It's sort of hard to contrast the feeling of Union High at this juncture of the season, compared to 12 months ago.
Can you say, "Night and day?"
A year ago, Union enjoyed modest success in the preseason but came unhitched after a disappointing 6-0 loss to archrival Uintah at the start of league play. The Cougars didn't win again en route to a 3-6 record and a lot of disappointment.
But with new coach Doug Bills, who spent 16 years previously as Springville High's head coach, and star quarterback senior Rhen Richard at the controls, all that seems like a distant memory.
Simply put, the Cougars have been flying.
Since starting out 1-2, Union has rattled off four straight wins and has averaged 41.75 points per game during that streak. And a week after notching a stunning upset win over previously unbeaten Park City, the Cougars followed it up Friday evening with a 63-34 blowout over rival Uintah.
Don't count Richard among those who think the Cougars aren't for real.
"If we can play solidly, we should be able to walk over people," said Richard, who quickly cautioned that his squad must stay grounded.
Beating Uintah like that, however, will be particularly sweet for Union and the community of Roosevelt.
Because of the importance of oil fields in eastern Utah, many members of Roosevelt and Vernal, home of Uintah High, work together, which adds an extra dimension to the rivalry.
As he has been all season, Richard was the star of the show against the Utes. The senior quarterback threw for 379 yards and four TDs and rushed for 133 yards and two TDs.
The Cougars led 42-14 midway through the third quarter and cruised to the dominant win.
"We could've scored 80 on them," said Richard matter-of-factly.
With big, tall and sure-handed receivers Casey Glines and David Gilbert to throw to, Richard has already racked up exactly 2,000 passing yards and has thrown for 19 touchdown passes.
And, like Riley Nelson was at Logan two years ago, Richard has also been a huge threat rushing the ball.
So far, Southern Utah and Snow College have both offered the talented signal-caller scholarships. He also received interest from Boise State and Colorado, and he said he has heard rumors that the University of Utah is also interested.
FRIDAY NIGHT STARS: Aside from Richard, several other players stood out in Week 7 of the prep season. Jake Richins racked up 168 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries for North Summit ... Speaking of short work, Millard's Zack Wilcox scored five times and had 131 rushing yards on only 12 carries ... Receiver Mitch Hatch had seven catches for 160 yards as Fremont finally collected a Region 1 win ... Riverton's multipurpose star Aaron Jaussi did a little of everything to lead the Silverwolves to a critical win, as he scored two touchdowns, kicked three extra points and was solid on defense ... Adam Timo racked up 240 rushing yards and four touchdowns as Snow Canyon bounced back with a win.
ODDS AND ENDS: With his 172-yard rushing night against Canyon View, Dixie's Nate Carter eclipsed the 3,000-yard rushing mark for his career ... Coach Ashley Brown won his 50th game at Rich High.
LOOKING AHEAD: Riverton travels to archrival Bingham this week in a game pitting two 2-0 teams in Region 3. Meanwhile, Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove, also both unbeaten in league play, will collide. In 4A, some of the luster was taken off the Cottonwood-East tilt because Cottonwood lost to Highland, but there will still be plenty on the line. Region 5's big game of the week will be Bountiful at Sky View. Down the line in 3A, Juan Diego will travel to North Sanpete in what could determine the Region 8 title, and Dixie-Pine View and Wasatch-Judge will also be big games.
ATTENTION, COACHES: Coaches and statisticians are reminded to e-mail offensive yardage statistics to prepstats
@desnews.com by Monday afternoon for publication in Tuesday's paper. Stats also can be faxed to 801-237-2543.PREPS ON THE WEB: Log onto deseretnews.com/preps for the most comprehensive prep coverage in Utah. Scores post immediately after the Deseret Morning News receives the information from coaches, and this year we're updating our Web site with quarterly scoring updates for over half of the football games in the state each Friday night. While there, see scoring summaries, standings and individual and team leaders for every team in the state.
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