McDowell Proves Too Much for Vikings
Union Pines displayed some early fireworks in Friday’s league football game against Gray’s Creek but those sparks soon fizzled as the Bears powered their way to a 42-14 homecoming win behind an amazing performance from Ken McDowell.
The 5-foot-9, 184-pound senior running back and 2011 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year literally carried his team to victory. On the night McDowell tallied five rushing scores and 282 yards on 16 carries. Each of his touchdowns went for 10 yards or longer, including extended romps to pay dirt of 42, 47 and 61 yards. In addition McDowell personally picked up 11 of his squads 20 first downs in the contest.
By halftime the homestanding Bears held a 28-7 lead, having amassed 294 yards of offense on 36 plays. A large chunk of that total came from 260 rushing yards. McDowell closed the first half with 179 yards on 14 carries, including three trips to the end zone.
Although things turned out great for Gray’s Creek, which moved to 5-1 for the season and 2-0 in CFVC play, Union Pines managed to cause the Bear faithful some mild concerns in the opening seven minutes of the league clash contested in Hope Mills.
Senior Ethan Benitez started things with a bang for the Vikings, returning the opening kickoff 36 yards down to the Bear 31. On the second play from scrimmage, junior signal caller Emmitt Carden broke through a crease in the middle and sprinted all the way to the house. The 26-yard rushing score gave Union Pines a 6-0 lead with 10:52 left to play in the first quarter.
The Bear’s then took over possession and fumbled the ball back to Union Pines on their third play from scrimmage. Seven plays and 68 yards later, Union Pines was threatening to extend its lead with a first down at the Gray’s Creek 16, but a big hit by junior linebacker Orrion Hill caused a Carden fumble as the football popped loose and hit the ground where it was recovered by the Bear defense.
The play proved to be pivotal, serving as the true turning point in the tilt. Union Pines’ seven subsequent drives all stalled out — ending in a turnover on downs, followed by another lost fumble, then two punts, a thrown interception, another turnover on downs and one more punt.
Conversely Hill’s big hit served as a wake-up call for the Gray’s Creek offense, which scored touchdowns on six of its ensuing seven drives.
Leading up to the game Vike head coach Ryan Riggan stressed ball security and sustained, time-consuming offensive drives as the two key factors for success against the Bears. After Union Pines’ postgame huddle, Riggan accessed his club’s performance.
“We had really good momentum going when we lost the first fumble in their red zone,” Riggan said, “and had a real chance to take a two-touchdown lead. If we punch that drive in (for points) who knows what happens. Turnovers continue to plague us though and will be an area we will have to keep emphasizing until we get consistently better at it.
“On defense I thought for the most part we did a good job at tackling. The tackles we missed were all key tackles though. Also Ken McDowell for them is incredible and we are not going to be the only one he does that to this season.”
Upon receiving the kickoff to start the third quarter the Bears needed just one play to push their margin to 35-6. McDowell broke through a hole off the right guard and rambled 61 yards to the end zone for his fourth rushing score of the night. Sophomore kicker Taylor Sawicki tacked on the fifth of his six successful extra-point tries in the game to put Gray’s Creek ahead by 29 points with 11:47 remaining in the period.
McDowell struck once more on the Bears’ next possession. This time he provided a 42-yard capper on a three-play drive that pushed the Gray’s Creek lead to 42-6 at the 9:59 mark of the third quarter.
Late in the game Carden sneaked the ball past the goal line for his second rushing touchdown of the night. The one-yard, touch-six ended a 14-play, 87-yard scoring drive that featured two pass completions from Carden to senior fullback Shakeem McRae of 26 and 24 yards.
The Vikings did not attempt a pass in the first half; however Carden went four-for-seven through the air in the second half, finding McRae as his target each time for a total of 74 yards. Union Pines did use junior Phillip Hall — the squad’s leading tackler as the starting strong safety — at the quarterback spot for a handful of plays out of the shotgun formation. He totaled 35 rushing yards on five carries and threw an interception on his only pass. With the loss Union Pines’ CFVC losing streak moved to 15 games. On the season, the Vikes are 0-2 in league play and 2-4 overall.
In other CFVC action Friday, Douglas Byrd (4-2, 1-1) notched a 21-18 win against Overhills, (2-4, 1-1), while Western Harnett (2-4, 1-0) defeated Southern Lee (1-5, 0-2) by a 27-21 margin. Westover (2-4, 1-0) ventured out of the league to suffer a 21-0 loss to 4-A Hoke County.
Union Pines returns home to Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium in Cameron this upcoming week versus Western Harnett Eagles.
Union Pines 6 0 0 8 — 14
Gray’s Creek 7 21 14 0 — 42
Scoring: (U) Carden 26-run (failed conversion) (G) McDowell 47-run (Sawicki kick); (G) McDowell 10-run (Sawicki kick); (G) McDowell 12-run (Sawicki kick); (G) X. Washington 14-pass from J. Wallace (Sawicki kick); (G) McDowell 61-run (Sawicki kick); (G) McDowell 42-run (Sawicki kick); (U) Carden 1-run (failed conversion); (U) Safety.
Team stats: Rushing – (U) 50-196, TD; (G) 54-455, 5 TD; Passing – (U) 4-8, 74yds INT; (G) 3-7, 34yds TD; First Downs – (U) 11; (G) 20; Penalties – (U) 5-45; (G) 10-90; All-Purpose (Total) – (U) 343; (G) 527; Fumbles/Lost – (U) 4/2; (G) 3/2.
Individual stats: Rushing – (U) Carden 12-74, McRae 11-57, Hall 5-35, K. Johnson 5-19, M. Quick 5-3; (G) McDowell 16-282, J. Richardson 9-77; D. Rackley 8-54, Wallace 6-44; Passing – (U) Carden 4-7-74 0-0, Hall 0-1-0 0-1 (G) Wallace 3-7-34 1-0; Receiving – (U) McRae 4-74; (G) Washington 2-21, McDowell 1-13.
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