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Union advances to state finals with comeback win over Puyallup

Union advances to state finals with comeback win over Puyallup

VANCOUVER — The Union Titans were in trouble.

Or so it seemed.

There were trailing.

Again.

They were down 14 points to Puyallup.

Again.

Turns out, they were not in any trouble at all, because this is what they do.

Union linebacker Joshua Joo (29) tackles a Puyallup ball carrier Saturday during the Titans’ victory in the Class 4A state semifinals at McKenzie Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union linebacker Joshua Joo (29) tackles a Puyallup ball carrier Saturday during the Titans’ victory in the Class 4A state semifinals at McKenzie Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz

“Don’t blink,” Union quarterback Lincoln Victor told his teammates. “Down 14 in the second half? Don’t blink. This is our moment.”

Yes, this is their thing.

Union scored the final three touchdowns of the game Saturday afternoon to beat Puyallup 35-28 in a Class 4A state semifinal game at McKenzie Stadium, advancing to the state championship game.

The Titans will face Lake Stevens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Tacoma Dome.

They reached the finals by beating Puyallup for the second time this season, by rallying from a 14-point deficit in the second half against Puyallup for the second time, too. Oh, and the Titans survived a handful of other close calls this season.

Here they are, though, 13-0, going to the dome.

Union linebacker Joshua Joo (29) tackles a Puyallup ball carrier Saturday during the Titans’ victory in the Class 4A state semifinals at McKenzie Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union linebacker Joshua Joo (29) tackles a Puyallup ball carrier Saturday during the Titans’ victory in the Class 4A state semifinals at McKenzie Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz

“We’ve been there so many times before,” Union’s Jojo Siofele said. “We just knew we had to stick together and make big plays, and that’s what we did.”

“We’re just a tough team,” Pierce Henriksbo said. “We’ve been in these games all season. The regular season prepared us for this moment. We trust each other.”

Alec Jackson, getting more playing time after Darien Chase went out with an injury, scored his second touchdown of the game to start the final Union push.

Nile Jones would tie the game on a 2-yard touchdown run with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter.

Then the Vikings got Victor’d, if there is such a thing. Victor scored on a 16-yard touchdown run with 2:52 to play to give the Titans the lead.

“It’s a testament to our tough schedule,” Victor said.

The Titans are not afraid of any challenge, any obstacle, any deficit.

Victor threw three touchdown passes and passed for 281 yards. He also rushed for a team-high 83 yards.

Siofele rushed for 75 yards and caught six passes for 108 yards. He had a 70-yard touchdown pass on the first drive of the game, giving Union an early lead.

Union running back Jojo Siofele (26) breaks loose on a long touchdown run Saturday during the Titans’ 35-28 win over Puyallup at McKenzie Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union running back Jojo Siofele (26) breaks loose on a long touchdown run Saturday during the Titans’ 35-28 win over Puyallup at McKenzie Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz

Puyallup would score on its next two drives and had the advantage until the final three minutes of the game.

Henriksbo got the sack on Puyallup’s fourth-down desperation play to try to keep its drive going, and the Titans were able to go into victory formation and think about playing for a state title.

“It’s crazy. I’ve been playing football with these guys since the sixth grade,” Henriksbo said. “To go with them just means a lot.”

Victor first said he was speechless. Then he remembered he is Lincoln Victor, who is never speechless.

“We’ve been dreaming of this since we’ve been able to spell dome,” Victor said. “This is something people always dream about. Dome. It’s a four-letter word, a place people take pictures of when they drive by it. To know we’re going to be in there next week for the state championship is surreal.”

The Vikings went up 28-14 by scoring on the first drive of the second half. That would be it for them, though, against a rejuvenated Union defense. Victor went into the game and played defense, too. It was not a coincidence the Vikings were shut out the rest of the way.

Still, Union had to find a way to get going on offense. Chase was injured on the first play from scrimmage.

No problem. Jackson was ready.

He took a wide receiver screen pass from Victor, hesitated for a bit, then found an opening and was gone for a 45-yard score in the second quarter. In the third quarter, he got Union to within seven points when he caught a 19-yard pass from Victor.

“I’m proud Alec could show off his skills,” Victor said. “He put his work in. He got his chance, he grasped his chance, and he ran away with it.”

Jackson just noted that every Titan has to be prepared, and every Titan is prepared.

“We’re very deep. We’re a team. We’re a unit,” Jackson said.

“We have so many threats,” Siofele said. “We are three-deep. I’m proud of Alec. That shows the depth we have.”

Both defenses got the job done on the next three possessions, setting up the Titans to tie the game at 28 with 7:12 to play. Nile Jones capped a seven-play drive.

Puyallup went three-and-out on its next series, giving the Titans the chance to take the lead.

The Titans capitalized and are going to the championship game.

You see, they were never in serious trouble. This has been the plan all along.

“When we were freshmen, we said, ‘We are going to go to the dome our senior season,’” Jackson said.

The Titans did that, all of them, with so many contributing, so many believing, even when they were on the wrong side of the score for some time.

Don’t blink. The Union Titans are still playing football.

Hockinson linebacker Jack Eggleston (15) puts a hit on Puyallup running back Kyle Cramer (8) during the Hawks’ semifinal win Saturday at McKenzie Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz
Hockinson linebacker Jack Eggleston (15) puts a hit on Puyallup running back Kyle Cramer (8) during the Hawks’ semifinal win Saturday at McKenzie Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz

UNION 35, PUYALLUP 28

Puyallup 14 7 7 0 — 28

Union 7 7 7 14 — 35

First quarter

U — Jojo Siofele 70 pass from Lincoln Victor (Christian Alcorn kick)

P — Kyle Cramer 7 run (Carter Pierce kick)

P — Justin Haase 17 pass from Jacob Holcomb (Pierce kick)

Second quarter

P — Holcomb 42 run (Pierce kick)

U — Alec Jackson 45 pass from Victor (Alex Koga kick)

Third quarter

P — Haase 33 pass from Holcomb

U — Jackson 19 pass from Victor (Alcorn kick)

Fourth quarter

U — Nile Jones 2 run (Koga kick)

U — Victor 16 run (Koga kick)

 

Individual statistics

RUSHING: Puyallup — Cramer 19-85, Holcomb 8-76, Haase 1-3.. Union — Nile Jones 10-47, Victor 13-83, Darien Chase 1-(minus 7), Jojo Siofele 12-75, Isaiah Jones 2-5.

PASSING: Puyallup — Holcomb 18-30-0-207. Union — Victor 15-19-0-281

RECEIVING:Puyallup — Haase 5-87, Darius Morrison 6-59, Ethan Steward 2-32, Cramer 2-9, Kyler Johnson 3-20. Union — Alishawuan Taylor 2-24, Siofele 6-108, Jackson 3-79, Alex Vallejo 4-70

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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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