When the preseason schedules ended and the East Union Lancers were toting around a perfect 3-0 record, some people felt that being 3-0 is only a big deal to the teams that aren’t expected to be 3-0.
There’s a gap between squads that better finish non-league perfect, and squads like the Lancers.
East Union came close to seizing its moment and closing that gap against intra-city rival and defending co-Valley Oak League champion Sierra High Friday night, but close won’t get a team where the Lancers are hopefully heading.
In true championship form, East Union answered every question, every call and every opportunity in the first 59 minutes of the contest, but with a 28-24 lead the transferring of the guard began to veer off-course. Closing out the final 1:13 and protecting its lead proved too challenging, as Sierra backup quarterback Tony Perea pulled off the miraculous comeback in his first series of the game.
East Union tried in vain to answer in the final 29 seconds, but are forced to cope with the reality that getting close isn’t good enough.
“I don’t know about saying we should have won this game,” Lancer standout Teejay Gordon said. “But we could have won it. We played hard; they played hard, we just were the team that came up short in the end.”
Gordon took matters into his own hands, leading an effective East Union offense with over 250 yards total yards and four touchdowns. His game-winning touchdown run with just over a minute to play was supposed to escort East Union into unchartered waters, but instead they just get to deal with their first loss.
If the Lancers’ objective was to show Sierra and the other VOL powers that they aren’t to be taken lightly, East Union surely accomplished that. But establishing themselves as the new team to beat in Manteca, that opportunity crashed with Gordon’s game-ending incompletion to the corner of the endzone.
“I don’t know if a loss can get you momentum,” East Union head coach Mike James said. “We have to understand that, when you lose a game the first thing you have to do is address why you lost. We have had a great crowd each week and we have to be fortunate we’re giving them something to see. We ended up two points short.
“The thing I’m most proud about is this group has no quit in the second half.”
Now, the Lancers have to move on. Sure they would love to be 5-0 and resting with Oakdale, Sonora and Manteca atop the VOL, but that’s not their reality.
Their reality is trying to prove it. Everyone in their huddle believes, all the coaches believe and the Red Sea obviously believes, but that isn’t enough. When these opportunities arise, they have to be captured, unless getting to the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason isn’t that big of deal.