WESTFIELD – Andrew Sanborn knew that if Union was to prevail over Westfield he was going to have to make a big play.
The standout quarterback probably thought it would come from his arm.
However, it came from his foot.
The three-year starter at QB for the Farmers actually made his varsity debut as a punter his freshman season. It was a punt of 50 yards that pinned Westfield deep in its own territory in the latter stages of the fourth quarter that was the impetus for Union’s comeback.
The Farmers held Westfield, which began at its own 11-yard line, to a three-and-out. On first down Union linemen D’Shawn Etienne and Chiemela Onuegbu combined to sack Westfield quarterback Hank Shapiro for a four-yard loss.
After a 50-yard punt by Westfield and a Union clip, the Farmers began at their own 39. Junior running back Diante Wilson, who finished with a game-high 75 yards rushing on 10 carries, broke free up the middle for gains of 26 and 22 yards on consecutive plays.
Union reached the Westfield six-yard line before they were called for off sides in an attempt to draw Westfield off side.
With less than three minutes remaining senior placekicker Ricardo Casas was sent out to attempt a 27-yard field goal, hoping to give Union its first lead. Casas tied the game in the third quarter with an extra point following Union’s first points. They came on a three-yard touchdown pass from Sanborn to senior wide receiver Aaron Myrick.
The snap from junior Michael Hood to holder Myrick was perfect. So was the kick, with Casas putting through his first field goal of the season with 2:46 remaining.
Union held for the rest of the way en route to a come-from-behind 10-7 win over Westfield in Saturday afternoon’s Mid-State Conference-Watchung Division clash at Gary Kehler Stadium.
The hard-fought victory was Union’s first at Westfield since 2013, which was the last year Union reached a state championship game. The Farmers are seeking their first state title since 1993. Reaching 3-0 for the first time since 2016 in a year in which they have now defeated Westfield is a good start.
“I knew I had to kick the ball far,” Sanborn said of his 50-yard punt.
Sanborn also followed the Casas field goal by kicking the ball through the end zone for a touchback.
Casas admitted that he would rather have kicked six or seven extra points and not been in that situation, but he was ready for his opportunity to help push Union past Westfield for the first time in six years.
“I was nervous, obviously, but confident,” Casas said. “I needed to make this for the team. They were in a dogfight out there.”
Union trailed 7-0 at intermission and was staring at a fourth straight loss to Westfield at Kehler Stadium.
“We had to focus and fight through adversity,” said Sanborn, who guided Union to a 13-play, 58-yard scoring drive on the first possession of the second half. It concluded successfully on third-and-goal from the three-yard line when Sanborn rolled right and hit Myrick in the end zone for six points.
Westfield played its typical game on defense, yielding very little. Although Sanborn did complete six passes to senior wide receiver and Rutgers commit Ahmirr Robinson for 53 yards, the Blue Devils prevented the combination from reaching the end zone.
Union did not score in the second half of its last two games against Westfield and could not produce any points in the first half Saturday. However, the Farmers found a way to defeat the Blue Devils for the second straight season. Union last did that in 2012 and 2013.
Wilson’s explosiveness in the second half was just enough to allow the vaunted Westfield defense to play on its heels a bit. Wilson carried seven times for 62 of his yards in the game’s final 24 minutes.
“This feels great,” Wilson said. “Our line was great. We were very hungry.”
Sanborn completed 13-of-20 passes for 116 yards and one touchdown. He was three-for-three on Union’s scoring drive for 22 yards, completing his first two passes on the march to Robinson for 10 and nine yards.
Sanborn was a perfect seven-for-seven in the second half for 49 yards and his one touchdown pass.
Union senior running back Christian Murrell carried the ball 14 times for 63 yards.
Myrick’s only catch was his touchdown reception.
Other examples of Union defenders swarming to the ball included senior lineman Khari Parker tackling Shapiro for no gain on Westfield’s short possession before Union’s field goal and Wilson making a solo, open-field tackle after a minimal Westfield completion on its final drive.
On the game’s final play, with Westfield faced with a first-and-10 on its own 43 with just two seconds left, Onuegbu applied the pressure on Shapiro that resulted in a game-ending incomplete pass.
Union sophomore cornerback Davison Igbinosun, all game long, blanketed the Westfield receiver he was covering.
Shapiro was sharp early on, completing his first six passes. He was six-for-seven for 39 yards on Westfield’s scoring drive. The second Blue Devil possession of the game saw Westfield drive 80 yards in 16 plays and take more than eight minutes off the clock. It ended with Shapiro, who rushed for 21 yards on six carries, scoring up the middle from the five-yard line on third-and-goal.
Shapiro completed 17-of-26 passes for 111 yards. He was 10-for-13 for 71 yards in the first half.
Westfield senior running back Tim Alliegro carried the ball 12 times for 43 yards.
Westfield’s defense, guided by longtime defensive coordinator Ken Miller, has given up only two touchdowns in its first two games so far.
MID-STATE CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION
Union (3-0, 2-0) 00 00 07 03 – 10
Westfield (1-1, 1-1) 00 07 00 00 – 07
Westfield – Hank Shapiro 5 run, Mack Prybylski kick (W 7-0)
16 plays, 80 yards, 8:18 used
Union – Aaron Myrick 3 pass from Andrew Sanborn, Ricardo Casas kick
13 plays, 58 yards, 6:57 used
Union – FG Ricardo Casas 27 (U 10-7)
8 plays, from the Union 39 to the Westfield 11, 4:03 used