With their backs to the goaline for most of the first half, Union’s football team found itself looking for answers to unbeaten, top-ranked District 4 Champion Cascade, as the Knight defense fought to keep the game within reach.
They did. After spending most of the first 24 minutes in their own territory, and their backs to the goal line on several occasions, the Knights held the Cougars to just one touchdown in the first half.
Offensively, Union struggled, as the Cougars seemed to have an answer to every scheme and formation they had tried.
An interception early in the game gave Cascade great field position, and the Cougars kept the ball in Union territory for virtually all of the first quarter.
“Our kids are fighters,” said Union Head Coach Joe Hadachek. “You won’t notice it in the school halls because there they are so nice, but they know how to fight.”
During halftime, Hadacheck gave the Knights two directives. First, Forget the new offensive adjustments the team had tried in the first half, and return to the typical Union game plan. Second: Fight. The coach reminded them that they were only down by seven.
It was clear the half-time speech had an impact; Union came out and played by the book they had all season, and outscored Cascade, 22-7 in the second half.
But 16 of those 22 points came with less than 5 minutes left in the game, concluding a wild second half that included:
- a fumbled punt by Cascade that bounces past pursuing Knights to a Cougar;
- A successfully-excuted fake punt by each team;
- An interception by the Cougars — their third of the night — that ended with a fumble recovered by the Knights after Cascade responded to the Knights’ first TD with a long TD run.
- A TD by Knight Kody Alpers that was called back by a penalty, followed by another Union penalty when the ball was inside the Cascade 1-yard-line. (The same thing had happened to the Cougars early in the first half, when a penalty negated a TD and other penalties against the Cougars helped Union keep them from scoring more.)
- A long TD run Cascade shortly after Union had tied the game, on a third-and-long with the Cougar starting QB on the bench due to a minor injury (he later returned).
- A 5-yard penalty against Union after it had moved the ball to within a foot of the goal line.
The wild second half turned even more wild and crazy when Union scored its second TD of the night. Following the penalty that negated a run by Alpers for a score, Union finally posted its second TD on an 8-yard pass from QB Troy Hanus to Alpers.
Alpers was already celebrating with his teammates when he heard the whistle and looked back and saw the flag.
But, he said after the game: “I knew we’d get in the end zone again.”
That TD made the score 14-13, Cascade. Instead of going for the PAT kick to tie the game, Hadachek and his staff elected to go for two and the lead.
But Cascade stopped that play, forcing Union to try to stop the Cougars in time to mount another scoring drive.
There were about 90 seconds on the clock when Union forced Cascade to punt, and the Knights took over on their own 40, with no time-outs left.
Despite the previous interceptions, Union relied on its passing game, and the arm, skill and experience of Hanus, who had recently set a new all-time Union passing record.
While passing for 227 yards on 29 attempts, Hanus also spent much of the evening being pursued by the big, fast linemen and linebackers of Cascade. He was sacked a few times and ended up with an official stat line of six rushes for -20 yards. But when his team need a confident arm, his came through.
“He’s resilient,” Hadachek said of his senior QB.
“I had to,” replied Hanus, when asked about regaining confidence after throwing the interceptions.
The Knights attempted several passes, completing enough of them to keep possession and move the ball closer to field goal range. The Knight kicker, sophomore Marc Mahood, had only attempted two field goals and two PAT attempts all season. His longest was 32 yards.
The last completion resulted in a Union first down, after referees took a time-out for a measurement. There were 12.8 seconds left. After pondering whether to try another offensive play, Hadachek yelled “Field Goal.”
The field goal team took the field, and holder Hunter Fleshner called for the snap. He held the ball, and Mahood’s left foot sent the ball plenty far and high, and just inside the right upright.
Union, with less than 5 seconds left, had taken its first lead of the game, 16-14.
But there was still time for a kick-off. The Knights elected to kick it as far and as far away from the Cascade deep men as possible, and the strategy worked as well as possible. As Cascade players attempted to lateral the ball in a desperate attempt to move the ball nearly 100 yards, they fumbled, and Kaleb Roach recoverered in the end zone, scoring 6 more points for Union as time expired.
The celebration began. See two minutes of it in the video below.
See more photos HERE.