ROSE HILL — Homestanding Union High came within less than 2 minutes of pulling off the season’s and perhaps the school’s biggest upsets on the gridiron Friday. But a late fumble opened the door for the visiting Eagles of East Bladen and they took advantage, scoring a touchdown to secure a 12-8 Four County Conference win over the Spartans.
The victory improves East Bladen to 8-2 overall and 4-2 in the conference, while Union falls to 5-5, 2-4.
After forcing a Union punt to open the game, East Bladen took over a promptly turned the ball over on a fumble. The ball was picked up by the Spartans and returned 40 yards for a score, but the play was nullified on a penalty. Union marched to the Eagles’8 before the ball was turned over on downs at the East Bladen 10.
The Eagles put together a 90-yard, 10-play drive that was highlighted by a 64-yard run by Eian Hines and, on a fourth down play, quarterback Alex Coates hit Zachary Johnson in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful but East Bladen had a 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Spartans answered with a 56-yard march in only five plays, finding the end zone on an 8-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion was good and Union took an 8-6 lead with 2:40 left in the half.
Turnovers plagued the third quarter for both teams and neither could get to pay dirt.Union managed to reach the East Bladen 23 before a fumble recovered by Xavia McDowell stopped the threat; the Eagles moved the ball to the Spartans’ 12 before they turned the ball over on downs.
In the fourth quarter, East Bladen mounted a 75-yard drive to the Spartans’ 4 late in the game, but Union stiffened and stopped the threat at its own 6. On the Spartans’ third play, the ball popped loose and was recovered by Sincere Smith at the Union 6.
On East Bladen’s first play, Hines busted through for a 6-yard touchdown and, when the two-point conversion failed, the Eagles held a 12-8 lead with 1:41 left to play.
Union could mount no comeback and the clock ran out.
Hines led East Bladen’s ground game with 133 yards on 14 carries, and Coates was 2-for-5 through the air for 31 yards. Johnson caught one pass for 18 yards and Kyle Tatum caught one for 13 yards.
The Eagles will host the annual Battle for the Bell on Friday against West Bladen.