20 years in the making: Union City football returns to sectional championship game
Earlier this year, the Indians brought that total down to four, losing to the state-ranked Golden Bears 21-0 in the second week of the season.
The progress left the Indians feeling good about themselves, and despite having low numbers, the team’s fight never wavered throughout the season.
“When we left that game, our kids all felt good about the game,” Union City head coach Mike Thompson said. “Even though we lost and we didn’t put any points on the board … I think when we got out of that game, we left it with a little more confidence than we had going into the game.
The last time Union City played in a sectional championship game, the Monroe Central football team didn’t exist, but since their first season in 2010, the Golden Bears have come a long way, and fast, advancing to the sectional championship game each of the last four years, and reaching the semistate last fall.
Friday’s championship game in IHSAA Class A Sectional 44 pits the two Randolph County teams at Union City, as the Indians make their first sectional final appearance since 1998.
“Anytime you start winning games in the playoffs, it’s a special time,” Thompson said. “It’s a special time – it’s the best time of the year for football.”
Thompson, in his fourth year with the program, has just a 15-26 record, but even at 5-6, the Indians’ record doesn't tell the whole story.
They opened the season with a 20-14 win over Tri, before losing the next three games to quality opponents. On Sept. 14, they had their big eye opener, defeating Northeastern 18-12 in double overtime. Their only other win in the regular season came against Lincoln, but the Indians played some of the top Tri-Eastern Conference teams tough, losing to Hagerstown 14-6, and to Centerville 7-0.
“It feels great, kind of being the underdog all year,” senior Zach Adkins said. “(We’re) a small team, but we’ve had a lot of success just being the underdog and it’s a great feeling.”
Over two sectional victories, Akili Roberts and Joshua Crawford each had four touchdowns, with Roberts rushing for 241 yards over the two victories, and Crawford for 209. Chris Perez also had a rushing touchdown and a touchdown catch, while Nic Wells also had a touchdown reception.
Mason Good is 5-for-8 for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“It’s a great feeling to play in November for the first time in a long time," Good said. "We’re all excited to play in November, I think we’re looking forward to the sectional championship, I think we have a good chance.”
Thompson calls Adkins the team’s “quarterback on defense” – a defense that allowed 182 points in eight TEC games, second only to Knightstown’s 157 allowed.
Adkins averages just under 6 tackles per game, while Roberts and Crawford average about 5, and Hindsley had four interceptions.
“I feel like it’s a great opportunity for us, since it’s been like 20 years, like everyone’s been saying,” Crawford said. “It’s been a great atmosphere to be playing with all these teams.”
Monroe Central is ranked 11th in the Associated Press Class A state poll, and ninth in the Coaches poll. The Golden Bears earned wins over Clinton Central (34-13) and Sheridan (8-0) in their first two sectional games, while Union City defeated Anderson Prep (41-16) and Clinton Prairie (32-12).
“I think it’s a great opportunity, I think we’re going to definitely get it,” Roberts said. “I feel like we’ve worked hard all year and last year for this, so I think this is what we deserve.”
Jesus Jimenez is a sports reporter for the Palladium-Item. Contact him at (765) 973-4465, email@example.com, or http://Twitter.com/JesusFJimenez
IHSAA CLASS A SECTIONAL 46
Game 1: Edinburgh 24, Lincoln 12
Game 2: Hagerstown 14, Oldenburg Academy 0
Game 3: Lutheran 42, South Decatur 12
Game 4: North Decatur 33, Tri 0
Game 5: Hagerstown 40, Edinburgh 12
Game 6: Lutheran 27, North Decatur 12
Game 7: Sectional championship, Hagerstown (9-2) at Indianapolis Lutheran (7-4), Nov. 2
Next: Sectional 46 champion plays Sectional 45 champion in regional championship, Nov. 9
IHSAA CLASS A SECTIONAL 44
Game 1: Sheridan 35, Tri-Central 14
Game 2: Monroe Central 34, Clinton Central 13
Game 3: Clinton Prairie 20, Wes-Del 6
Game 4: Union City 41, Anderson Prep 16
Game 5: Monroe Central 8, Sheridan 0
Game 6: Union City 32, Clinton Prairie 12
Game 7: Sectional championship, Monroe Central (9-2) at Union City (5-6), Nov. 2
Next: Sectional 44 champion plays Sectional 43 champion in regional championship, Nov. 9