All week the hype was surrounded around Trenton Adkins and the undefeated Ridgeview Wolfpack. When the final horn sounded Friday night it was the Union Bears who were celebrating a huge Mountain 7 win. Led by a ferocious defensive attack and three touchdowns from Mason Polier, Union sent the Wolfpack out with a whimper after a 32-26 victory inside the historic confines of Bullitt Park.
“We dug too big of a hole in the first half.” Said Ridgeview head coach Rick Mullins. “We battled hard in the second half to get ourselves back in the game but we came up short.”
Union built a commanding 26-3 lead late in the first half before Ridgeview put together a crucial scoring drive right before halftime to make the score 26-10 at the break. After Ridgeview knocked through a 24 yard field goal, Union put together a bullish 10 play drive that was capped off with a 16 yard touchdown run from Mason Polier with 3:41remaining in the opening quarter. One play into the Wolfpacks next drive, Malachi Jenkins stepped in front of a Phillips pass and returned it 30 yards into Wolfpack territory. After Bryce Guerrant chalked up 11 yards on two carries on the drive, Polier toted the rock five times on the drive and raced in to the end zone from 19 yards out. Koby Crist connected on the PAT and Union expanded their lead to 14-3 with 11:29 remaining in the first half.
Ridgeview would then work a little past midfield but Gavin Perry and Guerrant would bring down Phillips in the backfield on third down to force the Ridgeview punt and Union would set up deep in their own territory. On second down Gibson connected with Antwun Jenkins on a hook route and Jenkins raced 87 yards to the barn to extend the lead to 20-3 with 7:08 remaining in the first half. With Bullitt Park rocking Ridgeview had to gain any momentum that they could. After a 7 yard gain from Adkins on the first play, Trenton would be thrown for a 6 yard loss on second down by C.J. Jones and Tanner Jervis to force the Wolfpack in to another third and long. On third down Phillips went deep only to have Bears defensive back Daemi Lester knock the pass away and force another Ridgeview punt. Union would then start out on a 10 play scoring drive that covered 60 yards. The Bears would convert two third downs on the drive to set up a beautiful touchdown pass from Gibson to a wide open Guerrant on fourth down to make the score 26-3 lead with 1:05 left in the half. Ridgeview would then put together their best drive of the game as they marched 80 yards in a little over a minute. During the drive, Phillips was able to escape a sack and turn it in to a 25 yard run down to the Bears 21 yard line. After an 11 yard run from Adkins and a false start penalty, Phillips found Timmy Hess at the goal line for their first touchdown of the game. Landon Knepp was true on the PAT and the score would be 26-10 at halftime.
“If we didn’t have that halftime break we would have been alright.” Said a smiling Travis Turner. “We played really well in the first half. It was a well played game, we got off to a great start. We played a lot of freshmen tonight who played their tails off for us.”
The start of the second half was a nightmare start for Union. After being flushed from the pocket on what seemed to be a broken play, quarterback Brody Gibson was hit by Caden Gibson to cause a fumble that Ridgeview pounced on at the Bears 12 yard line. After Adkins and Nick Phillips were thrown for losses on the first two snaps, Timmy Hess hauled in his second touchdown grab of the night as Malachi Jenkins almost came away with an interception as he mistimed his jump on the route. The two point conversion was just out of the reach of Cannon Hill to keep it a two possession game at 26-16 with 10:10 remaining in the third quarter. Things would only get better for the Pack. On third and 6, Gibsons pass would be tipped and land in the waiting arms of Derrick Mullins who would rumble thirty yards down to the Union 12 yard line. After a big run from Adkins down inside the Bears 5 yard line, Trey Smith would bury Adkins in the backfield to force another third and long. Phillips pass would fall incomplete on third down and the Pack would have to settle for a 27 yard field goal from Knepp to make the score 26-19 with 6:19 left in the third.
