Photo by Dennis Thomas / Union Grove running back Derrick Craine runs through the tackle of Forest Park’s Tim Pope on Friday at Tara Stadium.
JONESBORO — Union Grove scored in pairs in the first half of its game Friday against Forest Park at Tara Stadium. Derrick Craine ran for two touchdowns, Jonathan Slade threw for two, and Luke Parker added two defensive scores as the Wolverines built an insurmountable lead on their way to a 54-6 victory in a Region 4-AAAAA, Division A game.
The victory means Union Grove (5-1, 2-0) has matched its win total from last season. “We had a real good senior class last year and we felt like we had the chance to be 7-3 or 8-2,” said Wolverines coach Paul Burgdorf. “That sort of hung around with this group.”
The senior running back Craine was the Wolverines offense on a five-play, 60-yard scoring drive on Union Grove’s opening possession. His 15-yard touchdown run put the Wolverines up 7-0. Then came a series of rapid-succession turnovers: Forest Park’s Rodriguez Garrett fumbled a kickoff return to the Wolverines in good field position. Union Grove gave committed a bad snap that gave the ball right back. But Forest Park (0-6, 0-2) gave the ball back to the Wolverines at the Panther 23, thanks to an errant toss.
That set up another Craine 15-yard touchdown run and gave Union Grove a 14-0 lead.
The Wolverines then went to the air as Slade found Terry Gibbs streaking to the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown pass, putting them up 21-0 after one quarter. A Slade screen pass to Caleb Ham later would go for 41 yards to make it 27-6.
Parker showed up big to end the half — intercepting Irvin Balfour and returning it 20 yards for a score and picking up a bad snap and returning it 53 yards for another touchdown and 41-6 lead.
Craine finished with 19 carries for 162 yards including the two scores and Slade was eight of 17 for 140 yards with the two touchdowns and an interception.
The Forest Park highlight of the night was a seven-play, 89-yard drive that culminated in a DeJuan Simms 1-yard touchdown run. A Balfour to Kivouz Hines 69-yard completion was the drive’s key play. Balfour finished the night 7 of 17 for 113 yards and an interception. Simms had 11 carries for 40 yards.
In the second half, Justin Ross and DeShawn Craddick added Union Grove touchdown runs of 7 and 5 yards, respectively.
The Wolverines now move into the driver’s seat in the region, thanks to Drew’s loss to Mundy’s Mill, but they say they aren’t focusing on that. “We’re taking it one game at a time,” Burgdorf said. “We’re now looking past anyone and next week it’s Mount Zion.”
Forest Park, meanwhile, looks to a future in which its upcoming opponents have combined for four wins between them, starting with Mundy’s Mill. And the Panthers are looking to their recent past, praising their junior varsity team beating Drew 32-16 on Thursday.
“A lot of these same kids tonight played two of those quarters,” said Forest Park coach Don Williams. “We start a lot of freshmen and sophomores on this team.”