James Mitchell, taking the snaps from the quarterback position, rushed 19 times for 113 yards and a touchdown and returned a punt 55 yards for a score to spark Union, which scored 21 unanswered points in the second half in a 24-6 Mountain 7 District win over Lee High at Five Star Stadium.
Mitchell’s touchdowns and a 61-yard touchdown pass from Lee’s Connor Pendergraft to Sam Pennington provided the offensive highlights in a game dominated by defense.
“We felt like it was going to be two really good defenses going at each other,” said Lee coach Jeremy Pendergraft.
He was right. Neither offensive unit could move the football, particularly in the first half.
“They just took it to us in the first half,” said Union coach Travis Turner.
With Union starting quarterback Bailey Turner lost for the season because of a knee injury, the Generals (3-3, 0-2) loaded up the box on defense and stopped the Bears’ rushing attack.
“Everybody we play is going to load it up on us. We’ve got to continue to work on things and get better. We had drastic change at the quarterback spot and we’re just going to get through it,” Turner said.
The Bears (7-0, 3-0) looked confused at times on offense with the quarterbacking duties being split between NCAA Division I prospect Mitchell and senior Zack Qualls.
“We’re still looking. We’ve got to continue to get better offensively and figure out the passing game,” Turner noted. “They had us third-and-long in some situations and we couldn’t convert the pass. That happens when you’re playing second- and third-team quarterbacks.”
Pendergraft was happy with his team’s performance, particularly defensively in the first half.
“Union is the best team in the area and everyone knows it. But we really felt like we belonged and we could pull this thing off,” said Pendergraft, whose team held a 6-3 lead at halftime.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Dakota Owens after intermission put the Bears out front for good.
Mitchell scored on a 27-yard run on Union’s first drive of the final quarter. Then after Lee failed to move the ball on its next drive, Mitchell returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown.
“We got a little banged up with some injuries in the second half. The difference in the game is we got a little banged up and they’ve got (Mitchell), who’s a dynamic football player,” Pendergraft said.
The game came to a stop with about three minutes left when Lee’s Josh Tritt suffered a scary injury. Tritt was taken from the field in an ambulance.