Commerce freshman running back Sammy Brown emerged last Friday with 116 yards on just seven carries and two touchdowns. He also caught a 25-yard touchdown pass. 

Make no mistake, Commerce football coach Michael Brown says he likes his 2020 team. He also said they’ve got some work to do.

The Tigers (1-0) host Union County (0-1) Friday (Sept. 11) at 8 p.m. following a 23-point win over Banks County last week that wasn’t as efficient as Brown would have preferred.

“They’re focused, they work hard everyday,” Brown said of his team. “With that being said, we found out that we’ve got a long ways to go.”

Brown said “a lot of good things” happened in the opener, but film review also revealed needed improvement in some areas.

“I thought the film itself and the game from a lot of different ways looked like a scrimmage,” he said. “Just from the standpoint of that we had way too many busted assignments. We had some really sloppy play at times, a lot of miscues.”

But Brown said he liked the effort he saw from most of his players on a hot night. He also said the game resembling a scrimmage is somewhat understandable due to the altered offseason and preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic

“We missed the whole month of June, we were kind of behind in July and we didn’t get a scrimmage against another opponent this year,” Brown said. “So, we’re probably a little bit behind where we typically would be.”

Still, the stat sheet looked good.

The Tigers’ triple option offense churned up 370 rushing yards on just 42 attempts despite being without returning leading rusher Tyelon Brock.

Freshman slot back Sammy Brown, new fullback Dreylan Martin and new starting quarterback Trey Huff combined for 283 yards rushing and accounted for all six touchdowns. Brown and Martin each ran for over 100 yards.

“We had some offensive production, and that’s a positive, because, again, when you get to looking at the film, the play was not as good as you typically would see from us,” Brown said. “So, there’s a lot of positives we can take. We certainly don’t want to be too negative about a win.”

The Tigers, who fell out of the Class A-Public top 10 despite the victory, will now face a Union County squad coming off a program-best 10-win campaign in 2019. The Panthers, who fell to Fannin County 24-20 in their opener, lost several of their top weapons from a second-round playoff team, but do return standout running back Jonah Daniel, who ran for 1,570 yards last year.

The Panthers run an uptempo spread offense attack.

“They do a ton of stuff on offense,” Brown said. “It’s really hard to mimic in practice for our defense what they do. Just a very complex offense.”

Brown also said the Panthers are disciplined and sound on defense, one that returns linebackers Noah Underwood and Clayton Lester and defensive back Kaston Hemphill.

“One of the reasons that we wanted to play teams like Union County is to make us better,” he said. “So, I expect this to be a really tough game.”

The game will reunite Brown with one of his mentors and friends. Union County head coach Brian Allison served as Brown’s position coach when Brown played college football at Furman. Brown was a defensive end from 1992-1996 when Allison coached the Paladins’ defensive line.

“He is a great coach,” Brown said. “I was able to benefit from being under his leadership as a player myself, so when you look at his team, he’s created a culture up there where they expect to win. Their kids are tough. They’re well-coached. They’re disciplined.”

Friday will mark Commerce’s first game in front of its home fans this season, and the school has moved up its senior night to Friday given the uncertainly surrounding the season with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Brown is looking forward to playing again at Ray Lamb Stadium.

“It’s just getting back into some sense of normal,” Brown said. “I told somebody the other day that (last) Friday night was in a lot of ways strange just because of some of the things that we were not able to do.

“But I think now that we’ve got that first game under our belt, we’re kind of getting into the weekly process of preparation and playing. Things will seem very familiar from this point out.”

Union County at Commerce

•Who: Union Co. at Commerce (Tiger Field at Ray Lamb Stadium)

•When: Friday, 8 p.m.

•Records: Commerce, 1-0; Union Co., 0-1

•Coaches: Michael Brown, Commerce (eighth season, 63-23); Brian Allison, Union Co. (19th season at Union Co., 117-72; 25th season overall, 142-108)

•Last week: Commerce 41, Banks Co. 18; Fannin Co. 24, Union Co. 20

•What else: This is the 14th meeting between the two programs. Commerce is a perfect 13-0 in this series. The teams have not met since 1999, when the Tigers triumphed 48-14. This series dates back to 1979 … Commerce’s 41-18 win over Banks County last week marked its seventh-straight season-opening win. The Tigers are now aiming for their seventh-straight 2-0 start ... Commerce ran for 370 yards on 42 carries in its win over Banks County, led by 116 yards and two touchdowns from freshman Sammy Brown. Brown also had a touchdown reception … Union County is coming off a 10-2 season last year. The 10 wins are the most in program history … Brian Allison is in his second stint with Union County, having coached the Panthers from 1996-2001 and then returning in 2008. He is Union County’s winningest coach at 117-72. He coached a six-year stint at Winder-Barrow from 2002-2007, going 25-36.


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