Union County dominates in battle of Tigers teams

Union County continued its dominating streak with a 48-13 regional quarterfinal win over visiting Trenton Friday in Lake Butler.

The two Tiger teams clashed in the opening round of the Class 1A state playoffs, but it was Union County (11-0) that took advantage of its size and running game that featured three rushing touchdowns from Rayvon Durant and two from Caleb Crawford.

UC RB Caleb Crawford celebrates a TD with OL Alex Dure

“Our kids played well tonight,” Union County coach Andrew Thomas said. “The big thing was not turning the ball over. We haven’t had issues with [turnovers] this year, but when we have, we’ve struggled. We executed well on both sides and kind of imposed our will which is what we wanted to do.”

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For Thomas, it was a bittersweet game defeating a Trenton program he coached to state titles in 2013 and 2015.

“It was a little weird playing Trenton knowing I spent five years there and won two state titles,” he said. “ But I have a lot of respect for the people there and that school and they will always have a special place in my heart.”

Union County raced to a quick lead when Bubba Thompson scored on an 8-yard run on its opening drive.

Later in the quarter, following a Trenton fumble recovered by linebacker Trevor Holtzendorf, Crawford found the end zone on a 24-yard run.

Durant capped the first-quarter scoring with a 15-yard run and the hosting Tigers led 21-0.

Trenton (4-6) tried to claw its way back into the game and, on the first play of the second quarter, quarterback Tyler Perry weaved his way through the field for a 50-yard score, but on ensuing Union County drive, a Durant 48-yard run set up Crawford for his second score from the 6-yard line and a 28-6 edge.

Following a Trenton turnover on downs, Durant raced down the middle of the field for a 69-yard score and, following another quick Trenton possession, Durant found the end zone again on a 30-yard run with 2:57 left in the half and a 41-6 Union County lead.

In the second half, Union County extended its advantage to 48-6 when quarterback AJ Cortese kept the ball for a 58-yard touchdown run.

UC QB AJ Cortese pass

Cortese, a strong-armed junior who was flinging the ball 50 yards downfield right before the first half ended, split time with senior quarterback Martin Odum.

“I have kind of a little two-headed monster (with Odum and Cortese),” Thomas said. “They’re different and they both have a lot of strengths and we’re going to lean on both of them as we go on this [playoff] run.”

Trenton finished the scoring in the fourth quarter when Perry found Jaron Riley on a 20-yard pass with 6:20 left in the game.

“I’m proud of my kids,” Trenton coach Bill Wiles said. “We’ve got to correct some stuff, obviously, program wise. Union County, they get all the credit tonight. They are really talented, tough and physical.”

Third-seed Union County now advances to play second-seed Hilliard Red Flashes (9-1) next Friday in the regional semifinals. Hilliard played Trenton and beat them 28-21 at home on Oct. 22.

“We know we can play with anybody in the state,” Thomas said, adding he felt Union County should have been a higher playoff seed. “We feel like we didn’t get what we deserved because records don’t always tell the whole story with wins and losses. We’ve got a good football team and we’ve got to go on the road and do it. We feel a little disrespected.”

In recent action on October 29, Lake Butler Union County faced off against Newberry and Trenton took on Bristol Liberty County on October 29 at Trenton High School. We covered the game. For a full recap, click here.

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