Staring down an 0-2 start to the season, the Union Spartans rallied in the final minutes of Friday night’s game against South Robeson to come away with an exciting 22-20 victory.
After a heart-wrenching defeat to Midway a week prior, the Spartans were eager to get back on the gridiron and prove their mettle. Union struck first courtesy of a touchdown from junior Emari Carter. The Spartans went for two and were successful as they stretched the lead to 8-0.
A first quarter blank for the Mustangs of South Robeson was erased when they answered with a touchdown of their own midway through the second quarter to make it 8-6.
Scoring ceased from there as the home-standing Spartans owned an 8-6 advantage at the half.
Out of the half, the third quarter turned into a punt fest for most of the 12 minutes, but South Robeson, playing it risky, went for it on fourth down with 4:55 left in the third frame. Union’s defense stuffed the Mustangs to give the ball back to the Spartan offense. With time ticking down in the third, Union quarterback Cole Bass threw a 40-yard bomb to set up their offense in the red zone.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Bass connected with Carter for the 10-yard touchdown reception for six more points. After converting the 2-point try, Union led 16-6.
Facing, the increased deficit, the Mustangs were needing an offensive spark and a 35-yard kickoff return from the Mustangs proved to be the trick.
Seemingly out of nowhere, South Robeson scored 14 unanswered points to snatch the 20-16 lead.
Time now not on Union’s side, the Spartans needed to score a touchdown to reclaim the lead.
Methodically making their way down the field, Union scored on a touchdown pass from Bass to sophomore Josheim Jones. The two point try failed but with the clock reading 1:19 left in the game, Union held a 22-20 lead. With the Mustangs back on offense looking for a heroic drive to win the game, the Spartans defense bent, but didn’t break. They surrendered yards, but not the points, in the final minute as Union held on and secured the 22-20 victory.
“We won,” said Union coach Doug Burley. “However, we still have things to work on. Jumping offside, high snaps — we’ve got to work on those little things.”
Burley also commented on what he told his team with South Robeson moving the ball on the final drive.
“I told them not to give up. South Robeson didn’t give up and fought till the end. I told the ones tired ‘I need you for a minute and 19 seconds.’”
“My team grew up a little bit tonight,” he concluded.
With the win, Union now sits at 1-1. After beginning the season with a pair of home games, the Spartans will now travel this Friday to take on the struggling Pender Patriots, who have started 0-2, losing each game by more than 40 points.
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m.
Correction: In this past Friday’s Week 2 Preview, it was said that the Spartans lost last year’s meeting with South Robeson, 32-6. That game, however, was a 32-6 Union victory.
Reach Daron Barefoot at [email protected]