Ridgeview had gained momentum and it carried over in to their defensive possession as they forced the Bears to go three and out. As the Bears set up to punt, big Joe Yates busted through the block Tadyn Roarks punt. Colt Fletcher would fall on the ball at the Union 12 yard line. After Polier, Malachi Jenkins and Landon Parsons brought down Adkins for negative yardage on the first two carries of the drive, Adkins would only gain three yards to set up a fourth and 9 from the Bears 11 yard line. Phillips tried to hit Joe Yates down the seam but Polier got his hands in the throwing lane to knock the ball down and force the Wolfpack to turn the ball over on downs with 3:12 remaining in the third. After a 3 yard run and a false start penalty, Polier busted through the heart of the Wolfpack defense and out ran the secondary to swing momentum back to the Bears. The PAT from Crist looked to be close but it was determined to be wide right to make the score 32-19 with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter. On the ensuing kick return, Ethan Hall would be shot out of a cannon and drilled Adkins on the kick return that caused the home stands and sidelines to erupt. Ridgeview would attempt to quieten the crowd as Phillips connected with Hess for 16 yards on a second and 15 to move the chains. Another gain of 14 yards and a gain of 32 through the air to Hess again closed out the quarter and the Pack would be on the hunt. Antwun Jenkins would quickly end the hunt as he picked off a Phillips pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to give possession back to the Bears.
Union could only muster 9 yards and have to punt the ball back to Ridgeview from their own 12 yard line. Ridgeview would regain possession but Ethan Hall, C.J. Jones and Gavin Perry would consistently meet Adkins and Hill in the backfield and the Pack would have to punt on fourth and 26. Alex Rasnick would let the punt sail out of bounds and the Bears would set up shop inside their own 10 yard line. Union would be forced to punt again after a three and out. Adkins would return the punt 28 yards down to the Union 12 yard line with 5:12 remaining in the game. After three plays and a personal foul call on Union on third down, Ridgeview would be gifted a new set of downs from the Bears 2 yard line and stop the clock with 4:12 remaining. Adkins would take full advantage and score on the next play. Knepp would connect on the PAT and make the score 32-26 with 3:58 to play.
Union would run 3:20 off of the clock on their next drive and give Ridgeview less than 40 seconds to 84 yards. Tadyn Roark unleashed a beauty of a punt by kicking the ball out of bounds away from Adkins inside the 20 yard line down to the Wolfpack 16. On the first play of the drive, Ethan Hall, who was relentless on the defense and special teams, forced pressure on Phillips along with Jervis and Gavin Perry to knock the ball loose. Adkins would pounce on the ball but the clock continued to run showing less than thirty seconds. After Ridgeview was able to get set and spike the ball they burned close to twenty seconds and only had 12 seconds remaining on third down. On third down Phillips was able to buy some time a launch a pass down the sidelines complete to Adkins at midfield, after making his initial defender miss, Adkins was wrestled out of bounds by Alex Rasnick as the clock struck midnight on the Wolfpack. With a loud eruption from the crowd, the clock showing all zeroes, the Union Bears claimed the lead in the Mountain 7 standings with the 32-26 victory.
Mason Polier, gave his blockers a lot of credit on his performance Friday night. Polier finished with 32 carries for 244 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“Great job by the line and the backs blocking tonight. They really set the tone for us up front tonight.” Said Polier “It was a total team effort, our defense played great. CJ Jones really threw a great block on the blast up the middle and I saw daylight and took it all the way. I’ve worked really hard all off-season trying to get that second gear. Hats off to Ridgeview, they played a great game but our guys were able to pull through and come out on top tonight.”
Antwun Jenkins also lit up the stat sheet again with 107 yards receiving and a touchdown. Jenkis also added an interception on defense. Malachi Jenkins also added an interception for the Bears defense.
“I knew they were reeling in the first half a little bit and I just wanted to make a play for my guys.” Said Jenkins. “On the touchdown pass I knew I had the defensive back one on one, I made him miss and I was able to take it all the way for the score. It was a great team win tonight, we had some younger guys that stepped up big for us tonight, hats off to them, they were huge for us.”
Bryce Guerrant totaled 58 yards rushing while adding a receiving touchdown for Union. Brody Gibson threw for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns with an interception.
Coming in to the contest Trenton Adkins was averaging over 200 yards rushing per game. The Bears defense held Adkins to 119 yards on 22 carries. Nick Phillips threw for 150 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Coach Turner had the highest of praise for his NCAA prospect. “He’s a warrior. Obviously we wanted the ball in his hands to ice the game at the end. He played a great on both sides of the ball.” Turner said of Polier.
Both teams are back in action next week as Union travels to Wise Central and Ridgeview travels to exit 7 in Bristol to take on John Battle.