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Jan. 29, 2023

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Union defense comes up with needed stops

Siofele rushes for 239 yards, 3 TDs in win over Peninsula

By , Columbian High School Sports Reporter

Before Union running back Leon Siofele could take over the game Friday night at McKenzie Stadium, the Titans defense had to find a way to stop the Peninsula Seahawks.

The D got it done, and then Siofele and the Union offensive line got it done.

Union scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to take the lead, then held off Peninsula 30-24 for the non-league victory.

Siofele rushed for 239 yards and three touchdowns, giving him more than 600 yards in the first three games of the season.

“Our line was doing a great job. My job was to read what they were doing and make a play,” Siofele said. “I’m just trying my best, trying to do the best for my team.”

While he was crediting the big guys, the big guys were crediting Siofele.

“He’s a stud. He’s a stud. This guy’s a stud,” center Connor Wong said.

So, too, is Union defensive lineman Josh Lee, a senior playing defense for the first time since his freshman season.

Peninsula scored on all three of its first-half possessions, but did nothing more until the final two minutes of the game. By then, Union had erased a two-point deficit and took a 14-point advantage.

“We came out in the second half more physical, more energetic, more enthusiastic,” Lee said. “That’s what we gotta do, I guess.”

After a scoreless third quarter, Siofele gave Union (2-1) the lead on a 29-yard run. He broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, in the middle of the field, bounced to the outside, then broke a tackle near the sideline before sprinting into the end zone. A two-point conversion on a run from Caleb Browning gave Union a 22-16 lead.

Then it was Lee’s turn to dominate. With Peninsula trying to respond, Lee sacked Seahawks quarterback Richard Kvinsland for a 9-yard loss. On the next play, Lee had another look at the QB, this time hitting him as he threw an incomplete pass. The two plays led to a punt.

“I was pumped. It just felt really good to contribute to the win,” Lee said.

“Josh is a beast on defense,” Wong said. “He’s an athlete.”

The Titans then went 66 yards on eight plays, capped by Siofele’s third touchdown of the game, a 1-yard run. Caleb Browning caught a pass from Union quarterback Nolan Henry for a two-point conversion and a 14-point lead at 30-16 with 3:17 to play.

The Seahawks got their air attack going again and scored on a pass from Kvinsland to Ian Hodge with 1:36 to play. They also made a 2-pointer to make it a six-point game. The onside kick failed, though, and Siofele rushed for two first downs to seal the Union victory.

The offenses ruled the first half with long drives.

Union opened the game with a 10-play, 74-yard drive capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Henry to Ethan Beniga. Henry would finish 13 of 15 for 124 yards.

Peninsula responded with a 15-play, 80-yard drive, with Avega Siolo scoring on a 2-yard run to tie.

Back came the Titans with another 10-play drive. Siofele scored on a 2-yard run.

Peninsula would get inside the Union 10 before settling for a field goal.

The only mistake on offense in the first half came from the Titans, who fumbled deep in their own territory. The next play, Peninsula took the lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kvinsland to Will Hopkins, making it 16-14 at the half.

The defenses took over for the third quarter. Siofele took over in the fourth. And the Titans got the win.


Peninsula 7 9 0 8–24

Union 7 7 0 16–30

First quarter

U — Ethan Beniga 11 pass from Nolan Henry (Sterling Ransom kick)

Pen — Avega Siolo 2 run (Matt Hoge kick)

Second quarter

U — Leon Siofele 2 run (Ransom kick)

Pen — Hoge 21 FG

Pen — Will Hopkins 22 pass from Robert Kvinsland (kick blocked)

Fourth quarter

U — Siofele 29 run (Caleb Browning run)

U — Siofele 1 run (Browning pass from Henry)

Pen — Ian Hodge 14 pass from Kvinsland (Cameron Blackwell pass from Kvinsland)

Individual stats

RUSHING — Peninsula: Siolo 20-47, Major Ali 2-5, Levi Alton 2-8, Kvinsland 4-(-13), Luke Holsinger 1-1. Union: Siofele 27-239, Caleb Browning 3-13, Alex Berfanger 2-20, Henry 5-(-1).

PASSING — Peninsula: Kvinsland 20-28-0-240. Union: Henry 13-15-0-124.

RECEIVING — Peninsula: Conner Walch 6-54, Hopkins 4-73, Ali 2-22, Ian Hodge 5-43, Marque Kriebel 1-30, Kyle Olson-Urbon 1-(-1), Siolo 1-19. Union: Browning 7-55, Beniga 2-26, Tyler Dionne 2-29, Siofele 1-2, Zach Caston 1-12.

Columbian High School Sports Reporter