NEW ALBANY – East Union – trailing 6-0 at halftime – was looking to open the second half with a big bang in Thursday’s Waterway Conference championship game against New Albany.
The Urchins attempted an onside kick. Ka-boom! It worked.
Seventh grader Ben Basil recovered the ball at the Bulldogs’ 39-yard line. Seven plays later, running back Hayden Frazier bulldozed in on a 2-yard touchdown run.
Jordan Mears caught a two-point conversion pass from quarterback Drew Holliman to give the Urchins a two-point lead in their eventual 14-6 victory in the junior high football battle.
“That was the killer. That was tough,” New Albany coach Chris Duncan said.
The kick, Duncan said, went to a new player on the kick receiving team. The player who’s usually playing there was out with a broken finger.
“I think that really turned the tide,” said East Union coach Scott Duley, who received an ice-water shower from his players following the game. “Football is an emotional game and that sparked something in the boys. They got excited. We were able to go down and score a touchdown.
“From there their fire was lit. That was the turning point in the game. Our kids executed and I was very thankful.”
Basil was just looking to make a play on the kick.
“I wanted to get the ball for my team,” he said. “It was nice to come from behind and win.”
Duley credited Basil for his effort on the kick recovery.
“Ben’s able to elevate his level of play in the biggest moments,” Duley said.
The Urchins scored their final touchdown with 5:26 remaining in fourth quarter on Frazier’s 29-yard run.
“I was kicked on the play before and I went back to the huddle and told them, ‘Give me the ball,’” Frazier said. “It felt pretty good to score.”
East Union (8-1) used a two-back Wildcat set most of the second half with Frazier and Mears in the backfield. Frazier rushed for 82 yards on 13 carries and Mears had 26 yards on nine carries.
“It was a Wildcat with very two large eighth graders in the backfield,” Duley said, then smiled. “They executed it well.”
East Union’s Charles Blackard intercepted a New Albany pass with 1:08 remaining to seal the victory.
New Albany (6-2) scored it lone touchdown with 26 seconds remaining in the first half on a 66-yard pass from Jobe Reed to Earl Cortland. Reed was 5 of 7 passing for 95 yards.
Kelan Simpson led the Bulldogs ground game with 36 yards on 11 carries.
The matchup was the first time two Union County schools had played for a championship in junior high football. New Albany defeated East Union 8-0 in their regular season game.
“It’s a big deal,” Duley said. “It was great night for Union County. New Albany’s a good team. We had to fight for every single inch, every single yard.”
More photos from the Waterway Conference Championship coming online and in Wednesday's New Albany Gazette from Luke Bolen, Gazette intern.