Union Pines JVs Win Thriller
Union Pines' junior varsity football team came out on top in a thriller Thursday at Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium.
In a game that came down to the final seconds, the Vikings mounted a defensive stand to stop the Western Harnett Eagles on three straight plays from their own 13-yard line to preserve a hard fought 19-14 Cape Fear Valley Conference victory.
A.J. Ritter played both ways in the game for Union Pines, as a running back on offense and a linebacker on defense. He finished the game with six carries for 70 yards and six tackles, including a forced fumble on the final play of the game to clinch the win for the Vikes.
"We worked hard all week to be ready for this game," said Ritter. "Once we hit the field we knew we needed to step up and take what was rightfully ours."
The victory snapped a two-game losing skid for Union Pines as it improved to 4-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play.
With 15 tackles, including a forced fumble and five tackles resulting in losses, freshman Shakeem McRae led a Union Pines defense which caused four Eagle turnovers.
"This was a true team effort tonight," said McRae. "We all pulled together and felt like we needed to stand tall to get a win at home, especially since it was our first league win."
Mere moments after his team fell behind 7-0 early in the contest, Vike receiver/defensive back Parris Manning offered a swift response in the form of an 85-yard touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff. A successful try on the extra point by Seth Breassale knotted the game at 7-all with 8:12 left in the opening quarter.
Late in the period, sophomore running back Sumari Poulson scored on a 39-yard counter trap to give Union Pines a 13-7 lead.
The Vike defense then went to work as it stopped Western's next two drives by forcing a pair of interceptions, the second of which came at a most advantageous time. With less than two minutes remaining in the first half and the Eagles knocking at the door from the Union Pines' 9-yard line, cornerback Sedarius Quick came down with a pick in the end zone to stop a would-be Western Harnett touchdown.
The Eagles received the kickoff to start the second half and methodically marched 67 yards down the field on 15 plays, eventually taking a 14-13 lead with 3:26 left to play in the third quarter.
Union Pines answered right back with its own sustained scoring drive, which culminated in Breassale connecting with freshman Braxton Ross for a 46-yard touchdown toss that proved to be the game-winner.
"This win really felt good," Ross said, "and all that hard work in practice paid off in a big way as we executed well out there."
Also a nickel back for the Vike defense, Ross did most of his damage from the wideout position Thursday. He finished the game with three catches for 110 yards.
The Vikes are back at home Thursday against league foe Westover.
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