The speedy senior took two kickoffs to the end zone in the first quarter making it a special night in Morristown.
A victory against rival Barnesville is always big, but when you end a five-year drought against the Shamrocks and earn the first postseason berth in school history, it’s hard to put into words the emotion wrapped up in the Jets’ 35-21 victory.
‘‘I’m ecstatic — I feel great,’’ Union Local coach Mark Cisar said. ‘This was such a big win for us, playing against your rival and now heading to the playoffs. We are really excited about our opportunity and what we have been able to accomplish.’’
The Jets could not have started things off any better in Week 10, with thoughts of the playoffs dancing in their heads coach Cisar and the boys went to the drawing board for a little something special.
It is no secret that Gust is one of the best return men in the OVAC, and Barnesville had no intentions whatsoever of putting the opening kickoff anywhere near him. The plan looked to be going their way.
Union Local’s Zach Azallion fielded the opening kickoff and headed left. As the Rocks coverage team followed, Gust came out of nowhere to take the handoff and sprint 80 yards for a score.
Union Local seemed to have momentum, but much to the Shamrocks’ credit, they took control and put together a nice drive mixing the running of the fullback Cameron Hall and several nice pass plays by sophomore signalcaller Dalton Smith.
Barnesville punched the ball into the end zone when Smith connected with Hall on a 9-yard pass play. Hall slipped into the flats to cap an 11-play, 68-yard march and gave the visitors the lead at 7-6.
As the green-and-red faithful cheered the lead, Gust and his return teammates began to plot their next move. Placed in the second wall of the return squad, the kickoff went away from Gust. Again, he ended up with the ball in his hands on yet another reverse return.
A pair of springing blocks freed the senior and 70 yards later the Jets had the lead back.
‘‘The returns were the back-breaker — they created a hole we couldn’t get out of,’’ Barnesville coach Luke Johnson said. ‘‘Gust is an exceptional athlete and Union Local has an excellent football team.’’
The Jets used the Gust returns to fuel a strong second-quarter push. After forcing a three-and-out of the Shamrocks, Union Local had its longest drive of the contest.
A 13-play, 70-yard drive ate the bulk of the second quarter and ended with a pretty 10-yard touchdown pass from a scrambling Jordan Barbina to Kyle Blackman who walked the tightrope to haul in the pass.
Union Local hopped out to 21-7 lead.
Union Local’s big-play potential reared its head again before the half. Another turnover on downs by the Rocks led to a one-play score by Azallion.
The shifty tailback scooted 47-yards for the score that extended the Jets’ lead to 28-7.
Again though, Barnesville showed its mettle, refusing to go away.
With time running down in the first half, the visitors got back onto the scoreboard. Senior Michael Wehr took a slip screen and made a bevy of moves, going 25 yards to make the Union Local lead 28-13 heading into the intermission.
In the third quarter, Union Local again flashed its quick-strike offense.
A fumble by the Rocks gave Union Local good field position at the Barnesville 46-yard line. Two plays was all the Jets needed as Gust raced 41 yards for a score after exploding through the visitors’ secondary.
The Jets advantage grew to 35-13.
The Shamrocks added a score before the quarter ended, with the connection of Smith and Hall doing the damage. The entire night, Union Local had problems defending the fullback when he would slip into the flats.
Hall’s 18-yard catch-and-run ended the scoring.
‘‘Big plays did us in,’’ added Johnson. ‘‘We have had ups-and-downs all season, and really with the way we played, I would consider it an up game.’’
With the first trip to the playoffs wrapped up in Division IV, Region 15, Cisar and the Jets understand the road ahead and what it will mean to the school and community.
‘‘You have to enjoy this,’’ Cisar said. ‘‘I am not going to put all that much pressure on these kids during the week — it is a new experience for all of them and we are pleased with how far we have come.’’
Union Local is guaranteed a road game next week and it appears a journey to either Waverly or Westfall lies ahead.