For the first time in 12 years, the Union Spartans have started the season 4-0. They came into Friday night’s game against the Princeton Bulldogs (1-3) looking to remain undefeated within the friendly confines of Spartan Stadium. Going into the game Princeton led the state in rushing yards, but the Union defense held them to only two touchdowns all night, while the offense scored five touchdowns taking a 43-14 victory.
The Spartans received the opening kickoff, a squib kick that was cleanly fielded by a Spartan, thus giving Union great field position on the Bulldog 43-yard line. It took just six plays from scrimmage. On a key play, on third down and seven Donovan Hayes ran off left tackle for 19 yards to drive down to the 11-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage Chris Nash strolled into the end zone for the Spartan touchdown. The conversion run by Hayes was also good putting the Spartans up 8-0 with 9:28 remaining in the first quarter.
After the Spartan defense held the Bulldogs four and out, the Union offense went to work once again. The Spartans began play on the Dogs’ 42-yard line. One again the magic number was six as the Spartan scored again. Spark plugged on a 33-yard run by Hayes to get inside the 1. The next game from scrimmage Nash strutted into the end zone for the score, putting the Spartans up 14-0.
Early in the second quarter Princeton caught a break as Union lost the handle on the pigskin and the Bulldogs picked it up inside the Union 20-yard line. Three plays later Earl Gibson scored from 4 yards out to put Princeton on the scoreboard. The PAT was blocked and the score remained 14-6, Union.
Princeton then began to move the football, but on first-and-10 Trace James lost the handle due to a hit by Tyler Murphy. Nash picked up the loose ball and rambled 47 yards for the Spartan touchdown. The conversion pass failed but Union was up 20-6 at the half.
Princeton would cough the ball up once again when James fumbled the ball and Union’s Andruw Brunson recovered the ball on the 24-yard line. Five plays later Malik Williams scrambled 65 yards for the touchdown with 5:44 remaining in the third. The two-point conversion pass from Goodwin to Warren Gay was complete extending the Spartan lead to 28-6.
Going into the fourth quarter the Spartans’ offense was still hungry. On first-and-20 from their own 30, Nadir Goodwin connected with Ty Treavers for a 21-yard reception to get inside the 30-yard line. Five plays later Goodwin ran off tackle to score from four yards out scoring yet another touchdown. Emari Carter would cruise in on the two-point conversion putting the Spartans in the driver’s set, 36-6.
Princeton continued to battle as Gibson once again turned on the after burners and surged past the Union defenders 50 yard for the Bulldog touchdown. Gibson also scored on the conversion run cutting the deficit to 36-14.
That would be as close at the Bulldogs would get as the Spartans fielded another squib kick and retrieved it on the Bulldog 45. It took only nine plays from scrimmage on big runs by Murphy. On third-and-goal from the 4, Murphy dragged Bulldog defenders with him into the end zone for the score. The PAT by Dalton Young was good and the Spartans found themselves with the win, 43-14.
Coach Doug Burley said after the game it felt good to be undefeated.
“We will enjoy (this) over the weekend. But on Monday we start our second season, conference play 0-0,” Burley said. He added that he was proud of the way the special teams played, as well as the offense and defense.
The Spartans will begin play in the Four County Conference on Friday night when they travel to West Bladen. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Melony Henderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.