The Union Spartans opened Four County Conference action on Saturday, traveling to take on West Bladen after heavy rain postponed the game on Friday. After a slow start by both teams, Union was able to overcome an early deficit to take the 26-12 victory and remain unbeaten.
Both teams’ defenses were the story of the first quarter, but it was West Bladen that had the advantage in field position as the Spartans were forced to punt early from deep within their own territory.
Each team would trade possessions before a fumble by Union would set West Bladen up at midfield. The Knights couldn’t cash in on the good field position, though, as Union shut down the threat, stopping the Knights on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line as the first quarter wound down.
At the start of the second quarter, the Spartans were set up once again in the shadow of their own goalpost. Union was able to move the ball a few yards, but the drive stalled to force a punt.
A combination of a short punt and a solid return by West Bladen would set the Knights up with great field position at the Union 18-yard line. It only took two plays for them to find the end zone for the first score of the game. The PAT was unsuccessful but with 8:09 left in the half, West Bladen led 6-0.
Union answered. After taking over on their own 40-yard line, the Spartan offense marched 60 yards for the score. The two-point conversion was successful and the Spartans led 8-6 with 5:31 remaining in the half.
The new momentum fired up the Spartan defense. After West Bladen took over on their own 30-yard line, the Union defense drove the offense back and forced a fumble at the Knights 19-yard line. Montrel Williams came up with the fumble recovery for Union to set the Spartans up with a scoring opportunity with 4:34 left before halftime.
With 2:54 remaining in the second quarter, Spartan quarterback Nadir Goodman connected with Ty Travers for the 15-yard touchdown strike. The two-point conversion was no good and the Spartans now led 14-6 late in the opening half.
The Union defense came up big again on the ensuing West Bladen drive. After moving the ball into Spartan territory, the Knights coughed up another fumble to end the drive. Union was unable to threaten before the break and the half would end with the 14-6 score.
West Bladen was granted a big opportunity at the start of the third quarter as the Knights were able to recover a Union onside kick to give them a short field. The field was shortened even more when a flag on the same play resulted in a facemask called against the Spartans. The Knights offense took the field, setting up on the Union 21-yard line. After one play, West Bladen found themselves first and goal at the 10-yard line, but the Union defense took over as the Spartans pushed the Knights back to the 23-yard line to shut down the threat.
Each team would trade possessions before Union added to their lead as the third quarter was winding down.
With 3:12 left in the quarter, Union’s Trey Underwood broke free for a 31-yard touchdown score. Again, the 2-point conversion failed, but Union now led 20-6.
West Bladen responded quickly as the Knights returned the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Union 6-yard line. Two plays later, they were in for the score. The two-point try failed, but West Bladen was back within 20-12 with 2:17 left in the third quarter.
Each team traded possessions as the fourth quarter progressed. With 6:18 remaining in the game, West Bladen lined up on fourth down deep in their own territory, suggesting the urgency of needing to make something happen on this drive. The Spartan defense held, however, setting their offense back up on the Knights 29-yard line. With 4:20 left, Union’s Malik Williams increased his teams lead, making it 26-12 after running it for the score.
The Spartans shut down one final West Bladen drive when Donovan Hayes picked off a pass to seal the deal.
After the game, Spartan head coach Doug Burley was happy with the win.
“I’m proud of all the guys tonight,” he said. “I think offensively and defensively we played well tonight and we’re pleased to come out with the win.”
With the win, Union improves to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the Four County Conference. The Spartans are back in action next week when they host Trask.