Jake McCray led Union with 118 yards rushing, two touchdowns and a game-clinching interception.
BEN HUR — The “Brawl for the Bucket” lived up to its billing.
Jake McCray led Union with 118 yards rushing, two touchdowns and a game-clinching interception, and the Bears outlasted Lee High in a 27-23 Mountain District win at Five Star Stadium Friday night.
Union (5-2, 2-0) retained stewardship of the game’s Dinner Bucket Trophy, which is provided by South-West Insurance Agency.
The Generals (3-3, 0-1) made a convincing bid to claim it for themselves.
The Bears trailed 20-14 with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter after an 8-yard scoring run by Lee quarterback Houston Sage.
Sage sent the following kickoff deep to McCray, who muffed it on the bounce, inadvertently kicking the ball upfield toward converging coverage. McCray scrambled for it, but Lee’s Aaron Rowe got to it first.
The Generals took over on the Bears’ 18-yard line, but the catastrophic error was muted by Union’s defense. Lee was confined to a 31-yard Sage field goal attempt, which went wide left.
Four snaps later, McCray rocketed off his blockers for a 66-yard scoring run with 9:33 left to play. Once capped by Brandon Simon’s point-after kick, that score put Union ahead 21-20 for its first lead of the game.
Led by intrepid scatback Ray Avery, who led all rushers with 183 yards on 31 carries, Lee pounded roughly 6½ minutes off the clock on a 12-play drive that set up Sage’s 29-yard field goal for the 23-21 advantage.
Union’s offense responded in kind, recovering the lead when the Bears blockers sprung Mekyah Davis for a 27-yard scoring run with 1:10 showing on the clock.
Sage rushed for 64 yards on the night, including a 1-yard TD sneak for Lee’s opening score, as he helped fill in for injured fullback Cody Haynes. Sage also threw for 72 yards.
The Generals’ signal-caller made a 16-yard scramble across midfield on Lee’s final possession, but the clock dictated throwing. The Bears’ secondary aligned itself accordingly.
McCray stepped up with his winning pick to end the suspense with less than a half-minute remaining.Read more in Saturday's print edition of the Times-News or in the expanded electronic edition.