BATTLE GROUND — As the Union football team prepared to break its postgame huddle, first-year head coach Kevin Coad gave the night’s sweetest set of instructions.
Specifically, how to do the Titans’ victory chant.
“Rah rah Union. On to victory.” — It starts as a low murmur before building with each repetition to a full-throated yell. Union took its fair share of lumps in the season’s first three games. That made Friday’s 27-13 win over Prairie at District Stadium that much sweeter.
The Titans entered Friday having allowed 48.0 points per game in losses to three tough Class 3A opponents —traditional powerhouse O’Dea, reigning state champ Yelm and Mountain View.
Against Prairie, Union’s defense stepped up with a dominant second half, allowing just 68 yards. That’s the type of performance needed once 4A Greater St. Helens League play arrives in three weeks.
“We realized we just really had to step things up,” said Taylor Lepak, Union’s senior defensive end. “We’re a lot better than we were doing in the first half. The outcome came out good in the end. We’re glad to get the ‘W’ and move forward to next week.”
Union and Prairie were evenly matched in the first half as Union took a 14-13 lead to the locker room.
The second half was a different story. Union capped the opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by Chase Lofton, his second touchdown of the game.
Union’s offensive line wore down the Falcons as the game went on. Senior running back Alex Olson finished with a game-high 115 yards on 17 carries.
“At halftime Coad gave us a pretty good speech,” Olson said. “Then we just stepped it up.”
Union put and stranglehold on the game with two key plays midway through the fourth quarter. Facing third and 15 inside his own 20, Titans quarterback Blake McDonald hit Jordan Warren on a screen pass for 29 yards.
Three plays later, McDonald lofted a pass to Ben Hallead behind the Prairie defense for a 26-yard touchdown that put Union ahead 27-13 with 5:43 to play.
McDonald completed 11 of 21 passes for 142 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. McDonald took over at quarterback since starter Mitch Ratigan suffered a knee injury in the season’s first game.
Lepak returned an interception 18 yards to give Union a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. He also had three sacks and often pressured Prairie quarterback Isaac Watson when he scrambled outside of the pocket.
“The job is never finished,” Lepak said. “You’ve always got to keep moving forward and never get complacent. That’s how you get stuck in the dirt.”
UNION 27, PRAIRIE 13
Union 6 8 7 6—27
Prairie 0 13 0 0—13
U — Taylor Lepak 18 interception return (kick failed)
P — Braeden Slamp 3 pass from Isaac Watson (Slamp kick)
U — Chase Lofton 17 run (Alex Olson pass from Blake McDonald)
P — Slamp 7 pass from Watson (kick blocked)
U — Lofton 2 run (Canaan Moore kick)
U — Ben Hallead 26 pass from McDonald (kick failed)
RUSHING — Union: Alex Olson 17-115. Chase Lofton 6-38, Makaio Armstrong 4-27, Ben Hallead 2-3, Blake McDonald 4-(minus-1). Prairie: Pierson Lameh 24-86, Braeden Slamp 2-11, Isaac Watson 10-(minus-4), Preston Hill 1-0..
PASSING — Union: Blake McDonald 11-21-0-142, Ben Hallead 0-1-0-0. Prairie: Isaac Watson 19-32-1-161.
RECEIVING — Union: Jordan Warren 4-72, Chase Lofton 2-28, Ben Hallead 2-19, Rylan Stevison 3-22. Prairie: Braeden Slamp 9-66, Jackson Kimball 3-32, Damon Clark 1-14, AJ Burke 4-31, Alex Juhl 2-19.