2013 high school football preview: Union Cougars will face opponents their own size this season

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6 2013 7:50 p.m. MDT

Offense

(5 returning starters; Run and shoot)

A year after averaging only 17 ppg, Union is banking on quality skill position players to make the offense more efficient. Jordan Gurr is the lone returning offensive lineman, having started every game at center as a sophomore last year. Most of the rest of the offensive linemen will also be juniors, but Labrum said it’s a quality group. Workhorse back Gavin Nielsen is back after leading the team in rushing yards last season, while Nic Smith is also back after leading the way with a modest seven TDs. All of those scores came in the final five weeks of the season as Smith took on a larger role in the offense, and the coaching staff is expecting bigger things this fall. Billy Young and Landen Winn are projected starters at receiver expected to make improved contributions.

Defense

(5 returning starters)

Union ranked 16th in 3A in scoring defense last year, good enough to help the Cougars sneak into the playoffs as a No. 4 seed — but not nearly good enough to compete with Stansbury in the playoffs. Labrum is challenging his defense this year to find a way to force more turnovers and give the offense the ball in good spots. A lot of that responsibility will fall on returning defensive linemen Jordan Gurr and Paul Kaufusi. All four of Union’s linebackers will be new, but Smith could emerge as the leader of the group. The secondary be will young, but athletic.

Coaches preseason 3A North straw poll: Fourth

Deseret News 3A North prediction: Fifth

Bottom line: There’s no doubt the split of 3A helps the Union Cougars. They haven’t had a winning record since 2007, and it was always going to be difficult competing against the larger 3A teams. Now, however, Union can be a contender. It will still be an underdog against more traditional region foes like Morgan and Grantsville, but at the end of the day teams just want to compete, and Union can do that now.

Felt’s Facts for Union High School

All-time record: 239-317 (62 years)

Region championships: 11 (1951, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 2000 co, 2005 co, 2007 co)

Playoff appearances: 29

All-time playoff record: 13-27

State championships: 2 (1965, 1993)

State championship record: 2-0

Most played rivalry: 72 meetings with Uintah dating back to 1951. Union leads 37-34-1. Meet on Sept. 6.

Felt’s Factoid(s): Jack Hannum directed Union to its first state championship in 1965 and became one of just eight coaches to win a state title with a perfect record (10-0) his first season. ... Cougar J.J. Morley is one of just 12 players to return a kickoff 99 yards in a state tournament game (2010 first round).

Union coaching history

2012-current — Matt Labrum (5-6)

2008-2011 — Sam Elliott (10-30)

2007 — Doug Bills (9-4)

2004-2006 — Phil Bertoch (15-14)

2001-2003 — Greg Hoagland (11-18)

2000 — Merlin Rasmussen (6-4)

1990-1999 — Don Busenbark (40-55)

1987-1989 — Paul Maggio (10-16)

1983-1986 — Lee Merrett (21-15)

1979-1982 — Jay Omer (13-23)

1978 — Jerry Dyer (4-5)

1976-1977 — Jay Omer (1-16)

1974-1975 — Alan Raddon (3-15)

1971-1973 — Hal Richardson (13-13-3)

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