PLAINFIELD — When Union’s offense performs up to full capacity, the Farmers are easily one of the most dangerous teams in the state.
On Saturday, they were just that.
Quarterback Andrew Sanborn played only one half and went off for four touchdown passes on 108 yards while completing 10-of-11 passes to lead Union past Plainfield, 42-12 — though it was 42-0 at halftime. Isaiah Stewart had his first true breakout game as a Farmer, hauling in 80 of those yards and grabbing two touchdowns, while Ahmirr Robinson and Jalen Carter each caught a TD and combined for 36 receiving yards.
But what makes the Farmers’ so potent is their balance between dominant rushing and passing, and that showed Saturday. Michel Lucien and Jacqu’e Cook each ran for a TD as Union gathered 173 total rushing yards.
“We are fortunate to have a lot of young men with the ability to make big plays,” Union head coach Lou Grasso said. “Our offense is designed to be versatile and adapt to what the defense gives us. The coaching staff and players work hard all week to develop a plan that can move the ball and score points.”
The off-season acquisition of transfer Stewart bolstered Union’s passing game and took it to the next level. But until Saturday, Stewart had yet to really show out and take over a game in the way he’s capable of.
That changed pretty quickly.
Stewart hauled in an eight-yard TD pass on the first play after Cook recovered a Plainfield fumble at the eight yard line to make it 28-0 only two minutes into the second quarter. Just six minutes later, Sanborn again hooked up with Stewart, this time on a 19-yard TD down the left sideline to complete a seven-play, 40-yard drive that made it a five TD (35-0) game.
Stewart has now been a part of two wins at Union — two more than the goose egg during his previous career at Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
“I mean first off I thank god to be on the other side of the scoreboard,” Stewart said. “Our mind set was to take their hearts early in the game and score everytime we touch the ball on offense, and that’s what we did.”
Stewart’s feats deflated Plainfield, and the dagger came on Murrell’s one-yard TD run with 48 seconds left in the half, finishing a 60-yard drive which Murrell also had a 20-yard run to place Union in the red zone. Murrell started the series with a 45-yard TD trot, but it was called back on a hold.
Murrell was given ample room to run by the work of Union’s starting offensive line — Khari Parker, Excellent Asare, JaQuan Robinson, Ernesto Hernandez, and Jared Durand, — which was outstanding Saturday.
“I thought they did an excellent job,” Grasso said. “We were able to run the ball and protect our quarterback, which are their main goals. They’re starting to come together as a unit. We only had one returning starter so hopefully they will continue to progress.”
Setting the tone for the afternoon right out of the gate, Union scored on its first drive of the game and never looked back. Cook finished the Farmers’ first series by taking a sweep from Sanborn into the end zone, and Union put up its first seven of 42 unanswered points after the extra point by Casas, who was a perfect 6-for-6 on PATs.
Union wasn’t done scoring in the first quarter though, and erupted for two more TDs in the final three minutes and change of the frame. Sanborn hit with Robinson on a 16-yard fade route in the left corner of the end zone with 3:05 left, and the Farmers quickly got the ball back after forcing a three-and-out on Plainfield’s ensuing drive.
Pinned at their 45 following the kickoff, Union ran down field as Murrell, Sanborn, and Lucien each picked up first downs on 10-yard runs to put the Farmers in the red-zone. One 1st-and-10 at the Plainfield 12 after Lucien’s run, Sanborn completed a pass to Carter, who took it to the house to make it 21-0.
“It’s always important to have a fast start,” Grasso said. “We were coming off of a disappointing offensive performance, so that kind of success was key.”
With a running clock mercy rule initiated for the second half, Plainfield finally got on the board when Demetrius Stevens ran for a 15-yard TD on the Cardinals’ first play of the half. QB Leonte Langston later threw a 36-yard TD pass to Kyle Sparrow on a slant down the left sideline with 4:12 remaining in the third quarter.