Union coach Travis Turner is not among those folks, at least not yet.
“We have Gate City Friday and then we have Paintsville, Kentucky, next week and they’re legit,” Turner said. “Then we worry about playing Ridgeview.”
Turner is quick to point out that the rivalry between Union and Gate City stretches to before there was a Union and a Mountain 7.
Once upon a time, Gate City was a member of the now-defunct Lonesome Pine District along with Powell Valley and Appalachia — the schools that consolidated to form Union.
“This has been a rivalry and it’s been a rivalry for a long time. Gate City and Union, Gate City and Powell Valley and Gate City and Appalachia,” Turner said.
On the heels of back-to-back 1-9 seasons, Gate City opened the year with an upset of Richlands. But the Blue Devils have struggled since, dropping games to Abingdon, Sullivan South and Ridgeview. Still, Gate City remains a much-improved squad.
“This is not the Gate City of the last two or three years,” Turner said. “They’re well coached and they’re doing all the right things. They’re tough and present us with a lot of challenges.”
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
One of the biggest Gate City offensive weapons that concerns Turner is senior fullback Michael Calhoun.
“He’s a heck of a football player,” Turner said. “We’re going to make sure we get 11 hats to the ball, especially when he has it because one man cannot bring him down.”
Union counters with a strong defense that includes NCAA prospect Mason Polier, Bryce Guerrant and Antwun Jenkins, among others.
Polier and Guerrant are also part of a three-member, full-house backfield that includes Zavier Lomax as well. The trio racked up 265 rushing yards last Friday night against Graham, with Polier accounting for 193.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Bullitt Park.
Among the other games scheduled around Southwest Virginia on Friday night are Lee High at Ridgeview; Eastside at Lebanon; Castlewood at Rye Cove; Thomas Walker at Pineville, Kentucky; Twin Springs at Hancock County; Abingdon at Tennessee High; John Battle at Patrick Henry; Grayson County at Marion; Richlands at Bluefield, West Virginia; Tazewell at Princeton, West Virginia; Grundy at Honaker; Twin Valley at Craig County; Chilhowie at Northwood; and Rural Retreat at Holston.