The Bears (9-2) will host the winner of Saturday’s matchup between Tazewell and Graham in the second round.
Senior running back Mason Polier shouldered the load for the Bears, carrying the ball 39 times for 274 punishing yards and touchdown runs of 6, 22 and 10 yards.
Polier’s game-winning score with 5:17 left to play saw him bully his way into the end zone with Gate City defenders draped on both his shoulders.
“Hats off to Gate City,” Polier said. “They played tough, but so did we.
“It was an old-school ground-and-pound game.”
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Union won despite amassing 110 yards in penalties, four on personal fouls, three fumbles and an interception. Most of the miscues came in a sloppy first half.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot in the first half,” said Union coach Travis Turner. “In the second half, our offensive line took control and we were able to get Mason going.”
FINDING THE END ZONE
Union struck first at the start of the second quarter when Polier dashed into the end zone to put the Bears up 6-0.
On the final play of the half, Blue Devils quarterback Luke Reed connected with Carson Jenkins for a 24-yard scoring strike and a 7-6 lead at the break.
Gate City (4-7) used two lengthy third-quarter drives to consume almost eight minutes off the clock. The second — a 15-play, 78-yard masterpiece — culminated in a 7-yard TD pass from Reed to D’Andre Mack, putting the Blue Devils on top 13-6.
The Bears tied the score at 13 on Polier’s 22-yard blast into the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
Reed put Gate City on top one final time when he tossed a 26-yard TD pass to Jon Sallee with 7:47 remaining, but 2½ minutes later Polier knotted the score at 19. When Koby Crist split the uprights with his PAT, the Bears put their noses out in front for keeps.
Gate City turned over the ball on downs deep in Union territory with 3:10 left, and the Bears were able to run out the clock and survive.
Reed completed 11 of 24 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys,” said first-year Gate City head coach Jeremy Houseright. “Tonight they remembered who they were playing for: Gate City.”
(This story has been updated to correct Mason Polier’s yardage total.)