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Instant classic: Union City outlasts Eisenhower in overtime thriller

Written by: on Saturday, September 1st, 2018

 
“That was a helluva game,” Union City coach Randy Gunther.
Gunther’s five words succinctly summed up his team’s battle at Eisenhower High School Friday.
The Bears and Knights combined for 90 points, 773 total yards and a plethora of big plays. In the end, Union City came away with a hard-fought, 46-44 win in overtime.
“Coach Penley always puts out a formidable opponent and he did it again tonight,” Gunther added. “I tip my cap to them.”
“I’m unbelievably proud of how we fought,” Eisenhower coach Jim Penley said. “We fought and fought and fought. The guys are beat to hell. Of course, the loss hurts, but the effort was amazing.”
The game was ultimately decided on 2-point conversion attempts. The Bears (1-1, 1-0 District 10 Region 2) failed on one in the fourth quarter that opened the door for Eisenhower (0-2, 0-1) to tie the game. But the Knights were unable to convert in overtime and the Bears took advantage to get the win.
Trailing 38-30 with just over eight minutes to play in the game, Eisenhower put together a 17-play drive that was capped off by an Ethan Chambers touchdown plunge from a yard out-and subsequent run by Chambers on the conversion-to tie the game at 38-38 with 46 seconds left.
“We got a drive at the end of the game when we needed it,” Penley said.
The Knights thought they had tied it two plays earlier, but Owen Trumbull’s quarterback sneak was called back on an illegal push. Undeterred, Eisenhower went right back to work.
“We put our heads in the right place (after the call),” Chambers said.
Three key plays kept the Knights in the game on the final drive. A Trumbull pass was tipped and intercepted, but the Bears were called for a roughing the passer penalty. Facing fourth and long, Trumbull was sacked by Tyler Hedderick, but Hedderick gave an extra shove on the play and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The penalty yardage wasn’t enough to give the Knights a first down. On fourth-and-13, Trumbull dropped back and found Chambers on a screen. The senior turned upfield and scampered 24 yards to keep Eisenhower in business.
“I saw a lot of open space,” Chambers said.
In the overtime, Trumbull connected with Garrett Head for a 9-yard scoring strike on fourth down. Chambers nearly made it across the goalline for the conversion, but his knee touched down just before he stretched the ball across.
Union City got down to the 2 on its possession, but a holding penalty and sack had the Bears backed up to the 16. Brayden Kinney took a late pitch from Blake Hornaman, got the edge and raced into the end zone for his sixth score of the game. He followed with a plunge up the middle for the 2-point conversion and the win.
“I got some good blocks on the ends and was able to make a cut,” Kinney said.
After struggling to move the ball last week against West Middlesex, the game couldn’t have started much better for Eisenhower. The Knights needed just seven plays to take the opening possession into the end zone. On first down from the Bears 37, Nate Holt came around the edge, broke a pair of tackles and raced down the sideline.
Union City answered with a methodical 10-play drive that ended with Kinney going four yards for his first score of the night. The senior running back got the start for injured Gavin Henry, the Bears’ leading rusher and tackler last week. Kinney grabbed the opportunity and ran with it, literally. He gained 325 yards on the ground and had three 2-point conversion runs in addition to his six touchdowns. Kinney also grabbed a pair of receptions for 19 yards.
“I knew I was going to get the ball a lot,” Kinney said.
The Bears opted for a squib kick following their initial score, and the ball bounced away from one of Eisenhower’s upmen and into a Union City player’s waiting arms. Starting in plus territory, Kinney ran three times, the third a 2-yard TD to give the Bears a 16-8 lead.
Eisenhower wasted little time answering. A 24-yard Holt run on second down was erased by a holding penalty, but the Knights came right back. Trumbull hit Zane Alexander on a bubble screen and the sophomore juked his way downfield for a 66-yard score. Head ran in the conversion to tie the game at 16-16 after one quarter.
