Union Titans (8-1, 4-0 4A GSHL)
Week 1: Union 35, Hermiston (Ore.) 21
Week 2: Union 26, Mountain View 21
Week 3: Eastside Catholic 35, Union 0
Week 4: Union 33, Tumwater 29
Week 5: Union 56, Heritage 6
Week 6: Union 52, Battle Ground 8
Week 7: Union 49, Evergreen 6
Week 8: Union 43, Skyview 14
Week 9: Union 14, Camas 13
Next: Tahoma vs. Union, 7 p.m. Friday at McKenzie Stadium in state qualifier playoff
Ladies and gentlemen, now introducing the 2017 Class 4A Greater St. Helens League champions …. The …. Union ……. Titans.
Follow the plan:
Simply put, they did it.
The Union Titans came up with a strategy back in August, and they stuck to it.
They did not want to dominate in September. They did not want to reveal too much early in the campaign. Even into October, they were confident they could take care of business in the first two league games without showing their hand.
No, it was not necessarily a secret that Union had a lot of talent. But at the same time, there was very little the Titans did in the first seven weeks of the season to predict that they would absolutely dominate Skyview in Week 8, and then end the incredible streaks of Camas football in Week 9.
Union coach Rory Rosenbach just smiled when he was reminded of our conversation back in August.
We all know quarterback Lincoln Victor is special, he said back then.
No reason to remind anyone about it this season until Week 8, he said back then.
Sure enough, Victor was The factor in the win over Skyview.
Then against Camas, the Titans got even more physical, with Jojo Siofele rushing for 100 yards on 26 carries and the game-winning touchdown.
Oh, and Victor rushed for 67 yards and threw a touchdown pass to Aiden Nellor.
Oh, and the Union defense just overwhelmed the Papermakers. Camas had 41 yards of offense in the second half. Forty-One!
Seriously, this was the plan all along. The Union Titans used seven weeks of football to improve but not show too much as they prepared for a two-week regular season.
They did exactly what they set out to do.
Now, they are hoping for a five-week playoff season.
In Week 8, Lincoln Victor could do no wrong. Just about every play, every decision, was the right one.
In Week 9, Victor had plenty of struggles. He was having a tough time finding room to run when he chose to carry the ball. And he had even more troubles with passing the ball.
Championship-quality quarterbacks, though, can forget all of that when it matters most. They can put it behind them, knowing that if there is still time on the clock, there is time to make amends.
Victor started this game 3 of 14 passing for 56 yards, and one of those completions was a gift from the official who ruled an incomplete pass a catch. (That’s not just me saying that. The Union coaches all agreed it was an incomplete pass.)
But Victor finished this game 6 of 8 passing for for 87 yards and a touchdown.
In the game-winning drive, he was 3 for 3 for 46 yards, plus he had an 11-yard run to get the Titans into a first-and-goal situation.
I asked some Union coaches who their defensive MVP was and they could not come up with any one player. The Titans were all just too good in this one.
Zion Fa’aopega was all over the place. So, too, was Riley Miller. Sausau Faalevao had a red-zone sack. Alex Vallejo had a huge stuff. And Joshua Joo was credited with the fourth-down stop at the 4-yard line, keeping the game at 13-0. Dustin Nettles was huge, too, in a couple ways. (See next note.)
The best penalty of the day!
Dustin Nettles blocked the extra point after Camas’ second touchdown in the first half to leave the score at 13-0.
Of course he wanted another one when Camas lined up to kick a field goal in the third quarter. He wanted it so bad that he jumped offside.
Well, it turned out that the penalty was just what Union needed. Camas decided to go for a first down on fourth-and-2 (really, it was about a yard-and-a-half) from the 4-yard line. The Titans stopped the play and still trailed 13-0. Not saying Union would not have come back from 16-points down, but it was a huge lift for the Titans to be down just 13.
“It’s very odd that an offisides play (against us) is the play of the game,” Union coach Rory Rosenbach joked. “It very well could have been.”
Seriously, nice job Dustin on blocking the extra point. That turned out to be huge.
And, with a wink, nice job Dustin for jumping offside. It was your plan all the way, right?
That victorious feeling:
Rosenbach said what was “cool” for him this past weekend was all the texts and e-mails he received, many from people he does not even know.
“People in the community saying it was special, that it was neat to watch,” Rosenbach said.
Next and beyond:
Union will host Tahoma at 7 p.m. Friday at McKenzie Stadium in a state qualifier playoff game.
“Just excited to still be playing. Excited not to be doing gear-check,” Rosenbach said.
Tahoma, he said, has some great athletes and size up front.
“We don’t have a bunch of film on them,” he said. “We’re learning as we go.”
Should Union win, the Titans would be home for the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs. And the Titans would be home again the next week in the quarterfinals should they win. Oh, and there is a good possibility that Union would play in Clark County should the Titans make it to the semifinals.
“Nowhere else we’d rather be, to have our student section, to have our band,” Rosenbach said. “We feel we have one of the best home-field advantages in Southwest Washington or the state. Our band and student section get after it.”