Union advances to third round of Class 2A playoffs
Union wide receiver Keon Hutchins has been somewhat absent from the Yellowjackets offense the last part of season.
But the speedster showed up big on Friday night.
Hutchins had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown and three catches of 170 yards to help Union build an early lead and take a 42-18 win over Lefore County in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.
Union improves to 11-1 on the season and will travel to 2A power and undefeated Calhoun City on Friday in the third round of the Class 2A playoffs. The winner of that game will get the winner of the Charleston and Hamilton game.
Wren said his team was able to get a good win against an athletic Leflore County team.
“They were a team that really concerned me,” Wren said of Leflore. “I thought athletically that they were equal or better than we were. Up front, I thought they were better than we were on the offensive line. But I thought we did a good job of dominating the line of scrimmage. We threw it just effectively enough to make big plays when we needed to. Our run game was good enough to get the chains moving and on the goal line. Keon had a good game as well. It was a good team win.”
Leflore got the ball to start the game and went 50 yards in seven plays and scored on a 5-yard run with 8:55 left in the first. The try for two failed and Leflore led 6-0.
Union took the ensuing kick and drove the field on Leflore but threw an interception at the 8-yard line. But three three plays later, Union got a safety to cut the lead to 6-2.
Leflore punted the free kick and speedster Keon Hutchins fielded the punt and raced 70-yard down the Union sideline for a touchdown. The try for two failed and Union led 8-6.
Union then turned Leflore over on downs and the Yellowjackets went to Hutchins again, hitting the speedster on a 71-yard gainer to the Leflore 1. Ky’Yon Harris then scored on the 1-yard run with 11:29 left in the second quarter. The try for two failed and Union led 14-6 early in the second.
Leflore answered with an 11-play, 80-yard drive and scored on a 5-yard run. The try for two failed and Union held a slim 14-12 lead.
Union again went to Hutchins as he hauled in a 39-yard pass to the Leflore 1-yard line again. This time, Xavier Boler scored on a 1-yard run with 7:56 left in the half. Samuel Alawine’s PAT was good and Union led 21-12.
After a Leflore punt, Union went 70 yards in two plays as Hickman hit Hutchins on a short crossing route that he turned into a 62-yard touchdown with 3:35 left in the half. Alawine’s PAT was good and Union led 28-12 at the half.
“Keon had a big game for us,” Wren said. “This last half of the season, everybody has bracketed him wherever he goes and sometimes they put three with him. We knew going into the season that would happen. But Leflore left him on an island and gave him some space. He’s going to win that one and did a good job. We didn’t throw him great balls but he did a great job of making plays when it wasn’t perfect. He was still able to come up with some big plays.”
Union punted and fumbled on its first two possessions of the second half but finally pulled away late in the third as Harris got loose on an 84-yard touchdown run with 3:41 left in the third. Alawine hit the PAT and Union led 35-12.
Leflore cut the lead to 35-18 on with a 60-yard run on the next possession.
Union put the game away late in the fourth as Boler scored on a 44-yard run. Alawine’s PAT was good and Union led 42-18.
“I was kind of disappointed in the third quarter,” Wren said. “At halftime, the talk was about putting them away. We had some drive-killing penalties and had a fumbled quarterback-running back exchange. The good thing is there was no freaking out or losing our cool. They just went and played the next play and you appreciate that from your kids.”
On offense, Union had 324 yards rushing as Boler ran for 206 yards on 22 carries. Harris had 97 yards on four carries and two TDs while Hickman had 11 yards on two carries.
Hickman was 4-of-10 passing for 170 yards with one TD and one interception. Hutchins had three catches for 170 yards and one TD and also had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown.
On defense, Zi Buckley had a season-high 14 tackles while Kobe Hutchins had nine stops. Harris had eight tackles and two for a loss while Omari Holliday had eight tackles and a fumble recovery. Hayden Dolan had six tackles and an interception while Cameron Hickman had six tackles and a sack. Aiden Davis had six tackles and a fumble recovery while Vaiden Bouder had six tackles. Xavier Boler, Wade Norton and Donovan Boler each had two tackles.
Union advances to the Class 2A North semifinals as they travel north to Calhoun City.
Calhoun City is 11-0 on the season and is coming off a 36-6 win over Northside. Calhoun City has outscored opponents 455-87 on the season. Senior running back Jamajah Mayes lead the run-heavy team with 1,559 yards. On the year, the Wildcats have rushed for 2,915 yards and have thrown for 796 yards.
“You can tell that they are well coached,” Wren said. “They will base out a 3-4 on defense and are very similar to us on offense. They will spread you out to attack the gaps in the run game. They have speed everywhere and have several guys that will scare you. They are big and physical up front. It’s going to be a huge challenge for to go beat them at their place.”