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Football: Union 26, West Bladen 12

DUBLIN – Union defeated West Bladen 26-12 Saturday night in the Four County Conference opener for both teams.

Knight linebacker Traquan Smith ended Union’s second possession of the game by recovering a Spartan fumble at the Union 49 yardline. Senior fullback A. J. Willis popped through the line and raced 42 yards to the Union seven. However, the Knights were stopped on downs at the one yardline.

The West Bladen defense kept the Spartans bottled up, and junior Jimmy Williams returned a short punt 10 yards to the  Union 18 yardline. Junior B. J. Drake banged through the line for 13 yards to the five, but moments later a chop block penalty pushed the Knights back to the 20 yardline.

Junior Scott Bowen then lobbed a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior Jonathan Ashworth. Bowen was making his first start at quarterback due to an injury to senior Weston Pidgeon. A bad snap foiled the conversion attempt and West led 6-0 with 8:09 left in the first half.

Union traveled 60 yards in 5 plays scoring on a quarterback sneak from a yard out. After a penalty shortened the conversion, another quarterback sneak made it 8-6 with 5:31 on the clock.

Two plays later, a Knight fumble gave the visitors possession at the West 18 yardline. Three plays later an 8-yard pass play made it 14-6 with 2:54 left before halftime. “You can’t give a team the ball that close and get away with it,” said Knight Coach Todd Pait.

Junior Michael Hepburn returned the Union kick-off 29 yards to the West 42 yardline. Drake bolted through the line for 21 yards to the Union 37 yardline, but another lost fumble ended the threat.

Big junior Jonathan Robinson grabbed Union’s on-side kick attempt to start the second half and returned it 9 yards. A facemask penalty on the play put the Knights at the Union 21.  Drake pinballed off several tacklers for 13 yards to the Spartan ten yardline, but the Knights were stopped on downs.

The teams traded possessions until Union covered 46 yards in 2 plays to take a 20-6 lead with 3:12 left in the third period.

Hepburn scooped up the Spartan kick-off and scooted 83 yards down the right sideline to the Union 7 yardline. One play later Bowen bulled through the middle for the touchdown from 3 yards out. The 2-point conversion failed, and West trailed 20-12 with 2:17 remaining in the quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Spartans tacked on another score after West Bladen came up a yard shot on fourth down from their own 29. The touchdown came with 4:20 left on a 17-yard run.

“Missed opportunities,” said Coach Pait. “It’s frustrating when you work hard on things and then don’t execute. The kids are playing hard. I still believe we are a good football team.”

Drake led the Knight ground attack with 52 yards on 12 carries, while Willis finished with 50 yards on 5 rushes. Bowen completed 1 of 4 passes for 20 yards. Hepburn returned 3 kick-offs for 129 yards.

Drake was credited with 11 tackles to lead the West defense. Williams and senior Chris Council finished with 8 tackles each. Smith and junior Zion Barrett made 6 tackles each. Smith and senior Hunter Pait recovered Union fumbles.

West Bladen is now 2-3 overall and will host defending Four County champ Wallace-Rose Hill Friday night.

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