MARION — The Union Knights have ridden the legs of Wes Burnside to a district football championship.
Burnside rushed for 315 yards on 58 carries and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:07 to go, giving the eighth-ranked Knights a 41-35 win over No. 5 Marion in a Class 3A District 5 showdown Friday night at Thomas Park Field.
Even Burnside was stunned by his career-high numbers.
“Fifty-eight carries? Wow,” he said. “I knew we were going to be pounding it. We tried to do it last year, but we got away from that.”
The Knights (8-0 overall, 6-0 3A-5) never wavered from the talented junior Friday, and he delivered. Burnside is the state’s leading rusher in all classes with 1,913 yards this season.
“He’s a good back. He really is,” said Marion Coach Tony Perkins. “He is very durable. But 58 carries … I don’t know how he survived.”
The game featured four lead changes and three ties. Burnside’s final touchdown, a 3-yarder, broke the final deadlock of 35-all.
Reid Monroe missed the PAT, but it didn’t haunt the Knights. Marion (7-1, 5-1) drove to the Union 45 before Hunter Zempel picked off Marion quarterback Tyler Fisher with 1:03 left.
Both teams committed three turnovers.
Union trailed 28-17 midway through the third quarter, but Burnside’s 4-yard run — and two-point conversion brought the Knights closer, then Trev Hadachek tallied on a 3-yard run to put the Knights in front, 32-28, with 1:49 left in the quarter.
“We’re always good about coming back,” Burnside said. “We’ve come back lots of times.”
Cale Cannoy got loose for a 59-yard run on a quarterback option to give Marion a 35-32 lead, but Monroe’s 22-yard field goal tied it, 35-35, with 7:21 left.
Brad Siebel’s interception set up Union’s winning drive.
The Knights went 26 yards in 10 plays, with Burnside toting it eight times.
“It was a great high school football game, but we had a few kids that weren’t ready to play,” Perkins said. “Our defensive tackles didn’t come to play. We made some costly mistakes, and you can’t do that against a quality team.”