Union wins Jacket Bowl IX 10-9

Managing Editor - Union Daily Times

Forget for a moment that it was Senior Night, as well as homecoming. This was Union vs. Greer.

And when Union batted down Greer's last-ditch pass in the end zone as time expired, the Yellow Jackets had a 10-9 victory, a berth in the playoffs and a share of first place in Region III 3-A.

"I thought that clock would never hit zeroes," Union coach Tommy Bobo said after the game. "Seeing the kids and the coaches enjoy this win was worth the effort."

With the win, Union (3-1, 3-6) is tied for first place with Clover and Clinton. The Yellow Jackets travel to Clover next week with a chance to win the region title.

Just last week, Union suffered a setback at Riverside in a game it expected to win. But the Yellow Jackets regrouped during practice, put the loss behind them and focused on beating Greer.

"I've been saying all year long that there's a lot of character on this team," Bobo said. "We feel like we've improved every week. We're showing emotion, depending on each other and pulling for one another."

Although Union led by 10-0 at halftime, no one on the Yellow Jackets' sideline was ready to chalk up a victory, based on previous games between these two rivals.

Greer had failed to take advantage of several Union miscues in the first half - roughing the kicker on a punt and roughing the passer which nullified a Union interception. Instead, Greer twice turned the ball over on turnovers, which Union converted into points - a 37-yard David Gregory field goal and a 12-yard scoring pass from Cameron Willis to Travis Sims.

Union's defense stopped Greer's opening drive of the second half and forced the visitors to punt, but before the Yellow Jackets could gain any momentum on offense, Willis was intercepted by Chris Owens at Union's 43-yard line.

Six plays later, quarterback Gran Simmons found Jerrick Gaffney for a 25-yard touchdown and just like that, Greer was back in the ball game.

Union's next two drives ended when Troy Epps was stopped cold on fourth-and-one and then when Gregory's punt attempt was blocked. But each time the Yellow Jackets' defense stiffened, first forcing Greer to punt and then causing the visitors to attempt a 45-yard field goal, which fell short of its target.

The Yellow Jackets then began a time-consuming drive, keeping the ball on the ground and moving from their own 20-yard-line to Greer's 46. On second down, Willis took a high snap from center and tried to advance the ball, but was hit hard and did not return to action the rest of the night.

Union was forced to punt, but an illegal participation penalty gave the Yellow Jackets new life at the Greer 32. On the next play, however, Kendrick Neal fumbled and Greer recovered with 4:02 left in the game. The visitors failed to capitalize and turned the ball over on downs at the Union 39.

Three straight running plays netted minus-17 yards for Union and on fourth down Gregory stepped out of the end zone for a safety with 2:19 remaining. Greer's last chance for victory came with 16.5 seconds left when Taylor Johnson hit Justin Anderson for 38 yards, down to Union's 32. Two plays later, Johnson launched a pass toward the end zone that was knocked down by Union defenders, triggering bedlam on the Yellow Jackets' sideline.

Greer  0  0  7  2  - 9
Union  3  7  0  0  - 10

First downs: Greer 9, Union 10
Yards rushing: Greer 52, Union 23
Yards passing: Greer 143, Union 134
Passing, A-C-I: Greer 10-29-1, Union 11-18-1
Penalties: Greer 7-60, Union 6-60
Punts: Greer 4-23.5, Union 4-37

Individual statistics
Rushing: Cross (G) 13-17, Simmons (G) 7-25; Neal (U) 9-19, Bates (U) 7-13, Epps (U) 4-9.
Passing: Johnson (G) 6-21-100 yards; Simmons (G) 4-8-0, 43 yards; Willis (U) 11-17-1, 134 yards; Duckett (U) 0-1-0.
Receiving: Anderson (G) 2-44, Fryar (G) 2-24, Sullivan (G) 3-25, Gaffney (G) 1-25; Mobley (U) 2-34, Sims (U) 2-26, Stewart 1-26, Neal (U) 3-20.


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