I feel like we have done some good work over the summer (with our passing game). Our quarterback has been doing some quarterback camps and has done some really good things with that and been in the weight room. We’ve got some great things happening. —Union coach Matt Labrum
Note: Union finished with a 2-8 overall record in 2016 and fifth in 3A North with a 1-4 record. It did not qualify for the playoffs.
ROOSEVELT — Despite struggling to a two-win season in 2016, a group of players who got some good experience last year may help things turn around this year for the Union Cougars.
The Cougars lost some of last season's most impactful players, but have nine returning starters on offense and eight returning starters on defense, including several players ready to step up.
With that in mind, head coach Matt Labrum is confident that this year will be a solid one for Union.
“We have a lot of guys that got a lot of playing time last year and got the opportunity to learn and grow,” Labrum said. “Last year maybe wasn’t fair to them because they were real young, but they stepped up.”
Quarterback Lincoln Labrum is one of those young players that will have to step up this year after sharing time at the position in 2016 with two players that accounted for 1,189 total yards and 10 touchdowns.
The majority of the offensive line is returning though, which should provide some good protection for the sophomore, while several returning receivers will be available to target.
Gage Roberts is the most notable returning target for Labrum as he caught 14 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns in 2016.
The defense will be similar to the offense as it features many experienced players, particularly on the line, despite losing the team’s top two tacklers from 2016. However, Labrum is confident in this year’s squad.
“We lost some great players but I feel like they have left a tradition of how we work,” Labrum said of past defensive players. “I think they have left a great culture that these kids have picked up and continued to carry.”
Coach: Matt Labrum is entering his 6th year coaching at Union and 11th year coaching overall. Labrum has a 25-29 record at Union and a 42-64 record overall including his five years coaching at Parowan. He is a graduate of Union High School and Southern Utah University.
Union Offensive Snapshot
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Labrum
2016 offensive production: 14.5 ppg (11th in 3A)
— 9 returning starters
— Spread offense
Key offensive returning starters
— Lincoln Labrum, QB
Labrum saw some time at quarterback in 2016 and threw four touchdowns and no interceptions.
— Chase Laing, OL
The senior leads an offensive line that returns four starters from last season.
Returning offensive starters
Chase Laing, OL
Gage Roberts, WR
Loni Lutui, OL
Tevita Kaufusi, OL
Brigg Edwards, OL
Chase Birchell, WR
Easton Rohrer, TE
Lincoln Labrum, QB
Nate Foote, WR
Offensive newcomers to watch
Jarom Miller, RB
Brock Labrum, DT
Labrum’s comments on Lincoln Labrum and the passing game: “Yeah I feel like we have done some good work over the summer (with our passing game). Our quarterback has been doing some quarterback camps and has done some really good things with that and been in the weight room. We’ve got some great things happening.”
Labrum’s comments on Laing: “Laing is a really smart kid, moves well, and has great feet. I think he will do really well as our senior anchor there on the line.”
Keys for Offensive Success in 2017:
The Cougars lost a big portion of their offensive production from 2016 and will have to have some new players step up in order to be effective in 2017. Lincoln Labrum proved to be an effective player at the quarterback position last season and will still need to improve if the Cougars want to put some points on the board. With some good protection from the offensive line, Labrum could have a solid season and the run game could be successful as well.
Union Defensive Snapshot
Defensive Coordinator: Justin DeCol
Defensive production: 31.8 ppg (10th in 3A)
— 8 returning starters
— 4-3 defense
Key returning defensive starters
— Gage Roberts, DB
Roberts had two interceptions and had 31 tackles in 2016 as one of the leaders in the secondary.
— Colby Hyder, LB
In 2016, Hyder was third on the team in tackles in 2016 with 38 and will be key in the trenches for the Cougars.
Returning defensive starters
Chase Laing, DL
Gage Roberts, DB
Evan Percival, DL
Colby Hyder, LB
Tevita Kaufusi, DL
Chase Birchell, DB
Caden Hyder, DB
Brigg Edwards, DL
Defensive newcomers to watch
Hunter Hyder, DL
Brock Labrum, DL
Nolan Bullethead, DL
Dalton Clark, DL
Easton Rohrer, LB
Jaden Horrocks, LB
Labrum’s comments on the defensive line:
“It all starts right there. It starts in the trenches and if you can handle the trenches, then I like our opportunities. With our trenches right now, it looks like on the interior we will have some impactful guys.”
Labrum’s comments on the line and defense in general:
“I am really impressed with the culture of our line and how well they work together and well they have worked for each other and for the team. So it will be tough to fill those holes but I’m excited about the (new) guys and their opportunities. We had some good battles in practice and now it's time to step up.”
Keys for Defensive Success in 2017:
Similar to the offense, Union lost a lot of defensive production from 2016. The Cougars will need to have the “next man up” mentality as players who had smaller roles last season will need to be the main pieces this year.
Coaches preseason 3A North straw poll: Fourth
Deseret News 3A North prediction: Fourth
Key Region Game: at Carbon, September 15 (week 5)
Bottom Line: Union had a rough year in 2016, going 1-4 in region play and 2-8 overall, and will have a tough road forward. The Cougars lost some of their more productive players from last season but has a good core of players, especially in the trenches, that will build off of experience gained last season.
Aug. 18 — at Summit Academy, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — NORTH SANPETE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 — UINTAH, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 — at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — at Carbon, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — GRANTSVILLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — JUDGE MEMORIAL, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — EMERY, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 — at Morgan, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — BYE
Felt’s Facts for Union High School
All-time record: 259-340 (66 years)
Region championships: 11 (1951, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 2000 co, 2005 co, 2007 co)
Playoff appearances: 31
Current playoff appearance streak: 0
All-time playoff record: 14-29
State championships: 2 (1965, 1993)
State championship record: 2-0
Most played rivalry: 76 meetings with Uintah dating back to 1951. Union leads 39-36-1.
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).
2016 — 2-8 (1-4 in 3A North – Missed playoffs)
2015 — 5-6 (3-2 in 3A North – 3A Quarterfinals)
2014 — 9-3 (4-1 in 3A North – 3A Semifinals)
2013 — 4-6 (1-4 in 3A North – Missed playoffs)
2012 — 5-6 (2-3 in Region 10 – 3A First round)
Union coaching history
2012-current — Matt Labrum (25-29)
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)
1969-1970 — Gale Anderson (10-8)
1967-1968 — Unknown (11-7-2)
1965-1966 — Jack Hannum (16-3-2)
1963-1964 — Scott Edrington (2-14-1)
1962 — Bruce Parry (6-1-1)
1958-1961 — Kenneth Benson (5-25-2)
1956-1957 — Ted Heath (8-8-1)
1954-1955 — Sark Arslanian (11-4)
1951-1953 — Eldon Wright (9-13-2)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2016 — Coleman Miles, OL
2015 — Villiami Lutui, QB
2015 — Korbyn Bertoch, LB
2014 — Nic Smith, RB
2014 — Jordan Gurr, OL
2014 — Paul Kaufusi, DL
2014 — Weston Horrocks, DB
2014 — Tye Winterton, K
2013 — Nic Smith, WR
2007 — Rhen Richard, QB
2007 — David Gilbert, WR
2007 — Casey Glines, WR
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.