Preview – Lee County to Host Union Pines
This Friday night at Paul Gay Stadium in Sanford, Lee County will host Union Pines in a game that will leave one team unbeaten in conference play and in at least a tie for the lead in the Tri-County 3A Conference. Both teams won on the road to open Tri-County 3A conference play, with Lee County beating Triton 41-7 and Union Pines holding off Harnett Central in Lillington 27-24.
Lee County brings the #1 rush defense in the league and the top scoring team (averaging 43.4 points per game) into the matchup with the Vikings, while Union Pines features the top pass/catch duo in the Tri-County 3A in QB Rory Board and 6’2 receiver Jacob Bowbliss and the recent return of running back Tyreek McKoy.
When Lee County Has the Ball
The Yellow Jackets have scored over 300 points in 7 games and have scored in a variety of ways. The most balanced offense in the league features running backs AJ Boulware and Larry Baldwin and the Yellow Jackets have rushed for 1459 yards on the ground so far this season. Lee County averages 6.8 yards per carry and 208 yards per game on the ground while scoring 23 rushing TDs. QB Colin Johnson has thrown for 1159 yards on the season with 13 TDs and only 1 INT. Johnson has spread the passing around to 10 different receivers thus far, with Tyric McKendall leading the way with 27 receptions on the season. The Viking defense has given up 23.8 points per game thus far and will look to leading tackler Holden Graner to slow down the Lee run game and keep the Jacket offense in check.
When Union Pines Has the Ball
The Vikings have moved the ball mostly through the air so far this season and will rely on QB Rory Board to find spots in the Yellow Jacket secondary to move the ball. Board is the leading passer in the Tri-County 3A and will have to be good this Friday night against a Lee County defense that is giving up only 12.6 points per game. Running on Lee County is a tall order as the Yellow Jackets are holding opponents to only 73.6 yards per game on the ground and last week held Triton (that came in averaging 315 yards per game rushing) to 97 yards on 42 carries. Viking runner Tyreek McCoy missed some time due to injury but has returned and rushed for over 200 against Harnett Central. This will add a dimension to the Viking offense that will be needed against the Yellow Jackets. The Vikings are averaging 131 yards per game on the ground and 172 yards passing per game. Lee County has given up some yardage through the air and seems the best bet for Union Pines to move the ball. The Yellow Jacket secondary is led by UNC commit Jayden Chalmers and the Jacket defense has had 8 different players to intercept passes so far this season. Jacob Bowbliss will get the attention of the Lee secondary on each snap as he already has 50 receptions through the first 7 games.
Lee County will be aiming for their 13th consecutive Tri-County win and playing at home on Homecoming Night certainly won’t hurt. The Yellow Jackets will feature more speed and scoring options than the Vikings, but the Board-Bowbliss connection through the air will be key. If Lee can hold the Viking passing in check, it could be a long night for Union Pines. The Vikings will need to step up big defensively to stop the many Yellow Jacket offensive weapons and causing a few turnovers could aid that cause. Lee County kicking has been a significant factor this season and kicker Trey Underwood leads all Tri-County 3A kickers in scoring. Underwood brings a variety to kickoffs for Lee County with his pinpoint accuracy in finding open areas and the ability to kick it deep. Union Pines has won 3 straight and 4 of their last 5 and certainly recognize an opportunity to steal one in Sanford and jump in the driver’s seat in the short 5-game conference season in the Tri-County 3A.