Jackets advance to Upper-State


Sports Editor - Union Daily Times

Still alive after 0-5.

Union continued its remarkable turnaround, beating Greenville 36-32 on Friday night to advance to the upperstate championship game.

Union (7-6) will host region rival Clinton (10-3) next week for a chance to play for the state championship.

"Our assistant coaches - I tell you what, both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, in my opinion are the best in the state," said Jacket head coach Tommy Bobo. "They're giving our kids a chance to win. Our kids have got a lot of confidence. They're just not quitting right now. We're tickled to death that we were able to win against a very good, quality football team."

The star of the night was Kendrick Neal. He rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass.

"Kendrick's just steady," said Bobo. "Lot of people say, nothing spectacular, but we'll take 3 and 4 yards a clip and all of a sudden break one. He's going to attribute that to the lineman."

He did ...

"They provided the hole for me and I took advantage of it."

Greenville star quarterback Matt Lentz rushed for 172 yards and five touchdowns, and passed for 103 yards in a losing effort.

"Against this team, you're not going to shut anything down, you just hope to contain it," said Bobo. "They've got weapons all over the field and the quarterback is such a phenomenal athlete."

Lentz made it exciting at the end. He and rusher Chris Wallace ran Greenville down field on a 72-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

Lentz scored on a 1-yard run and a Bradley Williams' kick gave Greenville a 26-25 lead with just over six minutes left.

Union refused to lose. Travis Sims caught a 50-yard pass from Cameron Willis. That set up a 16-yard touchdown run by Neal. Sims caught a 2-point pass and the Jackets led 33-26.

Greenville fumbled on its next possession and Chad Johnson recovered. A few plays later, David Gregory booted a 25-yard field goal with 1:32 left for a 36-26 lead.

The Red Raiders were not done, driving 65 yards on quick passes, mostly Lentz to receiver Tate Zeigler. Lentz scored a 1-yard touchdown with 52.8 seconds left.

Williams came on to kick the extra point and give Greenville a chance at a miracle comeback. He connected, but a penalty moved him back and the second try was no good.

The Raiders tried an onside kick, but Union recovered and ran out the clock.

"Even as bad as it looked when (the season) started, these guys never lost their focus," said Bobo. "Now they've got a chance to play in the second most important game at home with our crowd."

That crowd went wild at the start of the game when Union opened the scoring on a fake field goal.

Kenny Harris had recovered a Greenville fumble, but the Jackets couldn't punch the ball in and set up for a field goal. Willis, who holds for Gregory, took the snap and then threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Neal. Gregory then nailed the PAT.

Greenville answered when Lentz ran for a 20-yard score. Williams' kick tied the game.

After a big Neal run, Troy Epps scored on a 4-yard run to give Union the lead. Gregory's kick gave the Jackets a 14-7 lead.

In the second quarter, Greenville's George Douglas recovered a fumble. The Raiders marched 59 yards mostly on the ground and Lentz scored from 1-yard out. But Williams missed the extra point.

A bad snap on a punt cost the Jackets though. Greenville recovered on Union's 28-yard line and a few plays later, Lentz scored on a 3-yard run, but a two-point pass failed. Greenville led 19-14.

Gregory kicked a 27-yard field goal with just seconds left in the half and the Raiders led 19-17 at the break.

In the third period, Union took the lead on a 5-yard Neal run and Sims added a two-point catch.

Union held Greenville on downs and Gregory missed a 27-yard field goal, all leading up to the drama of the final quarter.

It's an all Region III-3A upperstate championship, as Clinton gets a rematch with the Jackets, after downing Clover 35-15.

Union beat Clinton 28-7 in week 6. That was Union's first win of the season after an 0-5 start.

"We had to dig deep from the 0-5 start and come back and prove something to all these people," said Neal.

Union 36, Greenville 32
Union       14   3  8  11  -  36
Greenville  7  12  0  13  -  32

Scoring summary
U - Kendrick Neal 22-yard catch from Cameron Willis (David Gregory kick)
G - Matt Lentz 20-yard run (Bradley Williams kick)
U - Troy Epps 4-yard run (Gregory kick)
G - Lentz 1-yard run (kick failed)
G - Lentz 3-yard run (2-pt. failed)
U - Gregory 27-yard field goal
U - Neal 5-yard run (Travis Sims catch)
G - Lentz 1-yard run (Williams kick)
U - Neal 16-yard run (Sims catch)
U - Gregory 25-yard field goal
G - Lentz 2-yard run (kick failed)

Rushing: Union 269; Greenville 297
Passing: Union 87; Greenville 103
Total offense: Union 356; Greenville 400
First downs: Greenville 22; Union 16
Penalties: Union 5-54; Greenville 3-15
Fumbles/lost: Union 2-1; Greenville 4-3
Punts: Union 3-34.3; Greenville 3-25.3

Union - Kendrick Neal 24-226-2TDs, Troy Epps 9-34-1TD, Cameron Willis 12-15, Kierre Smith 2-6.
Greenville - Matt Lentz 35-172-5TDs, Preston Thomas 4-26, Chris Wallace 11-43.
Union - Cameron Willis 5-14-87-1TD.
Greenville - Matt Lentz 9-17-103.
Union - Kendrick Neal 2-19-1TD, Jarvis Griffin 1-10, Travis Sims 2-58.
Greenville - Marckus Boswell 3-9, Tate Zeigler 4-61.


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