SAMMAMISH — Seconds after the last team meeting in the end zone broke up, Union quarterback Nolan Henry and receiver Ethan Beniga walked away from the pack for a brief moment.
They were hurting, so they did what teammates do: They leaned on each other.
“No words were exchanged,” Henry said. “We understood what we meant by that embrace.”
The Titans’ season came to an end Friday night, but they went down together, celebrating the good plays, consoling each other after the tough plays.
Eastlake of Sammamish got the go-ahead touchdown with six minutes left, then held off the Titans for a 34-27 victory in the opening round of the Class 4A state football playoffs.
Union finished the season with an 8-3 record. Eastlake (9-2) will host a quarterfinal game next week, taking on the winner of Saturday’s game between Camas and Cascade.
Eastlake’s final touchdown capped a wild contest that saw four lead changes and ties at 20 and 27.
Richard “Blue” Thomas scored on a 1-yard keeper with 6:23 left in the game for the final points, two plays after Thomas, the quarterback, found Garret McCorkle for a 29-yard pass on a third-and-10 from the 32-yard line.
The Titans had the ball two more times, but Henry was intercepted inside the Eastlake 10-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. The Union defense then stuffed Eastlake, forcing a punt. But Beniga fumbled the return, allowing the Wolves to run out the clock.
Until then, it was Union with most of the momentum in the fourth quarter, releasing a new wildcat formation. Caleb Browning rushed for 102 yards on 11 fourth-quarter carries. He also recovered an offensive fumble and jumped into the end zone from a yard out to tie the game at 27 with nine minutes to play.
“We just caught them off guard,” Browning said. “We’ve been working on that formation the whole entire season. We finally pulled it out. Everyone did their job. It worked perfectly. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t finish.”
The Titans and Wolves were both caught off guard when the lights at the stadium went out with 4:02 remaining in the game. The
contest was delayed around 20 minutes. The start of the game also was delayed when the lights went out during warm-ups.
On the second play after the second delay, Browning went for a 28-yard run. Later, a 15-yard penalty on Eastlake put the ball on the 26-yard line. Two plays later, the Wolves got the first of their two turnovers.
“I told them what I take away from this game is how we showed a tremendous amount of heart,” Union coach Cale Piland said. “We found a way to battle.”
The game was tied at 20 at the half, but the Titans went three-and-out on their first two possessions of the second half. Drew Lewis scored on a 36-yard touchdown run for the Wolves for a 27-20 lead, and the Wolves would miss later miss a field goal.
“They completely took the momentum away from us,” Piland said, noting the game could have got out of hand at that point.
Instead, the Titans responded.
“We gave ourselves a shot at the end of the ball game. That’s all you can ask in playoff football,” Piland said. “We battled like crazy. We battled like crazy.”
Browning, a junior, will have another shot. But it might take some time to get over this one.
“It’s a great opportunity, and we tried to grab it,” he said. “We worked so hard for it.”
Henry, also a junior, said his team wanted at least another week.
“I know no one is completely satisfied with the way we ended,” Henry said. “The only thing we can do is move on, build from this legacy, and get ready for next year.”
Both juniors said it will be hard to play without this year’s seniors, though.
“They played their hearts out,” Henry said. “They didn’t leave anything in the tank.”
Nobody took control in the first half.
The Wolves scored on their opening possession when Justin McOmber found room for a 34-yard touchdown run. They would then take a 13-7 lead on a Drew Lewis 2-yard run. Later, the Wolves would get a good bounce with a touchdown on an offensive fumble recovery to tie the score at 20.
The Titans got two first-half touchdown passes from Henry. The first was a screen to Alex Berfanger, who went 46 yards to give the Titans a 7-6 lead. The second was a rope to Tyler Dionne, a 10-yard TD play to make it 20-13.
In between those TD passes, Leon Siofele found room for a 73-yard touchdown run.
Siofele ended up with 103 yards on 15 carries. He finished the season with 24 rushing touchdowns and a school-record 1,956 yards.
EASTLAKE 34, UNION 27
Union 7 13 0 7–27
Eastlake 13 7 7 7–34
E — Justin McOmber 34 run (run failed)
U — Alex Berfanger 46 pass from Nolan Henry (Sterling Ransom kick)
E — Drew Lewis 2 run (Jakob Grasst kick)
U — Leon Siofele 73 run (Ransom kick)
U — Tyler Dionne 10 pass from Henry (run failed)
E — Gage Casal 7 fumble recovery (Grasst kick)
E — Lewis 36 run (Grasst kick)
U — Caleb Browning 1 fumble recovery (Ransom kick)
E — Richard “Blue” Thomas 1 run (Grasst kick)
RUSHING — Union: Siofele 15-103, Berfanger 1-3, Henry 9-(minus 12), Dionne 1-2, Ethan Beniga 1-4, Browning 11-102, Team 1-(minus 1). Eastlake: Lewis 16-98, McOmber 8-91, Thomas 16-119, Team 3-(minus-15).
PASSING — Union: Henry 7-17-1-113. Eastlake: Thomas 10-21-0-143
RECEIVING — Union: Beniga 2-16, Berfanger 3-69, Dionne 1-10, Thomas Lampkin 1-18. Eastlake: Lewis 4-47, Casal 1-12, Eric Uhlar 2-19, Garret McCorkle 2-53, Austin Hooker 1-12.