The Knights punted to start the second quarter and Union City needed just two plays to regain the lead. Kinney found the edge on second down and streaked down the sideline for a 56-yard score and a 24-16 Bears lead.
It looked like Union City might take that lead into the half, but Trumbull found a rhythm late in the quarter. He connected on four straight passes, the last of which went to Holt for a 13-yard score with 46 seconds left in the half. Chambers drove in the conversion to send the teams to the lockerroom knotted at 24.
For the half, Trumbull was 9-9 for 160 yards and two scores.
“We know we have guys who can catch the ball,” Penley said. “We hope he (Trumbull) only gets better.”
Union City blocked a punt on Eisenhower’s first possession of the second half and took over at the Knights 11, looking like they would reclaim the lead. The Bears, facing a 4th-and-6 from the Eisenhower 7, decided to take a chance and Chambers picked off Hornaman’s pass attempt and raced 95 yards to paydirt. He was unable to cross the goalline on the conversion, and the Knights took a 30-24 lead.
“It gave us a boost of energy,” Chambers said of the interception return.
“Ethan had a great game,” Penley said. “He had a bunch of big plays.”
Kinney grabbed the momentum right back, however as he went 60 yards on the next play for his fourth touchdown. He ran in the conversion to put Union City up 32-30 with just under four minutes to go in the quarter.
“They’ve bought into the triple option and feel they can score at any time,” Gunther said.
Early in the fourth, Kinney had a touchdown run called back on a penalty. A false start on the next play backed the Bears up again, but Kinney would not be denied. He took the ball on the next play, shook a tackle and raced 34 yards into the end zone. Caleb Stull was stuffed on the conversion, setting up the game-tying drive for the Knights.
Trumbull finished the game 14-18 for 206 yards and three scores. Head had five receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown, Chambers had 101 total yards with a touchdown and three 2-point conversions and Holt finished with 61 total yards and two scores.
Logan Kesselring added 82 yards on 11 carries for the Bears.
The Bears will face a tough challenge next week when they welcome District 10 powerhouse Farrell (2-0). The Steelers are the top-ranked 1A team in Pennsylvania, but Gunther thinks his Bears have what it takes to pull the upset.
“We’re able to do some things that work well against them,” he said. “We had them until the (final minutes) last year.”
Eisenhower will host Mercer (1-1) at the Pasture of Pain.
– – –
Scoring summary
Union City   16 8 8 6 8 – 46
Eisenhower   16 8 6 8 6 – 44Scoring plays
1st quarter
E–Nate Holt 37 run (Ethan Chambers run), 8:37
U–Brayden Kinney 4 run (Kinney run), 3:47
U–Kinney 2 run (Blake Hornaman run), 2:52
E–Zane Alexander 66 pass from Owen Trumbull (Garrett Head run), 1:59)
2nd quarter
U–Kinney 56 run (Miles Parker pass from Hornaman), 10:03
E–Holt 13 pass from Trumbull (Chambers run), :46.6
3rd quarter
E–Chambers 95 interception return (Chambers run failed), 4:16
U–Kinney 60 run (Kinney run), 3:54
4th quarter
U–Kinney 34 run (Caleb Stull run failed), 8:15
E–Chambers 1 run (Chambers run), :46.7
Overtime
E–Head 9 pass from Trumbull (Chambers run failed)
U–Kinney 16 run (Kinney run)Team stats
UC         E
Total plays         64         56
First downs         13         10
Rushes-yards   54-427   38-109
Comp-att-int   3-10-1     14-18-0
Passing yards    31           206
Total yards       458         315
Fumbles-lost    6-3          0-0

Individual stats
Rushing: Union City-Brayden Kinney 29-325-6, Logan Kesselring 11-82, Blake Hornaman 7-13, Caleb Stull 7-7. Eisenhower-Ethan Chambers 19-52-1, Nate Holt 4-52-1, Garrett Head 10-16, Owen Trumbull 2-(-5), Riley West 3-(-6).
Passing: Union City-Hornaman 3-10, 31 yards INT, Kinney 0-1. Eisenhower-Trumbull 14-18, 206-3.
Receiving: Union City-Kinney 2-19, Miles Parker 1-12. Eisenhower-Head 5-79-1, Zane Alexander 2-69-1, Chambers 5-49, Holt 2-9-1.

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