Undefeated Titans advance to Class 4A state semifinals; will host Puyallup next week in the final four
VANCOUVER — They fell behind early. They took a two-touchdown lead. Then it was tied.
The one constant: The Union Titans never worried.
After all, the Union Titans have seen just about everything this season, and here they are, still standing, still undefeated in this high school football season.
“We’ve been in close games multiple, multiple times. We know how to handle it,” said senior Darien Chase, who scored a touchdown and set up another with a crucial third-down conversion in Union’s final scoring drive.
“We have short memories. It helps us out a lot,” he said. “That’s how we get through it. It helps us go on to the next play.”
Union scored on three consecutive second-half possessions to pull away from pesky Bothell 49-35 in a Class 4A state quarterfinal game Saturday afternoon at McKenzie Stadium.
Lincoln Victor threw three touchdown passes and Tyler Summers had a defensive touchdown that helped turn momentum in a game that saw a lot of momentum shifts.
“We’re just hoping to go 1-0 every week. That’s our mentality. But it’s really exciting to be here. Only four teams left,” Chase said.
Union will get a rematch with Puyallup in the semifinals on Saturday. Union beat Puyallup in a wild one at McKenzie Stadium during the regular season, when the Titans rallied from 14 down in the final nine minutes.
The site for the semifinals will be determined by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, but the game will be in Clark County.
For now, the Titans don’t care where. They are just thrilled to be in the semifinals.
“It’s all we ever dreamed of. It’s all we worked for all year,” Victor said. “To be in the final four is a testament to our hard work.”
A nanosecond later, though, Victor was done celebrating that accomplishment.
“We’re not done yet. We’re past this game and on to Puyallup,” he said.
The Titans had to get past Bothell first, and the Cougars proved to be a worthy challenge.
The Cougars scored back-to-back touchdowns in the third quarter to tie the game at 35.
There was a 32-yard fourth-down touchdown pass form Erik Bainter to Branden Bird. Windy conditions made a mess of kickoffs all day, and on the ensuing kickoff, the ball died in the air, hit the ground and bounced into the arms of a Cougar. A few plays later, on another fourth down, the Cougars scored on a 1-yard run by Ryan Metz.
“We just stuck together. We didn’t point fingers,” Summers said. “We stayed a unit the whole time, just believing in each other.”
Union had scored on its first drive of the second half to go up 35-21 but did not see the ball again until it was 35-all.
No problem for the Titans, who went 69 yards on 12 plays to take the lead again. Victor, who converted a fourth down with a run early in the drive, finished the possession with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jojo Siofele.
Union defense slowed Bothell on its next possession. The Cougars, from their own 43-yard line, elected to punt.
The Titans were pleased with that strategy.
“It’s just another opportunity for us to score,” Victor said. “No matter what the score is, our mindset is ‘We’re not done.’ We’re going to score on every drive.”
It only took them six plays to go 80 yards. The key play was a third-down reception by Chase to keep the drive alive. Victor then reeled off a 36-yard run to get the Titans in position. Isaiah Jones found the end zone on a 16-yard run and a 49-35 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Bothell lost the ball on downs on its next possession and Nile Jones got a sack and forced a fumble to end Bothell’s last chance to make it a one-score game.
Union took a halftime lead only after it appeared Bothell was going to have the lead. The Cougars got into the red zone, tried a reverse, but the pitch missed its target. Summers scooped up the fumble and returned it 70 yards for a score and a 28-21 lead.
“I saw the ball on the ground. Next thing I knew it was in my hands and I started running. Darien Chase had a really great block,” Summer said. “Everyone was hustling, which really helped the whole play.”
Up until then, the Cougars were making a lot of the plays. They scored on their first two possessions to take a 14-6 led.
They got into the red zone hoping to go up two scores, but a fumble was recovered by Joshua Joo. Six plays and 81 yards later, the Titans got a touchdown pass from Victor to Chase. A 2-point pass to Alishawuan Taylor tied the game at 14.
Bothell was not discouraged, though. The Cougars regained the lead less than three minutes later. Then it was Union’s turn. Victor kept a play alive, scrambled, and rolled into the end zone on a 5-yard run to tie the game at 21.
The defensive touchdown gave the Titans the lead before the half and the Titans opened the third quarter with another scoring drive, with Taylor scoring on a 27-yard pass from Victor.
There were still four more touchdowns to be scored, the first two by Bothell, the last two by Union to secure the win.
“I’m proud of the way they persevered through the ups and downs,” Union coach Rory Rosenbach said. “There are going to be times when we look good, and there are going to be times when we look bad. We just had to figure it out by the end of the game.”
The Titans did that and have at least another game to play.
UNION 49, BOTHELL 35
Bothell 14 7 14 0 — 35
Union 6 22 7 14 — 49
B — Erik Bainter 1 run (Mason Locknane kick)
U — Nile Jones 1 run (kick blocked)
B — Christian Galvan 16 run (Lockname kick)
U — Darien Chase 39 pass from Lincoln Victor (Alishawuan Taylor pass from Victor)
B — Riley Morrison 13 pass from Bainter (Lockname kick)
U — Victor 5 run (Christian Alcorn kick)
U — Tyler Summers 70 fumble return (Alex Koga kick)
U — Taylor 27 pass from Victor (Alcorn kick)
B — Branden Bird 32 pass from Bainter (Lockname kick)
B — Ryan Metz 1 run (Lockname kick)
U — Jojo Siofele 5 pass from Victor (Koga kick)
U — Isaiah Jones 16 run (Alcorn kick)