After 47 minutes and 45 seconds, it all came down to one play Saturday afternoon at Stierberger Stadium.
After scoring to cut Union’s lead to 28-26, the St. Clair Bulldogs needed a two-point conversion to send the game into overtime.
However, the Wildcats were able to read the play and stop the Bulldogs to sweat out the Four Rivers Conference win.
“They were good at making us nervous,” Union Head Coach Erick Webster said. “They’re a physical team, they play hard and they do what they do really well. They got on top of us early. We were ready, but it didn’t look like we were ready.”
St. Clair Head Coach Brian Robbins gave Union credit.
“They’re all tough losses,” Robbins said. “They just made a few more plays than we did. We definitely didn’t help ourselves with turnovers and blocking and tackling. That’s what ballgames come down to. We blocked well early and then we took some time off blocking. I’m not really sure we restarted, but we made a play here or there to make it interesting at the end.”
Interesting came when St. Clair quarterback Timothy Hoffman hit Jacob Hawkins with a 10-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 14.3 seconds to play. That came after a long pass play to give St. Clair a last chance. The touchdown cut Union’s lead to 28-26 pending the two-point conversion.
“We gave up two passes, the one long one down the side and the one for the touchdown,” said Webster. “We left some holes. We were focused so much on trying to stop the run game.”
Robbins said his passing game is capable of picking up yardage.
“We can throw the ball if our quarterback has time,” Robbins said. “Tim is more than capable and we have capable receivers. It’s not something we’re going to do to the extent Union does it. I’m not knocking that, but you’ve got to do what you believe in and what works.”
St. Clair went back to what had worked earlier in the game and tried to sweep with Marcus Kirk for the conversion. Kirk had scored two touchdowns and a two-point conversion earlier in the game. This time, Union was able to finish the play short of the goal line.
“Defense is about every play and we didn’t defend every play,” said Webster. “There’s a lot we left on the field that I’m upset we allowed. I’m pleased with our kids making a goal line stand (on the two-point play) to win the game.”
Early in the contest, it seemed like the Bulldogs might run away with it. St. Clair scored twice with 58 seconds separating a 19-yard run by Kirk and a four yard-run by Josh Richards. St. Clair’s extra-point kick missed on the first score and Kirk ran for the two-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 6:51 to go in the first quarter.
From there, Union started to clamp down on the St. Clair rushing attack though.
“We gave up about 120 yards in the first quarter and we felt we couldn’t stop anything,” Webster said. “They got some big gashes for yards. In the second quarter, it was something like 24 yards. In the second half, we pretty much had them under control.”
Robbins said his team thrives on the running game and will continue to pound the ball at opponents.
“We’re going to continue to attempt to run the football,” Robbins said. “We’ve just got to get better. We just didn’t execute today. We called the same plays at the end of the game as the beginning. We just stopped executing. We’ll figure out why and move forward.”
For both teams, having Friday’s game postponed until Saturday afternoon changed normal routines.
“It didn’t seem like we had an issue,” said Webster. “When we came out flat, there was an issue. They seemed right along kilter coming into today. That’s why we were able to fight back after the first quarter.”
For St. Clair, it was the second game in a row postponed. The Bulldogs finished out their win over Sullivan Monday night.
“I’m excited to move on and get to next week and get some sort of routine other than playing two ballgames in a week and messing up the entire week,” said Robbins. “We want to get back to some sort of normalcy. Hopefully we will get to play next Friday.”
Union started to emerge from its offensive cocoon late in the first quarter. Deric Purnell scored from five yards out with 3:59 to go in the first quarter and Tyler Brown kicked the extra point to cut it to 14-7.
After Kirk scored again on the first play of the second quarter (five-yard run), St. Clair led 20-7. But the rest of the quarter belonged to Union.
Quarterback Jacob Fleming scored on a five-yard run with 9:29 left in the half and the kick failed. St. Clair led, 20-13.
With 2:54 to go in the half, Purnell scored on a six-yard run. Fleming ran for the two-point conversion to give Union a 21-20 advantage.
“Our offense finally found some rhythm,” Webster said. “Unfortunately, it’s taken until Week 5 to get our offense going like we had it last year. I really hope this isn’t the peak. I think we have more talent on this team than 28 points.”
Union reached 28 points early in the fourth quarter on a three-yard run by Fleming. Brown’s kick made it 28-20 with 11:24 to play.
That’s how it stood until the Bulldogs were able to get two big passing plays to have a chance to tie.
“Give credit to their kids and coaches,” Webster said. “They won the ballgame.”
Union stays at home Friday night, hosting Affton (2-3) for homecoming. The game kicks off at 7 p.m.
Affton has beaten Seckman and Bishop DuBourg, but lost to Hillsboro, Parkway West and Jennings.
“Affton is an athletic team and that will be a fun game,” said Webster. “Their offense is OK, but they’ve got a lot of speed and that can account for a lot in a high school football game.”
The Bulldogs hit the road to take on St. James (2-3, 0-2) in Four Rivers Conference action. The Tigers won their first two games over Cuba and Houston, but have lost the last three to Hermann, Owensville and Cassville.
“Hopefully, we’re playing Friday,” Robbins said. “We haven’t watched any film, but we’ll get it swapped, put together a plan and hopefully play a much better ballgame.”