In the game of football, sometimes the ball takes funny bounces. And those bounces, like opportunities that present themselves during the four quarters of a game, can change the ebb and flow of momentum, as teams battle to gain the upper hand. In a matchup of 11-1 teams, the Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley Nighthawks used some fortunate bounces of the football and a potent offense to pull away from the Union Knights, securing the school’s first football state championship with a 41-22 victory.
Opting to receive the opening kickoff, the Knights started fast, needing just two running plays to score, as Isaiah Vaughan used the creases opened by his offensive line to break off runs of 30 and 38 yards. Forty-two seconds into the game, Union led 7-0.
Five minutes later, the Knights had an opportunity to increase their lead, recovering a fumbled punt return at the Nighthawk 22 yard line. Unable to get a first down, Union was denied points when a 34 yard field goal attempt was unsuccessful.
The Boyden-Hull offense siezed the shift in momentum and moved the ball down the field. Five seconds into the second quarter, Nighthawk quarterback Brett Moser found a receiver in the end zone on a fourth and goal play to even the score, 7-7.
Boyden-Hull controlled much of the second quarter action from there, marching 70 yards for another touchdown to take a 13-7 lead, while shutting down the Union offense on consecutive possessions without allowing a first down.
Late in the quarter, the Knights would get another scoring opportunity when the Nighthawks’ ran a fake punt attempt that the Union defense saw coming. A last minute attempt by the Boyden-Hull punter to boot the ball was blocked and the Knights had the ball 40 yards from the Nighthawks’ end zone with 48 seconds left in the half. Working without any timeouts, Union quickly moved the ball downfield. Once again, though, they came away empty, as a fumble near the goal line bounced into the waiting arms of a Nighthawk defender on the one yard line.
Missed opportunities would be the story of the game for Union. Six times a Boyden-Hull player would fumble the football during the game. Four times, however, the Nighthawks were able to successfully recover the ball and the Knights were unable to convert the two turnovers they got into any points.
Instead it was a dynamic Boyden-Hull offense that made the plays when they needed them, converting on 12 of 17 third downs and two of three fourth down plays, dominating the time of possession while amassing over 500 yards of total offense.
While falling one win short of a state championship, Union’s ninth consecutive postseason appearance capped one of the school’s most successful seasons ever. Emerging from arguably the toughest district in Class 2A, the Knights were able to secure one of just two available district playoff spots, defeating #1 ranked North Fayette Valley on their run to the state championship game. The team’s eleven wins in 2016 ranks second in school history behind the state champion 2011 team that won 12 games.