Union shuts out Eastside

 

By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
Managing Editor - Union Daily Times

GREENVILLE - "It's always fun to be practicing on Thanksgiving." Coach Mike Anthony's post-game quote means that for the fifth consecutive year, Union will be playing for the upperstate 3-A championship. The Yellow Jackets took advantage of five Eastside turnovers and shut out the Eagles, 36-0, Friday night at Paladin Stadium.

Union will play Greer, a 35-34 overtime winner over Greenville, next Friday at Greer.

For the second straight week, Union's defense set the tone for the game early and controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the evening. The defensive line spent much of the game in Eastside's backfield, forcing four fumbles and hurrying the Eagles' quarterbacks into throwing three interceptions.

The Yellow Jackets (10-3) held Eastside's vaunted option attack to 29 yards total offense - minus-4 yards rushing and 33 yards passing - and gave up only one first down in each half. Eastside tailback Josh Durham managed just 13 yards on seven carries, while fullback Jason Leventis gained seven yards on six attempts.

Due to the defensive effort, Union's offense was provided great field position for each scoring drive. The Yellow Jackets' first two scores - Nick Maness' 26-yard field goal and an 8-yard touchdown pass from Justin Knox to C.J. Lott - came after Eastside fumbles.

On Eastside's next possession, Jeremy Littlejohn intercepted a Carter Ford pass and returned it 23 yards to the Union 43. Five plays later, Knox connected with Tyrone Chick on a 48-yard touchdown play and Maness' extra point gave Union a 17-0 lead at halftime. After a rusty first half in which he missed his receivers on several throws, Knox
finished strong, completing 11 of 23 pass attempts for 151 yards and three touchdowns.

The second half was nearly a carbon copy of the first - every time Eastside coughed up the ball, Union scored.

Chris Stone, who relieved Ford at quarterback to start the third quarter, had no more luck than his predecessor. Defensive pressure forced him to hurry his throw and Littlejohn picked it off, returning the ball to the Eagles' 13-yard line. Six plays later, Eirish Stevens scored on a one-yard run for a 24-0 Union lead.

On Eastside's next possession, Ford was hit by Rashaad Jackson as he threw the ball and Troy Epps intercepted it at the Eagles' 49-yard line.  Knox connected with Chick on passes of 10 and 22 yards before they combined for a nine-yard scoring play, giving Union a 30-0 lead with 1:29 left in the third quarter.

Union's last score came in the final minute, when Jeremy Sims dashed 47 yards for his first varsity touchdown.

"This was just an overwhelming performance," Anthony said. "It was a real team effort."

Unofficial statistics
First downs: Union 11, Eastside 2.
Yards rushing: Union 203, Eastside -4
Yards passing: Union 151, Eastside 33
Passing, A-C-I: Union 11-23-1, Eastside 4-15-3
Fumbles lost: Union 0, Eastside 3
Penalties: Union 10-70, Eastside 8-71.
Individual statistics
Rushing: Stevens (U) 22-62, Knox (U) 7-44, J. Sims (U) 1-47; Durham
(E) 7-13, Leventis (E) 7-6, Ford (E) 8 (-25).
Passing: Knox (U) 11-23-1, 151 yards; Ford (E) 4-13-2.
Receiving: Chick (U) 5-103, Lott (U) 2-18, Langley (U) 2-24; Williams
(E) 2-20, Gaillard (E) 1-17.

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