Titans get past tough Tigers

Siofele scores four TDs as Union beats B.G. to set up Camas showdown

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

BATTLE GROUND — The Union Titans can start thinking about Camas now.

They also found out they could not overlook Battle Ground.

Leon Siofele rushed for 261 yards and three touchdowns and also caught a TD pass, leading Union to a 35-21 Class 4A Greater St. Helens League football victory over Battle Ground in a bizarre game Friday night that featured 56 points in the first half, none in the second.

Union never trailed, but the Tigers never went away.

Battle Ground quarterback Colston Vukanovich threw for 321 yards and a touchdown and rushed for two more scores, and the Tigers nearly made it a one-touchdown game late in the fourth quarter.

Instead, Union (5-1, 2-0 GSHL) got the victory, setting up next week's showdown at undefeated Camas.

"It makes the game a lot easier," Siofele said, referring to the Union offense scoring five first-half touchdowns.

Then that scoring stuff came to a halt.

"It's just a matter of keeping that up and squashing the bug, as Coach (Cale) Piland says," Siofele said.

Nobody got squashed on this night.

Union, though, never panicked.

Quarterback Nolan Henry threw for 187 of his 198 yards in the first half, and the Titans scored touchdowns on their first four possessions to take a 28-7 lead.

"Our offense was running on all cylinders," Henry said. "I was impressed with our line, with our receivers, and Leon Siofele is awesome. He opens up so much of our offense."

The Titans ended up with 399 yards in that first half. Siofele had 178 yards at the break.

"I owe a lot of it to my line," Siofele said, also adding that his receivers are strong blockers downfield. "It's all my team."

Union only had three possessions in the second half, picking up three first downs on the final drive to end the game. That came moments after the Union defense held Battle Ground out of the end zone.

Union linebacker Kyle Vermeulen, who had one of his team's three interceptions, knocked down a fourth-down pass in the end zone with 4:39 to play, preserving the 14-point lead.

"Our defense has had a lot of growth this year," Piland said. "We had kids who had to make plays, and they did. We felt we had them stopped, and then they'd pick up a fourth down."

The Tigers (3-3, 1-1), in fact, converted three fourth-down plays in their 18-play, 92-yard drive. They needed 98 yards, though. Linebacker Cameron Wood had two sacks for the Titans in the final quarter.

Battle Ground coach Larry Peck was about as happy as a coach could be following a loss.

"We were there. We were on the cusp," he said. "Our kids earned a lot of respect in that second half. We battled so hard in the second half and didn't give up any points."

Peck added that this was the kind of game that could have gotten away from the Tigers. Instead, his squad stood "toe-to-toe" with a perennial playoff team.

In the end, it was just too much Siofele.

"People who haven't had to defend that running back, they have no idea how good he is," Peck said.

It was the Siofele Scoreboard Show in the first quarter.

Siofele scored on runs of 4 and 12 yards for a quick 14-0 Union lead. After Vukanovich scored on a 6-yard run to make it 14-7, Siofele responded on a 31-yard scoring reception from Henry to make it 21-7 after the first.

After a Battle Ground turnover, Union went 80 yards on six plays, capped by Siofele's 6-yard touchdown run to make it 28-7.

Back came the Tigers, with Vukanovich scoring on a 2-yard run one play after a 67-yard pass to Colby Cahoon.

Then it was Union's turn, and the Titans fooled everyone by giving the ball to Ethan Beniga, who then used a 360-spin move to break free on a 25-yard touchdown run.

Battle Ground took advantage of an interception by linebacker John Smarr in the final minute of the half, capitalizing with a 25-yard scoring pass from Vukanovich to Parker Randle to make it 35-21.

At the time, there were 56 points and 687 yards of offense.

No one knew at the time, but that would be it for the scoring.

UNION 35, BATTLE GROUND 21

Union 21 14 0 0--35

Battle Ground 7 14 0 0--21

First quarter

U -- Leon Siofele 4 run (Sterling Ransom kick)

U -- Siofele 12 run (Ransom kick)

BG -- Colston Vukanovich 6 run (Hayden Humphrey kick)

U -- Siofele 31 pass from Nolan Henry (Ransom kick)

Second quarter

U -- Siofele 4 run (Ransom kick)

BG -- Vukanovich 2 run (Humphrey kick)

U -- Ethan Beniga 25 run (Ransom kick)

BG -- Parker Randle 25 pass from Vukanovich (Humphrey kick)

Individual statistics

RUSHING -- Union: Siofele 30-261, Beniga 4-57, Henry 2-4, Alex Berfanger 3-19. Battle Ground: Vukanovich 22-59, Justin Smalley 10-30, Taylor Lollar 3-7.

PASSING -- Union: Henry 11-16-1-198. Battle Ground: Vukanovich 24-38-3-321.

RECEIVING -- Union: Beniga 4-83, Thomas Lampkin 5-74, Siofele 2-41. Battle Ground: Colby Cahoon 4-103, Humphrey 10-109, Kaiden Grotte 4-35, Randle 4-56, Chris Waters 1-10, Smalley 1-8.