By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
East Union comes up short at Kimball in freshman QB’s debut
Bulletin sports logos


East Union 0 16 8 6 — 30

Kimball 7 21 0 8 — 36


First quarter

K — Junior Saavedra 16 fumble return (Jerry Agapie kick), 8:43.


Second quarter

E — David Flores 10 run (Dylan Lee run), 11:55.

K — Sebastian Tate 49 run (Angelo Valencia pass from Jayden McKey), 10:59.

K — Travis Marieiro 28 pass from McKey (run failed), 10:37.

E — Rafael Espinosa 8 pass from Kirk Simoni (Lee run), 6:15.

K — Tate 59 run (Agapie kick), 6:00.


Third quarter

E — Flores 7 run (Lee run), 7:43.


Fourth quarter

K — Darius Doyle 10 pass from McKey (Angelo Valencia pass from McKey), 8:39.

E — Flores 11 run (pass failed), 5:51.

TRACY — The Kirk Simoni Era may have started in defeat for East Union, but the freshman quarterback provided a promising peak into the future Friday at Kimball’s Don Nichelson Stadium.

As for the host Jaguars, they have likely locked up a top-four seed — and first-round bye — in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs with their 36-30 win. This action-packed Valley Oak League finale was not decided until safety Bodie Lychak intercepted a pass from Simoni with 1:36 left in the game.

The contest marked the return of East Union coach Mike Kuhnlenz and a few members of his staff, who previously led Kimball in 2018, 2019 and the start of the abbreviated 2020 spring season. The Jaguars have won five straight against EU.

The Lancers (1-4 VOL, 4-6 overall), thanks to their strength of schedule, still stand a good chance at qualifying for the postseason despite a losing record, giving Simoni another taste of the varsity level after leading the freshman squad to a share of the league championship. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 175 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in his varsity debut.

Running back David Flores was the tone setter for East Union, as he pounded out 131 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. Division I prospect Dylan Lee, who has gotten the most snaps behind center, once again got to show off his versatile skill set, rushing for 71 yards on 11 carries and gaining 109 more yards on six catches.

Simoni connected with five different receivers, and hit Rafael Espinosa on an 8-yard slant in the second quarter for his first varsity touchdown pass. East Union compiled 380 yards of offense compared to 294 for Kimball.

Sebastian Tate was the early spark plug for Kimball (3-2, 6-4), as he scored on runs of 49 and 59 yards in the second quarter when the Jaguars struck for touchdowns on three straight plays from scrimmage to take a 28-16 lead. East Union clamped down on the senior running back in the second half when he was limited to just 4 yards. Tate finished with 132 rushing yards on 10 attempts.

Quarterback Jayden McKey hooked up with Darius Doyle for a 10-yard touchdown toss that proved to be the game-winner with 9:15 remaining. Kimball tacked onto the lead with the conversion, a pass from McKey to Angelo Valencia to make it 36-24. McKey was 13-of-16 passing for 125 yards and two TDs. His other score was a 28-yarder to Travis Marieiro (five receptions, 87 yards).

Two plays in the first half cost East Union in the end.

After the defense forced Kimball to punt on the opening drive, Simoni’s first snap as varsity quarterback was high, and he was unable to come down with it. Kimball linebacker Junior Saavedra recovered the fumble and returned it for a 16-yard touchdown and the first points of the game.

Late in the half, East Union threatened to cut into the 28-16 deficit, but an on-target pass from Simoni was dropped near the goal line and third-and-4, and the Lancers wound up turning it over on downs on Kimball’s 7-yard line with 1:02 left.

Trailing 28-24 midway through the third quarter, East Union missed an opportunity to take its first lead after the defense held the Jags to a three-and-out. The Lancers could not capitalize, however, coming up empty-handed on an 11-play drive that resulted in another turnover on downs in Kimball territory.

Both teams will find out where they are seeded this Sunday when the NFHS Network hosts the SJS’ annual selection show starting at 1:30 p.m.