UNION – Andy Martin could be considered very soft-spoken when it comes time to talk about his achievements.
However, when he’s on the football field he’s a man on a mission.
Plainfield found that out Friday night.
Whether it was sprinting with the ball as a running back, catching it as a wide receiver or a defensive back, returning a kickoff for huge chunks of yardage or coming up with a key pass breakup, Martin performed all of those tasks quite well to spark the host Farmers.
Martin, one of five returning starters on offense and one of four on defense, scored Union’s first touchdown on the ground, its second in the air and produced several other key plays to help lift the Farmers past visiting Plainfield 28-13 in Friday night’s home-opening Mid-State 38 Conference-Watchung Division clash at Union High School’s Cooke Memorial Field.
Union improved to 2-0 overall and 2-0 in the Watchung Division, while Plainfield fell to 0-2 overall and 0-1 in the Watchung.
Union won its fifth straight over Plainfield and has not lost to the Cardinals at home since 2001.
No matter what Martin did, he could not be stopped.
“We couldn’t lose at home,” Martin said. “The more we win the more we know teams will gear up for us and want to beat us.”
Martin scored the game’s first TD on an 11-yard run to cap Union’s first possession and put the Farmers ahead for good at 6-0. He then caught an eight-yard pass – jumping into the end zone – from sophomore quarterback Andrew Sanborn to give Union a 13-0 advantage with 37 seconds left before intermission.
Near the end of the first quarter a Martin interception at the Union five-yard line halted Plainfield’s second possession as the Cardinals sought to quickly tie the game at a touchdown apiece.
His 53-yard kickoff return in the third quarter set up Union’s third touchdown, which helped extend the Farmer lead to 20-13.
In the fourth quarter, Martin broke up a Plainfield pass intended for Antwan Spencer on third-and-goal from the Union 4 with the Cardinals seeking to tie the game again, still down 20-13.
“Andy is that type of kid,” Union fifth-year head coach Lou Grasso, Jr. said. “He has a lot of tools. He’s still learning the game and we need to showcase his talents as best as we can.”
Sanborn completed 10-of-15 passes for 122 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and six of his completions went for Union first downs.
Often times he rifled the ball into the Union receivers on a rope. None of his passes were of the wobbly variety.
Sanborn did not throw a pass after Union’s first possession of the second half.
Union junior running back Michel Lucien had two carries for zero yards in the first half, but when Union went to strictly handing off to him in the second half he ended up finishing with 85 yards on 10 carries total.
Fellow Union junior running back Justin Peterman carried the ball six times for 30 yards in the first half.
Martin had a team-leading six catches for 66 yards and one TD. Senior Chuck Ifewekwune and sophomore Aaron Myrick both had two catches.
“I came out feeling good,” Sanborn said of his first varsity start at home. “I trust my receivers, especially Andy.”
Sanborn completed 10 of his final 12 passes after misfiring on his first three, with a couple of them catchable. He was efficient dropping back, in addition to rolling right or against the grain to his left.
His first pass was a deep attempt down the left sideline on Union’s first play from scrimmage.
“I knew from the get-go that I was not going to get a lot of deep balls against them,” Sanborn said. “They were pressuring the outside, so when they bunched up I looked for the receiver that became open.”
Sanborn had plenty of time to throw, not once coming close to getting sacked.
“I hang out with my linemen,” Sanborn said. “We have a nice chemistry.”
For the most part Grasso liked what he saw from his first-year signal-caller.
“Andy did some really good things and he also drove me nuts at times,” Grasso said. “It’s a growing process.”
Down 14-0 at the half, Plainfield made a game of it quickly in the third quarter by scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions. A 46-yard screen pass from junior quarterback Leonte Langston to senior Allen Boone set up Plainfield on the Union 34. Four plays later Langston connected with junior tight end Kyle Sparrow on a slant play over the middle that covered 18 yards and put the Cardinals in the end zone for the first time this year.
