IMPRESSIVE YARDAGE: Union’s Shamari Brooks flies toward the end zone in the state championship game. Brooks, a University of Tulsa commit, was the player of the game. He ran for 228 yards on 33 carries while scoring three touchdowns. Those numbers allowed Brooks to finish the year with 2,024 yards in 308 handoffs.
KEVIN ADAMS for GTR Newspapers
It can best be said that it was Union’s time to win state in 2016. The Redskins had a senior-loaded class with players like running back Shamari Brooks and wide receiver/defensive back Tre Brown, who are bound Division I programs.
There were questions if the Redskins could still do it after losses to Jenks and Norman North in the regular season. But they rebounded nicely, avenging those defeats respectively in the playoffs and the Class 6AI state championship game. The latter was held Dec. 2 at Chapman Stadium, located on the University of Tulsa campus.
A lot of offense was expected and that’s what took place as Union was a 57-43 victor over Norman North, who had the sons of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops on their roster.
“In order to win, we had to come together as a family, and we just showed up right there,” Brown says.
“It feels great (to win a state championship),” Brooks says. “In my senior season, I just wanted to focus on winning a gold ball for my team and I’m finally able to say I won a championship for my team.”
Brooks, a University of Tulsa commit, was the player of the game. Making rushes in his last high school game on the same field he’ll playing college ball, Brooks ran for 228 yards on 33 carries while scoring three touchdowns. Those numbers allowed Brooks to finish the year with 2,024 yards in 308 handoffs.
“This is great,” Brook says. “It feels like home. I love it, man. I love Tulsa.
“The defense gave us great opportunities to get the ball back,” Brooks says. “The offensive line did exceptionally well in their job blocking.”
And it took an offensive lineman to get the lead back for good.
In Union’s only low point of the game, the Redskins trailed 7-6 after giving up a 23-yard TD pass to the Timberwolves. That came five minutes after Brooks scored Union’s first TD, with the extra point missed.
The Redskins answered with a trick play as Cooper Hoopingarner, a senior left tackle who stands 6-5 and weighs 290 pounds, caught a backward pass from quarterback Grady Davenport and took it three yards to the end zone for a TD on fourth down, giving Union a 13-7 lead.
“It was crazy,” Hoopingarner said of the situation. “We’ve been practicing this play for weeks, and they were like (coaches said), ‘I’m running the play. This is on you.’ To be honest, I was nervous. But I remembered how many times we practiced that, and how many times we were going to execute that. It was just an amazing feeling.”
The Union fans were digging it, Hoopingarner says.
“It definitely built up the teams and it brought everything together,” he says. “There was great execution on both sides.”
Brown made the most critical play of the game with a short pass he took for a 53-yard TD down the east sideline. The lead was increased to 20-7, where it stood going into the second quarter.
Brown caught three catches for 83 yards and returned a punt 52 yards. On defense, he had two tackles.
“I just put in God’s hands,” Brown says. “I told you God was going to get this for me. I prayed before the game, I prayed before the day. I’m at a loss for words right now because I always told my team I would bring one back before we (graduate). We didn’t get it my freshman and sophomore years (referring to Union’s appearance in the 2013 6A and 2014 6AI championships), but we did it this year. I made some plays, but I’ve got to thank my teammates. They helped me get to where I am.”
Junior C.J. Moore led the Redskins in catches with six for 82 yards and three TDs. Moore would score on an 11-yard pass from Davenport. Noah Rauschenberg missed the extra point but he booted a 26-yard field goal before halftime and it was 29-7.
The Timberwolves got the ball to start the second half and scored immediately. That began an exchange of scoring for the rest of the game. But the advantage Union had built up through the first half made the difference.
Davenport finished the game with 208 yards passing, completing 14-of-24 attempts and tossing four TDs.
Union captured its ninth state title in school history and the first in Division 6AI. It was the first title since 2011 and the eighth in 15 years. It is the 21st straight year that either the Redskins or Jenks have won the championship at the highest classification in Oklahoma high school football.