The first “Game of the Week” of 2018 lived up to its name on Friday night as Midway and Union found themselves entangled in a deadly duel. Momentum swings were the name of the game as the teams traded scores all the way down to the final second. Time, however, was not in Union’s favor. With the Spartans staring down the end zone for the potential game-winner, the Raiders defense bowed their backs and held Union at bay to hang on for the 25-18 victory.
Perhaps first game jitters had a heavy influence as both teams struggled offensively in the first quarter. Neither team mustered up any scoring opportunities until Union stunned the audience with a long 65-yard punt return down the Midway 11-yard line as time ran out.
With the second quarter underway, the Raiders found themselves the victims penalty flags as the Spartans worked their way deeper into Midway territory. That’s when Midway’s Carsse Lucas stepped up big time for his team. Union’s Cole Bass unleashed a pass attempt toward toward Isaac Underwood but Lucas stepped in front of it for the interception and returned 90 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The PAT was unsuccessful but Midway suddenly led 6-0.
That scored stood until the closing seconds of the first half. Facing a third down situation, Bass tossed another pass into the teeth of the Midway defense and found Emari Carter for the 14-yard TD score. Union opted for a two-point conversion try that initially succeeded however the play was called back for holding. The Spartans lined up to try it once more the Midway defense shut down the threat to keep the score knotted at 6-6 at halftime.
Calamity ensued to begin the second half as an errant play backed the Raiders up against their own goal line. Looking for an escape, quarterback Carson Calcutt scrambled but lost control of the ball. Union recovered the fumble on Midway’s one yard line and scored the go-ahead touchdown as Vance King scampered into the end zone for the short TD run. Again, Union missed the 2-point try but the Spartans had the 12-6 lead and momentum on their side.
The momentum surged even more on the ensuing Midway drive as the Spartans picked off a Calcutt pass attempt. Midway’s defense, though, stood tall and kept the Union offense in check.
With 4:24 still on the clock in the third quarter, the Raider offense struck quickly. Seemingly out of nowhere as the offense had sputtered most of the game, Midway’s Calcutt connected with Lucas on a 72-yard touchdown strike to tie the game back up at 12-12. This time, however, the PAT was successful as the Raiders reclaimed the 13-12 lead.
The action shifted to the fourth quarter with the score 13-12 before the Raiders extended their lead. After a roughing the passer penalty kept Midway’s drive alive, Calcutt called his own number on an option play and scampered 7-yards for the score. The PAT missed as Midway now led 19-12 with 11:48 remaining.
Later in the quarter, a scary moment unfolded on the field when Union’s Cameron Moore was carted off the field and taken away in an ambulance for what looked to be a lower body injury.
The Spartans rallied around their injured player, shutting down a Midway scoring threat, and found the end zone themselves on a 46-yd TD pass from Bass to Underwood. Union failed to convert the 2-point try as Midway clung to a 19-18 lead with 2:37 remaining.
After having one long rushing touchdown called back for holding, the Raiders pulled off another as Deantae Byrd busted free for a 30-yard score. After the failed PAT, Midway was back ahead 25-18 with 1:08 left.
Then, with 1:03 left on the clock and no timeouts, Union set up for their final drive of the game on their own 43-yard line. The Spartans methodically worked their way down field, pushing deep into Midway territory just outside the 10-yard line. The Midway defense stood tall, however, and came up with a big tackle as Bass attempted to run in for the score but was tackled in bounds. The Spartans could only watch as time expired with the visiting side jubilant in celebration.
After the game, Union head coach Doug Burley was pleased with the effort his team displayed.
He told his team in the postgame huddle that even though they didn’t come out on top, he was proud of their effort and did exactly what he wanted them to do by playing a great ballgame and giving it all they got.
“We didn’t quit, that’s for sure. We’ve got some good kids and I’m proud of them,” Burley exclaimed. “My guys left everything out on the field. Midway’s has some great kids over there and a heck of a coaching staff,”
Leading the way for Union offensively was Travone Robinson with 15 carries for 60 yards. Isaac Underwood had 45 receiving yards and Cole Bass had 122 passing yards.
Over on the Midway side, an exhausted Midway head coach Cory Barnes also expressed how proud he was of his team.
“Our defense deserves a ton of credit. Every time we’d stall on offense they’d go out and get us the ball back. Unfortunately, we ended up having them out there to long and when that happens teams score,” he said. “I’m not too worried about our offense at this point even though we struggled. It’s game one and we’re going to go into the film room and break down what happened and I expect to get better from there,” Barnes concluded.
Leading Midway’s offensive attack was Byrd with 133 yards on 14 carries. Lucas led the way in receiving with 72 yards and Calcutt had 101 passing yards to go along with one touchdown.
Union, now 0-1, returns home next week for a collision against South Robeson. Kick off is set for 7 p.m.
The 1-0 Raiders will host Princeton on Friday also at 7 p.m.