The Union Spartans made the cross-county trip up Highway 421 on Friday night to take on their old nemesis, the Midway Raiders.
Jittery play was on display for both teams for much of the night as each side struggled to make the right adjustments to gain the upper hand. Midway, however, made enough plays by the end of the game to take home the 14-0 win over the Spartans.
The Spartans offense received the ball first to start the game and mustered up a solid drive that made its way into Raiders territory. Plagued by penalties the drive stalled as Union turned the ball over on downs.
Midway’s offense didn’t fare any better. The Raiders were held to three and out and were forced to punt the ball back to Union.
After yet another penalty-ridden drive that stalled the Spartan offense, Midway was setup in good field position for their second offensive drive of the game, at their own 48-yard line.
Three plays later, Midway’s Deonte Byrd scampered 30 yards for the go ahead touchdown. After the PAT, the Raiders led 7-0 with just 27 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
Union’s first drive at the beginning of the second quarter stalled at the Midway 44. After picking off a pass attempt by Raiders quarterback Carson Calcutt, the Spartans were right back in business. That drive also went nowhere, Union gambled – and lost – on fourth down inside their own territory as Midway’s Joseph Head recovered a fumble on the play.
The Raiders were able to move the ball down to the Spartan 18-yard line but couldn’t get closer as Union reclaimed possession. This drive ended in yet another lost turnover as Midway’s Head forced another Union fumble that was recovered by Logan Rogers.
With 42.8 seconds showing on the clock, a Midway punt attempt was squandered when the snap sailed over the punters head. The Raiders corralled the loose ball but the result was a turnover on downs that gift-wrapped the Spartans with possession on the Raider 18-yard line. Union couldn’t capitalize as they continued to trail 7-0 at the half.
Midway’s opening drive was cut short on yet another Calcutt interception, but Union offense – another drive that went backwards due to penalties.
Midway’s offense showed life on their second possession of the second half, having moved the ball from their own 41-yard line down to the Union 29, the drive stalled.
With the lack of offense and a fast moving clock, the second half quickly transitioned to the fourth quarter as Midway still held a 7-0 lead.
Picking up with 6:11 showing on the clock, the Spartans offense took the field for what would likely be one last shot to put points on the board. That would not be the case as Union once again fumbled the ball away on fourth down inside their own territory.
With 3:29 left in the game, Midway’s Shaking Warren barreled down the middle, right through the teeth of the Union defense and into the end zone, driving the final nail in the coffin with a 21-yard touchdown run. The PAT was good and Midway now led 14-0.
The Spartans didn’t go down quietly.
Holding on to three timeouts and quickly driving the field, the Spartans suddenly found themselves in scoring position. That threat was shut down as Midway sophomore Ty McLean came away with an interception on a rare Union pass attempt to seal Midway’s 14-0 victory.
Leading Midway offensively was workhorse Sha’king Warren, who had a 172 rushing yards and one touchdown on 18 carries. Deonte Byrd had 41 yards and a touchdown on two attempts.
A host of players carried the ball for Union, with Vance King leading the way with 87 yards on 15 carries. Elijah McKoy had 57 yards on eight carries, Emari Carter had 50 yards on eight carries and Trey Underwood with 36 yards on 10 attempts.
Union head coach Doug Burley was proud of how hard his team played, but acknowledged that a depleted lineup and late game injuries hurt his team’s chances.
“We didn’t quit, but we’re only dressing 19 players and we had too many players coming off the field tonight, so we’ve got to get in shape,” admitted Burley. “Going forward, we have to work on turnovers. We had too many tonight to give ourselves a chance so we have to work on cutting them down.”
The mood was a little brighter over on the Midway side of the field as Raiders head coach Jason Fussell was particularly proud of how well his defense played.
“Our defense was solid tonight, especially our seniors, but we have a lot of new kids playing this year that we just have to get up to speed and see where we go from here,” said Fussell. “Going forward, we still have some work to do on offense. We have to improve in our blocking and working on blown assignments and pass protection.”
Midway is 1-0 and set for a trip to Johnston County on Friday night to take on Princeton, who will also bring in a 1-0 record after defeating Smithfield-Selma 28-21 on Friday.
As for Union, they start the season 0-1 and will be seeking their first win when they travel to South Robeson on Friday night.
Reach Daron Barefoot at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.