Countdown To Kickoff: Union County Fightin’ Tigers

Quarterback AJ Cortese among those back on loaded offense
Bulk of offense returns from team that went 12-1 last year
Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 6:54 PM EDT
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LAKE BUTLER, Fla. (WCJB) -If there is any team that understands it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, it would have to be Union County.

“We kind of want our revenge back, we lost by two points in that third round of the playoffs, it still hurts us,” said senior running back Rayvon Durant.

Indeed, last year’s Fightin’ Tigers stood 12-0 and averaged 40 points per game, until they fell to Chiefland in the Class 1A region championship game. The memory of that loss is what drives this year’s Tigers.

“We didn’t expect to lose that game but things happen and this year we’re preparing every week and just putting in work to overcome what happened last year,” said senior quarterback AJ Cortese.

“Once we get to November, we want to host some playoff games,” said head coach Andrew Thomas. “And hopefully put ourselves in the best situation where we can make a run. We want to compete at the highest level.”

Thomas enters his third season at Union County, and has a loaded offense. Cortese and Durant (1,457 yards) are back, as are players who combined for all nine receiving touchdowns last fall. Union County also graduated only one starting offensive lineman.

“It helps to play with the same guys over and over, and be able to build a relationship in your position, said offensive lineman Carson Rogers. “If you know your right guard has it, you can rely on him to do his job.”

“We have a pretty high level of confidence, we think we can make it past the third round, make the playoffs again, and we all just have to connect as one team,” said Durant.

Thomas certainly didn’t arrange his schedule with going undefeated in mind. The Tigers’ first two opponents are powerhouses University Christian and Columbia, and they also face Hawthorne in mid-October. The difficult schedule is designed for the purpose of sharpening play for a clearly stated goal.

“State champion, I ain’t going to lie to you, state championship,” said wide receiver / defensive back Daylyn Diston. “We’re trying to win it all, that’s it right there.”

And if the Fightin’ Tigers pull it off, that would be the capstone they’ve been searching for.

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