That’s a Bold Move, Cotton: Union Parish defeats St. James on game-winning two-point conversion in the final minute

After losing in its last three state championship appearances, Union Parish went for all the marbles as it scored the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion in its last-second 36-35 win over St. James.

“At first, when Coach (Joe Spatafora) told me we were going to go for two for the win, I told him ‘Na, kick’ it,” Union Parish quarterback Jorden Hill said. “But then I thought about it. I said ‘Nah, I believe in my teammates.’ He called the play and my brother scored. State champs.”

Hill’s “brother” was Union Parish running back Jy’Marion Island. Island had huge shoes to fill as he was known as current LSU running back Trey Holly’s replacement for most of the year. However, he cemented himself as a legend at Union Parish ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns.

Hill was named as the Most Outstanding Player from Union Parish. He finished with 78 yards and an interception while rushing for 109 yards with three touchdowns. He also had five tackles and a critical interception.

Union Parish drew first blood when Hill scored on a 56-yard quarterback keeper to give the Farmers a 7-0 lead with just under four minutes into the game.

St. James responded with a long 14-play, 73-yard scoring drive that lasted almost six minutes. The drive was capped off by a Williams one-yard quarterback sneak with 2:53 left in the first quarter.
After that touchdown, the game turned into madness.

On the first play of the next possession, Hill kept it himself for a 48-yard touchdown to put Union Parish back in the lead 14-6 with 2:35 left in the first quarter.

St. James responded very quickly as Williams found wide receiver Kobe Brown on a short pass in the flats that turned into a 73-yard touchdown. However, the Wildcats would miss their second straight extra-point attempt to make it 14-12 with 2:18 left in the first quarter.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Williams would keep it himself for another rushing touchdown, this time from 30 yards out. His touchdown gave St. James a 20-14 lead, their first lead of the game.
With just under two minutes to play, it looked like St. James was going to go up by two touchdowns to have firm control going into halftime.

However, Hill intercepted Williams’ pass and returned it for 48 yards to the St. James 45-yard line. A few plays later, Island would score on a 39-yard scamper to give Union Parish a 21-20 lead going into halftime.

Hill would score his third rushing touchdown when he faked the handoff and beat a St. James defender to the endzone to extend Union Parish’s lead to 28-20 with 3:08 remaining in the third quarter to cap off a 13-play, 84-yard drive. Unlike in the first half when Union Parish had a lot of quick scoring drives, the Farmers took more than seven minutes off the clock.

However, the Wildcats of St. James refused to bear down.

On 4th-and-15, Williams found Ester for a 35-yard touchdown. Williams would then connect with wide receiver Zayquan Acklin to tie the game up at 28-28 very early in the fourth quarter.

St. James cornerback Gary White would pick off Hill’s pass and would be tackled at Union Parish’s 38-yard line. A few plays later, running back Kani King Young scored from 18 yards out to give the Wildcats a 35-28 lead with just over nine minutes left to play in the game.

However, Union Parish had the ball with just under two minutes left in the game with nothing to lose.

Although they had no timeouts with just under 20 seconds left in the game, the Farmers handed the ball off to Island and it paid off as he scored from six yards out. Now the question remains, do you go for the kick or do you go for the win? The Farmers went for the win and gave the ball to Island and the rest was history.

During the celebration after the two-point conversion, Holly ran on the field to celebrate with his former teammate, ultimately giving Union Parish a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“For all he has done for us, I was okay with the penalty,” Island said.

Union Parish head coach Joe Spatafora almost made history by becoming the only coach to lose four straight state championship games. However, he created his history by calling one of the memorable gutsiest plays in Louisiana high school football history.

Spatafora was asked if it weighed on him that he could be the first coach to lose four consecutive state championship games.

“Hell no, that’s a record,” Spatafora said confidently. “Who else gets here four years in a row? If that’s what I got to own then hell with it, I’ll own it.

Williams finished with 164 passing yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing for 95 yards and two touchdowns. He won the Most Outstanding Player award for St. James.