U.P. Drops Red Springs
BY F.W. MANNING II
Special to The Pilot
Union Pines rolled in its football opener Friday night, cruising to a 27-7 victory against Red Springs at Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium.
Head coach Ryan Riggan spoke after the game about how the win was a true collective effort for the Vikings.
"I was proud of my team and pleased with the way they came out tonight," said Riggan. "Being the season opener and having lost a large amount of guys last year, it is a new experience. We had a team out there on the field that was probably 50 percent guys that never suited up before on Friday nights, so it is exciting. It is exciting to get to see them have some success."
Second-year starting quarterback Taylor O'Neil, a senior, lit up the visiting Red Devil secondary, completing seven of his 17 first-half pass attempts for 193 yards and two touchdowns. After connecting on his first two throws of the night, O'Neil found Zak Rodriguez open in the end zone and hit him in stride for a score.
The play along with the extra-point, tacked on by Seth Breassale, gave Union Pines a 7-0 lead with 3:55 remaining in the opening period.
"I have a much better feel than I did last year," said O'Neil, who saw five of his passes dropped in the game, including his only two second-half attempts. "I actually understand my reads and know where my guys are going to be and who is going to be doing what.
"Along with that, I also feel like my arm has gotten stronger, so I am able to make some of the tougher throws to get those important completions."
With just 13.1 seconds remaining in the half, O'Neil and the Vike offense faced a first down from their own 46. Rolling right, O'Neil spotted Chris Rubinosky down the sideline. Rubinosky, who caught three passes for 63 yards in the game, reeled in the pass and picked up another 12 critical yards before stepping out of bounds at the Red Devil 26, leaving Union Pines with just enough time for one final play.
After a timeout, O'Neil took the snap out of the shotgun formation. Surveying his targets, he slung a bullet that just grazed a Red Spring defender's fingertip before falling in the hands of senior receiver Tim Bean.
Riggan was glad O'Neil was able to have some success after witnessing his dedication over the offseason.
"Taylor looked awesome tonight," said Riggan. "We had some drops that should have been completions, so his numbers could have been even higher, but he did a great job hitting his open receivers.
"He also hit some receivers in some tight spots, threw some good deep balls and it is all directly attributed to the work he has done in the offseason."
While O'Neil opened things up on the offensive end, the Vike defense shut down the Red Devils' ground game.
Led by seniors Cameron Person and Roby Schloder, Union Pines held Red Springs to just 41 yards of total offense in the first half.
"I thought our defense played lights out all night," said Riggan. "Our first unit was pursuing the ball well. They flew around out there, caused some turnovers and were ready to play. That is what we need from those guys each week, that is what I expected to see from them and they did not disappoint."
Red Springs picked up just three first downs in eight first-half possessions, as the Vikes forced five punts and three fumbles.
Person, who tallied seven of his game-high 11 tackles during the opening two quarters, admitted that he was satisfied with the way Union Pines played.
"The win feels good," said Person. "We came out here and gave it 110 percent and we are going to do the same thing next week."
The senior defensive end and captain also forced and recovered a fumble in the tilt.
Overall, Union Pines' defensive unit had four sacks and 11 tackles for loss on the night. Schloder finished with two sacks, three tackles for losses and a forced fumble from the left side of the Vike defensive line.
Senior safety Garrison Peele, who is another Vike captain along with Person, O'Neil and Frankie Rodriguez, finished with six tackles, while Lamont LeGrande had four tackles a sack and a fumble recovery.
As standout a season ago for the jayvee team, junior running back John McMillan is not known for shying away from the limelight. He made a sparkling varsity debut in front of the Union Pines faithful, as he rushed for 94 yards on 10 carries including an 11-yard first half touchdown scamper late in the second quarter.
McMillan hit pay dirt a second time when he broke off right tackle, made a juke left and sprinted down the sideline for a 36-yard scamper. The score gave the Vikes a commanding 27-0 lead with 6:13 remaining in the third period as Riggan began to insert his second offensive and defensive units into the contest.
Red Springs broke through with a late touchdown to avoid the shutout when backup quarterback Joseph Greene found the end zone on a 45-yard sweep.
Next week Union Pines hits the road, traveling to Pinecrest for this year's Battle of the Pines.
"Pinecrest is a huge game," said Riggan. "Pinecrest is a great team and Coach Metzger has done great job building a tradition over there and those guys want to continue it. I think the crowd is going to be incredible, it is going to be a packed house and our guys are looking forward to being there."
Contact F.W. Manning II by email at frankwm2@ gmail.com
Red Springs 0 0 0 7 - 7
Union Pines 7 13 7 0 - 27
Scoring: (UP) Rodriguez 31-pass from O'Neil (Seth Breassale kick); (UP) McMillan11-run (Breassale kick); (UP) Bean 26-pass from O'Neil (kick blocked); (UP) McMillan 36-run (Breassale kick) (RS) Greene 45-run (Ferguson kick)
Individual stat leaders: Rushing - (RS) Greene 5-71; Xavier McEachern 7-25 (UP) McMillan 10-94; A.J. Ritter 5-18 Passing - (RS) Joseph Gordon 5-10-0, 42; Greene 1-7-0, 16 (UP) O'Neil 7-19-0, 193; Receiving - (RS) Taquan Conely 4-36 (UP) Rubinosky 3-63
More like this story