11/10/10 — James Kenan meets Tri-County foe Union

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James Kenan meets Tri-County foe Union

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 10, 2010 1:47 PM

The midseason tailspin is over, but James Kenan certainly hasn't forgotten a disheartening late-September loss against Tri-County 1-A Conference foe Union.

The Tigers let a two-touchdown advantage slip through their paws against the Spartans and suffered a 28-23 road defeat. Turnovers, special-teams blunders and inconsistent play factored into the outcome.

Kenan seeks redemption this week.

The teams meet in the opening round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-AA East Region football playoffs. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

"We're excited about it because they beat us the first time and it's a chance to redeem ourselves a little bit," said Tigers head coach Ken Avent Jr. "You always want a chance to play them again because you feel like you have something to prove."

The Tigers (6-5 overall) haven't opened the postseason on the road since 2001 when they dropped a 39-0 decision at Farmville Central. They're 26-17 in the playoffs since 1980, including an 11-3 worksheet during Avent Jr.'s tenure as head coach in Warsaw.

James Kenan is facing a conference opponent to start the playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons. Union is 3-8, but has the homefield advantage since it won the regular-season meeting.

"It's like we we're playing a little conference tournament with the new (pod) playoff system," said Avent Jr. "I think we have been playing pretty good for the last five or six weeks, so I hope we can continue to do that. I thought we played good Friday night, but a few mistakes cost us and you can't do that against a team like Wallace."

The Tigers had their four-game win streak snapped against their archrival.

Quarterback Parker Jones and receiver James Owens Jr. were shut down in the road loss. Jones has thrown for nearly 1,400 yards this season and Owens is closing in on the 1,000-yard plateau.

The Bulldogs also kept Kenan's running game from getting untracked and forced a few long-yardage situations on third down.

"We never set our offense up to highlight one or two players and that sort of just happened for a couple of games," said Avent Jr. "We've gone to a new offense this year and it takes time to get into a rhythm. It's hard to play very good teams (early) when you run a new system.

"I think we are playing better defensively, too, because we've moved some people around where we needed to have them."

Avent Jr. said the key to winning Friday comes down to two intangibles -- turnovers (the Tigers have 26 for the season) and intensity. If Kenan can limit the first and duplicate its aggressiveness it showed against Wallace, then it can count on practicing for another week.