It took two days, but the Union Wildcats earned their first football win of the season.
Union (1-2, 1-0) used an attacking defense to get their first win of the season, 12-0, over the Sullivan Eagles (0-3, 0-1) at Stierberger Stadium.
On Friday night the Wildcats honored legendary Head Coach Del Rinne, naming the field after him in pregame ceremonies. This was the only highlight on Friday night, the game was delayed with 1:45 remaining in the first quarter due to lightning. After another delay the rest of the game was postponed until Saturday night. The contest was concluded without any further delays.
Union Head Coach Erick Webster appreciated the support from the hometown fans.
“A lot of fans stayed and waited for the game to resume Friday night,” said Webster. “Anytime you get a good fan base to come out the night after a rain game shows a lot. I really appreciate all of them waiting and then coming back out.”
Webster was pleased overall with the game but feels they need to improve.
“A win is a win, our guys played really good defense and I am pleased with that,” said Webster. “There are some offensive things and hiccups we need to clean up, I will take it. I will take any win.”
Sullivan Head Coach Jimmy Tucker was pleased with his defenses performance also.
“Defense played good,” said Tucker. “Union scored a lot of points against two good football teams the first two weeks. We held a good offense to 12 points, their lowest total so far this year.”
Union missed a golden opportunity in the first quarter Friday night with a first and goal at the one. A fumbled snap and then a defensive stand by Sullivan forced the Wildcats to turn the ball over on downs. After a 24-hour and four-minute first quarter, the score was 0-0.
Union wasted no time Saturday getting on the scoreboard. After a punt by Sullivan the Wildcats took over at their own 47.
Derek Hulsey connected with Eli Klenke on a two yard touchdown pass. The extra-point kick failed and the score was 6-0 with 9:23 to go in the second quarter.
The first half ended with the score 6-0, Union.
Sullivan missed a golden opportunity to start the second half. After an unsuccessful onside kick by Union the Eagles started from the Union 49.
Levi Hurt connected with Blaine Blankenship for 33 yards to the 16-yard line. With a first and goal at the six the Wildcat defense stiffened up to hold.
The Eagles attempted a 23-yard field goal, but a mishandled snap led to the holder passing and the play ended up short of the goal line.
On a sequence of plays that defined the night, Hulsey connected with Joey Sullivan on a pass play as he got behind the defense. An Eagles player was able to catch up to Sullivan and strip the ball at the 22-yard line of Sullivan.
Two plays later Levi Hurt of the Eagles connected with Jason Blankenship to the Wildcat 10-yard line. Blankenship was fighting for more yards when Jackson Miller forced a fumble and Demitrius Clark recovered it.
Miller stopped another drive in the fourth quarter on an interception near the goal line.
It was that kind of night said Webster.
“There was a lot of penalties and oddities in this game,” said Webster.
Union scored again at the end of the third quarter when Hulsey connected with Peyton Burke for a 30-yard touchdown. Hulsey’s pass was incomplete for the two-point conversion making the score 12-0 Union after three quarters.
It was a defensive game according to the coaches.
“Any time you get a shutout it is special,” said Webster. “That doesn’t happen a lot in football these days. Everyone wants to score a bunch of points including me. At the same time I can appreciate a defense holding strong and making smart decisions.”
Tucker said Union made the big plays.
“Give them credit, they just made more defensive displays then we did,” said Tucker.
Webster was quick to give Sullivan defense credit and says his offense was not on top of their game.
“Sullivan did a really good job,” said Webster. “We knew they were good on defense and this was going to be a battle. I didn’t know they were going to hold us to 12 points, they did a good job. I don’t think this was our best performance this year. We played three really good teams and we did not play at the same level we did the first two weeks.”
Offensively the Wildcats were led in passing by Hulsey who was 26-42 for 249 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Burke led all receivers with eight receptions for 99 yards and one touchdown, followed by Sullivan with seven receptions for 98 yards. Klenke recorded five receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Rounding out the receiving was Noah Allen with three receptions for 27 yards, Guy Steele with two receptions for 15 yards and Matt Bray with one reception for four yards.
Bray led Union’s rushing game with 44 yards followed by Christopher Poinsett with 11 yards.
Union’s defensive statistics and Sullivan’s numbers were not available as of deadline.
Week 4 Games
Both teams play Four Rivers Conference games again Friday.
Union visits Pacific (0-3, 0-1) while Sullivan hosts St. Clair (3-0, 1-0).
Webster knows it will take a good defensive effort again.
“I think it will take another defensive effort again like this,” said Webster. “I know they have struggled a little bit but it will take a good effort and we will expect that from our kids.”
St. Clair is undefeated going into what has been a traditionally close rivalry with the Eagles.
“We are going to have to play awesome defense again,” said Tucker. They are a run-heavy team and it’s going to be a tough week. We have to figure out a way to put points on the board.”