(Story and photo submitted)
In a game in which the teams combined for over 1,000 yards of offense and 87 points, defensive back Curtis Yates secured Union College’s 47-40 victory over host and No. 17 Campbellsville (Ky.) with an interception in the back of the end zone on Saturday.
“Incredible” and “unbelievable” were the only words head coach Zak Willis could find to describe the Bulldogs’ effort and tenacity.
“Campbellsville is a great place to play a game,” Willis added. “We beat a tough football team. That was a true Mid-South Conference win. I’m proud of the kids. I wasn’t pretty, but we won. I think this is a huge breakthrough for us.”
The Bulldogs (2-1 overall) scored the games final 14 points in rally for the upset victory. After seeing only three points scored in the third quarter, Union and Campbellsville combined to post 38 points in the final period.
Wade Holtsclaw put the Tigers (0-3 overall) up 40-33 with an 8-yard touchdown run with 6:26 to play in the game.
But then, the Bulldogs took over.
Union countered with a six-play, 61-yard scoring drive to even the ledger at 40-all. After a 32-yard pass to Kevin Eichelberger put the Bulldogs on the Tiger 34, Timius Lowe scampered 13 yards to move it the 21. Izayah Riettie followed with back-to-back runs of 13 and 8 yards to punch the ball in, tying the game at 40-all with 5:08 remaining.
The Bulldog defense stepped up and forced the Tigers to go three-and-out. Noah Bicksler’s punt only covered 32 yards, but it put Union on its own 25. Back-to-back Tiger penalties and a Lowe 9-yard run moved the Bulldogs to the Campbellsville 46. Chandler Whittlesey hooked up with Darian Patterson for a 43-yard strike, setting Union up at the Tiger 3. Lowe then powered his way into the end zone, putting the Bulldogs up 47-40 with 58 seconds left on the clock.
Union was still not out of the woods as Campbellsville was able to move the ball from its own 25 to the Union 20 with 3.3 seconds to play. However, Yates picked off Hunter Brown’s pass in the back of the end zone, sealing the Bulldogs’ 47-40 victory.
“It was mental toughness with a whole lot of youth,” Willis said of how Union was able to hang on for the win. “We almost gave it away a few times, but we fought back and were talented enough to win. A lot of credit goes to my staff. They did a great job in motivating our players.
“All the credit and honor goes to my Savior, Jesus Christ,” he continued. “We’re not a front-page Christian school, and we don’t want to be. We pray in our closets when we pray, and we’re going to go in our locker room and praise God.”
Campbellsville outgained Union 563-467 in total offense. Brown threw for 355 yards and two scores with Tyus Alcorn hauling 12 passes for a school-record 235 yards. Alcorn also had both of the receiving touchdowns. Chantz Goodman led the Tiger ground attack with 103 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Holtsclaw ran the ball 12 times for 60 yards and two scores.
Whittlesey hit more milestones in the win, becoming the third to amass 50 career passing touchdowns and moving up to fourth on the all-time passing list. The Bulldog signal-caller now has 51 career passing scores to go with 5,804 career passing yards.
For the game, Whittlesey completed 18-of-41 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns. It was his fourth 300-yard passing game of his career.
Eichelberger registered his first-career 100-yard receiving game, hauling in six passes for 110 yards. Deyontre Jordan had a big game with one rushing touchdown and one receiving score as he ran the ball once for 11 yards and caught five passes for 68 yards. Darian Patterson pulled down three passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The ebb and flow of the game swung like a pendulum as neither team lead by more than a touchdown throughout the night and 10 of the 15 scoring drives lasted less than a minute and 34 seconds. Ironically, the two longest scoring drives both resulted in field goals.
Penalties played a major role in the game as the teams were called for a combined 32 infractions for a whopping 319 yards. Campbellsville was flagged 18 times for 194 yards with Union getting called for 14 penalties for 125 yards.
Defensively, Dallas Baxter led Union with 16 total stops to go with 1.0 tackles for a loss. Serge Vita came up huge, recording 10 total tackles with 2.0 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Yates finished with five stops to go with an interception and a forced fumble. Jake Averhart and Jackson Tipton both finished with four tackles and a fumble recovery.
The Bulldogs will have an open week as their next game is not until Sept. 24 when they play their home opener, welcoming Cumberlands (Ky.) for the annual Battle for the Brass Lantern. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.