[By Nathan Wright, Special to ETSN.fm]

BULLARD -- Despite leading for 36 of the game’s first 39 minutes, Union Grove needed a touchdown in the game’s final minutes to win its Class 2A Division I area playoff game, 14-7, against Lovelady on Friday night at Panther Stadium.

With 9:07 remaining in the game, Lovelady scored its only touchdown of the contest, but it put the Lions ahead, 7-6.

Union Grove, despite scoring only one touchdown of its own in the game’s first three quarters -- and failed on a two-point conversion attempt -- answered by driving 80 yards in seven plays and retook the lead with 3:20 to go on an 18-yard run by Corey Sturrock.

Union Grove's Cole Wood leaps for a catch during the Lions' 14-7 win over Lovelady in their Class 2A Division I area playoff Friday night in Bullard. (Mike Davis, ETSN.fm)

A successful two-point conversion and a hold on downs later, and Union Grove was still undefeated at 10-0 and headed to a regional-round matchup against Alto, a big winner against Ore City on Friday. The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. next Friday in Carthage.

Lovelady finished its season at 9-3.

“It was a great game,” Union Grove head coach Roger Adams said. “Lovelady did a great job with the things that they brought. We knew they were going to be a tough team. They have a great tradition of the playoffs and we don’t. This is our first playoff win since 1965, I think.”

There wasn’t much offense in the game’s first three quarters. The only touchdown during that span came with just a couple of minutes remaining in the first half.

One second-and-9 from the its own 16-yard line, Union Grove quarterback Tristen Thompson broke free, tight-roped the sideline before breaking back to the middle of the field for an 86-yard touchdown. Union Grove’s two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful and it took a 6-0 lead into halftime.

“I turned the corner and I saw my center make that seal block,” Thompson said. “From there, it was open field and I had a good back-side block from my wide receiver. It was all gold from there.”

The third quarter featured little offense and three turnovers before Lovelady finally showed some offensive life in the fourth period.

Lovelady's Emanual Williams looks for daylight against Union Grove during their Class 2A Division I area playoff Friday night in Bullard. (Mike Davis, ETSN.fm)

On its first drive of the fourth quarter, Lovelady drove 56 yards in seven plays and scored on a 1-yard run by Lee Holsey. The PAT gave Lovelady its first lead of the game at 7-6.

With the pressure on Union Grove, it mounted its most sustained drive of the game. The drive began with a pass, but five straight runs moved the ball to the Lovelady 33-yard-line. A facemask penalty pushed the ball to the 18, where Sturrock scored to give Union Grove back the lead and eventually the victory.

“That is the character of these kids,” Adams said. “They never give up. You go into halftime up 6-0. They score and go up 7-6. But these kids didn’t give up and when you never give up, good things happen.”

Lovelady did have one last chance to retake the lead, but on fourth-and-18 from its own 25-yard-line, an incomplete pass turned the ball back to Union Grove and it was able to run out the clock.

Thompson finished the game with 161 yards rushing on 23 carries. He passed for 53 yards, completing 8 of 14 passes to eight different receivers.

Now he and his team will look to knock off state-ranked Alto and continue what is turning out to be an historic season.

“It feels amazing,” Thompson said. “It has been a long time. This group here just keeps on making history and we aren’t going to stop here.”

Union Grove coach Roger Adams looks on during the Lions' 14-7 win over Lovelady in their Class 2A Division I area playoff Friday night in Bullard. (Mike Davis, ETSN.fm)