The Union Knights won their 2013 opener over the CP-U Stormin' Pointers Friday night, erasing memories of a 45-42 loss last year with a 26-16 road win.
Union's Iowa-commit Jay Scheel scored three first half touchdowns - all with his legs - and the Knights stingy defense held off a late charge by CP-U.
In recent memory, it's been the big play that has killed Union defenses in the past. Friday night, that wasn't the case against a Knights defense led by six seniors.
The Pointers opened the game with a false start, but nearly busted the big play that has been Union's kryptonite over the past few years. CP-U's second play from scrimmage was a 40-yard run - but that was their longest offensive play the entire night. CP-U ended their opening possession with a missed field goal, and the Knights capitalized.
Scheel opened the scoring with a 16-yard TD run in the first quarter. The Knights' QB was intercepted in the first quarter as well - which CP-U returned for a TD - but the touchdown was nullified on an illegal block.
The lightning-quick speed of Scheel was on display again in the second quarter. He added touchdown runs of 23 and five yards, sending the Knights to the locker room with a 19-0 halftime lead.
CP-U grinded out a scoring drive in the third quarter, finished off on a 3-yard TD by Logan Holtz. A successful two-point conversion followed, cutting the deficit to 19-8.
Union then looked to Scheel and running back Jacob Holschlag in the fourth quarter. The senior QB responded with his fourth touchdown run - a 2-yard carry - extending the Knights' lead, 26-8.
The Stormin' Pointers refused to go quietly. Nick Dighton returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, but the Knights defense held up in the end.
Union Head Coach Joe Hadachek - now in his seventh season at the helm - was pleased with his team's effort. "We had to play our starters for four quarters, which is great for our guys with minimal varsity experience. Give credit to our defense, they allowed just one touchdown all night, and they made them earn it. It wasn't the home run type of play we've seen in the past."
The Union offense piled up 424 yards, 261 coming on the ground and was forced to punt just three times. Holschlag led the team with 146 yards on 22 carries in his first varsity start. Scheel went 13-23 through the air for 163 yards and added 98 yards on 17 carries. Two juniors - Dylan Bear (4-76) and Brady Driscol (5-62) - led the receiving corps.
Defensively, Jace Hadachek racked up 10 tackles, and Cole Reiter and Holschlag had six apiece. Reiter recovered a fumble and Driscol added an interception. It was an all-around impressive defensive performance for Union who held the Stormin' Pointers to nine first downs and 211 yards of total offense.
Looking ahead to week two of the non-conference slate, Union welcomes the A-P Falcons to town in the Knights' home-opener. The Falcons crushed North Tama in their season-opener, 51-13. Coach Hadachek had nothing but good things to say about his upcoming opponent.
"They're a typical A-P football team. Nothing fancy, but they're hard-nosed, they have a grind-it-out mentality," said Hadachek.
The Knights' character was tested in the opener. They accumulated 92 penalty yards on 13 penalties and also lost the turnover-battle, 3-2.
"We have to take better care of the football. That will be a focal point this week."