Pick six gives Grant Union boost in battle with Umatilla

Grant Union's Justin Hodge takes down Umatilla quarterback Andrew Earl with Pablo Ames (8) in back.

Grant Union Prospector head football coach Jason Miller said Friday’s 30-20 victory over the 3A Umatilla Vikings was a “gut check” for his team.

The 2A Prospectors fumbled the ball a couple times in the first quarter before quarterback Garrett Lenz scored the first touchdown. Lenz then made the handoff to Russell Hodge for the 2-point conversion.

Umatilla made some gains in the second quarter and had a 12-8 lead.

As the seconds ticked down in the first half, Hodge intercepted Umatilla quarterback Andrew Earl’s pass, returning it for a touchdown to put Grant Union ahead 14-12.

“That pick six before halftime was huge,” Miller said.

“Every game he’s a work horse for us,” the coach said of Hodge. “He’s going to get the ball and get 20 to 30 touches.”

Neither team scored in the third, and the Prospectors’ first drive in the fourth started to look bleak with a holding penalty bringing up third down and 20.

Lenz then connected with receiver Jordan Hall on a 54-yard touchdown pass. Hall then caught a pass in the end zone for the 2-point conversion and a 22-12 lead.

Prospector Devon Stokes made a big stop later in the quarter, bringing up fourth and 12 for Umatilla. Then Prospector Damion Young, with Peyton Neault assisting, sacked Earl.

Grant Union followed up with Justin Hodge rushing for a touchdown on the Prospectors’ next drive, and Lenz scored on a keeper for the conversion points.

The Vikings added 8 more points but could not catch the Prospectors.

Russell Hodge said as the team went into the game they talked about having their “whole hearts” in the game — “that we’d put 100 percent into it, and not have 80 percent, but 100 percent.”

“They were probably more athletic than us, but we’re more ‘contact’ and put our hearts into it,” he said.

Miller said, “Garrett came up huge with some big throws to save our bacon and get some first downs and touchdowns. I have to hand it to Umatilla. They were a tough team. They had some great players, but our kids hung in there and believed.”

He was pleased with his defense making big plays to stop drives but said the team needs to eliminate mistakes.

“We can’t fumble so much, and we’ve got to maintain our blocks, just simple football stuff that kids will forget to do,” Miller said. “We’ll keep working on that stuff.”

As Grant Union moves forward, Miller said the win over Umatilla is a “big momentum booster for us.”

“The kids are starting to believe that what we’re doing is going to work,” he said. “(We’ll) just keep them moving forward with that, and I think we’ll be fine.”

Grant Union will face the Kennedy Trojans in nonleague action at 7 p.m. Friday in Mt. Angel.

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