It took the Union Knights five years to earn a second trip to the UNI-Dome. Isaiah Vaughan, a ball-hawking defense and special teams play made sure it was a memorable one, as the Knights used a series of big plays to run past the Mt. Vernon Mustangs, 49-28, to earn a spot in the Class 2A championship game.
The excitement began midway through the first quarter when Jordan Schmitz recovered a Mustang fumble on the Union 33 yard line. On the next play, Isaiah Vaughan took the direct snap and bolted 67 yards for a touchdown run to stake the Knights to an early 7-0 lead.
Next, it was Koby Alpers turn. Receiving a Mt. Vernon punt early in the second quarter, Alpers gathered the ball in near mid-field and weaved his way through several defenders for a 52 yard touchdown return.
One minute later, Alpers scored again, taking the ball away from a Mustang receiver before rambling 40 yards for his second touchdown. With nine minutes remaining in the first half, the Knights had a 21-0 lead.
Later in the quarter, the Mustang offense put together a 12 play drive to get on the scoreboard and close the gap to 21-7 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Union offense took four minutes off the game clock, grinding out 73 yards on 14 plays. When Vaughan crossed the goal line on a one yard plunge, the Knights had a seemingly comfortable 28-7 lead with less than five minutes left in the quarter.
The potent Mt. Vernon offense found its stride, however, with 72 and 63 yard touchdown drives on consecutive possessions. With nearly 11 minutes to be played, Mt. Vernon had all the momentum, trailing by just seven points, 28-21.
Just when the Knights needed it most, the offensive line and Isaiah Vaughan delivered. Taking the handoff, Vaughan found some running room around the right edge, and 75 yards later, the Knights were up 35-21.
The big plays for Union kept coming. Dylan Stech’s interception at the Union 4 yard line denied a Mustang drive. The Knights gave their senior running back the ball on six of the next seven plays, and he did not disappoint, as the final carry went 58 yards. With five minutes left in the game, Union led 42-21.
There would be no quit in the Mustangs, though, as they moved the ball down the field, scoring on a 14 yard touchdown pass. Trailing 42-28, the Mustangs’ onside kick attempt was recovered by Union. One play later, Vaughan was loose again, taking the ball 56 yards for yet another score, finishing the game with 397 yards rushing on 36 carries and five touchdowns.
Union will face Boyden Hull/Rock Valley, a 49-15 victor over Dike-New Hartford, on November 18 for the Class 2A championship.