OWASSO — Jenks coach Allan Trimble stood before his team again on Friday night, their hair bleached blondish and their faces streaked with tears, and although their disappointment was palpable, Trimble’s jaw held firm, his gaze resolute, his words powerful.
“You represented yourself,” he told them, “like champions.”
But the championship will go elsewhere this year. The Trojans just couldn’t win one for their ailing coach. Not this time, anyway.
This time, it was mighty Union who left Owasso Stadium victorious, thundering down on their arch rival with a decisive 45-21 Class 6A-1 semifinal triumph.
After losing four consecutive games to Jenks, and after the Trojans had brought home four gold balls in a row, Union (10-2) gets exactly what it wanted: a victory over Jenks (11-1), and a championship game rematch against unbeaten Norman North (12-0). The game will be played at the University of Tulsa likely on Dec. 2.
The underlying story of this game was certainly Trimble. It might have been his last game.
The most successful coach in the history of Oklahoma high school football announced during the summer he has ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and it is always terminal.
Trimble, 52, has won 13 state championships in 21 seasons atop Oklahoma’s largest classification, but when it comes to ALS, no one can predict the future. Not even Trimble. Will he be back next year? Was Friday his final game?
“I really don’t know,” Trimble told The Franchise. “This school and community deserves a guy that can give it everything (he’s) got. You know, we’ll evaluate. I feel good right now. I’ve got just a wonderful coaching staff and we’ve got some great kids coming back, but again, we’ll ponder on it and we’ll see.”
Union coach Kirk Fridrich is concluding his 10th season, and afterward he shared a moment — and a popular sentiment — with his rival and friend.
“It’s been a tug on me since the summer,” Fridrich said. “I just shook his hand afterwards and said, ‘Coach, I hope we get to enjoy many more of these.’ ”
Trimble’s career record is 253-36. Fridrich’s team has won four state championships, but Union has some work ahead if it wants to keep the 21-year Jenks-Union championship stranglehold. The Redskins lost to Norman North 30-27 earlier in the year.
“They did a great job in the kicking game, causing turnovers for us,” Fridrich said. “So we’ll have to be a lot sharper in that. We’ve got some work to do, definitely. And we have not looked ahead at all, because we had such a big task.”
But Fridrich said his team has matured throughout the season. After opening the year with a victory at Southlake Carroll, the Redskins lost 35-28 to Jenks. Then they lost to Norman North, which cost them the district title.
Union is playing much better now, Fridrich said, and that showed against Jenks, both early in the first half and early in the second half. Jordon Curtis caught a 67-yard touchdown pass from Ian Corwin on the second play of the game, and after a Union field goal built a 10-point cushion at the start of the third quarter, Curtis went 91 yards with the ensuing kickoff.
Both times, Union answered with touchdowns — Tulsa commit Shamari Brooks’ 23-yard touchdown run after the first one and OU commit Tre Brown’s 99-yard kickoff return after the second.
“You talk about adversity, I’m not sure this team early on could have handled an opening big shot like Jenks gave us, being down 7-0,” Fridrich said. “It’s not what you would want to have happen. And then the kick return in the second half. Just through the adversity, they responded and said, ‘OK, this is what we’ve got to do. Let’s go back to work.’ ”
For Jenks, it was too much Brooks (he ran 33 times for 186 yards, caught six passes for 73 yards and scored four touchdowns), too much Grady Davenport (he completed 17-of-22 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns as the Redskins converted 10-of-17 third down plays) and too much defense (the Trojans managed just 53 yards rushing and 243 total to go with nine first downs).
“They made plays,” Trimble said. “They played very, very well. Had a great night on defense.
“We had the kickoff return and got a little bit of momentum, then we kick it right back to their All-American. But again, credit Union. They made the blocks and they executed and made the plays.”
Said Fridrich, “I could not be more proud of our team. This Jenks team scored 50 points a game and they cut that in half, and then our offense, I think, doubled what their defense has been giving up. So, very proud of our staff and what our kids did.”
After trying to console his troops, Trimble had the same sentiment in defeat.
“I couldn’t be more proud of ‘em,” he said. “They accomplished some great things.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.
UNION 45, JENKS 21
Jenks … 7 7 7 0 — 21
Union … 7 14 17 7 — 45
Jenks: Jordon Curtis 67 pass from Ian Corwin (Austin Neuhauser kick), 11:02
Union: Shamari Brooks 23 run (Noah Rauschenberg kick), 5:30
Union: C.J. Moore 5 pass from Grady Davenport (Rauschenberg kick), 10:58
Jenks: Reese Laitao 16 pass from Corwin (Neuhauser kick), 9:32
Union: Brooks 1 run (Rauschenberg kick), 1:18
Union: Rauschenberg 32 FG, 6:59
Jenks: Jordon Curtis 91 kickoff return Neuhauser kick), 6:45
Union: Tre Brown 99 kickoff return (Rauschenberg kick), 6:32
Union: Brooks 20 run (Rauschenberg kick), 2:49
Union: Brooks 32 pass from Davenport (Rauschenberg kick), 9:40