Western Outlasts Vikings
Needing a solid effort to avoid starting 0-3 in the Cape Fear Valley Conference, Union Pines answered the call with conviction against Western Harnett.
The visiting Vikings battled the Eagles play for play in the first half, and after senior captain Justin Marshall blocked a last-second field goal attempt by Western, the Vikes left the field for intermission with momentum on their side and the contest all knotted up at 7-all.
However a combination of misfortune, injury and an inability to capitalize on two consecutive Western turnovers proved to be Union Pines' undoing. Western scored 21 unanswered points in the second half of their homecoming game to secure a 28-14 win and improve to 2-0 in conference play and 3-4 overall.
Senior tailback Shaun McLean contributed a healthy chunk of Western's 377 yards of total offense. For the night McLean finished with 253 rushing yards on 15 carries and scored three times on the ground.
His second touchdown came on the Eagles' first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, as he took the ball off tackle and 65 yards later found paydirt. It was his second long rushing score of the night.
Union Pines head coach Ryan Riggan felt that McLean's score to open the second half was a watershed moment in the contest.
"I feel like we really did some positive things in the first half and were right there in the ball game," Riggan said. "McLean's run definitely hurt. Western came out in a formation we had not seen during our weekly film sessions and our guys were just not able to make the necessary adjustments in time."
McLean went 75 yards for his first touchdown to give Western a 7-0 lead with 6:50 left in the second quarter, but Union Pines responded with a 75-yard scoring drive on its next possession.
Junior Viking quarterback Taylor O'Neil completed 5-of-6 passes for 62 yards on the drive, including a 5-yard touchdown toss to senior Dakota Gallant.
In the first half O'Neal showed true poise, completing 11 of his first 15 passes for 123 yards. Senior Brandon Brown caught six of those throws and had 55 receiving yards at halftime.
However on the Vikes' last offensive play of the first half, O'Neil's hand was injured when it was hit by a helmet. The injury became worse during halftime and he was unable to play in the final two quarters.
Union Pines was unable to pick up a first down on its two opening possessions in the second half. Then the Vikes made costly turnovers on their next two possessions.
"Having Taylor go down changed our gameplan a good deal in terms of the passing game," said Riggan. "He had a great first half showing and was in a really nice rhythm. So anytime a player who is performing like he was gets sidelined it tends to takes its toll."
After linebacker Cameron Person forced a fumble, which the Vikes recovered at the Eagle 7-yard line, Union Pines turned the ball right back over on a muffed snap at the Western 22-yard line.
Person was one of a handful of Union Pines' defenders to turn in a stellar performance as he finished with nine tackles, four of which were for a loss including three sacks and a forced fumble. Andrew MacPherson also had three sacks and nine total tackles, while Marshall led the Vikes with 15 tackles.
Another Viking fumble occurred at their own 30-yard line and ultimately led to a 1-yard touchdown for the Eagles on a quarterback sneak by Franklin Trapp, which made the score 21-7 with 7:14 left in regulation. McLean's final touchdown of the night, a 15-yard sweep, capped off the Eagles' scoring for the game as they led 28-7 late in the final quarter.
Over its first six possessions of the second half, the Vikes gained 18 yards through the air and lost 25 yards on the ground. In the final minutes of the contest Union Pines finally found the end zone again on a two-play, 62-yard scoring drive that resulted in a 46-yard touchdown reception by Brown, who gained 35 yards after the catch on the play.
In a breakout performance, Brown finished the night with 101 receiving yards on seven catches.
After the game, Riggan remained optimistic about his team's potential to be competitive in the conference.
"We are right there," Riggan said. "I just feel like we need that extra something to happen to have a breakthrough."
Union Pines is now 0-3 in conference play and 3-5 overall. Next week the Vikings travel to Fayetteville for a league game against Westover.
Contact F.W. Manning II at 639-5481 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Union Pines 0 7 0 7 -- 14
Western Harnett 0 7 8 13 -- 28
Scoring (W) McLean 74-run (Ian Bohn kick); (U) Gallant-5 pass from O'Neil; (W) McLean 65-run (McLean-2pt conversion); (W) Trapp 1-run (kick failed); (W) McLean 15-run (Bohn kick); (U) Brown 46-pass from Garrison Peele (MacPherson kick)
Team stats: Rushing Union Pines 29-67; Western Harnett 24-317 4TD. Passing Union Pines 15-24 197, 2TD 2 INT; Western Harnett 3-8 51, INT
Individual stat leaders: Rushing (U) Mitchell McNeill 18-49; (W) McLean 15-253 3TD, Trapp 7-42 TD; Passing (U) O'Neil 11-18, TD INT; Peele 4-5 74 TD; (W) Trapp 3-8 51 INT; Receiving (U) Brown 7-101 TD, Gallant 3-29 TD, Chris Rubinowski 1-36, McNeill 2-22; (W) Dee Wesson 1-42.
More like this story