Union City defense stymies Jonesville, late touchdown propels Chargers to win

UNION CITY — “We've Got A Defense”Union City defensive coordinator Fred Bradford shared just those four words with his team following Friday night’s Big 8 war with the Jonesville Comets, a battle that saw Union City break a scoreless tie with just 1:37 left on the clock. The Union City defense sealed the win with an interception on the final play of the game as the clock expired, giving the Chargers the big 6-0 victory.“We overcame three or four turnovers early on, I mean we didn’t even get the ball for the first seven minutes of the game due to turnovers but all the credit goes to the defense, they came to play today,” said Union City head coach Doug Counterman. “I don’t know how many yards we gave up but it wasn’t many and against a very good Jonesville team. It was just a great night for football.”The name of the game Friday night was defense, and as coach Bradford mentioned earlier, the Union City Chargers have a defense, and a very good one at that.The stingy Union City defense only allowed 91 total yards to Jonesville, including 48 through the air and 43 on the ground. In comparison the Union City offense also struggled a little, only putting up 195 total yards, including 124 on the ground and 71 through the air. The Chargers also never allowed the Comets to reach the red zone. The defensive front for Union City proved to be the difference maker throughout the game, routinely disrupting plays by getting into the backfield and stonewalling any run inside. Any runs that did get past the stout line were cleaned up by a very aggressive and hard hitting linebacker corp and secondary.Jonesville for their part also played stout defense, keeping the high powered Union City attack in check for much of the game. When Union City did move the ball the drives were stymied by ill timed penalties and even a few turnovers. Union City saw two scoring chances inside the 10 yard line stopped by the Comet defense, with the first scoring chance coming to an end with a fumble while the other saw an incomplete pass on fourth down lead to a turnover on downs.

Union City’s rough and tumble defense made their mark early as senior Grady Iobe started off the game with a huge tackle for a loss on the very first play, setting the tone for the remainder of the game. After a three and out from the Jonesville offense it appeared Union City would get their first chance at moving the ball, however the turnover bug bit the Chargers early. The high Jonesville punt was mishandled by the Charger returner, a ball that was recovered by the Comets, giving Jonesville possession once again at the 49-yard line with 10 minutes left in the first quarter.The Union City defense didn’t bat an eye, coming right back out and pushing the Comets backwards on their way to forcing another three and out, leading to another Jonesville punt. After a solid return on the punt it was finally time for the Chargers to try their hand at offense. Union City opened up with the Wing-T look and broke off a handful of solid runs with a stable of running backs who have not seen a ton of carries this season. Union City’s regular starting three, Dylon McDonald, Colton Russell and Owen Jackson, were slowed down due to lingering injuries, meaning a brand new backfield took the first snaps. Things looked good early for the Chargers until the turnover bug bit again as a well placed hit knocked the ball away from Charger junior Riley Laird, a fumble recovered by Jonesville at the 29-yard line with 5:52 left in the first quarter.Yet again the Charger defense stood tall, forcing a turnover on downs from the Jonesville offense and retaking control of the ball at the 35-yard line with 3:32 left in the first quarter.And so it would go for much of the game, with the teams trading possessions back and forth after varying degrees of success.

The game would head to the second quarter of play all knotted up at 0-0 with neither team really threatening.Union City changed that midway through the second quarter, taking possession of the ball at the 41 yard line after another big stop by the Charger defense. Union City opened up the offense and went to the air as sophomore quarterback Eli Payne connected with junior wideout Jeremy Zehr for a long pass play, putting the Chargers into the red zone for the first time in the game.Union City managed to move the ball all the way down to the six yard line before the drive was once again derailed by a fumble, as the quarterback/running back exchange between Payne and Caden Hughes was bobbled, a loose

The Union City defense was the key to the Chargers victory Friday night, pitching the shut out versus Jonesville
The Union City defense was the key to the Chargers victory Friday night, pitching the shut out versus Jonesville

