Union had it with close losses.
So when Friday night’s home game against Hunterdon Central became a one-possession contest for the second time, the Farmers were ready to make a statement.
No more fooling around.
Union returned two first-half kickoffs – including the opening one – for touchdowns, took a two-touchdown lead at intermission after Hunterdon Central pulled to within one score for the second time and then did not allow a point in the second half en route to a convincing 33-14 Mid-State 38 Conference-Delaware Division triumph.
Union senior Kyle Boyd quickly electrified the crowd at Cooke Memorial Field by returning the opening kickoff for six points.
Union led 13-0 before the visiting Red Devils scored. Hunterdon Central got the game to 13-7 and then again to 20-14 before Union scored once more in the second quarter to take a 27-14 halftime lead.
The Farmers cemented the victory in the second half by scoring one final touchdown and not allowing the Red Devils to reach the end zone again.
Union, which the last two weeks lost at Delaware Division leaders Bridgewater-Raritan 13-7 on a Thursday night and Elizabeth 10-7 on a Saturday evening, improved to 2-3 overall and 2-3 in the Delaware.
Suddenly the Farmers are back in the hunt for a playoff berth in North 2, Group 5, with qualifying games remaining at home against Hillsborough and at Watchung Hills and at Ridge.
“The last two weeks (against Bridgewater-Raritan and Elizabeth) we were right there, but didn’t execute at the end,” Union third-year head coach Lou Grasso, Jr. said. “We were good enough this time and now we hope to get on a roll.”
Hunterdon Central fell to 1-4 overall and 1-4 in league play.
Union senior Francis Okemezie returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the second quarter after Hunterdon Central pulled to within 13-7.
Boyd also had a touchdown reception and an interception.
Union junior Justin Beckett played well behind center, scoring on a long option run and passing for 150 yards.
Grasso said Union’s defense was sparked by a pass rush led by junior ends Mike Tverdov and Chris Bournes.
Also in Union County on a heavy night of action that included 11 games involving county squads:
* Brearley moved to 5-0 with a decisive 39-0 Valley Division home win over Manville, the Bears posting their first shutout of the season. The victory was No. 95 for 14th-year head coach Scott Miller.
* Dayton scored 50 at home in a 50-28 Valley Division triumph over South Hunterdon, the 2-3 Bulldogs winning on the field for the first time this year. Sparked by an offense led by quarterbacks Brian Martin and Joe Kastner, running back Antonio Salcfas and wide receiver Noah Goldberg, Dayton scored 50 points for the first time since Sept. 20, 2013 when it defeated Bound Brook 55-28 at home.
* Hillside scored 49 points on the road in a 49-34 Mountain Division triumph at Bernards. The Comets won their second straight to improve to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain Division.
* Linden blanked Scotch Plains 42-0 at home to join Brearley as Union County teams that posted their first shutouts.
* Linden and Dayton both produced their first home victories, while defending champion Linden and Union both improved to 2-3 and enhanced their playoff positioning in North 2, Group 5.
* In games including both teams undefeated, Bridgewater-Raritan won at Elizabeth 20-14 to improve to 5-0 overall and take the lead in the Delaware Division at 5-0. Elizabeth is now tied for second with Phillipsburg in the Delaware Division, both teams 4-1 in league play and 4-1 overall. Elizabeth plays at Phillipsburg next Friday night.
Cranford, with a record of 4-0, won at 3-0 Voorhees 49-24, defeating the Vikings in a battle of undefeated teams for the second straight season. Cranford has now won 16 straight regular season games dating back to the 2013 season and is now 40-9 (.816) since the beginning of the 2011 campaign.
* Cranford, with a record of 5-0, and Brearley, also 5-0, continue to lead the power point standings in their sections – Cranford in North 2, Group 3 and Brearley in North 2, Group 1. Brearley is the only undefeated team remaining in N2, G1.
* One of Union County’s other two undefeated teams – Westfield – improved to 4-0 by winning at 3-1 Ridge 37-13. The Blue Devils have won three of their four games by at least 24 points and next Saturday afternoon they have a big game at Immaculata. Westfield is 4-0 in the Watchung Division and Immaculata 5-0 overall and leading the Watchung at 5-0. Westfield has a brief two-game winning streak over Immaculata, both games played at Westfield’s Gary Kehler Stadium. Westfield downed the Spartans 37-6 on the playoff cutoff date weekend in 2011 and last year edged them 28-26. Bridgewater-Raritan (5-0), Piscataway (4-0) and Westfield (4-0) are the only remaining undefeated teams in North 2, Group 5.
* New Providence (4-0) and Johnson (1-3) have this weekend off. Saturday games include Roselle (1-3) at Summit (3-1) and Somerville (1-3) at Governor Livingston (1-3). Somerville and GL both have wins over North Plainfield.