by Hunter Bower // GeauxPreps.com Owner
NEW ORLEANS – It was the ending that Union Parish hoped to write in a book chok full of heartbreaking chapters as the Farmers scored a game-winning two-point conversion and upend St. James, 36-35, in the Non-Select Division III state championship game.
After going down 35-28 with under nine minutes remaining in the contest, Union Parish put together a 14-play, 78-yard drive capped by the winning touchdown and two-point attempt from Island to put an exclamation on what turned out to be a storybook season.
The state championship win ended Union’s drought of three consecutive trips to the finals without a win and captured the program’s first title since 2013 and third overall in school history. The Farmers finished 10-4 on the year. Friday’s loss dropped St. James to 11-3 on the year while earning the program a sixth runner-up finish.
“Not very many counted us in this year,” said Union Parish head coach Joe Spatafora. “There was no doubt in my mind we were going to make it (two-point conversion). We’ve been in this position before and ultimately it worked in our favor.”
Union Parish became just the ninth school in LHSAA history to win a state championship with four or more losses.
The two teams traded scores while combining for over 450 yards of total offense and six combined touchdowns in just the first half alone.
Union Parish struck first as Jorden Hill broke away for a 56-yard touchdown pass that held for the first 10 minutes of the ball game. The Wildcats responded with a touchdown with under three minutes remaining but it was Hill that lit up the scoreboard again just seconds later to five the Farmers a 14-6 lead.
Hill was named Union’s Most Outstanding Player after finishing the game with 187 total yards and four total touchdowns, including three on the ground. Hill averaged 12.1 yards per carry in the game.
St. James responded with a pair of touchdowns to gain its first lead of the game highlighted by Brayden William’s 74-yard touchdown toss to Kobe Brown followed by a 30-yard rush from Williams.
Union punched in the final score before the half as tailback Jy’Marion Island helped Union regain the lead 21-20.
In the second half, St. James used a pair of scores to come back from a halftime deficit to gain a seven-point lead over the Farmers. Brayden Williams was named the Wildcats’ Most Outstanding Player with 164 yards through the air and 95 more on the ground along with four total touchdowns.
In a contest that featured explosive plays and a strong running attack from both teams, Union Parish rushed for 329 yards while the Wildcats contributed 229 yards on the ground. In total, the two teams combined for 800 yards in the game, a record that broke last year’s total combined mark of 799 yards set by Many and Union Parish.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• 8:55 – UNION | The Farmers used a Jorden Hill 56-yard dash to take an early 7-0 lead over St. James
• 2:53 – ST. JAMES | Brayden Williams capped a 14-play, 73-yard drive with a touchdown run from a yard out. Union led by one following a missed Wildcat PAT
• 2:35 – UNION | Jorden Hill broke loose for another long touchdown run again as he sped into the endzone on a 48-yard run and give the Farmers a 14-6 lead.
• 2:18 – ST. JAMES | Kobe Brown hauled in a magnificent 73-yard touchdown pass from Williams to cut into the lead again but another missed extra point attempt retained Union’s lead, 14-12.
• 10:54 – ST. JAMES | Williams accounted for this third touchdown of the night on a 30-yard touchdown rush and take its first lead of the game with a 20-14 score.
• :16 – UNION | The Farmers regained the lead just before the break as Jy’Marion Island broke away for a 39-yard run in to go up 21-20.
• 3:09 – UNION | Jorden Hill struck again for the Farmers on a 6-yard touchdown on a 13-play, 84-yard scoring drive to extend the Union lead to a 28-20 score.
• 11:46 – ST. JAMES | Williams tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Trenton Ester while a two-point conversion allowed the Wildcats to come back and tie the ball game at 28 all.
• 9:08 – ST. JAMES | On a play to help St. James regain the lead, Kani King Young sprung loose for an 18-yard touchdown following a key interception by Gary White to kill Union’s attempt to play keep away.
• :11 – UNION | Island scored the most important touchdown of his life as he punched his way into the end zone on a 4-yard carry to tie the ballgame and converted on a two-point attempt to win the ballgame.