They are small steps, but first-year head coach for the Newberry Panthers Edward Johnson is turning around a program that has been stuck in meritocracy for years.
After his Panthers beat the Hawthorne Hornets in overtime and then held Trenton Tigers scoreless a week ago, Coach Johnson wanted to ensure his players kept some perspective.
“We’ve won more games than we won last year,” Johnson said. “But we got a ways to go.”
His team takes on the Union County Fightin’ Tigers (2-1) on the road Friday, and this rivalry match is sure to be a close one.
Both teams have shown strong defenses, while also being susceptible to some errors.
Newberry comes into this game conceding 13 points per game, and Union County is giving up just over 15 points per game.
Breaking it down, both teams have had defenses step up when needed. In particular, Newberry’s defense pitched a shutout against the Trenton Tigers, and managed to prevent Hawthorne from scoring in the only overtime period.
Union County has had three games decided by one score, showing that if their defense is ever lacking, the offense is able to pick up the slack.
That Union County offense is led by running back Hosea Robinson, a senior who is able to break tackles and gain significant yards after contact. Much like other high schools, Union County relies heavily on the run game. Quarterback Lance Thornton is much like other quarterbacks in Class 1A High School football, meaning Union County uses the run game more than the usual pocket passer look.
The same can be said about Newberry, who has their own running back tandem that has carried them to their 2-1 record.
Coach Johnson calls the duo of Kobe Delima and Laverne Woods “a good little mix up,” and that showed in their dominant win against the undermanned Trenton Tigers.
The old stigma says “throw out all records and statistics because it is a rivalry game,” but these teams seem to be similar enough where record and stats would not matter.
Union County holds the series lead against Newberry 9-6, including a 34-point drubbing in Lake Butler a year ago.
This rendition of the rivalry will also be in Lake Butler, with Newberry looking to get some revenge.