Eagles Pull Away from Vikings
Union Pines lost 51-28 to visiting Western Harnett Friday in league football action at Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium in Cameron.
The 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference contest started as a back-and-forth scoring battle with each squad’s defense struggling to keep pace.
After receiving the opening kickoff the Vike offense failed to move the chains on three plays and was forced to punt. From there the next four drives of the clash all resulted in trips to pay dirt as the score was knotted up at 14-all with 9:22 remaining in the second quarter.
The Vikings got scores from Mike Quick on a four-yard run and Shakeem McRae on an 13-yard rush.
The visiting Eagles (3-4, 2-0 CFVC) again held serve on offense to grab a 20-14 led with a four-yard run by junior Laron Gilchrist. The scoring scamper was the third of five rushing touchdowns on the night for the big, bruising fullback, who finished the game with 137 rushing yards on 18 carries.
Facing fourth and eight, Vike junior quarterback Emmitt Carden got the time he needed in the pocket to fire a perfectly placed pass down the left sideline. His toss hit receiver Quick’s finger tips, with nothing but daylight ahead of him, but the senior was unable to haul in the catch.
The turnover on downs was the second of the half for Viking head coach Ryan Riggan’s offense, as the unit failed to capitalize with the passing game on prime open chances deep in the secondary during both drives.
“We had a few chances early to make some really big plays and didn’t take advantage of it,” said Riggan. “On the first play of the game we had (receiver) Ethan Benitez wide open down the middle and over threw him. We also had a couple of drops that were pretty big.
“When you get those kinds of opportunities you have to take advantage. We did not do a good job of taking advantage of those chances and it cost us.”
After the dropped pass by Quick, Western regained possession and promptly pushed its lead to 28-14. The big play for the Eagles came on second and nine in Vike territory near midfield. Senior signal caller Erik Gonzales found success through the air in the form of a 47-yard scoring strike to C. J. Hobbs, who caught the ball wide open in the middle of the secondary, near the 20, and raced the rest of the way home untouched.
On Union Pines’ final possession of the half senior fullback McRae picked up 13 yards to move the chains and get the ball near midfield. But the Vike drive quickly stalled out as the home team punted the ball away facing fourth and six at the 50-yard line.
With 3:03 remaining until the halftime buzzer, Western used a diverse offensive attack to score again.
A 31-yard gain on a sweep by Darius Alston, a 15-yard completion by Gonzales to Casper Tyler, and a halfback toss from Amana Manning to Hobbs for 25 yards set up a first-and-goal chance at the four.
With 14.6 seconds remaining on the clock Manning hit the right edge on a short-side sweep for a rushing score to make it a three-touchdown ballgame. The two-point conversion attempt was successful as Gonzales found Deshaun Alston for a completion, pushing the Eagle lead to 36-14 at intermission.
Western Harnett gained 205 rushing yards on 22 first-half carries and amassed another 87 through the air by completing all three of its first-half passing attempts.
Conversely Union Pines was zero for six passing in the opening half and totaled 146 rushing yards on 21 attempts.
“Our (pass) coverage was not good tonight,” said Riggan. “We covered badly again (this week). Poor coverage on the back end and lack of pressure on the front end is leading to our opponents having a lot of time to pass and make big plays.
“We have to do a better job of covering and we have to do a better job of getting pressure up front. More important, we have to do a much better job of playing team defense as a whole.”
Both teams struggled to move the chains on offense when action resumed in the third quarter. With 18 seconds remaining the in period the Union Pines defense forced Western Harnett to commit its second straight turnover.
Sophomore Robert Collins, playing his second game as a junior varsity call-up, made a good break on an under thrown pass by Gonzales and picked it off at the Vike 34-yard line. A nice return on the interception gave Union Pines the ball in the red zone, at its own 24. On the first play from scrimmage Carden scored on an option keeper and Adam Howard’s kick gave the squad new life as they trailed 36-21 with an entire quarter of football still to be played.
Ultimately, Union Pines was unable to make a third straight stop on defense as Western Harnett answered by taking 4:02 off the clock and adding eight points to its tally to capture a commanding 44-21 lead.
The Eagle offense took over at its own 40 and lined up in a double tight end formation with two wingbacks just off each end of the line. From the set Western Harnett rode the running prowess of Gilchrist, who carried the ball six times for a total of 45 yards including an 18-yard touchdown romp.
Tyree McLain had two touches, of six and nine yards, on the eight-play, 60-yard drive and the senior running back delivered two points when his number was called for the conversion attempt on a successful surge to the right.
An interception toss by Carden was the result of the Vikes first play from scrimmage. A 42-yard return after the pick by Darius Alston all but closed the book on the contest.
Facing first down and goal — eight yards from pay dirt — Gonzales handed the ball off to Gilchrist, who bulldozed his way off center and up the gut for his fifth rushing score of the night.
Union Pines added its final score when Carden hit McRae with a 33-yard touchdown pass.
With the loss Union Pines moved to 2-5 overall and 0-3 in the conference. The Vikings are back at home next week against league foe Westover.
W. Harnett 14 22 0 15 — 51
Union Pines 7 7 7 7 — 8
Scoring: (W) Gilchrist 3-run (kick failed); (U) Quick 4-run (Howard kick); (W) Gilchrist 21-run (Gilchrist run); (U) McRae 13-run (Howard kick); (W) Gilchrist 4-run (failed conversion); (W) Hobbs 47-pass from Gonzales (Darius Alston run); (W) Manning 4-run (J. Aponte pass Gonzales); (U) Carden 24-run (Howard kick); (W) Gilchrist 18-run (McLain run); (W) Gilchrist 8-run (A. Speck kick); (U) McRae 33-pass from Carden (Howard kick).
Team stats: Rushing – (W) 48-349, 6 TD; (U) 35-196, 3 TD; Passing – (W) 3-4, 87yds, TD, INT; (U) 3-13, 63yds, TD, INT; First Downs – (W) 20; (U) 13; Penalties – (W) 4-40; (U) 7-65; All-Purpose (Total) – (W) 505; (U) 308; Fumbles/Lost – (W) 1/1; (U) 2/1.
Individual stats: Rushing – (W) Gilchrist 18-135, McLain 6-63, Manning 6-62, Darius Alston 5-55, Hobbs 2-19, B. Tymes 3-14, K. Smith 4-11; (U) McRae 11-112, Hall 4-34, Quick 8-21, Carden 8-19; Passing – (W) Gonzales 2-3 62 1-1, Smith 1-1 25; (U) Carden 3-11 50 1-1, Hall 1-2 13 0-0; Receiving – (W) Hobbs 2-72, C. Tyler 1-10 (U) McRae 1-33, K. Rakers 2-24, Benitez 1-6.
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