It’s all Union in playoff opener

Titans cruise past Tahoma to qualify for Class 4A state bracket

VANCOUVER — Union’s return to the postseason was a positive one for the Titans. And that can only mean Union’s return to the postseason will last at least another week.

The Union Titans are going to the Class 4A state football playoffs.

The Union Titans take to the field in preparation of their game against Tahoma on Friday night. Union went on to win 41-14. Photo by Heather Tianen
The Union Titans take to the field in preparation of their game against Tahoma on Friday night. Union went on to win 41-14. Photo by Heather Tianen

Union got to put it in cruise control in the second half Friday night after scoring six first-half touchdowns at McKenzie Stadium.

Lincoln Victor threw four touchdown passes and ran for another, Darien Chase lit up the night with his play, and the Union defense was doing its thing in a 41-14 victory over Tahoma in a state qualifying playoff game.

Union (9-1) will host Sumner in the first round at state. That game is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.

“This is really big. We woke a lot of people up this year,” defensive lineman Zion Fa’aopega said. “Can’t stop, though. Gotta keep working.”

“It feels so great to be here,” added Alishawuan Taylor. “No words can explain it. Just wonderful.”

Taylor had the first big play of the night, sacking the Tahoma quarterback and forcing a fumble on the first series of the game.

The Titans took advantage of the turnover, scored on the ensuing possession, and never looked back.

Union defensive lineman Zion Fa’aopega put the pressure on Tahoma quarterback Conner Lambro during their playoff game Friday at McKenzie Stadium. The Union defense held Tahoma to 97 yards in the first half, leading to a 41-14 victory. Photo by Heather Tianen
Union defensive lineman Zion Fa’aopega put the pressure on Tahoma quarterback Conner Lambro during their playoff game Friday at McKenzie Stadium. The Union defense held Tahoma to 97 yards in the first half, leading to a 41-14 victory. Photo by Heather Tianen

Union had made the postseason seven consecutive years but then missed out on November football the past two seasons. While some might be surprised that a team with back-to-back 4-5 campaigns could make it to the state’s sweet 16, the Titans always figured on being here.

Especially the quarterback.

“We knew we were going to be state-bound, all this year and the offseason,” Victor said. “It’s not about me being the quarterback of a state team. It’s just being a brother, part of this brotherhood, and being together as one.”

Victor threw for 188 yards and four touchdowns in the first half and did not see the field the rest of the game. Union led 41-0 at the half, and the second half was played under running clock rules.

Union coach Rory Rosenbach said his players did a great job of focusing on the task at hand, especially after emotional wins over Skyview and Camas the previous two weeks.

“That was the talk. Don’t let this team sneak up on you while you’re riding high, in your moment,” Rosenbach said. “By Tuesday, they were locked in. They did a nice job.”

At the half, Union had 360 yards of offense. Tahoma had 97.

Tahoma had the ball first and got to the 50-yard line. Then Taylor struck.

“At first, their offense was doing pretty good. Our defense just needed to stand up,” Taylor said.

He got the sack and had no idea he did even more.

“I found out later that the ball came out,” he said. “Everyone was hyped up. That’s when I knew we got the ball, too.”

The Union Titans are celebrating their return to the Class 4A state playoffs. Union beat Tahoma 41-14 Friday night to advance to state. Photo by Heather Tianen
The Union Titans are celebrating their return to the Class 4A state playoffs. Union beat Tahoma 41-14 Friday night to advance to state. Photo by Heather Tianen

Braedon Ensley caught the first touchdown pass of the game, a 2-yard pass from Victor. That was one play after Victor found Chase for 14 yards on a fourth-down play.

That also was the start of something big for Chase.

He scored on his next reception on a 46-yard pass from Victor. Chase broke at least three tackles, maybe five, as he escaped, found room, escaped again, and found more room as he created his own path to the end zone.

Elijah Jones’s 66-yard touchdown run made it 21-0 early in the second quarter. He had all three plays on the drive, rushing for 76 yards in the series.

Victor’s 5-yard touchdown run pushed the lead to 28 for the Titans. That TD came on a drive that saw star running back Jojo Siofele go down with an injury. He did not return to the game, but he said after the game that he would be fine, that he avoided a serious injury.

By then it had been a few minutes since Chase did anything, so, yeah, it was time.

A series of penalties kept pushing Union back, but that just meant more yards for Victor and Chase. They teamed up on a 70-yard bomb for a 34-0 lead.

Union capped the first-half scoring after getting the ball with a 1:03 on the clock. The goal was to make it at least a 40-point game at the half for the running clock. Victor found Aiden Nellor open for a 5-yard touchdown pass.

The starters were done. Tahoma scored twice in the second half.

But by then, the Titans were already thinking about state.


UNION 41, TAHOMA 14

Tahoma 0 0 7 7 — 14

Union 14 27 0 0 — 41

First quarter

U — Braedon Ensley 2 pass from Lincoln Victor (run failed)

U — Darien Chase 46 pass from Victor (Aiden Nellor pass from VIctor)

Second quarter

U — Elijah Jones 66 run ( Alex Koga kick)

U — Victor 5 run (Koga kick)

U — Chase 70 pass from Victor (kick blocked)

U — Nellor 5 pass from Victor (Koga kick)

Third quarter

T — Jerrel Chapman 6 pass from Conner Lambro (kick good)

Fourth quarter

T — Tayvian Williams 21 pass from Lambro (kick good)

Individual statistics

RUSHING: Tahoma: Max Repenn 2-8, Williams 3-16, Lambro 8-7, Chapman 2-0, Kaleb Leonard 3-6, Trevor Donahue 2-7. Union:Jones 5-84, Victor 4-35, Jojo Siofele 6-50, Ensley 1-3, Lamont Lane 11-67, Isaiah Jones 2-3, Team 2-(minus 27).

PASSING: Tahoma:Lambro 13-20-1-133. Union:Victor 11-14-0-188, Carter Sutton 1-1-0-7.

RECEIVING: Tahoma: Repenn 1-8, Chapman 6-45, Grady O’Connell 2-34, Williams 3-49, Leonard 1-(minus 3). Union:Chase 6-170, Ensley 2-7, Tiernan Stanley 1-4, Jones 1-2, Nellor 1-5, Michael Rogers 1-7.

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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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