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Bears don’t flinch during trip into hostile territory

Jeff Birchfield • Sep 1, 2018 at 10:44 PM

RICHLANDS — Two weeks into the season, Union’s football team shows no signs of slowing down.

The Bears (2-0) lined up in a power backfield and piled up nearly 300 rushing yards in a 42-28 win at Richlands on Friday night. Coach Travis Turner credited their success to the push up front and the unselfishness of the running backs.

“All the credit goes to our offensive line — Carson Ray, Mason Short, Brennan Mullins, Trevor Wagner and Brandon Bunch. They did a tremendous job blocking up front,” Turner said. “Then our running backs — Aaron Stidham, Bryce Guerrant, Mason (Polier) and Avery (Jenkins) — they all did a good job, not only running the football, but blocking for each other.”

Jenkins rushed for 127 yards and three touchdowns, and Polier finished with 125 yards.

If anyone wondered how the Bears, who reached last year’s state semifinals, would respond after losing star tight end James Mitchell, now at Virginia Tech, two other all-state selections and a host of other talented players to graduation, the Bears answered with a tough 35-20 win over J.I. Burton in Week 1.

However, to go to Richlands with nine new starters on defense and beat the Blue Tornado on their home field inside a packed stadium was taking it to another level.

“It’s a different feel when you play at Richlands,” Turner said. “We have such a tremendous respect for coach (Greg) Mance and their program. It’s a tough environment to play in with such a hostile crowd. It’s good to see some of our inexperienced kids win in that type of environment.”

Big plays helped the Bears weather the Blue Tornado. They included a 70-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bailey Turner to Jenkins that gave Union a 21-14 lead late in the first half, and TD runs of over 50 yards by Jenkins and Polier.

The Bears also had a number of big defensive plays, even with quarterback Race Moir throwing for 260 yards and all four Richlands touchdowns. With a little over two minutes in the game, Guerrant intercepted a tipped ball and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown for the game’s final score. Noah Garrison also intercepted a Moir pass in the fourth quarter, and earlier the Bears made a big stop on a fourth-down try near midfield.

The Bears host Letcher County, Ky., this Friday at 7 p.m. Turner promises the team will be ready to go after enjoying the big win.

“We just have some good kids,” he said. “They work hard, they’re coachable and they want to continue the process of what we have going on with our football program. Once Sunday gets here, it’s time to move on to the next game. One thing we’ve preached is you can live in the past. Last year’s team, what they’ve done can’t help this year’s team. These kids want to create their own identity and hopefully we’re in the process of doing that.”

Contact Sports Writer Jeff Birchfield at [email protected]

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