The Union Knights tenth consecutive appearance in the state football playoffs came against a familiar foe, the champions of District 3, the Aplington-Parkersburg Falcons. The teams most recently shared the same district in 2014-15, with each team winning on the other’s home turf.
After a third place finish in arguably the toughest district in Class 2A, Union advanced to the state playoffs by virtue of the alphabet after all other tiebreakers with Sheldon could not resolve the tie. On the field against the 8-1 Falcons, the Knights did not dress the part of a team that had squeaked into postseason play. Instead, Union dominated Aplington-Parkersburg in every way possible to win going away, 42-0.
On a night where the wind was howling and snow was flying, the Knights set the tone early, taking the opening kickoff, marching down the field 66 yards in 10 plays, to grab an early 6-0 lead. Aplington-Parkersburg looked to respond, but the Union defense would have nothing of it. Two first quarter Falcon possessions resulted in seven plays, zero first downs and just five total yards gained.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Kaleb Roach made it a two score lead, evading would-be tacklers before cutting outside and racing up the sideline for a 69 yard touchdown run. After the two-point conversion attempt failed, Union led 12-0.
A Union fumble two minutes later gave the Falcons’ fans something to cheer, as the home team tried to build some momentum. Once again, the Knights’ defense rose to the occasion. Three plays from scrimmage for the A-P offense netted zero yards, giving Union the ball back on their 45 yard line after another Falcon punt.
On the fourth play of the Knights’ ensuing drive, quarterback Troy Hanus lofted a pass over the middle, right on target to a crossing Britton Rolison for a 24 yard score. Union 19, Aplington-Parkersburg 0. Union would get the ball back after the Falcons failed to get a first down in four plays. On the Knights’ second play from scrimmage, Hanus floated a screen pass into Koby Alpers’ waiting hands. With the help of some well-placed blocks, Alpers cruised 48 yards, virtually untouched into the end zone, giving the Knights a 26 point lead. Union would tack on three more points before the half after an Aplington-Parkersburg fumble on their nine yard line led to a 32 yard field goal by Marc Mahood.
The second half was more of the same for the Falcons, as they struggled to generate any semblance of offense. The Union defense continued to dominate, pitching a shutout, limiting the Falcons to just four first downs for the game and a paltry 86 total yards of offense.
The Knights were led by Kaleb Roach on offense, who gained 230 yards on just 18 carries. Hanus threw a pair of touchdowns on a night where the wind made throwing the ball an adventure.
The victory earns Union a rematch with the top-ranked and only undefeated Class 2A team remaining, Cascade of Western Dubuque. Two weeks ago, the Knights rallied from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to grab a late lead, only to have Cascade drive the length of the field and score the winning touchdown in the last minute of the game.