Day After Report: Union 42, Evergreen 34
Congrats to the Titans for the win. Congrats to the Plainsmen for quite a contest, surprising some with their improved play this season.
(The rest of these notes courtesy Rene Ferran for The Columbian.)
UNION 42, EVERGREEN 34
JoJo Siofele rushed for 230 yards and five touchdowns. Oh, he’s a freshman. A freshman!
In real time, I tweeted after JoJo Siofele’s 27-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter that 140 characters couldn’t do the play justice.
In the game story, I simply called it a highlight-reel run.
All Siofele did on the play was channel his inner Neo in weaving through the entire Evergreen defense to find the end zone.
The play was a simple run off right tackle. The Titans freshman ran into a bit of traffic, so he did his first stop-start move, causing a Plainsmen defender to whiff on a leg tackle.
A couple of yards later, and it was another stutter-step juke, a quick move left, and another whiff. Then, it was a third, same as the first two — stutter, stop, step left, make a diving tackler miss, keep going.
Finally, around the 5-yard line, it looked like the Plainsmen finally had him, but that’s when he pulled off his finishing touch — a devastating spin move that shrugged off one last would-be tackler, before he powered into the end zone.
“I’m just running out there,” Siofele said. “I just see daylight and run to it.”
Siofele finished with 230 yards and five touchdowns on 25 carries.
“I think so, in middle school,” the 5-foot-8, 190-pounder said when asked if he’d ever gained that many yards in a game. “But not at this level, against this kind of speed.”
Many of his big runs came running behind a pair of seniors — left tackle Zach Berfanger, a 5-11, 215-pounder, and left guard Sean McCoy at 5-11, 205, who routinely opened gaping holes for Siofele and senior Rey Green (eight carries, 40 yards).
Evergreen getting better:
Evergreen fell to 0-8 against Union all-time, but after being outscored 314-56 in their previous seven meetings, the Plainsmen showed they may have turned a corner.
Union’s offense did what was expected, racking up 21 first downs and 449 yards of total offense, but Evergreen’s offense did plenty of damage of its own.
The Plainsmen had 18 first downs and amassed 418 yards, picked off a pair of Union passes, and several of their younger players made big plays to keep them in the game.
Sophomore K’Avossia Stevenson and junior Marquis Sampson made the interceptions, junior Nathaniel Trevino ran for a team-high 94 yards on 11 carries before leaving late in the game with an injury, and freshman Tre Radcliff’s 59-yard TD run with 16 seconds left gave Evergreen a chance to pull off a miracle finish.
Of Evergreen’s 49-man roster, only 10 are seniors, meaning few carried memories — or cared much — of Union’s dominance in the series.
“We had a lot of motivation this week. This was a game everyone wanted to win,” said senior Dallas Goodpaster, who ran for a pair of touchdowns. “It was just simple mistakes that killed us.”
Mistakes happen, but Titans moved on:
If simple mistakes did the Plainsmen in, bigger mistakes almost cost the Titans dearly.
Union finished with 12 penalties for 115 yards, including six holding penalties that negated big runs by either Siofele or Green.
They also had a first-quarter onside kick recovery wiped out because a Titan touched the ball before it had traveled 10 yards.
However, the rest of their special teams play proved critical to victory. Junior Abe Smith averaged 24.8 yards on five kickoff returns, setting up the Titans with short fields following Evergreen scores every time.
The Titans also executed a fake punt with 2 ½ minutes left, with Adrian Andrade taking a handoff from up-man Keithen Shepard and racing 29 yards to set up Siofele’s final TD run with 50.8 seconds left.
Andrade led the Titans with eight tackles at linebacker. Three Titans had six tackles apiece: Shepard, R.J. Quirante, and Smith, who also had two tackles for loss. … Dustin Nettles had a strong all-around game for Evergreen, with five catches for 31 yards, a 56-yard pass completion to Jonathan Spiering on a fly sweep flea-flicker, and a team-high six tackles at defensive back. … The Plainsmen host Yelm in non-league play next Saturday before taking on Battle Ground in Week 7. … The Titans host Heritage next week, then face their biggest test to date when they travel to Camas in Week 7.