiving corps are sophomore Gannon Kerns, McCrate and senior Caleb McWhorter. Freshman Dre Saunders also had a big game last week with three grabs for 69 yards.
After being held to just 87 yards against St. Clairsville the Jets out gained the Big Reds by a 269-213 margin a week ago, allowing just 17 yards through the air. Barnesville will be the third consecutive one-loss team Union Local will face with its three losses coming to teams with a combined record of 23-2.
The Jets have scored 186 points in their five wins but have been outscored by a 125-19 margin in the three setbacks.
“They are a very good football team and obviously their offense can put points on the scoreboard,” Allen said. “They have one of the best running backs in the entire Valley and he can take the ball to the house at any given time. Their quarterback is a veteran with a good arm and plenty of weapons.
“Union Local has a lot of athletes on defense and their younger kids just continue to get better.
“But we are getting better weekly as well. I have mentioned a few times that we have a big senior class, but we didn’t have a lot of field experience entering the season. We knew there was going to be growing pains, but we have gained more and more confidence every week and we are playing some of our best football right now.”
Barnesville has won the last three meeting between the rivals, including last year’s 24-21 victory. Union Local’s last win was a 49-20 victory in 2017.