Jackets season ends one game short

Sports Editor - Union Daily Times

GREER - Union's chance to defend its state championship was intercepted by Greer.

A Josh Williams' interception in the closing seconds of Friday night's game at Dooley Field gave Greer a 21-17 win over Union and a shot at the Class AAA state championship, next Saturday against West Florence at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.

Trailing by four points late, Union drove into scoring position and was just four yards from the end zone with 21 seconds left.

Justin Knox rolled left and threw into the end zone. Williams stepped in front of the pass, likely intended for a wide open Pip Smith in the corner of the end zone, for the interception.

"I'm very proud of our players," said Union coach Mike Anthony. "I  thought they played all the way to the very end and just made play after play. We ain't got a thang to be ashamed of. I tell you that. I don't care what anybody says."

Union (10-4) took its first lead of the game on a 23-yard Nick Maness field goal with seconds remaining in the third quarter. The 13 play drive, all on the ground, covered 66 yards and ate up most of the third period. It was highlighted by a 25-yard Knox run and a 14-yard Tyrone Chick run.

But Greer (12-2) came right back, going 66 yards in eight plays for the game winning touchdown, a 35-yard pass from quarterback Sinclair Cannon to Chad Cartwright. A 22-yard run by Cannon on third down and a 13-yard catch by Williams set up the score. Will Smith added the PAT for the four point lead.

On Union's final drive, facing fourth and 22 yards with 3:30 left, Knox found C.J. Lott on a 48-yard strike to give the Jackets a chance. Another Lott catch, this one for 12 yards, got Union to Greer's 15-yard line and some hard running by Knox put Union just four yards from a fifth straight state championship game appearance. But it wasn't to be.

"It's very difficult for our fans and very difficult for us right now, but the sun will come up tomorrow," said Anthony. "We'll look back on this and be very proud because of the way our kids turned the corner after we played them in the ninth week (a 36-21 Greer victory). (Union) was not the same football team you saw in the ninth week."

At the half the game was deadlocked at 14.

After a poor opening kickoff by Union, Greer struck first. Cannon broke free on a 18-yard run and then scored on a 27-yard touchdown run. Smith added the PAT.

Union got going in the second quarter, driving 62 yards in 11 plays. A 13-yard catch by Smith, a Greer face mask penalty, a 15-yard run by Knox and hard running by Eirish Stevens set up the Jackets' first score - an 8-yard run by Knox. Maness' PAT tied the game.

Greer immediately answered with a 57-yard touchdown strike from Cannon to Tyrone Williams on a slant pattern across the middle of the field. Smith added the PAT and Greer led 14-7.

Union answered, extending its drive with a fake punt, where Kendrick Lyles ran for 12 yards and a first down. Two long catches by Lott highlighted the drive, the second catch was fumbled but recovered by Mikey Callahan at the Greer 15-yard line. Stevens took it in from there, scoring on a 6-yard run with just over three minutes left in the half. Maness' PAT tied the game.

Just like in the first game, Union dominated the stat sheet. Union had 334 yards total offense, 196 yards on the ground and 17 first downs. Greer had eight first downs and 244 yards total offense, 166 yards through the air, as Union's defense held the dangerous Cannon mostly in check.

"I'm proud of our kids," said Anthony. "I hate to see it end, because we've got a lot of great seniors. It really is heart wrenching."

"I'm very proud for Greer. Now I feel the way these kids and coaches from Greer had to feel for quite some time (Union eliminated Greer from the playoff for five straight years). It doesn't make it any easier, but we've got to handle it like they did."

Union  0  14  3  0  <  17
Greer  7   7   0  7  <  21

Team stats
First downs: UNION 17; GREER 8
Rushing: UNION 196; GREER 78
Passing: UNION 138; GREER 166
Turnovers: UNION (1 Interception); GREER none
Penalties:     UNION 7-35; GREER 5-36

Individual stats
Passing: UNION - Knox 7-17-138; GREER - Cannon 11-14-166
Rushing: UNION Cannon 23-73; Sitton 5-5
Receiving: UNION - Lott 4-110; Chick 1-1; Stevens 1-14; Smith 1-13. GREER T. Williams 1-57; J. Williams 3-38; Cartwright 3-41; Miller 3-30

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