Not until Friday night against Abingdon when the football game was on the line.
In overtime — his team down 21-14 and facing second-and-goal from the 11 — Union wide receiver Daemai Lester took the ball from quarterback Brody Gibson on an end-around. Lester stopped, set his feet and threw a pass to a wide-open Malachi Jenkins in the end zone, and Koby Crist added the point-after kick for a 21-21 tie that sent the game to a second overtime.
But that trick play had turned the tide for the final time.
An 8-yard carry by Bryce Guerrant was followed by a 2-yard run by Mason Polier and another Crist PAT. Union followed up its score with a defensive stand that secured the Bears’ 28-21 Mountain 7 District win at Falcons Stadium.
Union (7-2, 4-1) now has a chance to win a share of the district championship. A victory over John Battle next week at Union in the regular-season finale would make the Bears co-champions with Ridgeview.
Friday’s game was one of momentum swings.
Union controlled the game in the first half, primarily behind the running of Polier. The senior, who finished with 181 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries, picked up 128 yards and two TDs in the first half to give the Bears a 14-0 lead through the game’s first 23 minutes.
“We had some opportunities in the first half to maybe score a couple of more touchdowns,” said Union coach Travis Turner. “We shot ourselves in the foot offensively a little bit.”
Momentum began to tilt Abingdon’s way in the final 1:32 of the second quarter. The Falcons (4-5, 3-2) moved the ball 52 yards before Jadon Boothe capped the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak with eight seconds on the clock, sending the teams into halftime with Union up 14-7.
With sophomore Malique Hounshell carrying the load, Abingdon continued to control the momentum for the most of the second half. Still, the Falcons managed only a 1-yard touchdown run by Jake Johnson.
Abingdon had a chance to win the game in regulation, but its 32-yard field-goal attempt as time expired went wide left.
Abingdon struck first in overtime, scoring on Johnson’s 3-yard run. Graham Griffith’s PAT put the Falcons up 21-14.
On Union’s first play of OT, Polier was stopped for a yard loss, but Lester connected with Jenkins on the trick play and the pendulum swung again.
“We did a good job of hitting that pass play in the overtime,” Turner said. “When we hit that pass play, we felt the momentum swing back. Our kids were excited and we made four really good plays on defense in that second overtime.”
After Union took just two plays to score in the second overtime, it was Abingdon’s turn. A gain of a yard by Hounshell — who finished with 112 yards on 20 carries — was followed by two incomplete passes.
Then on fourth-and-goal from the 9 for the Falcons, Union’s defense broke through and sacked Boothe at the 10 to preserve the win.
Abingdon coach Garrett Amburgey was happy with his team’s effort despite the loss.
“I’m just so proud of our seniors and so proud of our guys,” Amburgey said. “You know, that’s what high school football is about, a game like that. I’m just so proud of them.”