Union County stays perfect, Hilliard tops thanks to strong ground game

Union County stays perfect, Hilliard tops thanks to strong ground game

Hilliard, Florida. – When Union County explodes, it seems that the only team that can stop the Tigers is… Union County.

After the penalties, fouls and failed assignments that plagued the Tigers in the first half of News4Jax Game of the Week, Union County looked up to its usual deep playoffs by scoring a final 38 points Friday night. With three riders leading 80 yards and two pick-stones from Dylan Deston, the Tigers rolled for a 52-14 victory over host Hilliard in the 3-1A Zone semifinals.

Game of the week | Union County 52, Hilliard 14

Update Playoff | Scores and schedules for next week

Union County coach Andrew Thomas cited the obvious reasons his team limited themselves in the first half – two stumbles on the pitches and 100 yards in penalty shootouts, giving Flash Red three first-half touchdowns, and also nullifying the kick-back for Hilliard 1 .


“We made some mistakes in the first half,” said Ravon Durant, who scored a touchdown and led all the rushers for 157 yards. “We went into the locker room and fixed that. The coach had a good game plan. We did what he said, we fixed it – fouls, penalties, missed assignments, missed blocks – and we went from there.”

There are ‘regional finals’ where the Tigers will be on the road again, this time in top-seeded Chefland (10-1), a 28-27 victory over Mayo Lafayette in overtime. The unbeaten Union County (12-0), now seeded third in its third consecutive regional final, is not the top seed on the RPI and not hosting next week is a slight point of contention for Thomas.

“To me, it felt like we were being robbed with full seeding,” Thomas said. “I thought we were going to be the one seed, but that’s how this thing is set up. We have to win on the road, our expectation is to win the regional competitions, but it’s more than that. We have to look at it from week to week. But we have to play well. Better than what we played (against Hilliard) to win next week.”


Flash looks to be in this position. Second seed Hilliard (9-2) was again denied a shot in his first regional final.

The Flashes rushed 14 down to equalize the game and were in position to take the lead late in the second quarter with a field goal, but with their regular player sidelined after injuring his hip before the game, the 22-yard attempt stalled right in straight posture;

Union County immediately moved 80 yards in nine plays, capped by Durant scoring from nine yards to lead 21-14 with a 1:27 left in the first half. The game was a runaway from that point forward.

“We didn’t turn around (in the second half),” Hilliard coach John Butt said. “We had the momentum and lost the field goal. But that’s no excuse. The best football team won. They’re stronger, bigger, faster. When you don’t get a spin and you have three interceptions – two home – you’re not going to beat anyone who does.”


Few will defeat the Tigers by doing so. Union County had so many guns that its first touchdown attempt in the second half went 60 yards in seven plays with six different players holding the ball in their possession.

Tigers rolled 467 yards, all on the ground. Midfielder A.J. Cortez, crowned with a goalkeeper, ran for 75 yards from 116 yards in the second half, scoring twice. Caleb Crawford blasted in an 80-yard rush to score the first half result. Half of Durant’s 16 coaches went on the first touchdown.

And then there was Diston. His 54-yard dash was impressive, but it was a defense where he shone, getting two passes in the second half and returning them 51 and 85 yards to score. The last payoff was not only the end result of the game, but also sent the competition into a running clock mode.

“I was just sitting on them, and I read that,” Deston said. “This is what happens when you watch a movie – you just read things.”


That was part of Thomas’ hope: Extending the lead would force Hilliard into clear passing positions and allow his defense to squeeze the quarterback, which it did with three sacks in the second half.

The flash will have opportunities down the road. Eighteen of the 22 beginners were from the lower class. It’s a learning process, and the Flashes looked up to the challenge at times, with a trick play that resulted in Dylan Coston revealing a pass from Lyle Bennett from 56 yards equaling 14.

DJ Coston added 102 rushing yards and a point. So, yes, Hilliard should be back.

But for this season, a really good team has set up a buffer in the Flashes’ way, handing Hilliard their second loss after losing to Blountstown in the regular season.

“When I got here, we had 17 players and a bad work ethic,” Pat said. “Now, we have 90 players in the program (grades) 6 through 12. We have the winning middle school team, the winning JV team.


“But two teams were physically superior to us. It was frustrating, because I thought we were ready to hang out there. But she just slipped away, and he slipped away in a hurry. That team might win the state. They have enough talent and depth to do that.”

Union County 52, Hilliard 14

Union Company 14, 7, 17, 14-52

Hilliard, 7, 7, 0, 0-14

U – Caleb Crawford 1 inning (kick fails)

U – Dayviontae Thompson 13 Run (Crawford Run)

H – DJ Coston 19 run (Lyle Bennett kick)

H – Dylan Coston 56 pass from Bennett (Bennett kick)

U – Run Rayvon Durant 9 (Jonathan Edwards kick)

U – Edwards 33 FG

U – AJ Cortese 1 Run (Edwards kick)

U – Back Daylyn Diston 51 INT (Edwards kick)

U – Cortez Run 3 (Kick Edwards)

U – Return of Diston 85 INT (Edwards kick)

Classification: U – H

First defeats: 23 16

Rush Yards: 54-467 – 25-86

Passing: 0 – 172

Comp-Att-Int: 0-4-0 – 12-32-3

Lost Sensation: 2-2 – 1-0

Penalty yards: 16-150 – 5-40

individual stats


rushing U: Durant 16-157, Cortese 11-116, Crawford 12-80, Diston 6-54, Zacari Lee 3-31, Thompson 4-22, Evan Hall 2-7. HDG Koston 18-102, Bennett 7-(-16).

scroll – U: Cortez 0-4-0-0. H: Bennett 12-32-3-172.

Receive – H: Dylan Coston 4-87, Braden Matto 5-71, DJ Coston 3-14.

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