With one half of the season already down, the Union Bears were perfect.
The second half of the season didn’t start off as planned as they suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of the Paintsville Tigers in a 21-14 slugfest at Bullitt Park.
Penalties were aplenty in Friday nights contest as Union was flagged 7 times for 70 yards and Paintsville had 12 flags tossed on them for 135 yards. Five total turnovers also occurred in the game with Paintsville losing two fumbles and Union losing a fumble and tossing two interceptions.
“I didn’t do a very good job of having our kids prepared tonight and I’ll take full responsibility for that.” Expressed Union head coach Travis Turner. “All in all I thought our kids played tremendously hard.”
It was Union who drew first blood in the contest with a 10 play 68 yard drive that would be capped off with a 10 yard touchdown sprint from Mason Polier with 1:55 remaining in the opening quarter. The PAT off of the leg of Koby Crist hit off of the upright and was no good to make the score 6-0. Paintsville would be quick to respond as they found paydirt in two plays. A 12 yard completion to Karsten Poe set up the 68 yard catch and run score by Harris Phelps to make the score 7-6 at the end of the first quarter. After a three and out from the Bears, Paintsville would strike again. This time a 20 yard touchdown catch from Poe would extend their Tigers lead to 14-6 with 9:54 remaining in the first half. Union tried to cut into the lead before half as they pieced a 10 play drive together to see Brody Gibsons pass intercepted by JW Phelps with 39 seconds showing on the clock and Paintsville took a 14-6 lead into the locker room at halftime.
After both defensive units flexed their muscles early in the third quarter, the Union ground game led by Polier and Zavier Lomax decided to flex their own muscles. Facing a fourth and 2 from the Tiger 47 yard line, Lomas fought his way through the Paintsville defense and gave an extra effort to pick up the first down at the Tiger 44 yard line. A first down run from Bryce Guerrant on third and 4 sat up the Bears with a first down from the Tiger 20 yard line. After a four yard run from Polier to bring the third quarter to a close, Polier busted through the Tiger defense for a 16 yard touchdown run on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Lomax was able to get a key block from Polier on the edge for the successful two point conversion run to make the score 14-14 with 11:52 remaining in the contest. With the crowd roaring at Bullitt Park and Paintsville facing a third and 10 at their own 28 yard line, quarterback AJ James found receiver Harris Phelps for a 14 yard gain and a first down with a little over ten minutes remaining. Hard nosed runs from JW Phelps and a couple penalties set up the Tigers inside the Union 1 yard line. James called his own number on the sneak and Paintsville took a 21-14 lead with 8:03 left in the game. A 20 yard return from Alex Rasnick on the ensuing kickoff set the Bears up with good field position to start their drive. An 11 yard run from Lomax and the Bears were looking to score quickly. Byron Davis and Hunter Ousley had other ideas for the Tigers. After haulting Polier behind the line and holding Lomax to minimal gains, the Bears were facing a fourth and 11 from their own 39 yard line. Union tried to pull one out of the hat as Tadyn Roark faked the punt and attempted to run for the first down but Roark would be tackled only a yard short and the ball would go back over to Paintsville with 6:22 showing on the clock. Paintsville was able to move the ball down inside the Bears 10 yard line before Guerrant was able to pounce on a Tiger fumble with 2:28 showing on the clock. However, Union would have to put together a scoring drive without Lomax who had to exit because of an injury. Facing a third and 11 quarterback Brody Gibson delivered a strike to Alex Rasnick who picked up 58 yards on a catch and run down to the Paintsville 23 yard line. Gibson would then call his own number on a keeper and rumble inside the Tigers 10 yard line down to the 9. Three plays later Devin Hall would intercept the pass at the 2 yard line to close out the 21-14 victory for Paintsville.
“They hit us early in the game with some quick pass plays and they were able to break some tackles. Then they got the long touchdown on one of them and we just have to be there to make the tackles. I thought we done a good job of adjusting as the game went on. It was just a really good high school football game.” Added Turner.
Polier once again led the Bears on the ground with 28 carries for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Zavier Lomax was on his was to eclipsing the century mark on the night before his injury. He finished with 16 carries for 82 yards. Quarterback Brody Gibson finished would 90 yards through the air.
“Zavier is going to get checked out and hopefully it’s nothing major. He’s a really good athlete, just a sophomore and going to be a dandy football player for us and hopefully he’s going to be fine. We’ll just have to sit down and look at it and have some younger guys step up if they’re needed.” Noted Turner on his Sophomore tailback.
Union now turns their focus to Fridays much anticipated matchup with the undefeated Ridgeview Wolfpack at Bullitt Park. “They’re loaded. They’re the pre-season favorite, the number one pick in our district, picked to win the championship so we’ll definitely have a challenge on our hands Friday night.” Said Tuner of the matchup that will go a long way in determining the Mountain 7 champion as well as playoff implications.