Vikings Win Overtime Thriller
A memorable night of football ended late in the evening at Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium Friday when Union Pines senior Dionte Williams intercepted a pass in the end zone.
The pick came on the final play of a hard-fought roller-coaster-ride of a nonconference pigskin tilt and served as the capper to a thrilling 35-34 Viking victory in overtime against the 1-A East Montgomery Eagles.
Prior to the play the visiting Eagles had scored touchdowns in each of their previous four possessions, including a three-play drive in overtime that directly answered a one-play 10-yard touchdown drive by the Vikings to start the extra period.
Getting the ball first in overtime, Union Pines handed it off to running back Kaleb Johnson, who took it around the right edge before bursting to the pylon and powering forward to pay dirt. The carry was the junior’s 18th on the night, giving him 172 rushing yards and three ground scores for the game.
Ultimately the point put on the board by senior place kicker Adam Howard, after Johnson’s final touchdown ramble of the contest, proved to be the game-winner as Williams’ interception dashed the Eagles hopes of a comeback win. A final whistle from the officials accentuated the climatic finish as the sizeable home crowd rose to its collective feet in a roar of jubilation. Meanwhile, the Vikes rushed the field where the interception occurred in an open outpouring of pure celebration.
“We have a group of guys that play hard and really compete together as a team,” said Viking head coach Ryan Riggan. “We have showed that same character in games we have lost. My guys are just competitors and they do a great job every week of always having each other’s back.
“They are a great group of kids. They work incredibly hard and it is fun to coach them because they never give up and give you everything they got.”
With the win Union Pines improved to 2-2 on the season as it readies for 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference play to start next week. East Montgomery fell to 1-3 with the loss.
Senior Lamont Legrand — one of several Union Pines players to see action on both sides of the football — was overcome with positive emotion after the game.
“This is front-page news right here,” said Legrand, who played nearly the entire game as a defensive tackle and as a part of the Vikes’ offensive line along with Grayson Johnson, Connor Dull, Greg Reaves, Tyler Southern, Byron Gaddy and Justin Hall. “This is probably the best game we have had in my four years here, and three of playing varsity. We have been through a lot of adversity the past four seasons but somehow we have found a way to prevail. I am just so proud of my teammates for coming out, fighting through and getting this win.”
Union Pines led 14-7 at halftime despite committing two ill-timed turnovers. The Viking offense also failed to punch the ball into the end zone on its last drive of the second quarter. Instead the unit turned it over on downs at the two-yard line after setting up a first-and-goal at the six with 2:15 left in the opening half.
It was the second Union Pines drive of the half to lose steam in the red zone. The Vikings also had a first-and-goal chance at the five midway through the opening quarter, but the Eagle defense mounted a stand before blocking a 27-yard field goal attempt by Howard.
Although the momentum had started to shift by halftime and the Eagles received the third-quarter kickoff, Union Pines maintain its composure. An interception by defensive back Mike Quick at the Union Pines four-yard line halted a serious threat posed by East Montgomery on its first drive of the second half.
From there the home team rallied, as it marched 81 yards down the field on 14 plays while chewing up 9:46 of clock.
Vike senior fullback and linebacker Shakeem McRae finished off the drive with a daunting display of desire and power on a 17-yard scoring surge off the right tackle that saw him drag three Eagles with him into the end zone. The touch gave Union Pines a 20-7 lead with 11:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“Really this game is all about the team,” said McRae. “We didn’t give up on each other and we had to fight through so much this week with so many obstacles we had to overcome — still nobody gave up.
“The effort was just amazing and the support of the fans just kept us driven to keep pushing forward. The fact that we were behind each other every second of every play is what allowed us to get through this one.”
Not nearly ready to be put away, East Montgomery responded by going to the air where it found great success. Senior signal caller Avery Johnson completed three passes on the ensuing drive as the Eagles cut the deficit to 20-14 at the 9:41 mark of the final period. The Vikes then fumbled the ball away on their next possession.
Jackson — who racked up 200 passing yards in the contest, completing 11 of 19 attempts — only needed one play to knot the game at 20-all as he connected with wideout Garrett Hall for a 49-yard touchdown.
Hall had to go up in what was tantamount to a jump-ball situation with Union Pines defensive back Zach Yates at the home 25. Hall managed to come down with the football and race it to the house for six points. However, Yates was shaken up on the play and was eventually carted off the field on a stretcher and taken to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital for medical treatment as a precautionary measure.
After a near 20-minute delay, action resumed as the Eagles missed wide right on their extra-point try, leaving the game tied at 20-all. After Williams returned the ball 26 yards on the kickoff, the Viking offense took over at its 40 and mounted another time-consuming drive.
With his team facing third down and 11, junior quarter back Emmitt Carden picked up a critical first down when he scrambled out of the pocket and up field for a 28-yard gain down to the Eagle 21. Four plays later Johnson scored off right tackle on his sixth carry of the drive to give Union Pines a 26-20 lead.
Riggan opted to go for two and his team converted, as Carden rolled right after a play-action fake and found Spencer Shadomy open in the right corner of the end zone. The senior hauled in the reception to push the margin to 28-20 with 1:24 left in regulation.
In resilient fashion, the Eagle offense offered another bold reply. First Marqys Chambers returned the kick all the way to the Viking 39-yard from. Then, facing third and nine from the 38, Jackson let a pass fly down the right sideline where senior receiver Ahmad Baldwin made an athletic grab before going out of bounds at the Vike nine with 33 ticks left on the clock. Three plays later, with time winding down, the Vike defense was whistled for a pass interference call near the goal line, after sacking Jackson the play prior, to force a third-and-goal at the Union Pines 19.
On the very next snap Jackson nearly got sacked again but was able to unleash a pass while in the grasp of McRae. His toss was on target, finding Durham in the flats where the running back brought the ball past the barrier for six points. Needing one more play to force overtime Jackson rolled right on the conversion attempt and hit an open C.J. Robinson to tie the game.
E. Montgomery 0 7 0 21 6 — 34
Union Pines 7 7 0 14 7 — 35
Scoring: (U) Carden 5-run (Howard kick); (U) Johnson 4-run (Howard kick); (E) Baldwin 67-pass from Jackson (Luis Rodriguez kick); (U) McRae 17-run (kick failed); (E) Durham 2-pass from Jackson (Rodriguez kick); (E) Garrett Hall 49-pass from Jackson (kick failed); (U) Johnson 3-run (Shadomy pass from Carden); (E) Durham 10-pass from Jackson (Robinson pass from Jackson); (U) Johnson 10-run (Howard kick); (E) Jackson 1-run (INT on conversion attempt by Williams)
Team stats: Rushing – (E) 24-96, TD; (U) 51- 359, 5 TD; Passing – (E) 11-21, 200yds 4 TD; (U) 1-3, 8yds; First Downs – (E) 10 ; (U) 15; Penalties – (E) 10-70; (U) 7-39; All-Purpose (Total) – (E) 358; (U) 459; Fumbles/Lost – (E) 1/0; (U) 8/2.
Individual stats: Rushing – (E) Durham 12-51, Jackson 6-11, M. Chambers 2-11, C. Smith 3-9; (U) Johnson 18-172, Carden 16-65, M. Quick 6-72, A. Gerber 5-27, McRae 5-23; Passing – (E) Jackson 11-19 200 4-3; (U) Carden 1-3 8 0-1; Receiving – (E) Baldwin 2-96, Hall 1-49, Robinson 3-32, Durham 2-12, Chambers 3-11; (U) Shadomy 1-8.
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