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When Shaquille Garner started playing football as a high school junior, he did not expect much playing time or even know if he would last. On Friday, his efforts will pay off, as Garner will join four others as the first senior class recognized by the Union County program.
“When I first came out here, I didn’t think I was going to be any good at it, but playing for Coach Duley and paying attention to what he wants us to do made me better,” Garner said. “I began to love playing it, so I stayed, and playing from junior varsity to varsity have been two totally different things. Playing junior varsity was much easier because we were all on the same level, but in varsity, we have to be out there a lot longer, which means we have to work a lot harder and focus harder, playing our positions the best we can.”
Union County will host their final home game of the season, taking on Benton County, who is in the first season of their co-op program.
“You know they’re going to be athletic having kids from Ashland and Hickory Flat, so they’ll have strong kids and kids that will give good effort,” coach Scott Duley said. “This is their first year to play varsity football, much like us, but this is their first year totally. I believe offensively they’ll be simple, as well as on defense, so it will come down to our young men concentrating and giving effort. We’ve had good effort, we just have to make sure we do not have any busted assignments.”
Building on the gameday atmosphere from the first home game, Duley noted several additions for tonight, including an appearance by the Union County Band.
“The band will be here for the first time in Union County history, and the cheerleaders will be here again,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of special things for the boys, and the seniors are going to be recognized. There will be a lot of stuff that’s not normal for us, and that will be very nice for them.”
For the seniors, they would like nothing more than to not only pick up a win on their senior night, but earn the team’s first win of the season.
“I didn’t think I would still be out here playing, but it feels good to be here in my last year with these guys,” Garner said. “We’ve made it this hard and have worked hard, so it would be great to pull out a victory and maybe these next two games we can pull out victories as well.”
Friday’s game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at the Sportsplex.