Is there a jinx?
For the third week in a row, the top-ranked team in The Missourian Area Football Poll has fallen.
Opening Four Rivers Conference play Friday in Sullivan, the top-ranked Union Wildcats (1-2) fell to the defending league champion Sullivan Eagles (1-2), 36-22.
Sullivan gave new Head Coach Andy Arnette his first varsity victory and secured a win in a key FRC showdown to start the league campaign.
Sullivan picked up 476 yards in the game on the ground over 51 carries while completing one pass for -6 yards.
Union ran for 176 yards on 37 carries and threw for 371 yards.
Leading the way for Sullivan was senior standout Justin Biermann. Bottled up in losses to Park Hills Central and Festus, Biermann came alive offensively and defensively to lead the Eagles to the win.
Offensively, Biermann ran 22 times for 219 yards. Defensively, he came through with a huge interception return in the closing minute of the game to seal the victory.
Union was paced by its junior quarterback Blake Hulsey. He completed 35 of 48 pass attempts for 329 yards, but also threw four interceptions. On the ground, Hulsey picked up 103 yards on 21 carries.
Sullivan also got 74 yards on nine carries from Caden Weigl, 70 yards on 10 carries from Michael McDermott and 41 yards on seven carries from Joey Rigdon.
Sullivan jumped out to a 13-0 lead, scoring a touchdown 69 seconds into the game on a 40-yard run by Justin Biermann. After a three-and-out by Union, the Eagles quickly scored again, with Zach Holtz rushing for a 22-yard touchdown at 9:36. The kick was blocked.
Union scored with 2:31 to play in the first quarter on an 18-yard touchdown run by Blake Hulsey. After a Sullivan punt on their next drive, Hulsey drove Union down to the Sullivan 2, but the drive was cut short on an interception by Justin Biermann, the first of three.
Biermann fumbled on Sullivan’s ensuing drive, but he made up for it by picking off Hulsey again. Nine plays later, Biermann threw a ball near the goal line intended for Caden Weigl, but the ball went off his hands and was intercepted with 4:27 left in the half. Union took over at their own 1, but punted away. Sullivan got the ball at midfield, then scored on a four-play drive with Biermann rushing for a 20-yard touchdown run with 1:54 left in the half. A successful extra point had Sullivan up 20-7, but Union would quickly drive down the field. At the Sullivan 5 with 20 seconds left, Hulsey lost two yards, then threw two straight incompletions.
On their second drive of the third quarter, Hulsey would fumble the ball away after gaining 13 yards and leading the Wildcats into Sullivan territory. Biermann led the Eagles down field and scored on an 8-yard touchdown run with 2:56 to play in the third quarter.
Jake Lochner began the fourth quarter with a 43-yard field goal at 11:55, giving Sullivan a 29-7 Hulsey again drove Union down the field, and he ran in a 1-yard touchdown with 9:15 left in the game. After an unsuccessful onside kick put the ball at midfield, Biermann ripped off a 44-yard run that brought the ball down to the Union 2, but a bad snap turned the ball over near the goal line for the second time.
Union easily went 98 yards. Hulsey found a wide open Jacob Carman for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 6:45 left. Hulsey pounded through the Eagles defense for a successful 2-point conversion, bringing the score to 29-22.
Union thought they had tied the game on a 15-yard touchdown run by Logan Bellamy with 3:35 to play, but a holding penalty brought the ball back. Union would eventually dig themselves into a 4th-and-27 that they couldn’t escape from.
On their next drive, Sullivan again fumbled the snap, with Union recovering at the Eagles 35. On the first play of the drive, Hulsey threw his third and final interception to Biermann, who took the ball 80 yards for a touchdown with 1:04 to play.