In a flash, they swarmed onto the Kiggins Bowl field postgame in celebration.
When in reality, the Union Titans began celebrating 2 1/2 hours earlier with Alishawuan Taylor’s 19-yard touchdown reception. From there, celebrations continued.
Again. And again. And again.
In the end, Union’s 43-14 victory Friday night over the Skyview Storm included a dominating defensive performance that featured a goal-line stand, multiple forced turnovers and of course, the clincher: the Titans are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and will play for the 4A Greater St. Helens League title next week.
Not only are the Titans (7-1 overall, 3-0 league) playoff bound, but next week’s regular-season finale against top-ranked and undefeated Camas (8-0, 3-0) has high stakes, too. The 4A GSHL crown comes with a No. 1 seed, which includes home games for at least three postseason games starting with the Week 10 state preliminary round.
Said quarterback Lincoln Victor: “We live for nights like this. We expect to be great, and that’s what we did all night.”
There was plenty to celebrate offensively and defensively for the Titans. For starters, Victor accounted for six touchdowns. He finished 12 of 16 for 273 yards passing and three touchdowns and also had a game-high 115 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Darien Chase had five catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns, including a 98-yard touchdown to push the Titans’ lead to 22-0 one play after that goal-line stand on four consecutive 1-yard stops in the second quarter. His second touchdown of 42 yards gave Union its largest lead of the night at 43-7 to open the fourth quarter.
Friday, though, their goal-line stand was part of a highlight-reel package of defensive plays which also included limiting Skyview to five first-quarter plays and intercepting quarterback Max Rose three times.
Storm running back Jalynnee McGee, who finished with a team-best 112 yards, broke loose for his biggest gain of the night — a 72-yard run 90 seconds into the second quarter with Union leading 15-0 — before being tackled at the 1. For three straight McGee handoffs, the Titans line didn’t budge an inch, not even when McGee making a leaping attempt to score on second-and-goal.
Then on fourth-and-goal, the Storm used Dyvon Green at tailback, whose run to the left was met with a loss.
Four stops after first-and-goal at the 1, what defensive end Zion Fa’aopega called one of the biggest defensive plays of the season.
Deep down, when it’s on the line, that’s when the brotherhood bond is at its strongest, said linebacker Riley Miller.
“We’re not always the biggest,” he said, “but we’re family.”
The past two seasons, the Titans have been a combined 8-10 and missed out on the postseason each time.
That’s ended. Now, they’ll face the Papermakers at Doc Harris Stadium next week with a playoff spot locked up.
For Skyview, Friday officially ended a 12-year run of playoff-bound seasons, and marks just the second time in coach Steve Kizer’s tenure the postseason picture won’t feature his Storm.
For a nearly all-senior starting lineup, including eight from a 4A state semifinal team a season ago looking to make another deep run, knowing they won’t play football past October was emotionally difficult for the 29 seniors, such as senior Michael Lundgren. At 4-4, the Storm look to finish the season with a winning record.
“We didn’t play our best, but they beat us 100 percent from snap one,” he said. “We have to go out there now and beat Heritage, and finish off the season.”
UNION 43, SKYVIEW 14
Union 15 7 14 7—43
Skyview 0 7 0 7—14
U — Alishawuan Taylor 19 pass from Lincoln Victor (Alex Koga kick)
U — Victor 9 run (Aiden Nellor pass from Dustin Nettles)
U — Darien Chase 98 pass from Victor (Koga kick)
S — Cole Grossman 8 pass from Max Rose (Wyatt Stallman kick)
U — Victor 1 run (Koga kick)
U — Victor 13 run (Koga kick)
U — Chase 42 pass from Victor (koga kick)
S — Dyvon Green 3 run (Stallman kick)
RUSHING — Union, Jojo Siofele 11-45, Elijah Jones 11-24, Victor 14-115, Nettles 4-41, Jack Eggleston 3-4. Skyview, Jalynnee McGee 14-112, Rose 5-21, Green 7-3.
PASSING — Union, Victor 12-16-0-273, Carter Sutton 0-1-0-0. Skyview, Rose 19-29-3-236.
RECEIVING — Union, Siofele 1-9, Nettles 2-22, Chase 5-175, Taylor 1-19, Nellor 2-42, Jones 1-6. Skyview, McGee 2-5, Stallman 2-37, Tavis Pinkney 10-140, Grossman 4-44, Jovon Sewell 1-10.