Jackets suffer opening night loss
By BRIAN WHITMORE
Sports Editor - Union Daily Times
SPARTANBURG - A kickoff return for a touchdown, a blocked punt leading to another score and several big plays by the Spartanburg offense led the Vikings to a 37-20 win over the Union Yellow Jackets on Friday night at Gibbs Stadium.
It started with a huge play. Dee Jones returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. Carter Lathan added the point-after.
"We made mistakes early," said Union coach Tommy Bobo. "Special teams was a concern we had coming in and it haunted us tonight."
Union had a chance to answer on its first drive, but an L.J. Mobley touchdown catch was nullified on a holding penalty.
"(Penalties) have been bothering us all preseason and tonight it really hurt us," said Bobo.
Spartanburg later got hot with two long third down passes and added a 3-yard touchdown run by Alton Norris, who rushed for 114 yards on the night. Lathan again connected on the point-after and the Vikings led 14-0.
Union got an impressive drive going in the second quarter. Mobley caught a 30-yard pass from Cameron Willis to get the Jackets into scoring position.
Willis scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down. Brooke Jackson kicked the extra-point.
"We got into a down time where we were not able to move the football and they handled us up front," said Bobo. "We knew they were going to be good, but we thought we'd be able to run the football. But finally with about 3 minutes left in the half our offensive line started clicking, we started moving the football and were able to put a touchdown on the board right before the half."
Spartanburg added a 41-yard field goal by Lathan with eight seconds left in the half for a 17-7 lead at the break.
Union came out on fire in the second half with a long Mobley kickoff return and some good runs by Freddie Bates, who scored a 4-yard touchdown. Jackson hit her second PAT of the night and the Jackets were within three points.
"We had some decent drives in the second half," said Bobo. "They just kept making big play after big play."
Norris responded with a 54-yard run, to set up his 4-yard touchdown. Lathan's kick gave the Vikings a 24-14 lead.
Union then had a punt blocked to set up another touchdown. Tyson Means caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Chris Bain. The kick was blocked, but Spartanburg had a commanding lead.
The Jackets did not quit. Roughing the passer and pass interference calls against Spartanburg helped set up an 8-yard touchdown catch from Willis to Travis Sims. Willis was shook up on the play and a two-point conversion pass by Bryce Duckett failed. Union was within 10 points, 30-20, but time was running out.
The Vikings capped the victory with a 17-yard run by Marcus Wilburn.
"Spartanburg is a good team and we feel like we're going to be a good team," said Bobo. "Just, tonight we weren't able to get out on top."
First downs: Union 15; Spartanburg 10
Rush: Union 98; Spartanburg 132
Pass: Union 108; Spartanburg 129
Total: Union 206; Spartanburg 261Penalties: Union 5-40; Spartanburg 8-47
Turnovers: Union - 1 fumble
Pass: Spartanburg - Chris Bain 9-19-129; Union - Cameron Willis 11-25-108
Rush: Union - Freddie Bates 16-67, Kierre Smith 9-31; Cameron Willis 5-10, Mark Worthy 2-2, Bryce Duckett 1-(-12). Spartanburg - Alton Norris 22-114,
Marcus Wilburn 5-15, Zycorrian Robinson 1-3
Receiving: Union - LJ Mobley 4-51, Rodrick Gilmore 2-14, Travis Sims 2-15, Kierre Smith 1-13, Jay Crawford 1-10, Freddie Bates 2-5. Spartanburg -
Cameron Anderson 3-69, Tyson Means 3-47, Zycorrian Robinson 3-13.
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