UNION — It proved to be a tale of two halves and a feel-good story Friday night at Stierberger Stadium.
Union (7-2) defeated Hermann (5-4), 21-14, to earn second place in the Four Rivers Conference standings behind league winner Sullivan.
The game also featured the comeback of Grant Henry.
Severely injured in an auto accident last school year, Henry worked hard to come back and was cleared to play Thursday. He went out and kicked the extra point on Union’s third touchdown. Hermann showed tremendous sportsmanship in not forcing the play, allowing Henry to take the kick, which he made.
However, that was the last score for the Wildcats. Hermann rallied for two scores in the second half to make the final minutes tense for both teams.
In the first half, Union was able to grind out three Blake Hulsey touchdowns to take a commanding lead.
Hulsey’s first score came with 8:32 left in the first quarter on a one-yard run. That drive was helped by two Hermann penalties on fourth downs. Union led 6-0.
The extra-point kick failed after a problem with the snap.
Union tried an onside kick, but the ball did not travel far enough and Hermann took over near midfield.
Casey Peth sacked Craig Winkelmann on third down, forcing the Bearcats to punt.
Union moved the ball, but got bogged down on offensive pass interference and a sack.
Hermann did not give Hulsey the time he’s become accustomed to in recent weeks with Jarrod Kolbe chasing Hulsey for much of the half.
Union was forced to punt and Hermann marched down the field. Garrett Leimkuehler ran down to the Union 5 and Winkelmann found the end zone on the next play. However, the score was called back on a block in the back and Hermann failed to get back to the red turf. On second down, Ryan Schumaker intercepted Winkelmann at the Hermann six with 7:38 left in the half.
Union was forced to punt on its next possession, but hemmed Hermann in near the goal line. John Prosser came up with a big tackle for loss and the Bearcats had to punt from the end zone.
Union took over at the Hermann 33 with 3:54 to play in the half.
Passes to Logan Meyer and Jake Siddens were sandwiched around a Hulsey carry. Siddens nearly scored, but was marked down a the one. On the next play, Hulsey scrambled into the end zone. Hulsey also ran for the two-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 3:04 left in the half.
Hermann seemed to convert on fourth down, but Union came up with another key stop to set up a final drive of the half. Hulsey hit Logan Bellamy for a long pass to the Hermann 12, picking up 45 yards. He then hit Siddens for a ball down to the Hermann five.
On the next play, Hulsey scrambled in from five yards out with 14.4 seconds to play.
Henry’s kick made it 21-0 at the half.
Hermann threatened on the final play of the half, but Union was able to make a stop to keep it at 21-0 at the intermission.
Hermann struck on its opening drive of the third quarter as Winkelmann went around the right side for a 12-yard score with 9:49 left in the quarter. The extra-point kick failed and Union led 21-6.
Hermann moved the length of the field on a turnover. Kody Thompson intercepted a tipped pass about five yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the Hermann 37.
The Bearcats drove down and got another 12-yard run from Winkelmann with 2:29 left in the quarter. Winkelmann then ran for the two-point conversion to cut the Union lead to 21-14.
And that’s where things got interesting.
Union drove deep into Hermann territory but Hulsey was sacked at the 16, but the Bearcats were forced to punt.
Hulsey found Jobie Richardson for a huge first down and Richardson fought his way deep into Hermann territory. However, the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs at the Hermann five with 5:32 to play.
The Bearcats drove to the Union 25 before losing the ball on downs with 1:14 to play.
Union was able to run out the clock.
UNI - Blake Hulsey 1 run (kick failed), 8:32
UNI - Hulsey 1 run (Hulsey run), 3:04
UNI - Hulsey 5 run (Grant Henry kick), 0:14.4
HER - Craig Winkelmann 12 run (kick failed), 9:49
HER - Winkelmann 12 run (Winkelmann run), 2:29