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Long fourth-quarter drive helps Red Knights ground Jets, 32-20

RUNNING THROUGH — Toronto’s Ryan Matyas rushes past a Union Local defender on Friday. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

TORONTO — After his defense got the ball back with 7:31 to go, Josh Franke issued a challenge to his offensive line.

It responded, powering the Red Knights to a 14-play scoring drive that chewed up more than seven minutes of clock and sealed a 32-20 win for Toronto (5-4) over Union Local (1-8) Friday night.

“I challenged my offensive line coming out of that timeout,” Franke said. “I told them, ‘Look, guys, we’ve got seven minutes. Drive this ball all the way down, score and win the game with no time left.’

“And, they came pretty close to that. That was all on our offensive line and Garrett Dozier.

“That was just an excellent job. Those guys up front have done an excellent job for us all year. We go as they go.”

Dozier led the pivotal drive and the rushing attack overall, plunging for the game’s final points from 2-yards out to finish with 115 yards and two scores on the ground, along with a pair of catches for another 38 yards.

Toronto’s passing game, which has struggled throughout the season, also hit a couple of big plays that helped build the lead.

Caleb Leasure finished 5 of 10 for 177 and a pair of scores, both of which went for 50-plus yards.

“Caleb did a good job finding some guys open down field,” Franke said. “We had some guys break loose. It’s great when you can get everyone involved and spread the ball around and kind of become unpredictable.”

Shane Keenan had a big night, as he was on the receiving end of the first Leasure scoring strike – a 59-yard catch-and-run that gave Toronto the lead at 14-7 late in the second quarter – and a 19-yard touchdown run that made it 20-7 after the opening drive of the second half.

He finished with 34 yards on four carries and also hauled in a 2-point conversion pass from Leasure.

“We’ve said it a million times over – he’s a big dude, but he’s extremely athletic for his size,” Franke said. “He’s definitely a weapon.”

The Jets got off to a quick start, taking a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard Carter Blake to Carter Loase connection in the first quarter, the first of three scoring connections between the duo.

Blake fired 11 of 18 complete for 202 yards and three scores, while Loase was on the receiving end for nine of them for 169 yards and all three touchdowns.

“We knew he was going to make some plays,” Franke said of Blake. “That’s what happens when you play a great quarterback. You have to be able to respond, and I think our offense stepped up tonight, too.”

The Red Knights, though, scored the next 20 points, starting with a Dozier plunge for 6 in the opening quarter before Keenan did his damage.

After Loase hauled in a 13-yard score, Leasure connected with JoJo Savage for a 63-yard touchdown to again make it a two-score game.

Loase and Blake got together again for a 42-yard scoring connection to cut the deficit to 26-20 with 44 seconds left in the third quarter, but that would be as close as the Jets would get.

“Credit to Toronto, they’re a well-coached team,” Union Local head coach Bernie Thompson said. “It’s the story of 2020. We consistently have been hurting ourselves. We’re a way better team than what our record indicates. We play hard, we battle, but in crunch time, we have to play better.

“We always fight. I’m never going to doubt the kids’ effort. We battle hard. I knew as soon as we got down, we we’re going to fight back, but we should have never got down. That’s the frustrating part.”

Jack Rawson, who missed the Red Knights’ two playoff contests, stepped in front of a Blake pass with 7:31 to go to end a potential lead-changing drive that had advanced into Toronto territory, setting up the game-clinching drive.

“Jack is a guy we missed the last two weeks,” Franke said. “He was a game-time decision, and he didn’t practice all week. So, this was the first time he put on pads in two weeks, and he came through in the clutch for us.”

That proved to be the final turning point, as Union Local only got the ball back with 28 seconds to go down two scores.

Franke, though, was impressed with the Jets.

“(Union Local) is a young team, but they are going to be really, really good,” Franke said. “I would not want to play them in the next few years. Their quarterback is the real deal. They have a couple nice receivers. Hats off to Union Local, they fought the whole game and gave us all we could handle.

“I’m proud of our guys. It’s not often a Division VII school goes against a Division IV school and wins.”

REMEMBERING

Prior to the game, the family of Noah Sapp was recognized and a moment of silence was held. Friday’s game marked one year since Sapp, a member of the 2019 Red Knights football team, passed away.

UP NEXT

Union Local: Returns home to host Magnolia to close the season.

Toronto: Travels to rival Wellsville.

Toronto 32, Union Local 20

Union Local 7 0 13 0 — 20

Toronto 6 8 12 6 — 32

UL – Loase 16 pass from Blake (Skedel kick)

T – Dozier 2 run (run failed)

T – Keenan 59 pass from Leasure (Keenan pass from Leasure)

T – Keenan 19 run (run failed)

UL – Loase 13 pass from Blake (Skedel kick)

T – Savage 63 pass from Leasure (pass failed)

UL – Loase 42 pass from Blake (kick failed)

T – Dozier 2 run (run failed)

RUSHING: Union Local 27-39 (Price 20-74; Blake 7-(-35)); Toronto 46-201-3td (Dozier 30-115-2td; Keenan 4-34-td; Savage 6-14; Matyas 2-15; Leasure 2-(-2); Mick 2-25).

PASSING: Union Local 11-18-202-3td-int (all by Blake); Toronto 5-10-177-2td (all by Leasure).

RECEIVING: Union Local 11-202-3td (Loase 9-169-3td; Rex 1-10; Hess 1-13); Toronto 5-177-2td (Dozier 2-38; Savage 2-80-td; Keenan 1-59-td).

FIRST DOWNS: Union Local 8; Toronto 15.

PENALTIES-YARDS: Union Local 9-76; Toronto 4-35.

FUMBLES-LOST: Union Local 0-0; Toronto 1-0.

PUNTS-AVERAGE: Union Local 5-38.8; Toronto 4-38.3.

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