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Vikings sneak out a victory over Union, 35-28
Late fourth-down gamble pays off as East Hall wins back-and-forth offensive duel
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The East Hall Vikings defeated the Union County Panthers on Friday night, 35-28.

The game came down to a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak in the closing seconds, which the Vikings executed to clinch their third win of the season.

"That was too exciting," East Hall Vikings coach Bryan Gray said.

On the game's opening drive, the Panthers (1-5, 0-2) struck first as senior running back Jesse Wright ran in a 37-yard touchdown.

The Vikings (3-3, 2-0) opening play from scrimmage resulted in a fumble on the handoff exchange and a Panthers' recovery. But senior defensive linemen Sterling Bailey forced a fumble, his third of the year, to turn it back over to the Vikings.

The Vikings scored on their second play from scrimmage when as junior running back Jamond Witt took his first carry 79 yards for a touchdown.

After a Chaz Cheeks interception, Witt found the end zone for the second time in the first quarter. His run of 25 yards gave the Vikings a 14-7 lead.

"We played hard," Witt said.

The Vikings added one more score with 14 seconds left in the first quarter. Sophomore running back Austin Mahaffey ran 6 yards for the touchdown and gave the Vikings a 21-7 lead.

Union sophomore quarterback T Bentley connected with senior wide receiver Garrett Smith for a 22-yard score to bring the Panthers back to within a touchdown going into halftime.

In the third quarter, quarterback Zach Groover threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to senior Chaz Cheeks to boost East Hall's lead.

Then the fourth quarter saw a punch-by-punch of scores. First, the Panthers' Wright ran in from 7 yards with 8:55 left in the game.

The Vikings responded in less than a minute when Jamond Witt ran 69 yards for a touchdown, his third of the game.

"I had good blocking and a good hole," Witt said.

The Panthers answered in less than 30 seconds. After a good kickoff return, Wright ran in a 50-yard touchdown, his third of the game, to cut the Vikings' lead to seven with 7:38 left.

The Panthers had one more chance, but a fumble recovered by the Vikings' Cheeks ended the drive.

"We had some breaks tonight," Gray said.

The Panthers' defense would have a chance to get the ball back for the offense. On fourth-and-1 with 52 seconds left and deep in their own territory, Gray called for a quarterback sneak to put the game away, and Groover got the first down.

"The line blocked good. I can't give them enough credit," Groover said. "We just knew we had to come up with the first down."

Jamond Witt eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season on his sixth carry of the game. His 221 yards Friday gave him 1,078 yards through six games.

"It feels good to be 2-0 in the subregion," Witt said.

The Panthers were led by Wright, who rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns.

"We played better," Panthers coach Brian Allison said. "We played hard, and they (East Hall) have a good group of players."

Next week, the Vikings go to Fannin County and the Panthers are home against Dawson County.


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