ball that was recovered by Jonesville at the 5 yard line with 3:35 left in the second quarter.The disruptive Union City defense made things very interesting for Jonesville with their backs up against the goalpost, eventually forcing yet another three and out and a punt. The Chargers could not take advantage of the excellent field position however and after trading possessions with Jonesville to end the half, the teams went to the locker rooms tied 0-0 at the half.Union City opened the second half with possession and went back to the Wing-T, looking to impose their will and move the ball on the ground. The Chargers did just that in the early going, as newly minted running back Landyn Crance and the Charger offensive line gashed the Jonesville defense for big chunk plays early in the second half. The Chargers marched down the field and picked up a big first down that would have led to first and goal from inside the 10 yard line, however a costly Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty negated the first down run and pushed the Chargers well back. Union City could not overcome the penalty and gave possession back to Jonesville with once again no points.The teams continued to trade possessions throughout the third quarter, with Jonesville holding possession as the quarter came to a close, with the score still tied at 0-0. The end of the third quarter saw Union City once again make a big defensive play as senior Jakob Fosmore knifed through the Jonesville offensive line for a huge tackle for a loss, meaning the Comets would be facing a third and 14 to begin the fourth quarter of play. Jonesville connected on their first big play of the game to start the fourth quarter, setting up a perfectly timed throwback screen that went for big yards, giving the Comets a first down and new life. Jonesville saw their first sustained drive to begin the final quarter of play, moving past the 50 and into Charger territory. As they had done all game however the Union City defense put on the clamps and put a stop to the drive, forcing yet another turnover on downs at the 36 yard line with 10:44 left in the game.Union City’s offense continued to struggle however as the Chargers went three and out again, leading to a solid punt from senior Tyler Wagley that gave Jonesville possession at the 26 yard line with 7:48 left in the game.Once again the Union City defense stepped up with another huge play. On a third and long Jonesville looked to go to the air, but intense pressure on the Comet quarterback by the defensive line forced a deep off target throw. As he stumbled backwards and fell to his back, Union City senior Colton Russell stayed focused and hauled in the interception from his back, creating a big turnover and giving Union City possession at the 37-yard line with 7:37 left in the game.Union City once again went to the air and again connected on a huge play, with Payne going over the top and finding wideout Rick Austin down the left sideline. Austin out jumped his Jonesville defender and pulled down a 34 yard reception before he was tackled at the three yard line.Union City looked poised to finally get in the end zone and break the scoreless tie as they faced a first and goal from the three. The Jonesville defense however had other ideas. The Comets packed all their defenders in the box and put a stop to the Charger rushing game, keeping Union City out of the end zone for three straight plays. The Chargers were forced to go to the air on fourth and goal from the 4 yard line however Payne could not connect with fullback Owen Jackson in the flat, turning the ball over on downs once again with 4:12 left in the game.After Jonesville picked up one first down the Charger defense dug deep and came through again in the clutch, stopping Jonesville on third and short to force another punt from the Comets, this one coming from the 15-yard line. A short kick was fielded by Laird who made the first man miss, meaning he was off to the races. Laird weaved his way through traffic before being brought down at the 14-yard line with just 1:43 left in the game, giving Union City one more chance at a possible win.“You’ve got 1:43 on the clock to go win this game, so go do it,” yelled Union City head coach Doug Counterman to a ramped up Charger offense who looked ready to finally reach the end zone. After two plays went nowhere Union City dug deep into their bag of tricks, using a run play they had not run the whole season, the reverse counter. At the 14-yard line with 1:27 left, Payne took the snap and handed the ball off to Crance heading to the right. Crance then handed the ball off to Laird who was in motion heading left, causing tremendous confusion with the Jonesville defense. Laird built up a head of steam and scampered into the end zone nearly untouched for the first points of the game, an absolutely huge 14-yard touchdown run. The two point conversion was no good but the damage had been done, with Union City now leading 6-0.Jonesville would get the ball back with one timeout and a long field ahead of them. Unfortunately for them, an angry group of Chargers stood in their way.Forced to air it out on every play, the Comets did all they could to move down the field, hitting on several pass plays that took up a good chunk of time and not enough yards in the process. Jonesville looked to have a good chance on a deep pass to inside the five yard line as the clock ticked down, however Charger sophomore Rick Austin out jumped the Jonesville receiver to knock down the pass with just 3.1 seconds left on the clock. With just one more play the Chargers sent their defenders well back in a Prevent defense. The Comets attempted a Hail Mary pass but the Union City defense sealed the victory with an interception by Landyn Crance as time expired, giving the Chargers the hard fought and well deserved 6-0 victory.

Leading the Union City offensive effort was Riley Laird who had 14 carries for 65 yards and the only touchdown of the game. Also adding to the rushing game was newly minted running back Landyn Crance who had 13 carries for 40 yards.

Sophomore Eli Payne finished the game completing 5 of 16 passes for 71 yards with Rick Austin hauling in one catch for 35 yards. Jeremy Zehr caught two balls for 29 yards while Landyn Crance and Luke Watson both hauled in a catch.

Senior defensive lineman Grady Iobe had an absolutely huge game as he was a big disruptive force throughout the night. Iobe recorded six total tackles with three of those tackles coming for a loss.Also adding to the Union City defense was Landyn Crance with seven tackles and an interception; Luke Watson with seven tackles; Phoenix Elkins with four tackles; Tyler Wagley with five tackles and one for a loss; Owen Jackson with five tackles; and Colton Russell with five tackles and an interception.

With the loss the defending Big 8 champion Jonesville Comets fall to 0-3 on the season with their next matchup coming next Friday when they host the Bronson Vikings.Union City meanwhile improves to 2-1 on the year and now looks toward a trip to Reading to take on the powerful Rangers.“Defense is what we hang our hat on,” said Counterman. “We can throw the ball around a little bit and we can run the ball, although we are a little banged up. Our top three runners were limited today, meaning a group young players who haven’t gotten a lot of carries had to step up. Hopefully we will be able to heal up real quick and be ready for the Rangers come Friday.”Union City will now set their sights on Reading who remains unbeaten on the young season. The two teams will battle it out next Friday with kick off scheduled for 7 p.m.

This article originally appeared on Coldwater Daily Reporter: Union City defense stymies Jonesville, late touchdown propels Chargers to win