FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ- The Union High School Farmers varsity football team continued to hang on in a game that featured a scoreless first half and fought, despite trailing at a few points of the second half.
Following a Union punt with 6:15 left in the fourth quarter, Franklin got the ball at the Union 41-yard line and with the Warriors facing third-down-and-14 from the Farmers 45-yard line, senior Tayo Badru came with a huge 33-yard reception, securing the ball and gaining the yardage to keep the Warriors’ drive alive.
They took the lead on a two-yard rushing touchdown from Dalen Merricks and following the extra point, Union trailed 14-7 with 1:43 left, but on the next play, Union immediately responded when they needed to step up to remain in the game.
Senior Andy Martin, who tied the game at 7-7 in the third quarter, got the ball and broke right near an opening right up the sidelines and stormed towards the end zone to shock everyone in attendance with a 76-yard kickoff return for the touchdown to cut the deficit to 14-13.
As Union lined up for the extra point, sophomore Andrew Sanborn kicked the ball, but it was no good. The Farmers attempted an onside kick, but the Warriors recovered it and had an opportunity to ice the game. However, a bad snap led to a lost fumble and suddenly, Union put themselves in a major opportunity to set up to win the game.
With 1:26 left, Union began at their own 49-yard line. They faced fourth-down-and-8, but converted to keep the drive alive. However, the Farmers faced another fourth-down play and couldn’t convert, turning the ball over and the Warriors ran out the clock to secure the win by the final score of 14-13 Friday night in Franklin Township in Somerset County.
The first half featured missed chances from both teams including a few deep passes that were dropped, some that could have potentially resulted in touchdowns in the scoreless first half.
“We just didn’t make a lot of plays that were there,” Union head coach Lou Grasso, Jr. said. “We have our opportunities against good teams, which Franklin is a good team, we have to make those plays and tonight, we didn’t. We’ve got to work this week to try to take care of these opportunities.”
After a scoreless first half, Union got the ball once the second half started, but after gaining 15 yards on the drive, sophomore Andrew Sanborn threw a pass, but was intercepted by senior Tayo Badru, setting up the Warriors at the Union 30-yard line.
The turnover was costly, as Franklin took the next drive to the end zone, capping it off with a 15-yard rushing touchdown from senior Tony Scott and following the extra point, the Warriors took the 7-0 lead with 8:58 left in the third quarter.
Later in the quarter, the Union Farmers started a drive at their own seven-yard line and continued to push to get back in the game. Junior Justin Peterman delivered on the ground, a 26-yard gain to give the Farmers more yardage to work with. They took advantage on a personal foul penalty that was called on Franklin, moving them near midfield.
Sanborn finished the drive with a deep throw for Martin, who redeemed himself following a few missed catches for a 51-yard receiving touchdown from Sanborn and following the extra point, the game was tied 7-7, the score after the third quarter.
The Farmers are now on a three-game losing streak after winning the first two games. They remain focused on setting the tone as they prepare for the rest of the season.
“To start off with practice, we’ve got to come and be hard at practice,” Martin said. “It showed we didn’t play hard enough in practice when we came over here.”
In the loss, Sanborn went 11-for-26 with 112 passing yards and the touchdown pass to Martin, along with the interception.
“I’ve got to not let the pressure get to me,” Sanborn said. “I missed a couple of passes in the beginning. When you let it get to your head, you think about it and it affects you in the future, so I just have to work on that. I just have to get the ball where I have to get it.”
The Union Farmers (2-3) return home to play Ridge HS on Friday, October 20 at 7:00 p.m.