Union High School was the top-ranked football program in Class 4A when the season began.
The Titans, boasting an undefeated record, 4A Greater Saint Helens League title, and pivotal wins against prominent nonleague opponents, earned the classification’s top seed entering the state playoffs, in the inaugural year of the WIAA seeding committees.
And, Saturday night in the Tacoma Dome, Union proved it was certainly worthy of all of that recognition, dismantling third-seeded Lake Stevens, 52-20, for the program’s first state title.
“It’s a testament to our hard work — day in and day out,” Union quarterback Lincoln Victor said. “Football is a year-round sport. We have guys that play multiple sports, but they’re in the weight room, they’re in the gym, we’re throwing routes all year.
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“We knew we were going to be overlooked, but that’s just how it goes when you’re the No. 1 seed and at the top. There’s always guys that want to pull you down. But, this team stays strong. We’re like a fist — no one leaks through, no one gets out, and we finish as brothers.”
After giving up three touchdowns early, Union (14-0) put together a dominant performance for most of the final three frames, scoring 38 unanswered points, and shutting out the Vikings in the second half to secure the title.
The Titans broke a handful of records along the way, including eclipsing three teams in 4A Gridiron Classic history that scored 49 points in the championship game — most recently Skyline in a win over Bellarmine Prep in 2012.
“It’s just a special moment,” Union running back JoJo Siofele said. “We’ve been playing for this since the beginning of the season. We knew we were a special team from the start, and I’m just glad we stuck together, did everything for each other, and played as brothers.”
Siofele, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior, who The News Tribune projected as one of the top running back recruits in the state earlier this season, was the night’s biggest standout.
“He just has that drive,” Victor said. “He has that motor to keep pushing.”
Siofele led all rushers with 113 yards and a touchdown on five carries, 179 receiving yards on 10 catches, and his three touchdown receptions broke a championship game record — the previous high was two — that also dated back to 2012.
“He comes every single night, and he gives everything he has, and he’s going to fight until the end,” Union coach Rory Rosenbach said. “Whoever gets him (in college) is going to get a steal.”
Each of Siofele’s four touchdowns — which tied the record total set by Newport of Bellevue’s Chris Dixon in 1992 against Puyallup — came during Union’s string of unanswered scores.
His only touchdown run of the game, an 80-yard burst late in the fourth quarter that ended with a dive at the pylon, came moments after he picked off Lake Stevens quarterback Tre Long in the end zone. And, it tied two more records for longest run, and longest touchdown run, set by Curtis’ Elijah Baker against Kentridge in 1995.
“I was just trying to win the game for my team,” Siofele said. “I got the ball, I did what I do and trusted my linemen, who blocked perfectly.”
The score was long decided before the final touchdown, but it added a defiant stamp to Union’s performance.
Victor, who has five Division I offers, and projects as a slot receiver in college, delivered another record-breaking outing in what may have been his final game as a quarterback.
His five touchdown passes broke the championship game record set by Skyline’s Max Browne — who went on to play at USC and Pittsburgh — who threw four against Bellarmine in 2012. Victor finished 19 of 24 passing for 327 yards with one interception and the five touchdowns.
He connected once each with Nebraska commit Darien Chase (20 yards) — who finished with five catches for 126 yards despite being hampered by a hip injury, and missing most of last week’s semifinals win over Puyallup — and Alex Vallejo (6 yards).
“Coach will always say, ‘You have to be the point guard,’ ” Victor said. “I might not be playing quarterback at the next level, but I want to do what’s best for my team. If that means I have to play quarterback, and get it to the guys that can do work in space, I’m going to do that.”
“We have so many threats,” Siofele said. “It opens up the game for me, for Lincoln, for other receivers. It shows how special we really are.”
Nile Jones (3-yard run) and Alex Koga (34-yard field goal) produced Union’s other two scoring plays.
Despite scoring three touchdowns in the first half on a pair of runs by Dallas Landeros (15 and 3 yards) and a 26-yard connection between Long and Kasen Kinchen, 4A Wesco champion Lake Stevens (13-1) couldn’t keep up.
The Vikings’ final touchdown came with 10:06 remaining in the second quarter, and they managed just 179 yards of offense in the second half after racking up 259 in the first. Union’s 554 total yards of offense was 10 yards shy of yet another record.
Long finished 22 of 35 passing for 313 yards and one touchdown, while Kinchen piled up 123 receiving yards and the one score on nine catches.
Landeros had 67 yards and the two touchdowns on 17 carries, and was the leading rusher for a Lake Stevens team that was averaging 263.6 yards per game on the ground entering the contest.
The Titans’ defensive adjustments — the Vikings finished with just 125 rushing yards — paired with their seemingly unstoppable stable of skill players, overshadowed the Lake Stevens’ quick start, and diminished any hopes of a comeback in the second half.
“I’m so proud to be a part of this team, and beat a team like that on this stage,” Victor said. “That’s a good way to send the class of 2019 out.”
NO. 3 LAKE STEVENS
NO. 1 UNION
LS – Dallas Landeros 15 run (kick failed)
U – Darien Chase 20 pass from Lincoln Victor (Christian Alcorn kick)
LS – Kasen Kinchen 26 pass from Tre Long (Brock Widmann kick)
U – Nile Jones 3 run (Alex Koga kick)
LS – Landeros 3 run (Widmann kick)
U – JoJo Siofele 23 pass from Victor (Alcorn kick)
U – Koga 34 field goal
U – Siofele 56 pass from Victor (Alcorn kick)
U – Siofele 10 pass from Victor (Koga kick)
U – Alex Vallejo 6 pass from Victor (Alcorn kick)
U – Siofele 80 run (Koga kick)
Passing: LS – Long 22-35-2-313. U – Victor 19-24-1-327.
Rushing: LS – Landeros 14-67; Long 11-41; Isaiah Harris 1-10; Kinchen 1-6. U – Siofele 5-113; Nile Jones 7-44; Victor 8-40; Isaiah Jones 5-33.
Receiving: LS – Kinchen 9-123; Ian Hanson 4-74; Joe Gonzales 5-50; Drew Carter 2-17. U – Siofele 10-179; Chase 5-126; Alishawuan Taylor 1-15; Vallejo 2-12.