#8 in the series - - - Union Yellow Jackets

Lugoff-Elgin is more than a Cinderella team. The script for their success could more likely be found in the Twilight Zone.

Simply put, nobody thought the Demons would be meeting Union at 7:30 p.m. Friday for the upperstate championship.

After all, this is the same team that Union destroyed 35-7 in week 2. But somehow the Demons got it together, they learned from the Union loss and later in the season started their current seven-game winning streak. The Jackets have a six-game win streak going.

That may be the only battle that Lugoff-Elgin wins on paper.

Still Cinderellas sometimes get hot and knock off much better teams.

Case in point, on Sunday the Houston Texans expansion team defeated the New York Giants. The FOX announcer said, "never kick a cow patty on a hot day."

The point, never underestimate any opponent. Union won't, they've been in Lugoff-Elgin's shoes before.

In 1997, Union was 4-6 going into the playoffs and ended the season 7-7, losing to Daniel in the upperstate title game.

Lugoff-Elgin comes off a thrilling 48-45 triple overtime win over Broome and Union off a 21-14 win over Greer.

"They're a much improved team from when we played them the second week of the season," said Union coach Mike Anthony. "If they weren't pretty good they wouldn't be where they are.

"I do think we have a psychological advantage, pretty much having our own way in the first game."

The Demons use both the spread and Wing-T offense. Union's only loss came to Newberry, which ran the Wing-T.

"Hopefully we can get them behind, because I'd rather play against spread," said Anthony. "With our secondary playing the way they are (25 interceptions on the season) and the way we get pass rush, I think we'd be better off forcing them to play spread."

For Union to win they must shut down Lugoff-Elgin senior quarterback Antonio Kelly.

On the season, Kelly has been a force, completing 136 of 256 passes for 1,815 yards and 17 touchdowns, but he also has 15 interceptions.

In the first meeting between the Jackets and Demons, Kelly was 10-of-32 for 82 yards, but he gave up four back-breaking interceptions to Union's formidable secondary. Against Broome, Kelly was 9-of-16 for 152 yards and three touchdowns.

Kelly also runs well. He has 111 carries for 549 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Against Union he rushed nine times for 52 yards and a 12-yard touchdown. Against Broome he rushed 12 times for 37 yards.

"(Kelly) is the best athlete on their team," said Anthony. "He's the catalyst that makes it all go. He does a lot of good things, throwing and running."

Union quarterback Justin Knox is 148-of-277 for 2,299 yards and 22 touchdowns, and has only given up 10 interceptions. But he had a rough time against Lugoff, completing only 7-of-20 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions in only his second start. Against Greer, Knox completed 12-of-25 for 251 yards, three touchdowns and had one interception.

Clifton Gathers, a sophomore running back, is another potent offensive threat for Lugoff-Elgin. Gathers has 129 carries for 703 yards and 15 touchdowns. He wasn't utilized in the Union game. Against Broome he rushed 23 times for 103 yards and a touchdown in his third straight 100 yard game.

"The running backs are better than when they played us," said Anthony.

Gathers, at linebacker, leads the team in tackles, but wasn't used on defense against Broome.

Union running back Eirish Stevens had 16 carries for 112 yards against Greer and has 170 carries for 928 yards and 16 touchdowns this year.

Darnell Wallace, a senior, is the leading receiver for the Demons. Wallace has 55 receptions for 935 yards and 11 touchdowns. Against Union, Wallace had two catches for 18 yards.

He caught four passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns against Broome.  At cornerback, he also had an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown, which proved to be the Centurions' undoing.

Union's David Smith, a North-South all-star, caught three passes for 46 yards against Greer and has 57 catches on the season for 1,006 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Lugoff-Elgin's Patrick Donovan, a senior wide receiver, wasn't utilized against Union, but caught two passes for 19 yards and the winning touchdown pass against Broome.

Union's Charles Brandon, a Shrine Bowler, had a career night against Greer, catching five passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. Brandon has 685 yards on 40 carries for five touchdowns this year.

The defense could be Lugoff-Elgin's Achilles' heel, giving up 344 points this season, more points than the offense scored (339). In the playoffs, the Demons have outscored opponents only 100-93. All of Lugoff-Elgin's playoff games have been close, with all three being settled by  a total of seven points.

Union coaches identify Dwayne Counts Jr. as the best defensive lineman. He had three sacks against Broome.

"I don't know how much they've improved defensively; if you look at their scores, they've given up a lot of points. So, hopefully, we can put some points on the board and I'll take my chances with our defense. I feel real good about where we are."

Union's defense is giving up only 78 yards per game through the air and the secondary has 25 interceptions on the season. The Jacket defense has allowed only 119 yards per game on the ground. Curtis Rice, a North-South all-star, and Deon Glenn lead in tackles. Josh Gilmore leads Union with seven interceptions.

The Yellow Jacket offense looks to open things up against the Lugoff-Elgin defense. Anthony said he was too cautious against Greer.

"I was too cautious last week," he said. "I won't do that anymore. I'll just let these kids play."

Of course, Union's team, coaches and fans can't wait to get back to Columbia for a fourth straight state title game.

"We're in good shape, we've just got to play well," said Anthony. "If we play well we'll get to the final game, but we'll struggle if we play poorly."

Game 14:
Mascot: Demons
Colors: Red & Blue
Home: Kershaw County
Coach: Scott Jones
Division: Region IV AAA
Last week: Lugoff-Elgin defeated Broome 48-45 in three overtimes.
2001 record: 8-5
2002 record: 9-5
Preview: Union defeated the Demons 35-7 in week 2. Lugoff-Elgin finished the season at 5-5, before making its improbable playoff run. They are a better team than the Jackets saw the first time.

Players to watch: Antonio Kelly (#10, QB); Darnell Wallace (#12, WR); Clifton Gathers (#24, RB);
Dwayne Counts (#71, DT).

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