At 5-0 on the season, and featuring one of the highest-scoring offenses in the state, the #8-ranked Union County Panthers are seeking much more than what they have accomplished.
“One-percent better each day,” says senior wide receiver Kyle Morlock. “That’s kind of like our little motto I guess you could say. That’s what we try to do every practice.”
For Union County, the 5-0 start and state ranking is expected and has become a habit this time of year going back to around 2012.
“We’ve had a couple quarterbacks (Joseph Mancuso, Cole Wright, Pierson Allison) come through that’s kind of pushed that in the right direction,” says head coach Brian Allison, who has 137 career victories, and 112 for the Panthers. “There have been some great players come through that’s helped us get to where we’re at right now.”
Allison has coached 24 seasons overall, and is in his second stint at Union.
In Week 6, on September 27, the Panthers’ high-flying offense found itself in a weird position. While usually the pressure is on the defense after the offense has lit up the board, Putnam County clawed back into the game time and time again, forcing the offense to continue to score to secure the win. The result was a 74-57 shootout that closely resembles a basketball score. In fact, it marks the 5th-highest scoring shootout in Georgia history.
“It was a long game,” says Allison. “It was frustrating that we couldn’t stop them and take control of the game and have it under control earlier. Thankfully our offense kept kept taking the ball down and scoring, and doing what they needed to do.”
Morlock knew the offense had to bail the defense out.
“The intensity was great,” says Morlock. “We knew we just had to help them out.”
Allison’s son, Pierson Allison, is the star quarterback for two seasons now, and has put up video-game like numbers: 1,553 yards passing, 18 TD against no interceptions, and rushing for 240 yards with 5 TD on the ground.
“It’s really special, especially to do it with [Sawyer Drake and Morlock]” says Allison on back-to-back 400-plus passing yard games (he has 3 such games in his career). “Our offensive line has picked up their game…we’re just firing on all cylinders right now.”
While the offense puts up 53.8 points per game on the scoreboard, and Allison, as well as running back Jonah Daniel (798 yds, 10 TD) and receivers Drake (465 yds, 6 TD) and Morlock (528 yds, 6 TD) are putting up gaudy numbers, the goal is much more than that.
“First of all, we want to start out with a region championship,” says Allison. “Rabun is a good opponent, and we’re really looking forward to that matchup. Get through the first round [of state] for sure, hopefully through the second round.”
Morlock, who stated that the senior group, which has grown up playing all sports together, is concentrating on one message of focusing on improving daily, a sentiment that Coach Allison echoes as the recipe for success.
“We really just try to take it one week at a time,” says Allison. “I know that’s a coaching cliche, but we try not to worry about what’s coming next. Right now we’ve got our hands full with Elbert County…if we want to get to a point where we’re playing Rabun at the end for a region championship, we must win this one.”
As the little things are done correctly, starting with the Elbert County game in Week 7, the rest will take care of itself, including statistical goals like Drake has set out to do.
“Coming into my sophomore year coming in playing varsity, my goal was to actually get 2,000 yards by the time I graduated,” says Drake, who needs just 120 more yards to reach the total. “It would mean a lot.”
While certainly the skill players deserve a lot of attention, the Panthers’ offensive line of Drake Groves, Aaron Helton, Nathan Brooks, Lance Patton, and Bobby Rogers do as well. That group, which paved the way for 720 offensive yards in the win over Putnam County, was named by GHSF Daily as the Offensive Line of the Week.
In Union’s 63 years of history, a state playoff win is one thing lacking.
“I know it would mean a lot to our kids,” says Allison. “They’ve talked about it and that’s one of the goals the seniors set is to win that playoff game. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. To a degree its out of our control. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”
Digital Copy of Interview – Pierson Allison, Sawyer Drake & Kyle Morlock
Digital Copy of Interview - Pierson Allison, Sawyer Drake & Kyle Morlock ($10/copy)
Digital Copy of Interview – Brian Allison
Digital Copy of Interview - Brian Allison ($10/copy)