By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
Four years after winning its last state championship, Union’s 2016 squad under head coach Kirk Fridirich is looking better today as its members are making their mark in Division-I college football.
Most significant is Shamari Brooks, a star running back across town at the University of Tulsa, along with Tre Brown and Patrick Fields, now major players in OU’s secondary down in Norman.
Ricky Stromberg has risen through the ranks on the Arkansas offensive line.
Defensive end Darrias Murdock is also at TU. Kyrei Fisher is now at Oregon State. Darius Boone is now at Eastern Michigan.
Looking back at that year, there were high expectations of Union. But the Redskins did encounter a few blemishes.
They won their first two games against Southlake (Texas) Carrol (21-10) and Broken Arrow (42-7), but then came a loss to archrival Jenks in the annual Backyard Bowl. In a game with a lot of fireworks, including a solid night of running by Brooks, it was the Trojans, who won state the previous year, who came out on top 35-28.
Union had the next week off, before steamrolling its next three opponents — Edmond North (51-0), Owasso (59-3) and Moore (51-3).
Then came a key district encounter with Norman North, who had the Stoops brothers – Isaac and Drake, sons of former OU coach Bob Stoops, who was in his eventual final season before retirement. The Redskins came out on the short end of that game as well, 30-27.
That loss later cost them the District 6AI-2 title, but Union would not lose again, although it had to escape in its regular season finale at Mustang (20-17). Had Union dropped that game, it would have finished third and had to play a first-round game on the road. Before Mustang, the Redskins rocked Southmoore (49-28) and Putnam City North (72-0).
After a second win against Broken Arrow (40-24) in the first round, the Redskins got another shot at Jenks in the second round.
In that game, it appeared as if the 2015 state champion was going to win when it scored first. Union would answer and led 21-14 at halftime after a Brooks’ touchdown from one yard. It was a lead the Redskins would never relinquish.
After a Noah Rauschenberg field goal increased the lead by 10 points to start the second half, Jenks took the ensuing kickoff back for a 91-yard TD and it was 24-21. Brown countered for Union by taking the following kickoff back for a 99-yard TD.
The Trojans didn’t score again as Union dominated, shutting them down while adding two more touchdowns to complete a 45-21 win.
Brooks rushed for four touchdowns and 250 yards that night.
A rematch with Norman North came in the Class 6AI state championship game. The Redskins trailed the Timberwolves early, but it was brief. A tackle-eligible backward TD pass to lineman Carter Hoopingarner put Union on top for good. The next TD was from Brown, who bolted down the east sideline for 53 yards with Brooks making a key block.
The game ended in a high-scoring shootout with Union winning 57-43 and was state champions for the first time in five years and its ninth in school history.
Brooks was the player of the game. He rushed for 228 yards on 33 carries and three touchdowns.
At that time, Union added to the stronghold it shared with Jenks on the state title in the highest classification in Oklahoma High School Football, making it 21 straight years won by either program. It was snapped the following year.
Nevertheless, the Redskins met expectations in 2016.
Brooks, Brown and Fields have had the most impact on their programs.
Brooks, a senior on the 2016 team, now has 2,700 rushing yards and 23 TDs in his career at TU.
Brown, also a senior that year, is best known for a pass breakup that kept Oklahoma State from going ahead of Oklahoma in the 2018 Bedlam game, as well as a fourth quarter safety against Texas in the Big 12 Championship the same year.
Fields, a junior on that team, had seven tackles, including one for loss in last year’s Red River Showdown. He was also named an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection and to Academic All-Big 12 First Team last season.