Given a second crack at the #1 ranked team in Class 2A, the Union Knights made the most of it. After nearly getting run off the field in a 56-21 loss to North Fayette Valley on October 14, the Knights returned to the scene of the crime three weeks later for a return engagement, this time with a trip to the UNI-Dome and a spot in the State Semi-Finals on the line.
Despite the previous loss, Union had reasons to expect a different outcome the second time around. Despite committing an uncharacteristic three turnovers the first time these teams met, the Knights were the only team to score more than 20 points against the vaunted North Fayette Valley defense. If Union could slow down the dominant Tigerhawk running game and force them to throw more than the two passes they did in the first game, the Knights believed the outcome would be different. They were right.
After exchanging punts on the teams’ first possessions, the Union defense got its first big test after the Tigerhawks intercepted a Troy Hanus pass. Starting at their 12 yard line, North Fayette Valley began a march toward the Union goal line. On the twelfth play of the drive, though, the Knights turned back a fourth down running play to take over on downs at their own 17. Three plays later, the offensive line opened a hole for Isaiah Vaughan, who wasted little time dashing 70 yards for a 7-0 Union lead.
The Tigerhawks, playing without two injured starting running backs, showed the mettle of a #1 rated team and responded with another long drive. This time on fourth down, Tigerhawk quarterback Tate Hovden found Josh Guenther in the end zone for the touchdown pass to cap a 16 play, 74 yard drive that consumed six minutes of the game clock. The Knights got a lift and maintained a slim 7-6 lead after they denied a halfback option pass play for the two point conversion attempt.
Unfazed, Union went back to work. Britton Rolison gave the Knights great field position, taking the kickoff return to mid-field. From there, the Union offense did a little ground and pound of their own, putting together nine running plays, the last one a six yard touchdown run by Vaughan. Union 14, North Fayette Valley 6.
Seconds later, the Union defense got the ball back when Drew Edwards recovered a fumble at the North Fayette Valley 11 yard line. Vaughan’s third touchdown run gave Union a 21-6 lead at the half.
With the Tigerhawks on the move on their first possession of the second half, Dylan Stech stepped in front of a North Fayette Valley receiver for an interception to quash any thoughts of a rally.
Both teams struggled to move the ball for much of the third quarter. Late in the quarter, though, the Union offense put together their best drive of the second half. Starting at their 22, the Knights moved the ball to the Tigerhawk side of the field. With the ball at the Tigerhawk 7 yard line, Hanus crossed up the defense and fired a pass in the flat to Ryan Miller, who dashed into the end zone nearly untouched. Union 28, North Fayette Valley 6.
Down three scores, the Tigerhawks responded with an 88 yard touchdown drive. Thanks to a Union defense making every yard a battle, though, imore than half of the fourth quarter clock was consumed in the porocess. With North Fayette Valley out of timeouts, the Knights were able to run out the remaining three minutes of the game after Bryce Parker hauled in the onside kick attempt.
After racking up 417 yards on the ground in their first game, North Fayette Valley was held to just 174 yards by the Union defense in the rematch. Another telling statistic was the 22 passes the Tigerhawks attempted, completing just six of them.
With the win, Union will face Mount Vernon in one of the Class 2A semi-final games to be played in the UNI-Dome on Saturday, November 12.