Football recap: Union’s last game is not its last game


Titans add game to schedule, while Skyview and Camas win Saturday contests, as well

The Union Titans planned for it being the last game of the season.

Because it was the last game of the season.

Until it wasn’t.

More on that in a bit.

But on Saturday, the Union Titans did what they always try to do toward the end of a season: Get the ball in the end zone in an unusual way.

Union receiver Tobias Merriweather celebrates his touchdown catch on his team’s first play on offense Saturday against Evergreen. Photo courtesy Heather Tianen
Union receiver Tobias Merriweather celebrates his touchdown catch on his team’s first play on offense Saturday against Evergreen. Photo courtesy Heather Tianen

In this case, they did it twice. A lineman with the greatest first-hand knowledge of Union Titans football history of any player threw a touchdown pass. Another lineman scored a touchdown.

Union coach Rory Rosenbach said for years he has always tried to reward linemen, senior linemen, with special plays.

And with this being the last game on the schedule, why not?

Now, the Titans did not exactly endear themselves with their reactions to those touchdowns. Union was penalized for unsportsmanlike behavior for excessive, over-the-top celebrations.

Evergreen coach Christian Swain told me he was not offended, though. He simply noted that sometimes teens get a little overzealous. Union scored three more touchdowns in the game on the way to a 48-6 victory and was not penalized after those scores. In fact, Union took a knee in the final minute of the first half when the Titans could have been looking to punch it in for another score.

What should be noted is the sportsmanship displayed by Evergreen before this game even took place.  

The Plainsmen are hurting. Banged up. Injured. They also have another game on the schedule, a game against a 3A Greater St. Helens League opponent.

So to go up against 4A powerhouse Union, with a bunch of reserves in starting roles, well, there were rumors that the game was not going to be played. There were some safety concerns. 

And who was it that spoke up to say the game must be played?

The Evergreen football players. 

Swain said it was his players who insisted they play, to give Union a game … because it was Union’s last game on the schedule. The Evergreen players did not want the Titans to finish their season with an unscheduled bye.

It is unlikely the game would have been called off anyway, but the players ensured any preliminary discussions remained just discussions.

So the Plainsmen put on their pads and played in front of their fans and scored a first-half touchdown against the Titans.

Of course, the two touchdowns most folks will remember from Saturday’s game came courtesy of Union linemen.

Jack Grimsted, a tackle, lined up as quarterback, then shocked the McKenzie Stadium crowd by throwing a touchdown pass to Therman Bibens. Oh, and Bibens’ father played for Evergreen back in the day, so yes, that was a plan, too, to get Bibens, a linebacker, into the end zone.

For Grimsted, what a finish to his last game in Clark County. The son of the former principal who helped open the school in the fall of 2007, Jack Grimsted has attended every single Union football game in history — either as a fan, a ball boy, or a player. 

“It’s just been crazy. It goes by so fast,” Grimsted said. “You blink, and it’s gone. I remember running out here. Now, the last time playing here, it’s pretty emotional.”

It turns out, it is the last game at McKenzie Stadium, but not his career. Union administrators learned, just before Saturday’s game, of a possible matchup this week on the road against Marysville Pilchuck. And the players were told Saturday after the Evergreen game to be prepared.

Monday morning, Rosenbach confirmed. Union will play on the road at 5 p.m. Thursday.

No matter the result Thursday, the Titans will always have the memory of Manaia Fuertes scoring a touchdown, and showing off his glorious hair.

Fuertes, a lineman, took a snap, then scored on a 7-yard run. The 6-5, 340-pounder carried defenders with him into the end zone.

Then he tossed his helmet into the air and raised his arms. Definitely a penalty, but he said after the game he did not intend to show up his opponents, rather it was an inside joke with his teammates and classmates.

“They call me ‘The Undertaker’ at school because of my hair,” Fuertes said, referring to the legendary professional wrestler who also has a crazy amount of hair. “I had to take my helmet off, show them the flow.”

The touchdown itself was a memory of its own.

“As a lineman, you don’t get that much shine, so when you get your name called, you go up there and do your thing,” Fuertes said.

Elsewhere in Clark County football on Saturday, Skyview took care of Mountain View at Kiggins Bowl. And in the second game at McKenzie Stadium, Camas had no trouble with Heritage.

Skyview’s Rhett Savela cruises into the end zone Saturday during the Storm’s win over Mountain View. Photo by Mike Schultz
Skyview’s Rhett Savela cruises into the end zone Saturday during the Storm’s win over Mountain View. Photo by Mike Schultz

Rumors were swirling last week that a change was going to be made to the 4A/3A GSHL football schedules in hopes of somehow getting Camas, Skyview, and Union back on the field for some sort of tiebreaker scenario. The three teams played epic games this year, with Union beating Camas, Skyview beating Union, then Camas beating Skyview.

But that scenario never materialized beyond talk. There is already a schedule in place. And now Union found a game. (Union had a scheduled bye in the final week.)

Skyview is set to take on Battle Ground on Friday, and Camas plans on having its Senior Night at Doc Harris Stadium against Prairie. If Skyview beats Battle Ground, it will leave Skyview, Camas, and Union with one loss apiece in 4A GSHL games.

The Skyview defense had its moments, too, in the win over Mountain View. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Skyview defense had its moments, too, in the win over Mountain View. Photo by Mike Schultz

Over in the 3A GSHL, Mountain View is looking to complete an undefeated season in terms of 3A GSHL opponents. The Thunder are 4-2 overall, 3-0 in league. They take on Heritage at 3 p.m. Friday. The Timberwolves are 3-3 overall, 2-1 in league. So yes, a Heritage victory there would mean a share of the 3A title with Mountain View. Oh, and if Evergreen beats Kelso, that would make the Plainsmen 3-1 in the 3A games, as well.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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