Isaiah Sholund is the hard-charging bull who wears down defenses in the fourth quarter.
Patrick Sholund, Isaiah’s cousin, typically gets a lighter workload, but with his gazelle-like speed he makes the most of his few opportunities.
On Friday, they keyed East Union’s 31-16 win that snapped a five-year losing streak to visiting Weston Ranch.
Every time the Lancers needed a spark, it was the speedy Patrick Sholund who answered the call. He returned the opening kickoff in the second half 76 yards for a touchdown, giving East Union (2-1 Valley Oak League, 5-1 overall) a 14-2 lead. He later put the game out of reach with a 47-yard scamper. Those were his only touches of the night.
The sturdier Isaiah Sholund did his part by churning out a game-high 91 rushing yards on 18 carries.
“It has always been like that growing up,” Isaiah said. “We’ve been doing this since Pop Warner, so it just clicks anytime we both go in. It’s a perfect match.”
They were in the backfield together for Patrick’s big run that buried Weston Ranch (0-3, 3-3), which has lost three straight. It punctuated a wild 23-second stretch in which the two teams combined for three touchdowns starting with quarterback Jack Weaver’s breathtaking 41-yard run. The Cougars struck back with Cory Floyd’s 58-yard kickoff return to close them in 24-16 with 5:14 remaining.
East Union called a timeout as it set up for the next play from scrimmage. That was Patrick Sholund’s cue to take it to the house. He went untouched en route to the end zone as Weston Ranch sold out to stop Isaiah, whom Weaver initially faked the handoff to on the counter play.
“I can only do so much,” Patrick Sholund said. “When the other guys are out there getting it done it just opens up so much for me to make plays and do what I need to do. They do their job so I can do my job.”
The late-game flurry was a drastic change of pace from the first half, which was more a battle of wills as both sides aimed to pound away at each other behind physical running games. Weston Ranch was the aggressor at the start, running 21 plays against East Union’s five in the first quarter. That changed in the second, when East Union dominated possession with 24 plays and limited the Cougars to four.
The Lancers took the lead for good on Devonta Scott’s 2-yard run with 4:37 to go in the half, capping a 15-play drive spanning 78 yards and 6 minutes, 32 seconds. East Union got the ball back three plays later thanks to Angel Sena’s interception but was unable to tack onto its lead as time expired in the half.
Weston Ranch opened scoring with a safety after Weaver (4 of 8, 55 yards, 11 rushes, 51 yards) was penalized for intentional grounding while scrambling from defenders in the end zone. It was a one-play drive that started on the 1 after the Lancers’ defense made a goal-line stand to keep it scoreless.
“We talked about not starting out flat and we kind of did,” East Union coach Willie Herrera said, “but I’m proud of the guys for overcoming a little adversity at the start. We made the adjustments at halftime and they executed.”
Weston Ranch was limited to 190 yards of offense — East Union piled up 293 with seven different rushers and four different receivers — with quarterback Malik Vega-Tatum accounting for its only offensive score from scrimmage on a 13-yard sprint midway through the third quarter.
The Cougars were able to gain momentum in some stretches but were mostly done in by their own penalties, turnovers or inability to make third-down stops on defense. With Weston Ranch still in the hunt down 17-9 early in the fourth, East Union’s Jesse Anzar caused a fumble recovered by lineman Jose Vargas on the Lancer 25.
“Credit to them, they played great defense — they were bend-don’t-break,” Weston Ranch coach Seth Davis said. “We’d get a nice driving going and they made the stop.
“They brought it. They played like they wanted it more and our guys kind of folded. We’d get a little bit of momentum back and when we needed to make a stop defensively they make a breakaway run.”
For East Union, it was a nice bounce-back victory after last week’s heartbreaking 37-36 overtime loss at Sierra. The Lancers are a win away from likely securing their first Sac-Joaquin Section postseason berth since 2010, but they have a tough test coming up with Oakdale on the road next week.
“This week was really going to tell everyone and ourselves what kind of team we have,” Herrera said. “They want it. They’re tired of having numbers on the other side of the (win-loss) column.”