BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Saturday, September 03, 2011
9/03/11 at 6:07 AM
Last year, Union won its third straight Class 6A state football title, despite not recording a shutout during the season.
That was on the mind of Union coach Kirk Fridrich when he talked with his team this week as it prepared to play Louisiana powerhouse Shreveport Evangel Christian.
"We talked about some reachable goals and one of those was trying to get a shutout this year," said Union coach Kirk Fridrich, whose team allowed 47 points to Jenks in the 2010 championship game. "I told them it might not happen for several weeks, but each week we wanted them to push to try to get better and be able to do that."
The Redskins' defense, led by senior linebacker Blace Walser, achieved that shutout goal ahead of schedule. Walser had two takeaways as Union blanked Evangel Christian 21-0 in a nationally televised season opener for both teams on Friday night at Union-Tuttle Stadium.
"We pitched a shutout," Walser said. "This is going to be huge for our confidence."
Kendall Holmes helped power the Redskins' offense with 26 carries for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Union quarterback Hunter Atyia racked up 233 total yards. Atyia completed his first 12 passes and finished 20-of-25 for 169 yards with two interceptions. His top receiver was Chris Hall, who had eight catches for 83 yards and a TD. Hall also made a big defensive play on special teams to preserve the shutout.
Evangel Christian, which averaged 38.6 points last season en route to its 13th state title in 18 years, seemed an unlikely candidate to be shut out. The Eagles lost a 44-32 shootout to Union in the 2010 opener at Shreveport.
"Blace came up to me with about 30 seconds left and said, `Well, Coach I guess we got that goal we were talking about,'" Fridrich said. "It was a heck of a deal."
Union's defense had to be strong because, through three quarters, Evangel held the Redskins to one TD - Hunter Atyia's 7-yard pass to Hall on the Redskins' opening possession.
The Eagles had a few scoring chances. On the opening possession, Trent Taylor caught a 48-yard pass to the Union 25, but fumbled and after a scramble that included another fumble, Union's Bonner Hoge wound up with the football.
Evangel's most serious threat came in the third quarter after Hall saved a tying TD with an open-field tackle that stopped Brandon Stewart's 31-yard punt return at the Union 36. Four plays later, the Eagles had a second-and-7 at the 8 when Union's Nick Petta sacked Dakota Duron for a 13-yard loss to the 21. That eventually led to Gerald Shouse's 38-yard field goal attempt, which was blocked by Cameron Cotton.
"That was a game changer," Walser said.
Union then drove 73 yards in nine plays, capped by Holmes' 3-yard run off left tackle with 10:43 left. That came the play after Atyia's 33-yard pass to Hall on an inside screen that converted a third-and-12.
"We had gone over it a couple times in practice but hadn't run it in a game," Hall said. "We throw it in there in practice every once in a while and it works."
Taylor, who had eight catches for 90 yards, returned the ensuing kickoff to the Union 47. But the Eagles' last threat ended with a Walser interception.
Holmes capped the scoring with a 21-yard run that ended with a spectacular long dive just inside the left pylon with 2:39 left. He had 100 yards on 16 carries in the second half. Holmes also had a big game with 106 yards rushing last year against Evangel.
"This Louisiana team is a great team," Holmes said. "They gave us competition. They showed us where we're at. After last year we knew they had a lot of great players."
Fridrich was surprised the shutout goal was reached in the season opener.
"There was no way I thought we'd be able to keep Evangel off the scoreboard," Fridrich said. "It was close in a couple cases but we came up with timely plays and a couple turnovers. I didn't think it would be 44-32 but I also didn't expect the low-scoring game that it was."
Union will get another look on how improved its defense is when it faces Jenks next Friday at the the University of Tulsa's Chapman Stadium.
Union 21, Evangel Christian 0
|Evangel||0||0||0||0|| - ||0|
|Union||7||0||0||14|| - ||21|
U: Hall 7 pass from Atyia (Atyia kick)
U: Holmes 3 run (Atyia kick)
U: Holmes 21 run (Atyia kick)
Barry Lewis 581-8393
Union's Kyle Crutchmer snags Evangel quarterback Dakota Duron on Friday night at Union High School. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Union's Kendall Holmes runs into a pack of Evangel defenders. Holmes rushed for 148 yards on 26 carries. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Union's Kendall Holmes (right) and Ky Young celebrate a touchdown against Evangel Christian. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World