A fumble recovery by Spencer set up Plainfield’s final score. On the drive Spencer caught a pass for six yards, ran for 10 and then concluded the march with a five-yard touchdown run up the middle for Plainfield’s final points. The ensuing extra point attempt failed due to a bad snap.
Down 20-13 in the fourth, Plainfield reached the Union 4 and was eventually halted on downs. A fourth down pass to senior wide receiver Haleem Woods went behind him in the end zone for an incompletion as Union took over with 8:06 to go.
Plainfield got the ball back with 4:54 left, two timeouts remaining and possession on the Union 14. Three plays later Union senior lineman Madiame Ndiaye broke through the line and blocked the Plainfield punt, with the ball rolling into the middle of the end zone.
Fellow Union senior lineman Alex Acevedo recovered in the end zone for Union’s fourth touchdown. After Plainfield was called for off sides when Union was set up for another extra point kick, the Farmers decided to switch up and go for two instead after the ball was moved half the distance to the goal line.
Senior running back Arthur Pinckney, after bouncing off one failed attempt of a tackle, reached the end zone for the game’s final two points.
Pinckney also ended up scoring Union’s third touchdown on a one-yard run one play after the refs blew the call when Lucien was clearly in the end zone on what should have been a 17-yard touchdown run.
Acevedo also produced a sack for Union in the first half.
Lonell King had an interception for Union that led to the second Farmer touchdown.
In on key tackles for Union in the second half were Ndiaye and junior linebacker Isaiah Martinez combined and Martinez and senior lineman Jose Rivera, also combined.
Martinez also came up with a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter that set up Union’s final possession, with the Farmers eventually taking a knee inside the Plainfield 5.
Plainfield senior lineman Antwan Boone had a big tackle of Lucien for a four-yard loss during the first half.
“Plainfield proved to be tough,” Grasso said. “They made a couple of plays and did some good things.”
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION
Plainfield (0-2, 0-1) 00 00 13 00 – 13
Union (2-0, 2-0) 07 07 06 08 – 28
Union – Andy Martin 11 run, Max Cuenca kick (U 7-0)
8 plays, 59 yards, 3:45 used
Union – Andy Martin 8 pass from Andrew Sanborn, Max Cuenca kick
3 plays, 33 yards, :39 used
Union capitalized on a turnover – an interception by Lonell King.
Plainfield – Kyle Sparrow 18 pass from Leonte Langston, No. 90 kick
5 plays, 80 yards, 1:20 used
Plainfield – Antwan Spencer 5 run, kick failed (U 14-13)
6 plays, 36 yards, 3:33 used
Plainfield capitalized on a turnover – a fumble recovery by Antwan Spencer.
Union – Arthur Pinckney 1 run, kick failed (U 20-13)
3 plays, 33 yards, 1:10 used
A 53-yard kickoff return by Andy Martin set up this touchdown.
Union – Alex Acevedo fumble recovery in end zone, Arthur Pinckney run
Union’s Madiama Ndiaye blocked a punt, with ball going into end zone.
UNION-PLAINFIELD SCORES SINCE 2000:
2017: Union 28, Plainfield 13 – at Union
2016: Union 35, Plainfield 0 – at Plainfield
2015: Did not play
2014: Did not play
2013: Union 32, Plainfield 6 – at Plainfield
2012: Union 42, Plainfield 6 – at Union
2011: Union 38, Plainfield 14 – at Union
2010: Plainfield 14, Union 7 – at Plainfield
2009: Union 34, Plainfield 6 – at Plainfield
2008: Union 35, Plainfield 26 – at Plainfield
2007: Union 21, Plainfield 0 – at Union
2006: Union 28, Plainfield 13 – at Plainfield
2005: Union 29, Plainfield 6 – at Union
2004: Plainfield 15, Union 7 – at Plainfield
2003: Union 27, Plainfield 0 – at Union
2002: Union 7, Plainfield 6 – at Plainfield
2001: Plainfield 28, Union 20 – at Union
2000: Union 28, Plainfield 14 – at Plainfield