The Union Titans had an interesting adjustment at halftime Friday night.
“We talked to each other and pulled our heads out of our butts, you know,” junior defensive lineman Aiden Nellor said.
Well, it worked.
The Titans, who led by a point at the half, crushed Mountain View in the second half, winning this non-league rivalry game 43-18 at McKenzie Stadium.
“We were lousy in the first half,” Nellor said. “Slow. Not mentally there. Not sure what happened. All of a sudden, we just started rallying, rallying to the ball.”
The Union offense and special teams was putting on a show, too.
Lincoln Victor entered the game as quarterback in the first quarter, sparking the team with two quick touchdown runs. Kai Gamble recovered a fumble on a Mountain View putn attempt for a score.
In the second half, more of the same for Union — scoring from offense and special teams.
Braedon Ensley caught a touchdown pass from Victor to make it 26-18 early in the third quarter. Connor Culp added a field goal. And Keithen Shepard returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown. (Shepard also ended up with two interceptions.)
In a matter of moments, the game went from close to not-so much.
The Mountain View offense, which snapped the ball 45 times in the first half, went three-and-out on its first three possessions of the second half, then lost the ball on downs on its fourth possession. The Thunder, who gained 208 yards in the first half, were held to two first downs and 41 yards in the second half.
“They were talking on social media. We were talking back. It kind of got in my head,” Nellor said.
He also remembered last year, when the Thunder beat the Titans for the first time.
“I took it a little personally,” he said. “Last year was kind of an embarrassment.”
Union coach Rory Rosenbach, who is in his first year with the program, still understands the significance of this Evergreen Public Schools rivalry game.
“A goose egg in the second half,” he said with a big smile.
The coach said he thought both teams were too fired up at the beginning of the contest.
“Once we settled down, we started playing better, started playing faster, and we did whatever we wanted to do,” Rosenbach said.
That included Victor, who shares time at quarterback with Nehru Faalevao. On this night, though, Rosenbach said he decided to stick with the guy who was hot.
Victor entered the game and electrified the crowd with a 38-yard touchdown on his first run of the game.
“I trusted my line, I trusted my read, and I took a shot,” Victor said.
The Titans forced a turnover and Victor was in the end zone again four plays later, giving the Titans the lead for good.
Gamble fell on the fumbled snap on the attempted punt to give Union a 19-6 lead.
Mountain View bounced back when Andre Scheer found Darien Chase on a 31-yard scoring strike. Scheer than scored on a quarterback sneak with 3 seconds left in the first half to make it a one-point game.
At the time, no one thought it would turn into a rout.
“This is what it’s all about,” Victor said. “Getting the win, celebrating, and being humble. We have a lot of things to clean up, but we’ll be ready.”
Ensley finished with 82 yards rushing on 10 carries, with 75 of the yards coming in the second half.
Victor had 77 yards rushing and 76 yards passing.
Jack Mertens, who scored Mountain View’s first touchdown of the game, led the Thunder with 73 yards rushing.
Chase had six catches for 130 yards — all in the first half.
The second half turned into an all-Union 24 minutes.
UNION 43, MOUNTAIN VIEW 18
Mtn. View 6 12 0 0—18
Union 12 7 17 7—43
MV — Jack Mertens 12 run (pass failed)
U — Lincoln Victor 38 run (PAT failed)
U — Victor 4 run (pass failed)
U — Kai Gamble falls on fumble in end zone (Connor Culp kick)
MV — Darien Chase 31 pass from Andre Scheer (PAT failed)
MV — Scheer 1 run (kick failed)
U — Braedon Ensley 14 pass from Victor (Culp kick)
U — Culp 29 FG
U — Keithen Shepard 64 punt return (Culp kick)
U — Ensley 10 run (Culp kick)
RUSHING — Mountain View: Glen Perry 12-22, Mertens 11-73, Michael Urruchua 3-7, Scheer 4-(minus 5), Nile Jones 9-39, Tyrell Hall 5-0, Troy Pacheco 2-3, Team 1-(minus 16). Union: Nehru Faalevao 3-12, Abe Smith 2-18, Victor 8-77, Braedon Ensley 10-82, Elijah Jones 9-54, Tommy Strassenberg 2-5.
PASSING — Mountain View: Scheer 7-20-2-130. Union: Faalevao 2-3-0-22, Victor 7-16-1-76.
RECEIVING — Mountain View: Chase 6-130, Michael Bolds 1-0. Union: Ensley 2-19, Gamble 2-24, Smith 1-3, Keithen Shepard 2-38, Victor 1-4, Aiden Nellor 1-10.