Late TD lifts ‘Jackets over Tigers

By BRENT MAZE,

When Newton took a 27-26 lead with 8 minutes remaining in the game, Union responded with a 14-play, 63-yard that ate up about half of the fourth quarter to score the go-ahead touchdown for a 34-27 win.

The Union offensive line took over on that key drive, as all of the yards came on the ground. Jaylon Buckley had the first carry of the drive and then finished it with a four-yard touchdown run with 2:46 remaining. Jamarian Harmon added the two-point conversion to extend the lead to a full score plus an extra point.

Buckley said he didn’t get nervous when the coaches called his number inside the five-yard line.

“I just had to do something to show my coaches and my teammates that I could do it,” Buckley said. “I knew they had faith in me, and I had a pretty good chance of getting in there.”

However, that left plenty of time for the Tigers to drive and potentially tie or take the lead on their final drive, as Newton quarterback Lawrence Morris led three consecutive touchdown drives prior to the final drive.

However, the Union defense stepped up, as Michael Rush sacked Morris on fourth down with one minute to go to end the Tiger threat.

Union coach Brad Breland praised his team’s performance on their most important drive of the season.

“The offensive line really stepped up and blocked well,” Breland said. “Jaylon Buckley did a great job blocking out on the edge. Kenyon (Clay) and Ferg (Colby Ferguson). It was a great drive when we needed it the most.

“Man at times, we looked a little ragged out there, but we made a few plays here and there. I was really proud of them. We just have to keep getting better.”

Newton coach Zack Grady saw his team also take several strides forward, especially as Morris found a rhythm in the second half.

“I hate it for the kids because they gave it all they had, but sometimes that happens,” Grady said. “We’ve got a young team that’s gotten better as the year has went along. That’s all you can do with a young team is fight. I’m proud of these guys, but we have to line up and do it again next week.”

Newton will face off against Lake on Friday, the winner of which will clinch the fourth seed in the playoffs from the district. Union with the win clinched the third seed and will likely face Baldwin on Nov. 3 in the first round of the playoffs.

Union got on the board first after a Newton interception. Ferguson found Jaheim Gill for the first of two touchdowns, this time from 24 yards out to take a 6-0 lead.

Newton would answer as backup quarterback Tyreke Snow came in and led an 80-yard drive. He connected with Marcos Martin on a 40-yard pass to set up Newton in the red zone and then finished it with a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and goal, tying the score at 6-6.

Union answered in just four plays, as Gill’s 28-yard run set up Clay’s 10-yard touchdown run. The two-point try failed leaving Union ahead 12-6.

After holding Newton on fourth down, Union answered with a 67-yard drive finished by Gill’s 20-yard touchdown reception from Ferguson. Clay caught Ferguson’s pass on the two-point try to lead 20-6 at halftime.

Union looked like it might put the game away late in the third quarter, as they appeared to sustain a drive by drawing Newton offside on fourth-and-5, but the referees didn’t measure to see if the yardage gained was enough for a first down. On fourth-and-inches, the Jackets committed a false start forcing a Union punt.

Morris connected with Andre Ware for a 69-yard touchdown on the next play. The two-point play was good, cutting the lead to 20-14.

Union answered with a Buckley three-yard touchdown about two minutes later, giving Union a 26-14 lead with 46 seconds left in the third quarter.

Ten seconds later, Morris tossed another 57-yard touchdown to cut the advantage to 26-20 at the end of the third quarter after a holding penalty negated the two-point conversion.

Then after the Tigers held Union on fourth down, Newton took advantage of 35 yards in penalties as Morris waltzed into the end zone untouched from 10 yards out. Ware made the extra point to give Newton its first lead a 27-26.

But from there, Union turned to its ground game to retake the lead and escape with the win.

Ferguson finished with 96 yards on 8 of 12 passing and added 70 yards on the ground on 15 carries. Clay had 91 yards rushing on 14 carries with 29 yards on four receptions and a 43-yard interception return on defense. Buckley finished with 55 yards on 13 carries.

Gill had three catches for 59 yards and 25 yards on two carries.

Morris finished with 204 yards on 10 of 24 passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Snow also added 54 passing yards on 3 of 7 passing and 54 yards rushing on four carries. Jaleel Bolton had the lone interception for Newton.