UNION – Over at Cooke Memorial Field Thursday morning, Linden came back to win its third straight game and hand host Union its first home loss, pulling off a 31-27 Thanksgiving Day triumph.
After trailing 7-0, 14-7 and 14-13 in the first half, Linden outscored Union18-13 in the second half to improve to 4-6. Union lost its second straight and finished 5-4.
Union still leads the series, now by a 35-30-5 margin.
Linden, which defeated Union for the first time since 2009, is now preparing for Friday night’s North 2, Group 4 semifinal at Warren Hills (4-6).
Linden’s first win last year after a 0-2 start was a 35-0 home triumph over Warren Hills.
Union scored on its first possession against Linden, driving 70 yards in four plays. Senior quarterback Doug Carter completed a 47-yard touchdown pass to junior running back Jabree Robertson, who beat single coverage.
Linden answered when senior cornerback Desmond Blocker took the ball away from receiver Jamauri Bogan and returned a first quarter interception 40 yards down the right sideline for six points.
Union went ahead 14-7 later in the period when Robertson dove in the left corner of the end zone to complete a 16-yard TD run.
After having its previous drive stall at the Union six-yard line, Linden pulled to within one point when junior quarterback Dazzmen Johnson rolled right and completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Juwan Jones. Corey Ampey’s extra point attempt was wide right.
Union senior placekicker Jason Braga was 2-for-2 on extra point attempts in the first half and just missed making a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. Ampey was 1-for-2 on first half extra points.
On the possession when Union scored its second touchdown, Bogan – earlier on the drive – had a 37-yard touchdown run down the right sideline called back because of a Union illegal motion penalty.
Linden junior defensive lineman Wesley Clervoyant produced a sack in the first quarter that ended a Union drive and forced the Farmers to punt.
Linden junior linebacker Tykir West returned an interception deep into Union territory with 46 seconds left in the second quarter. However, the turnover was erased because Lindenwas flagged for having 12 players on the field.
Linden, which was 1-6 after losing at Watchung Hills 35-21 on Oct. 26, has now won four games by a total of nine points.
The Tigers are 48 minutes of football away from reaching only their third championship game and first since 1985.
Linden’s last three victories have come over playoff teams – Bridgewater-Raritan, Barringer and Union.
UNION COUNTY THANKSGIVING DAY
Linden 31, Union 27 – at Union
Westfield 30, Plainfield 16 – at Plainfield
Johnson 33, Rahway 20 – at Johnson
New Providence 30, Gov. Livingston 20 – at New Providence
RosellePark 28, Roselle 14 – at Roselle Park
UNION COUNTY TEAMS IN NJSIAA SEMIFINALS:
Friday, Nov. 30
North 2, Group 5
4-Franklin (6-4) at 1-Elizabeth (9-0), 7 p.m.
North 2, Group 4
7-Linden (4-6) at 6-Warren Hills (4-6), 7 p.m.
North 2, Group 3
3-Palisades Park (8-2) at 2-Cranford (7-2), 7 p.m.
North 2, Group 1
3-NewProvidence (8-2) at 2-Roselle Park (8-2), 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 1
North 2, Group 3
4-Parsippany Hills (8-2) at 1-Summit (10-0), 1 p.m.
UNION COUNTY TEAMS DONE FOR 2012:
Scotch Plains (5-5)
Gov. Livingston (2-8)