UNION – Jamauri Bogan has rushed for more than a school-record 5,000 yards.
Senior running backs Bogan, Robertson score 2 TDs
However, none of those yards came in a playoff victory.
That was until Friday night.
The standout Union four-year varsity starter rushed for a game-high 176 yards on 28 carries and scored two touchdowns to help lead the second-seeded Farmers past seventh-seeded Watchung Hills 28-0 in a North 2, Group 5 quarterfinal at Cooke Memorial Field.
Union won its sixth straight to improve to 7-2, while Watchung Hills — guided by former Union player and head coach Marc Crisafi – lost its third straight to finish 5-5.
“It’s amazing to get one (a playoff victory),” said Bogan, who – not quite at 100 percent – carried the ball 16 times for 109 yards alone in the third quarter and both of his scores and was then able to sit out the fourth.
Union only led 7-0 at the half after throwing an interception in the end zone and losing a fumble inside the Watchung Hills one-yard line right before intermission.
“We have to clean up those mistakes,” Bogan said. “We knew against Watchung Hills that we had a size advantage, so we had to be physical.”
Fellow senior running back Jabree Robertson also had a solid game, carrying the ball 16 times for 88 yards and two scores.
Defensively, Union may have produced its finest effort so far this year. The Farmers limited Watchung Hills to just 25 yards of offense in the first half and did not allow the Warriors to get a first down until there was 9:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. Watchung Hills finished with just two first downs, both on its final drive.
“This was our best effort,” said Union senior defensive tackle Uchenna Egwuonwu. “I rate it a 10.”
This was Union’s fifth playoff shutout and first since 1992 when present assistant coach Carmen Marano was a senior lineman.
Here’s a look at the list:
UNION PLAYOFF SHUTOUTS:
2013 North 2, Group 5 quarterfinals:
Union 28, Watchung Hills 0 – at Union
1992 North 2, Group 4 semifinals:
Union 14, Elizabeth 0 – at Union
1984 North 2, Group 4 semifinals:
Union 42, Belleville 0 – at Union
1981 North 2, Group 4 semifinals:
Union 14, Westfield 0 – at Giants Stadium
1978 North 2, Group 4 final
Union 27, Plainfield 0 – at Giants Stadium
Watchung Hills was seeking only its second playoff win and first since winning in the 1978 Central Jersey, Group 4 semifinals.
Union’s first playoff victory in five years put it at home in a semifinal game for the first time in 10 years. The Farmers lost in the N2, G4 semifinals at Phillipsburg in 2005 (56-14) and 2006 (42-20) and at Piscataway in 2008 (27-3).
Union’s last semifinal victory came in 2003 in N2, G4, which was a 14-12 win at home over Bridgewater-Raritan.
The Farmers are seeking their 11th playoff championship and first in N2, G5. Union last won a playoff title in 1993, which was its record 10th in N2, G4.
Union will host Saturday’s Piscataway-Edison winner next Friday night in a N2, G5 semifinal at Cooke Memorial Field.
Union’s first big play on defense Friday night vs. Watchung Hills came on the game’s first drive. Lance Lee and Egwuonwu combined to stuff Warrior running back Matt Rozmerski for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-inches from the Watchung Hills 46-yard line. It was a highlight-reel film tackle, with both defensive players getting solid penetration and then wrapping up Rozmerski with both arms to push him behind the line of scrimmage.
Union’s offense was stopped on its first two possessions without a first down. The Farmers then produced the game’s initial first down on their third drive.
Following a short punt, Union marched from the Watchung Hills 48. Bogan had runs of 14 and 12 yards on the drive, with Robertson scoring from two yards out to give Union the lead for good.
Union’s next two possessions were halted by turnovers, with Rozmerski coming up with an interception for the first takeaway.
Defensively, Union stopped Watchung Hills on downs on its first drive and then held the Warriors to four straight 3-and-outs the rest of the first half.
“We wanted to prevent Watchung Hills from having long possessions,” said first-year Union head coach Lou Grasso Jr., who gained his first playoff victory. “We had some missed opportunities and we have to clean that up for the rest of the way.”
In the second half, Watchung Hills was held to a fifth 3-and-out on its first drive and on its second – on the first play – Union senior free safety Ali Shehaiber came up with an interception that he returned 23 yards.
Junior running back Ryan Cunningham rushed for his team’s only two first downs on the final Watchung Hills drive. The first carry was for six yards to the Warrior 23 and the second was a 49-yard run to the Union 28, with Union’s No. 8 bringing him down to prevent a touchdown and help preserve Union’s fifth playoff shutout.
Union scored the first two times it had the ball in the third quarter, Bogan reaching the end zone first on a one-yard run and second on a seven-yard sprint. On the first drive, Bogan carried six times for 47 yards, with Robertson’s only carry good for five yards on a huge fourth-and-two play at the Watchung Hills 48. Bogan had a 32-yard run that put the ball on the Watchung Hills five.
“It’s good to have Jamauri back,” Grasso Jr. said. “He barely practiced this week and was still a step behind tonight.”
Union’s second scoring drive of the third quarter included a 14-yard pass from senior quarterback Diego Rios to senior wide receive Gabriel Rios and was also aided by a pass interference call, which was the first penalty called against the Warriors.
The interception by Shehaiber led to the game’s final score, which was a two-yard run by Robertson.
Union’s shutout was its second this year, including a 42-0 whitewashing of visiting Franklin.
“Our defense had such a good week of practice,” Grasso Jr. said. “They really executed what we wanted them to do.”
NORTH 2, GROUP 5 QUARTERFINAL
AT COOKE MEMORIAL FIELD
7-WATCHUNG HILLS (5-5) 0 0 0 0 – 0
2-UNION (7-2) 7 0 14 7 – 28
UNION – Jabree Robertson 5 run, Lucas Dagnone kick (U 7-0)
8 plays, 52 yards, 3:32 used
UNION – Jamauri Bogan 1 run, Lucas Dagnone kick (U 14-0)
8 plays, 56 yards, 4:32 used
UNION – Jamauri Bogan 7 run, Lucas Dagnone kick (U 21-0)
8 plays, 54 yards, 5;05 used
UNION – Jabree Robertson 2 run, Lucas Dagnone kick (U 28-0)
5 plays, 37 yards, 2:24 used
Union capitalizes on a turnover – an interception by Ali Shehaiber.