TULSA — This time, Union’s talent would not be denied.
This time, the mighty Redskins played as a unit, minimized their mistakes and punished Norman North 57-43 on Friday night for the Class 6A-1 state championship.
And the Union-Jenks title streak reaches 21 years. Eight of those are housed at Union.
“You see it means so much to so many people,” said Union coach Kirk Fridrich, “and one of the biggest things, fortunately for me, I’ve had the opportunity to be in this situation a couple other times, and to see how people celebrate, there’s uncles and cousins and grandmas that are smiling right now, and to see our kids and the excitement of how far this reaches within our school district and family, it’s pretty neat.”
An H.A. Chapman Stadium crowd of 12,308 swayed the University of Tulsa campus back and forth, but Union — loaded with Division I and small-college prospects throughout its roster — was just too dominant. The Timberwolves simply could not mount a challenge.
“They’re a great team with great players,” said North receiver Drake Stoops, who caught two touchdown passes. “They have a big school and great coaches, obviously, and just a history of winning. They know how to get it done and they’ve been doing it.”
Norman North (12-1) won the regular season meeting 30-27 in Norman and brought home the district title. Union (11-2) also lost its regular season showdown with rival Jenks.
But come playoff time, Union avenged both defeats convincingly.
“As you go through the year, second chances don’t come,” said Union wideout C.J. Moore. “But we made up for it now.”
Moore, Shamari Brooks and Tre Brown were just too dynamic. Brooks, a senior who will play his college games here at TU, carried 33 times for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Brown, a senior who is committed to Oklahoma, busted things open in the first quarter when he took a screen pass 53 yards for a touchdown to put Union up 20-7. And Moore, a junior who has scholarship offers from the likes of Ohio State, caught six passes for 83 yards with three touchdowns and a 2-point conversion.
“We didn’t get off to a very good start,” said Norman North coach Brent Barnes. “That didn’t help.”
Both quarterbacks were effective. Union’s Grady Davenport was 14-of-23 for 212 yards and four touchdowns, and North’s Brandon Marquardt threw for 341 yards and four TDs. Charlie Kolar caught six passes for 120 yards and a TD for the Timberwolves, while Stoops caught five passes for 58 yards.
While both offenses seemed unstoppable, it was Union linebacker Kyrei Fisher who ruined numerous Norman North possessions with three quarterback sacks in the first half and constant pressure.
Brooks, who was held largely in check during the regular-season loss, was almost impossible to wrangle this time.
“I watched a lot more tape,” he said, “and kind of found out more stuff about Norman North’s defense that I didn’t see the last time.”
In that game, North made big plays on special teams and Union missed multiple opportunities.
The Redskins grew immensely from their regular-season setbacks, Fridrich said.
“We really became a team,” Fridrich said. “Early on, we had a lot of talent and a lot of heroes and a lot of guys trying to do more than they should to try to win the game.
“There’s a lot of kids that had to swallow some of their pride, or had to get over some nicks and knacks and team chemistry and family things along the way. They just put things aside and became a team and became fans of each other. That was pretty neat to see throughout the season.
“No knock on any of those guys that are going on with college aspirations. But I think the biggest thing we could say is this group of kids kind of put their pride aside, their ego aside, and became a team.”
That was evident on Union’s second touchdown.
After Brooks’ TD on the opening drive gave Union a 6-0 lead, North answered immediately on Collin Klein’s 23-yard pass from Brandon Marquardt for a 7-6 lead.
Union drove to the North 3-yard line and faced fourth-and-goal. The whole drive had been on Brooks’ shoulders, and it seemed sure he would get it again. Instead, Davenport rolled out to his right, then threw back to his left — a lateral pass to left tackle Carter Hoopingarner, who stopped, reached down to catch the ball inches off the turf, then chugged around left end and inside the pylon for a 13-7 lead.
“Carter Hoopingardner is an old baseball kid who knows how to snag a ball off the ground,” Fridrich said. “I’ve been wanting to run that play. We actually tried to run it a couple weeks ago, and I’m so glad we kept it because it was the perfect opportunity. It’s got to be on the correct hash — and it’s got to be inside the 5.”
Brown’s burst came next, followed by Moore’s first TD. The rout was on, 29-7 at halftime, though Norman North never knew it. The Timberwolves outscored Union 35-28 in the second half with big play after big play, including a touchdown and 2-point conversion with three seconds to play.
“Not surprised at all,” Barnes said. “That’s who they are. This is a special group and this has been a special season. I knew there was no way they were gonna go down without a fight. They just have a lot of character, they believe in each other, and they obviously believed we were gonna win the game until very late there.”
Earlier in his career, Barnes spent three seasons as a Union assistant, and although the Union-Jenks championship stranglehold is now of legal drinking age, he sees the kind of progress being made in Norman that he hopes will one day bring a gold ball back west for the first time since 1995.
“Obviously, my time there was great,” Barnes said. “It helped me a lot, personally, grow as a coach. … I hope that we’re building a championship team ourselves, and give ourselves opportunities like this.”
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 57, NORMAN NORTH 43
Union …. 20 9 8 20 — 57
Norman North…. 7 0 14 21 — 43
|U||Shamari Brooks 4 run (kick failed)|
|N||Collin Klein 23 pass from Brandon Marquardt (Jackson Wilhite kick)|
|U||Carter Hoopingarner 3 run (Noah Rauschenberg kick)|
|U||Tre Brown 53 pass from Grady Davenport (Rauschenberg kick)|
|U||CJ Moore 11 pass from Davenport (kick failed)|
|U||FG, Rauschenberg 26|
|N||Charlie Kolar 35 pass from Marquardt (run failed)|
|U||Moore 8 pass from Davenport (Moore pass from Davenport)|
|N||Drake Stoops 16 pass from Marquardt (Kolar pass from Marquardt)|
|U||Brooks 46 run (pass failed)|
|N||Dalyn Alexander 3 run (Wilhite kick)|
|U||Moore 39 pass from Davenport (Rauschenberg kick)|
|N||Stoops 28 pass from Marquardt (Wilhite kick)|
|U||Brooks 5 run (Rauschenberg kick)|
|N||Cole Mashburn 1 run (Mashburn run)|