Big plays hurt Lions
Union County quarterback Josh Steele hit receiver Eli Turner for a 56-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, as the Patriots executed their first of many big plays on their way to a 40-27 victory over The King’s Academy on senior night.
Big plays were the theme for Union County as Steele amassed 319 yards and four touchdowns through the air at the half, and went on to throw for more than 420 yards.
“A lot of the credit goes to Union County,” said TKA coach Matt Lowe. “But so much of that first half was about missed tackles. We were getting guys on contact and to the football. We just couldn’t bring them down.”
After falling down early, TKA quarterback Adam Deatherage hit receiver Ridge Palmer in the end zone for 22 yards to tie the game at 7-7.
The Patriots bounced right back as Steele connected on throws of 57 and 94 yards to receivers Blake Wallace and Matthew Torbett to retake a 19-7 lead.
The Lions answered when Jason Maduafokwa capped off a 56-yard drive with a nine-yard run to cut the deficit to 19-14. Union County would add a score before the break on another 50-yard catch by Turner to take a 27-14 lead into the half.
Penalties became a factor with over 150 penalty yards in the first half alone. Many of those seemed to come at critical times for the Lions.
“You just have to become more disciplined,” said Lowe. “Live-ball mistakes with people being overly aggressive, you can handle those, but dead-ball mistakes where it’s just focus. There’s just no room for that.”
Union County picked up right where they left off in the second half, recovering a TKA fumble and marching 72 yards down the field, highlighted by a 59-yard touchdown run by Bobby Ayers.
Offensively the Lions were able to pick it up in the second half as Deatherage led his team down the field in a hurry, hitting Palmer again, this time for an 80-yard score.
“In the second half, we just really focused in,” Deatherage said. “We said we have to start picking it up and we have to score.”
The Lions would add one more touchdown on a 13-yard reception by Isaiah Gilmore, but TKA would get no closer as the Patriots spoiled senior night for the home team.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Deatherage. “I have been here seven years. I got to know a lot of people really well. I had a lot of really good teachers and coaches. It’s definitely bittersweet, but it’s good to know we still have a few games left.”