There was no letdown.
And once the Union football team got ahead, there was no letting up.
One week after the program’s biggest win in several years, the Titans stayed hot by beating Tahoma 41-14 in the Class 4A state preliminary round on Friday at McKenzie Stadium.
One week ago, Union grabbed the 4A Greater St. Helens League’s top seed by beating top-ranked and defending state champion Camas.
Friday, the Titans didn’t miss a beat in their first postseason game since 2014. Lincoln Victor threw four touchdown passes, including TDs of 70 and 46 yards to Darien Chase. Union led 41-0 at halftime.
“The kids were locked in,” Union coach Rory Rosenbach said. “They figured it out by Tuesday that now it’s one and done. You don’t get to have any bad days anymore.”
In grabbing the No. 1 seed in District 4, the Titans earned a few perks. Among them is having playoff games at home.
After winning Friday, the Titans (9-1) will be at McKenzie Stadium again for a state first-round game next week against Sumner, the No. 4 seed from the West-Central District. Win that and Union would host a quarterfinal game.
Yes, Union is back in the state playoffs — and the Titans feel they are ready to take on anyone.
“Being back definitely boosted our confidence and our motivation,” said senior defensive end Zion Fa’aopega. “We came out and did our thing.”
Tahoma (6-4), a school in Covington, qualified for the state preliminaries by finishing third in the North Puget Sound League’s Cascade Division.
On their first drive, the Bears moved the ball past midfield. Then the Union defense said ‘enough.’
Tahoma’s first drive ended when Chase Stickley recovered a fumble. The Bears had just one more first down the rest of the half. By halftime, Union had outgained Tahoma 372-74.
Rosenbach said his team will go as far as its defense takes it. Judging by Friday’s fly-to-the-ball showing, that could be pretty far.
“Coach (Sal) Colletto and the rest of the defensive guys have done an awesome job,” Rosenbach said. “It’s a simple plan. I just feel like they’re getting better and better. They’re playing fast, they’re playing free and they trust what they see.”
Union scored with plays big and small. Braedon Ensley capped Union’s first drive with a 2-yard touchdown catch. Chase scored on Union’s third drive, making six would-be tacklers miss on a 46-yard touchdown that probably had 70 yards worth of juking.
“I think the focus and the preparation the week before definitely is what got us here,” Chase said. “They had really soft corners, so all week we were preparing for that.”
Chase got behind Tahoma’s defense for a 70-yard touchdown on 2nd and 31 to put Union ahead 34-0. He finished with 169 yards on six catches.
“Anytime you get it to (number) three, good stuff happens,” Rosenbach said.
Elijah Jones had a 66-yard touchdown run, finishing with 86 yards on five carries. Victor was efficient, completing 11 of 14 passes for 186 yards, no interceptions and a 5-yard touchdown run.
The only nervous moment for Union came midway through the second quarter. Running back Jojo Siofele, who rushed for 719 yards and nine TDs in the regular season, suffered an ankle injury when he was tackled on a play that drew a penalty for a horse-collar tackle. Siofele will have precautionary tests, but Union coaches don’t believe the injury is serious.
UNION 41, TAHOMA 14
Tahoma 0 0 7 7–14
Union 14 27 0 0–41
U — Braedon Ensley 2 pass from Lincoln Victor (run failed)
U — Darien Chase 46 pass from Victor (Aiden Nellor pass from Victor)
U — Elijah Jones 66 run (Alex Koga kick)
U — Victor 5 run (Koga kick)
U — Chase 70 pass from Victor (Koga kick)
U — Nellor 5 pass from Victor (kick failed)
T — Jerrel Chapman 5 pass from Conner Lambro (Cory Soiseth kick)
T — Tayvian Williams 21 pass from Lambro (Soiseth kick)
RUSHING — Tahoma: Max Repenn 3-10, Tayvian Williams 3-15, Conner Lambro 9-14, Kaleb Leonard 3-6, Trevor Donahue 2-6. Union: Elijah Jones 5-86, Lincoln Victor 3-34, Jojo Siofele 7-56, Lamont Lane 11-67, Alex Gonzales 1-3.
PASSING — Tahoma: Conner Lambro 13-20-1-136. Union: Lincoln Victor 11-14-0-186, Carter Sutton 1-1-0-9.
RECEIVING — Tahoma: Max Repenn1-8, Jerrel Chapman 6-49, Grady O’Connell 2-34, Tayvian Williams 3-40, Kaleb Leonard 1-(minus-5). Union: Darien Chase 6-169, Braedon Ensley 2-6, Tiernan Stanley 1-4, Elijah Jones 1-2, Aiden Nellor 1-5, Michael Rogers 1-9.