In Friday nights Game of the Week, the Union Spartans and the Princeton Bulldogs squared off on the gridiron for a Carolina 1A Conference clash. In what turned out to be an offensive shootout, the Bulldogs rushing attack was dominant in overwhelming the Spartans defense. When the dust finally settled, Princeton had remained undefeated on the season with a 61-18 thumping of Union.
Princeton kicked things off as they received the ball at their own 29-yard line to start the game. The drive sputtered at the start as the Bulldogs would be faced with third down and ten yards to go. Princeton, though, displayed what would be the story of the night: their strong rushing game. The Bulldogs picked up a solid 20 yards to keep the drive going and went on to score with 8:03 left in the first quarter to make it 6-0. After the successful 2-point conversion, the lead stood at 8-0.
Union failed to move the ball on their first possession of the game as the Spartans went three and out to quickly give the ball back to the Bulldogs.
After a nice punt, Princeton went right back to work from their own 28-yard line. Two plays later John Lockamy sprinted 70 yards for the score to quickly advance the Bulldogs lead. This time, Princeton kicked the PAT successfully to make it 15-0 with 4:03 left in the period.
The Spartans, though, absorbed the quick one-two punch and showed signs of life when they picked up a quick score of their own.
After taking over near midfield following a pooch kick, Union’s Vance King burst 52-yards for a quick score to make it 15-6. The 2-point try failed as the score was left at 15-6 with 3:53 still left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, however, Princeton staved off any Union momentum as Princeton’s Lamar Wilkins took command. With the Bulldogs lined up on their own 27-yard line, Wilkins took two hand offs all 73 yards to the house for the score. The PAT was successful as Princeton pulled back ahead, 22-6.
Union, though, still didn’t back down.
Again on the ensuing drive, another Princeton pooch kick set the Spartans up at midfield. On the first play of the drive, King found open ground once again and raced toward the end zone for another score on a 55-yard screen play from quarterback Cole Bass. Again, the 2-point try failed as Union was back within 22-12 with 1:18 still left in the first quarter.
That score would hold the remainder of the quarter with the game already shaping up to be a shootout. Little did anyone know, though, that things were about to change drastically.
In the second quarter, Wilkins continued to be a force to be reckoned with. He scored all three of Princeton’s touchdowns in the quarter, including one an a 70-yard burst. With their defense struggling, the Spartans offense also begin to sputter as Princeton took firm control by halftime with a staggering 42-12 lead.
Out of the halftime break, Union showed that they still had some fight left in them.
On the first drive of the second half, the Spartans attempted to make things interesting as King added his third score of the game on a 45-yard touchdown run. The 2-point try failed and with 9:38 on the clock in the third quarter, Union was back to within 42-18.
On the ensuing Bulldogs drive, Princeton’s Lockamy didn’t help his team when he picked up a dead ball, personal foul penalty for repeatedly kicking a Spartans defender while the two were tangled up on the ground. After a conference with both coaches, a 15-yard penalty backed Princeton way up and Lockamy was ejected from the contest. As a result, the Bulldogs were forced into a rare punt situation but Union was in less than desirable field position.
The ensuing Union drive would be the final tipping point – and the final nail in the coffin – as the Spartans drive went backwards on a three-and-out. The punt, however, also backfired. After going straight up in the air and hitting the ground, the ball took a huge bounce in favor of the Bulldogs that actually put them in better field position on the Union 20-yard line.
One play later, Jayden Brooks ran it all the way in for the score for the Bulldogs. After the PAT, Princeton’s lead was back to 49-18 with 5:35 left in quarter number three.
Brooks would pick up two more scores for the Bulldogs before the end of the game. Once still in the third quarter on a 45-yard run with 3:31 on the clock to make it 55-18. And then once more to make it 61-18 on a 5-yard run with 6:57 left in the game.
After watching his team absorb such a tough loss, Union coach Doug Burley was still optimistic in the postgame as credited his opponent with being a great team.
“We tip our hats to Princeton, they’re a strong team and are going to be hard to beat,” Burley stated. “For us, it starts with getting back to work on Monday. We face another tough team next week in North Duplin so we’ve got to put good work in next week to get ready,” he concluded.
With the loss, Union has now lost two straight games, falling 2-3 overall and 0-1 in conference play. As Burley stated above, the Spartans will travel to North Duplin for a clash with the Rebels on Friday.
Reach Sports Editor Daron Barefoot at [email protected]