Union blanks archrival in 34-0 home opener

Photo by JR Parachini
Players, from left, are No. 51, Najee Bowe-Pinckney; No. 2, Davison Igbinosun; No. 7, Louikenzy Jules; No. 1, Jaden Stewart; and, kneeling, No. 4, Rodney Marcellus. Players standing are holding a Player of the Week belt Igbinosun was awarded earlier in the season. With three different types of touchdowns — punt return, reception and rushing — Igbinosun was judged worthy of another Player of the Week honor.

UNION, NJ — This was one of those “no messing around” home openers for the Union Farmers.

Archrival Elizabeth came into Union on Friday, Sept. 24, with a two-game winning streak and was at the top of the Big Central Conference–Division 5A standings.

No matter what, Union was ready to steamroll the Minutemen for a third straight year. The domination began even before the Farmers ran a play from scrimmage.

After Elizabeth opened with one first down, the Minutemen punted the ball right to Davison Igbinosun. The Rutgers commit caught the ball at his own 25, found a hole to speed through at his right and then sprinted through the middle of the field untouched for what, just two minutes in, turned out to be the game-winning points.

Less than four minutes later, Igbinosun caught a pass over the middle at the 50 and again was off to the races, reaching the end zone one more time untouched to give his team a two-touchdown advantage.

Igbinosun, who in the second quarter would also score on a seven-yard run that was set up by the standout senior recovering a fumble, was simply a man among boys in Union’s long-awaited first home game of 2021.

“Coach (Justin) Bogan said the great ones perform best against Elizabeth, and that stuck with me,” Igbinosun said.

There was never any doubt, as Union rolled to a 34-0 triumph against Elizabeth in the BCC–Division 5A contest at Union’s Cooke Memorial Football Field.

Union improved to 3-1 overall and is now alone atop the Division 5A standings at 2-0. The Farmers will host 1-0 Westfield on Friday, Oct. 1. The Blue Devils are 2-1 overall after falling at Linden 20-14 on Friday, Sept. 24.

Elizabeth, which last beat Union in the 2018 regular season, fell to 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the division.

“The whole plan was to come out strong and end strong,” said Union defensive lineman Najee Bowe-Pinckney, who was in on many tackles.

Union held Elizabeth to just 76 yards of offense in the first half, 60 on the ground and 16 in the air. Curtis McDougald Jr. carried the ball eight times for 32 yards, Dale Pettaway six times for 23 yards and quarterback Luis Beltran six times for 5 yards.

Beltran finished the game completing two of seven passes for those 16 yards.

Bringing down Beltran on a combined sack for a 7-yard loss on Elizabeth’s second possession were Union senior defensive ends Wesley Ciceron and Emeka Chukwura.

Meanwhile, Union rushed for 131 yards in the first half, led by senior Ashan Harris with 52 yards on nine carries, including a touchdown. Igbinosun had 38 yards on four carries and one touchdown, and senior quarterback Jaden Stewart had 37 on four. Louikenzy Jules also carried once for four yards.

Igbinosun caught two passes, for 64 yards and one touchdown.

For the game, Stewart completed all four passes he threw, for 74 yards and one touchdown. He also finished his rushing with six carries for 65 yards and his second-half touchdown.

Harris closed with 16 carries for 87 yards and his one score.

Union scored two touchdowns in each of the first two quarters and then forced a running clock the rest of the way after going up by the mercy-rule score of 34-0 midway through the third quarter.

“This feels good right now,” Pinckney said. “We’re not perfect yet.”

Union has gradually improved since opening the season on Saturday, Aug. 28, with a 31-28 setback to Millville in the game played at Ocean City High. Several miscues were largely responsible for the Farmers falling just short.

“The seniors held everyone accountable,” Igbinosun said. “The way we played (against Millville) is not the kind of team we are.”

Elizabeth senior Wendell Cadet did a fine job of punting the ball for the Minutemen on Friday, Sept. 24, averaging 40 yards on five kicks. Elizabeth’s coverage was better after Igbinosun returned the first punt all the way back for 6 points.

NOTES: For the first time since the mid-1990s, Union has defeated Elizabeth three years in a row in the regular season. The last time the Farmers did that was when Union beat Elizabeth six straight seasons, from 1990-1995. Also in that span, Union defeated Elizabeth three years in a row in the North 2, Group 4, semifinals in 1991 and 1992 at home and in 1993 at Elizabeth.

The Farmers have an overall four-game winning streak against the Minutemen, starting with a victory in the first round of the 2018 North 2, Group 5, playoffs.

Union has now shut out Elizabeth three years in a row and by a combined score of 103-0, including 35-0 at Elizabeth in 2019 and 34-0 at home last year.

“We preached shutout all week,” Igbinosun said. “They never scored on me in high school.”

The Elizabeth head coach Union defeated in the six-game winning streak in the 1990s, Jerry Moore, was at the game on Friday, Sept. 24. Moore, who was at the helm of the Minutemen from 1985-2001, had one of his greatest victories on this field.

Moore’s 1989 team blanked Union 14-0 in Union, beating the Farmers for the second straight season and keeping Union out of the end zone a second straight time, including a 13-3 win at home over the Farmers in 1988.

Elizabeth went 11-0 in 1989, repeated as North 2, Group 4, state champions and finished the season ranked No. 1 in New Jersey. Union went 8-1 and failed to garner enough power points to qualify as one of the four playoff teams in N2G4. It was the first time Union did not make the playoffs since 1980.

After Union won N2G4 four years in a row from 1984-1987, Elizabeth won it back-to-back in 1988 and 1989.