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Union's Turner well aware of Central's high-octane offense

Kevin Mays • Oct 18, 2019 at 10:30 AM

Respect.

That’s the word that comes to mind for when Union travels less than 20 miles up the road to face Wise Central in a key Mountain 7 District football game at Warrior Stadium.

Union (6-1, 3-0) is coming off a big district win over Ridgeview last week. Central (4-2, 1-2) picked up its first league win of the season with a high-scoring victory over John Battle.

The Warriors’ high-octane offense has Bears coach Travis Turner a little nervous about the matchup of Wise County rivals.

“They’re explosive on offense,” Turner said of the Warriors. “They’ve scored over 50 points three times this season already and we’re going to have to slow them down some.”

Central has outscored its opponents by a combined 234-179 this season, including unloading a school-record 60 points against Lebanon.

The Warriors, led by junior C.J. Crabtree, rushed for 443 yards last week against John Battle. Crabtree ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Ethan Mullins ran for one touchdown and threw for another.

Central’s offense has bounced back after losing speedster Maddox Reynolds to a season- ending knee injury earlier this year.

“Losing Maddox hurt us. He and C.J. gave us a good 1-2 punch,” said Central coach Luke Owens. “But C.J. has been able to pick up the slack some over the last couple of weeks for us.”

Despite Crabtree shouldering the biggest load for the Warriors, Owens said his offense is not one-dimensional.

“Ethan Mullins has been playing better each week and has been putting some passes on target,” the coach said.

Ben Brickey and Tyson Tester have been Mullins’ primary targets this season.

The biggest question Owens has about his sophomore-dominated team is consistency, offensively and defensively.

“We have to capitalize on our opportunities,” he said. “A lot of times we’re playing like we’re capable of, but at other times we still do some 10th-grade stuff. We can’t have that Friday. We have to be more consistent and we can’t relax out there. We have to play every play and be consistent.

“If we relax, they’re going to make us pay for it.”

Union’s Mason Polier likely would be one of those making the Warriors pay. The NCAA prospect, a senior leader on both offense and defense all season long, piled up 237 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 32 carries last week against Ridgeview.

“I don’t think you can stop him, but we’re going to have to figure out a way to slow him down some,” Owens said. “He’s a big, quick back and can hurt you in a hurry.”

The Bears boast other weapons in running back Bryce Guerrant and wide receiver/wingback Antwun Jenkins, who run behind a strong and quick offensive line.

Union also brings to the field one of the stingiest defenses in the region.

Kickoff for Friday’s game in Norton is scheduled for 7 p.m.

OTHER ACTION

Plenty of other key games are on tap throughout Southwest Virginia on Friday night.

Among them are Lee High at Gate City, Ridgeview at John Battle, Eastside at Twin Springs, J.I. Burton at Grundy, Unaka at Rye Cove, Thomas Walker at Twin Valley and Lebanon at Castlewood.

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