Tuesday, March 2, 2021
March 2, 2021

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Friday Night Flashback: Union adjusted, won thrilling 2018 semifinal game vs. Puyallup

Come-from-behind effort helped lead Titans to eventual first state title

By , Columbian sports reporter
Published:
5 Photos
Union players celebrate after defeating  Puyallup.
Union players celebrate after defeating Puyallup. (Steve Dipaola for the Columbian) Photo Gallery

Union football coach Rory Rosenbach had immense faith in his 2018 football team.

When the players pitched the idea of a reverse pass play to open a 4A state semifinal game against Puyallup, Rosenbach believed it would work.

Instead, it resulted in a loss of 11 yards, nearly gave the Vikings a safety and most importantly, the play ended with star receiver Darien Chase injured.

“The older you get, the more you think ‘Why do I listen to my kids?’ ” Rosenbach said in an interview earlier this week. “They had been talking about it for weeks and they absolutely screwed it up from the beginning.”

Union went on to fall behind 21-7 before rallying back to a thrilling 35-28 victory at McKenzie Stadium to a trip to the 4A state championship at the Tacoma Dome. There, they won the program’s only state title with a dominating 52-20 victory over Lake Stevens.

But because of that first play, the game script of the semifinal dramatically changed. With Chase, a two-way standout, on the sidelines most of the game, the Titans were forced to simplify.

“You lose that player, and it’s a big deal,” Rosenbach said. “It was definitely hard for us.”

The Titans needed other players to step up in Chase’s absence.

On offense, it was Alec Jackson, a senior who struggled to get consistent playing time his first three years and then was limited by a hamstring injury his senior season.

Still plagued by the hamstring in the semifinal, Jackson gritted it out for his team, hauling in 45- and 19-yard touchdown catches.

“We had some hard conversations,” Rosenbach said of his relationship with Jackson. “When you have to tell a kid that he’s not good enough to play right now, whether it’s because of knowledge or injury or another kid is better, then you have to see that kid every day, that’s tough.

“I was so proud of him. He kept showing up and doing what he loved to do. He made the most of (the opportunity), that’s for sure.”

Original game story

Union quarterback Lincoln Victor runs against Puyallup.
Union rides team effort past Puyallup, into 4A state title game
The players on Union’s football team gathered closely behind McKenzie Stadium’s west end zone. Individuals no more, the team collectively began bobbing. The volume grew…

On defense, a familiar face was the difference maker. After a two and a half quarters in which Puyallup’s physical receivers — including Justin Haase (five catches, 87 yards) — controlled the game, Rosenbach finally obliged on defensive coordinator Sal Colletto’s request to use star quarterback Lincoln Victor at defensive back with Chase sidelined.

“That kid didn’t catch a pass the rest of the game,” Rosenbach said.

Union scored 21 unanswered points to end the game, including Victor’s 16-yard game winner with under 3 minutes remaining.

However, it was a play a quarter earlier when Rosenbach felt confident in the outcome.

Victor dropped a snap in the third quarter, calmly picked it up with one hand while looking the safety off and gave a shoulder shimmy pump fake, before floating a deep cross over the linebacker.

“It was the best play all year,” Rosenbach said. “I just remember how patient and relaxed the kids were.”

It was Union’s fourth come-from-behind victory of the season, including a 38-31 win over Puyallup two months prior. A 13-7 deficit in the following week’s title-game victory was nothing for the comeback kids.

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