Courtesy Union Public Schools
More responsibility will be given to Shamari Brooks in Union’s backfield this season. Therefore, much will be expected from him as the Redskins begin a run for a state championship with a senior-loaded roster. That includes Brooks.
He rushed for 1,303 yards and 12 touchdowns on 187 carries over the past two years in a backup role to career rushing leader Tyler Adkins. Now that Adkins has graduated, Brooks is expected to carry the load in the Redskins’ rushing attack.
“It was a pretty good launchpad for me,” Brooks says. “I have a great offensive line. Those guys work hard in practice day in and day out. They make it happen every day.”
Those who’ll be blocking for Brooks include seniors Elwood Tomlin (6-1, 285), Carlos Barrios (6-3, 250), Nate Peters (6-1, 290) and Adrian Wilson (6-1, 285). They’re considered among the top offensive lines in Class 6AI.
Who Brooks could be taking snaps from are Grady Davenport or Peyton Morrison, also seniors, who are battling for quarterback.
Other highlights from Brooks’ last year included a 16-yard touchdown pass and a 56-yard kickoff return. As a linebacker, he forced 93 tackles. While being in a reserve role on offense, Brooks started defense the past two seasons, but since he will be relied upon in the ground game, he will be limited to the backfield in 2016.
“I should be carrying the load on me this year,” he says. “It should be a pretty good season.”
Brooks is also verbally committed to Tulsa. So it won’t be long until he is making runs across town on the Chapman Stadium turf.
“I just want them (TU coaches) to see that I can carry the load,” Brooks says. “I just want them to know I can carry the load with the feet I got.”
Union received recognition with No. 1 rankings in preseason 6AI polls and was picked to win District 6AI-2, including VYPE Magazine. That’s mainly due to having a senior-loaded class return. Besides Brooks and the offensive line, there is defensive linemen Lee Barnes (5-10, 286), Devon Bajek (6-3, 242), linebackers Kyrei Fisher (6-1, 228), Darius Thornton (5-9, 220), defensive backs Tre Brown (5-10, 168) and Jordan Starks (5-9, 165).
“I just thank God to have that blessing out there, of having the honor of being No. 1,” Brooks says.
“I feel like we’re ready,” he continues. “Just being out here on two-a-days during hot days and getting used to this environment. I think we’re going to be ready. We’ve been working hard. We have a lot of talent, but we’re not letting talent be the main factor of us possibly winning this. We want it to be hard work as well.”
The chemistry is coming along pretty well, Brooks says.
“Everybody is used to playing with each other. We have a new quarterback and that’s about it but everybody is familiar with playing each other.”
The first three games on Union’s schedule will be a test.
The Redskins travel to Texas to meet Southlake Carroll in their season opener on Aug. 26. Union has lost to Southlake Carroll the last two years. The following week will be the home opener against neighboring rival Broken Arrow, last year’s Class 6AI runner-up.
“Those are great teams,” Brooks says. “In the past, we haven’t been able to take care of our first game against Southlake Carroll, so we’re working hard to beat them for once. We’ve done pretty good in the first half, but I think finishing the fourth quarter is probably the biggest part of the game, not getting exhausted, keep pushing and finishing the games.”
Then comes defending state champion Jenks in the annual Backyard Bowl at TU. Union, the home team in this year’s game, knows how pivotal the game will be in its quest to win its first state championship since 2011.
“They’re (Jenks) definitely on our mind,” Brooks says. “They have that gold ball. We want that gold ball. They’ve hoisted the gold ball for the past four years, and that motivates us easily every day. We just think about that form of mindset.”
Both Union and Jenks have won the state title in the highest class of Oklahoma High School Football for the past 20 seasons, with the Redskins winning seven of those.