A.C. Flora takes on Union County and somewhat familiar head coach Steve Taneyhill in the third round of the Class 3A state football playoffs on Friday at Memorial Stadium.
Flora (11-1) is riding a nine-game winning streak since falling to Georgia powerhouse North Gwinnett, including playoff wins over Pickens (55-31) and Belton-Honea Path (59-42). Union County brings a 7-5 record in their first season under former Gamecock flashy quarterback Taneyhill, putting together two 48-minute efforts in getting past Wren (56-32) and Greer (31-14). The latter verdict was a reversal of a regular-season clash won by Greer.
Dean Howell’s offensive juggernaut offensive team has amassed 557 points and 5,595 yards to date and is averaging 46.6 points and 464.3 yards per game, and 8.6 yards per play to date. The defensive numbers are not so impressive (23.8 ppg, 343.4 ypg), but the bottom line is the defense doesn’t have to be stellar from start to finish because out-scoring the Falcons offense is a formidable challenge in itself.
Flora’s ground game is the key. The Falcons are averaging 317.6 yards a game and 7.6 yards per carry with a parade of capable backs doing the work, including Aven Pollard (76-836-17), Keith Goss (90-787-13), JuWan Simon (67-614-11), R.J. Joyner (52-328-3), James Croffie (34-222-1) and quarterback Jake Lewis (149-814-13).
Lewis is a serious threat in the passing game, as well. He is 90-for-142 for 1,724 yards and 16 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Seniors Shelton Whittaker (27-830-8) and Schroder Carlton (26-363-6) are the primary targets.
In the latest romp, Goss piled up 136 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 10 carries, and Simon added 119 yards and two touchdowns on six carries. Lewis ran for 79 yards and one score and was 8-for-14 passing for 162 yards and scoring throws to Goss, Carlton and Denzell Johnson.
Goss is also a major contributor on defense (91 tackles, 5 TFL, 5 sacks, 7 QB hurries) along with Tyan Vereen (135 tackles, 12 TFL. 5.5 sacks, 8 QBH), Will Turman (41 tackles, 5 interceptions, 6 PBU), Donato Pelzer (50 tackles, 6 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 14 QBP), Tyrell Goodwin (55 tackles, 17 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 8 QBP) and Rion Davis (104 tackles, 3 interceptions, 11 PBU).
Union County cashed in to second-half turnovers on the way to a come-from-behind victory. A third-quarter interception by Chris Booker set up the go-ahead touchdown and a fourth-quarter fumble recovery by T.J. Foster led to his own 31-yard scoring catch that put it away.
Wide receiver Booker and Shrine Bowl quarterback Keiston Smith are the Yellow Jackets to watch on offense. Booker turned a simple slant into a 62-yard touchdown that opened the scoring last week, and Smith turned a third-and-15 scramble into a 30-yard touchdown run that gave UC a 24-14 lead.
The teams are meeting for the first time since 1999. At the time Flora and Union were Region 3-3A rivals. ACF won the first two meetings of the teams in the modern era (1974-75), but the Yellow Jackets have since won four in a row.