Jeff Hurndon Photography / Union Grove’s Nick Davis and the Wolverines’ offensive line helped pave the way for running back Derrick Craine’s big night.
McDONOUGH — Led by senior running back Derrick Craine’s 286 yards and four touchdowns, Union Grove pounded McIntosh 35-14 in a Region 4-AAAAA play-in game Friday.
Union Grove advances into a home game in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs next week. Riding Craine’s relentless running, the sophomore-laden Wolverines (9-1) scored on their first three possessions. On the other side of the ball, the Wolverines defense held McIntosh (5-5) to 23 yards of offense for the game’s first 15 minutes.
After the Wolverines stopped McIntosh on its first possession, Union Grove quarterback Jonathan Slade did just one thing — hand off to Craine. Craine rushed five times for 87 yards, the last 30 of which for the game’s first touchdown. He was just getting started.
The defense pounded the Chiefs into a three-and-out and then Charles Valentine blocked the Mike Licitra punt. Union Grove recovered on the McIntosh 8. On third-and-goal, it was Craine again, scoring from the 8. After another three-and-out by the Wolverine defense, Licitra boomed his punt to the Wolverine 2. It was not a problem for Craine and Company.
Aided by three big McIntosh penalties, Union Grove went 98 yards. Craine carried six times for 47 yards, finding paydirt for a third time from 16 yards. Each touchdown run was simply a blast up the middle.
McIntosh finally earned a couple first downs through the air, but an ill-advised running play resulted in a fumble recovered by the Wolverine defense. Just as running was ill-advised for the Chiefs, so was passing for Union Grove. Two Slade incomplete passes resulted in Union Grove’s only three-and-out and only punt of the game.
The defense again rose to the occasion, sacking McIntosh quarterback Andrew Johnson twice. The Wolverines tried unsuccessfully to add to their 21-0 lead before halftime.
Union Grove took the second-half kickoff and methodically marched 61 yards in 11 plays, consuming 5:30 of the clock. Craine punched it in from the 8 for his fourth TD. The Chiefs only had the ball for 25 seconds, the time required for Johnson to throw three incomplete passes. The Wolverines put up their fifth TD in a surprising fashion, when Slade hit Dalton Tumlin for a 10-yard score. The third quarter clock showed 3:30 and McIntosh had barely touched it.
The Chiefs demonstrated their resilience by not tossing in the towel. Johnson found Brian White behind the Wolverine defense and tossed him the ball, allowing White to scamper the rest of the way for a 66-yard TD pass-and-run, and the Chiefs were on the board. Then McIntosh pulled off the successful onside kick, and there was a touch of nervousness on the Union Grove sideline.
But Valentine added to his fine evening’s work, however, by adding an interception in the end zone to his earlier blocked punt, allowing Union Grove to breathe a bit easier.
The Wolverines inserted the second string and ran off nearly nine minutes of the fourth quarter before surrendering the ball on downs. The Chiefs moved the ball on the backup defenders, scoring a cosmetic touchdown with 25 seconds left. No harm, no foul. The Wolverines celebrated punching their ticket into the AAAAA playoffs.
Johnson was 12 of 23 for 181 yards, passing being the only way McIntosh was able to move the ball. Union Grove held the Chiefs to 18 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Craine was simply magnificent, rushing 26 times for 286 yards and four touchdowns. He gained 100 yards in each half, not even playing most of the fourth quarter. The Wolverines, by contrast, gained just 38 yards passing. Dalton Tumlin, Tyler Vaughn, and Luke Parker each had five tackles to lead the Union Grove defense.