By Cheyne Reiter
This past Friday night, the Union Knights hosted the 3A District 5 leading Maquoketa Cardinals for homecoming. Union came in at 4-1 (2-1) while Maquoketa was 4-1 (3-0), so a win for the Knights would have spoiled any chances that Maquoketa had of running the table in District 5. Led by quarterback Chase Coakley, halfback Craig Johnson, and a huge defensive line, Maquoketa didn't have much trouble vs. a tough Union team.
The Knights starting lineup saw the return of two key starters in Trev Hadachek and Wes Burnside. Burnside returned to his normal halfback spot while Hadachek saw his first wide receiver duties as sophomore Jay Scheel remained at the QB position. After a rare interception by Coakley in Maquoketa territory, Union stormed down the field. After a big connection to tight end Brad Gallup, Burnside busted through for a 3-yard touchdown score to put the Knights up 6-0.
The Maquoketa Cardinals figured out the Knight defense quickly. Once a false start and illegal block-in-the-back penalty pushed the Cards into a 1st and 19 situation, Coakley kept his poise and found a wide-open Perry Hawks down the sideline for a 44-yard touchdown pass. Just like that, the Cardinals found themselves up 7-6.
Still in the first quarter, the Knights sustained another productive drive after a couple key completions to Hadachek. The Knights saw a glimpse of vintage Wes Burnside as a 17-yard score saw him stiff-arm one Cardinal defender and trample over another to put Union up 12-7. Little be told, that bruising touchdown by Burnside would be the last touchdown for Union for the rest of the night.
In the second quarter, Maquoketa's Craig Johnson plunged in from 1-yard out after Coakley led the Cards efficiently down the field. Maquoketa led 14-12 and wouldn't relinquish that lead for the remainder of the ballgame. After a Knights punt, Coakley found his star receiver Jon Bopes in the corner of the end zone for a 21-12 lead. The Knights answered with their two-minute offense and Brady Petersen booted a long 38-yard field goal to pull the Knights within six at half, 21-15.
The second half was a tale of field position. Time and time again, the Knights started deep inside their 20 yard line and when forced to punt, Maquoketa would start with the ball in Knights territory. The Cardinals took advantage of the short field two times in the third quarter. The first was capped off with a scramble by Coakley before he threw back across the field to an uncovered Perry Hawks for a 4-yard touchdown. The second was finished by Johnson on a 3-yard run, and Maquoketa saw themselves leading 35-15 heading to the fourth quarter.
With the Knights trailing by 20, Burnside saw limited carries in the fourth . The Knights were unable to put together any threat against a scarily athletic Cardinal defense. Maquoketa successfully burned up much of the clock in the fourth quarter and headed home as 35-15 victors.
Offensively, the Knights were only able to muster 180 yards of total offense, a surprisingly low number for an offense with many play-makers. Scheel completed 10 of 23 passes for 146 yards in his second career start. Hadachek was Union's leading receiver with 95 yards on five receptions and Gallup added three catches for 42 yards. Burnside carried 20 times for just 49 yards and two touchdowns, uncharacteristic numbers for 3A's defending top rusher from 2010.
Defensively, the Knights were unable to stop Coakley as he was 9 of 16 for 142 yards, three touchdowns and one interceptions. He also scrambled 13 times for 89 yards. Halfback Craig Johnson carried 28 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns on the night. Will Crees led all Knight tacklers with 11 and one tackle for loss. Dylan McLaughlin also contributed 10 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and also recovered a fumble. Although the Knights were unable to walk away with a victory, they did win the turnover battle two to zero as Brendan Kuhn came up with an interception on Maquoketa's opening drive.
Union now sits at 4-2 overall and 2-2 in district 5, tied for third place with both Marion and Central Clinton-DeWitt. The Knights travel to Epworth next Friday for another tough test against co-leader of district 5, Western Dubuque. The game will kick off at 7:30 following the 5:15 sophomore game.