Jackets thump JL Mann 31-13

 

By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
Managing Editor - Union Daily Times

One down, four to go.

Union took the first step on the road to Columbia Friday night by whipping J.L. Mann, 31-13, in the first round of the state 3-A playoffs.

Unlike previous Yellow Jacket teams which dazzled opponents with their passing attack, the one that sent the Patriots packing for home controlled the game on the ground, rolling up 253 yards rushing.

"We have to do what our kids will let us do," Union coach Mike Anthony said. "We played extremely well; we really came to play."

Tailback Eirish Stevens led the way for Union with 20 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He said he and the other seniors on the team know that this time of year is "do or die" and "play real hard so it won't be our last game."

Ever since Col. Paul Davis' pre-game devotional about Gideon several weeks ago, "we realize we have to come out here and give it our all," quarterback Justin Knox said.

Despite completing six of 10 passes for just 49 yards, Knox was unconcerned about the focus on the running game.

"It doesn't matter at all, as long as we're winning," he said.

Union capitalized on a J.L. Mann miscue for its first points of the game. After the Patriots were forced to punt on their first possession, the center snap sailed over punter Drew Nesemeir's head. He picked up the loose ball and tried to run but was tackled by Lafayette Dawkins at the Patriots' 19-yard line. Three plays later, Stevens burst up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown and Nick Maness' kick gave Union a quick 7-0 lead.

The Yellow Jackets added another touchdown on their next possession as Tyrone Chick's scored on a 27-yard end-around, capping an 11-play, 74-yard drive.

Another Patriot mistake set up Union's third touchdown, as Chad Robinson intercepted a Rett Crocker pass at J.L. Mann's 23-yard line. Five plays later, Stevens scored from three yards out and Maness' kick gave the Yellow Jackets a 21-0 lead with 7:25 left in the first half.

Union's defense, led by Shrine Bowl selection Rashaad Jackson, Troy Epps, Travis Norris and Jamar Porter, shut down J.L. Mann's wing-T attack, holding the Patriots to just 21 yards rushing and one first down in the first half. In the second half, J.L. Mann had minus-11 yards on the ground.

"We're as good as anybody up front," Anthony said of his defense. "Taking away the run was a big factor."

Union controlled most of the third quarter with its ball-control offense, allowing J.L. Mann to run only seven offensive plays. The Yellow Jackets increased their lead to 24-0 on a 19-yard Maness field goal with 5:45 left in the period.

Free safety Kendrick Lyles, Union's other Shrine Bowl selection, brought the crowd to its feet when he returned a Patriot punt 58 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.

"I caught the wall (of blockers)," he said. "They went one way and I got a good block from Rashaad."

J.L. Mann got its passing game on track in the final period, as Crocker hit Burns Cale for a seven-yard score and quarterback R.J. Snyder, who operates the wing-T, found Drique Johnson for a 30-yard scoring strike.

Union, 8-3, will travel to Belton-Honea Path, a 20-7 winner over Lugoff-Elgin, next Friday.

Union  14  7  3  7  -  31
Mann   0  0  0  13  - 13
Unofficial statistics
First downs: Union 17, J.L. Mann 4
Yards rushing: Union 253, J.L. Mann 10
Yards passing: Union 49, J.L. Mann 123
Passing, A-C-I: Union 6-10-1; J.L. Mann 8-17-3
Fumbles lost: Union 0, J.L. Mann 0
Penalties: Union 20, J.L. Mann 20
Individual statistics
Rushing: Knox (U) 13-57, Stevens (U) 20-136, Sims (U) 13-58; Thompson (M) 3-17.
Passing: Knox (U) 6-10-1, 49 yards; Crocker (M) 6-13-389 yards, Snyder (M) 2-5-0 34 yards.
Receiving: Stevens (U) 3-23, Lott (U) 1-19, Chick (U) 2-7; Thompson (M) 6-108.

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