Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes your the bug. On Friday night, a combination of miscues and curious calls left the Union Knights on the wrong end of a 21-20 score, their first defeat after opening the season with a pair of wins. The benefactors were the Charles City Comets, a rare Class 3A opponent for Union, who is assigned District 7 in Class 2A for the 2018-19 seasons.
After winning the coin toss, the Knights chose to kick the ball away to the Comets, who quickly marched down the field before Ben Behrens picked off an errant pass deep in Union territory.
A quick three and out gave the ball back to Charles City. Starting at the Union 48 yard line, the Comets needed just four plays to score, with Dylan Koresh taking the pitch on the option play 34 yards for a touchdown.
Trailing for the first time this season, the Union offense got going midway through the second period with a seven play, 44 yard touchdown drive. After it appeared Bryce Parker had scored on a 13 yard pass from Dylan Felderman, the Knights needed another play from scrimmage when an official on the opposite side of the field overruled the one signalling Parker had scored. While the Union offense punched it in from the one yard line on the next play, the Knights still trailed, 7-6, following an unsuccessful extra point attempt.
With under two minutes remaining in the first half, Britton Rolison’s interception gave the Knights the ball back at their 35 yard line. Six plays later, Rolison got behind the Comet defense and Felderman lofted a pass over the top to him for the go-ahead score. Brayden Grosse then found a seam up the middle for the two-point conversion and the Knights took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Receiving the second half kick, Union continued to apply the pressure, putting together an 11 play drive that moved the ball from their 34 yard line to the Charles City one. The combination of a stiff Comet rushing defense and an offensive penalty pushed the Knights back, though, and a missed field goal wasted the opportunity to make it a two-score game.
Charles City immediately seized the momentum, driving 80 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown. A missed extra point left Union ahead, 14-13.
A Union fumble on the Knights’ next possession fueled the Comets’ momentum, as Charles City took six plays to cover 40 yards to the Union one yard line. On 4th and goal, Comets quarterback Marcus Cranshaw slipped and his knee appeared to be down short of the goal line. After a lengthy conference by officials, a touchdown was signalled following the unpiling of the scrum at the goal line. The Comets then tacked on a two-point conversion to grab a 21-14 lead with 9:31 remaining in the game.
Needing a spark, the Union defense provided one, forcing and recovering a fumble at the Charles City 33 yard line two minutes later. With Comets shutting down the running lanes, the Union offense turned to the passing game. A pair of completions advanced the ball to the Comets’ 10. On a third down play from the 11, Felderman’s pass was hauled in by Silver Schmitz, whose feet clipped the end zone pylon after landing in the end zone. After a brief conference by the officials, the touchdown was then signaled.
Trouble in the kicking game continued to plague Union, however, as another missed conversion attempt (partially blocked) would prove to be costly, though not before additional drama ensued.
Trailing by one with 1:51 left in the game and out of timeouts, the Knights would get the ball back, this time at the Comet 40 yard line. A defensive penalty and pair of pass completions quickly advanced the ball to the 12. Felderman’s next pass appeared to be caught by Schmitz, who took a vicious hit in the end zone. Another lengthy conference by officials ensued, who ruled the pass incomplete and then assessed a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Union. Pushed back to the 27 yard line, Felderman’s desperation pass was intercepted for a touchback. Charles City then ran out the clock to hand the Knights their first loss of the season.
On Friday night, Union will travel to Dike for yet another non-district game, this one against the top-ranked team in Class 1A.