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EU holds on for win with goal-line stand
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MODESTO – East Union and Beyer exchanged punches for the better part of 44 minutes, but when it was time to win a football game the visiting Lancers’ defensive unit landed the deciding blow.

East Union turned in a goal-line stop for the ages, holding Beyer scoreless on four play from 4 yards out, to their 29-28 lead and their season opening victory.

East Union could only hope for help as the Patriots marched 51 yards in five plays, setting up a first-and-goal from the 4-yard-line. With a one-point lead and just over five minutes remaining, Beyer seemingly was set to take control of the contest at its most crucial time, but the Lancers responded.

Surrendering a yard on the first play and two on the second, East Union posted a tackle for a loss and then forced Beyer quarterback McKay Marshall to twirl a hopeless attempt into the air for a huge goal-line stand and head coach Mike James’ second opening-night during his Lancer tenure.

“Probably the thing that made me proudest tonight, after our scrimmage last week and this week of practice, was our goal-line stand,” James said. “The goal-line stand in the fourth quarter was impressive, because we have not done that.

“We didn’t do that against Tokay (in a scrimmage); it was a gut-check tonight and it was beautiful.”

East Union went four-and-out in its ensuing possession, forcing the defense to give them one last stop. The group responded, getting a sack for an 11-yard-loss from Joshua Kolkmann followed by a diving pass deflection from Ryan Ward to seal the deal. The Lancers would run two plays before taking a knee in their victory formation.

“I cannot explain how proud I am of these guys,” junior Steven Gigli said. “We have no quit and we believe. I don’t care what the papers or anyone else says we can’t do it, we believe we can.

“As a group, we know what we can do and we’re going to prove doubters wrong.”

Gigli proved himself for four quarters, leading a stagnant East Union running game and dominating from the Lancers’ defensive backfield. Gigli provided a pair of interceptions, and making a key third-down stop in the goal-line series when it looked like Beyer would score.

Senior Ryanh Somphithack provided some big-game heroics of his own, answering Beyer’s go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter with a lightning quick 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Somphithack pierced through the wedge, made an elusive move to the right of a defender and sprinted the final 60 yards with no one in reach.

“How do you not start with Gigli?” James said when recounting his game-breakers. “And then the poor kid needed a water-break and so I go tell Somphithack, ‘I know you haven’t run kickoffs back this year, but you’re one of our fastest guys so get in there’, and he takes it to the house.

“I don’t know if I get a raise for that coaching call, because most of the people want me gone.”

East Union walked off the field with a victory from a good team. Both squads had no interest in losing the ball game, forcing each squad to continuously one-up their opponent. Both teams provided big-plays, but East Union was able to provide its difference makers every time a big-play opportunity presented itself.

Dominic Barba scored East Union’s second touchdown when he picked off a Justin Usiak pass at the Beyer 29 and raced the distance for his first ever pick-six.

“In practice we’ve been preparing for it (screen-pass) all week,” Barba said. “The preparation and the repetition, I was ready for it. I made a couple of picks in practice, so I knew how to read that play.

“I just read his eyes and I got it.”

The Lancers will look to continue full-steam ahead when they travel to Stockton Friday to take on the Bear Creek Bruins.

“The way we can build on this is we have to believe,” James said. “Now who are we, we have to show people that on the field. We can’t read about it in the paper, I can’t tell you about it.

“We have to come out against Bear Creek next week and show it.”