Union Pines saw flashes on Friday in its home Tri-County Conference football game against Lee County.
The Vikings saw flashes of its offense turning the corner, the flashes their defense saw at times was that of Lee County junior running back T.J. Johnson running up and down the field and then there were flashes of mistakes on offense that left the coaches and players in frustration.
“The story of our night was bad snaps and fumbling the football as we were moving the ball down the field,” Union Pines coach Lonnie Cox said after his team’s 56-14 loss to the Yellow Jackets.
With two starting senior offensive linemen out, the Vikings’ front had its hands full against the Lee County defensive front seven. The Vikings had nearly a dozen snaps sail high or wide from their quarterbacks, which led to the offense playing catchup to try and get first downs the whole night.
Then there were four turnovers, most of which came early on and kept Union Pines (2-2, 1-1 Tri-County) from staying within striking distance of Lee County (3-0, 1-0) in the first half.
The first came on the Vikings second drive when an errant snap got away from quarterback Micah Monaghan, and Lee County’s Diego Guevara scooped the ball up and returned it 28 yards for a score to put the Yellow Jackets up 7-0.
The other two turnovers for Union Pines in the game were followed by defensive stops, one on a fumble after a completed pass to Damian Allbrooks, and a second came midway through the second quarter when backup quarterback Ben Finklestein tossed the ball to Lee County after being swarmed as the holder on a field goal attempt.
“Our defense played hard tonight. We didn’t tackle well at times, but I think that has to do with how physical Lee County is,” Cox said. “I thought they were very physical running the ball and made it difficult for us to tackle them.”
Lee County took a 28-7 lead into halftime and flipped a 21-7 lead out to 35-7 after the final drive of the first half and the first drive of the second half. Johnson scored one of four touchdowns on a drive that ended 19 seconds before halftime, and quarterback Will Patterson tossed one his two touchdown passes to Jackson Lamb to start the third quarter.
After a hectic start to the game, Union Pines fell behind 14-0 with 7 1⁄2 minutes to go in the first quarter. The Yellow Jackets recovered the ensuing onside kickoff and marched to the doorstep
of the end zone, before Union Pines Ahmad Jones stepped up for an interception that changed momentum.
On the following drive, Union Pines scored on a Monaghan pass to Ethan Biggs over the middle that the freshman receiver took in for a 9-yard score.
“We’ve been down so many times and we’ve come back and won. Our kids didn’t quit tonight,” Cox said. “Late in the game we were trying to get our starters out so we could stay healthy.”
A drive to echo that performance didn’t come to help keep the Vikings in the ballgame.
The other Union Pines score came with six minutes left in the third quarter in the form of a blocked punt by Brett Clemons that Josh Eberhart scooped up and returned more than 40 yards for a touchdown to make it a 42-14 Lee County advantage.
Lee County also had a special teams score of its own after blocking a punt in the fourth quarter and Landon Johnson came away with the loose ball in the end zone that pinballed around off teammates after the block.
Johnson rushed for 190 yards on 19 carries, while his quarterback, Patterson, passed for 236 yards on 12 completions.
Monaghan passed for 196 yards and Biggs reeled in 100 yards receiving.
Union Pines plays at Southern Lee next Friday.
“If we go 3-0 from here, we could get two teams from this conference into the playoffs,” Cox said. “You’re playing for a conference championship every week. So from here on out, you’ve just got to execute and focus on winning every week.”
Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or email@example.com.