BA seeks first 6A title as Union eyes fourth straight
BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Thursday, December 01, 2011
12/01/11 at 6:00 AM
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A pivotal moment in Class 6A football occurred in 2002 when Union and Broken Arrow first met for the state championship.
Both teams were looking for their first large-school state title as a successor to Jenks, which had its streak of six consecutive championships snapped.
Union won 52-3 as Spencer McIllwain rushed for 219 yards and five touchdowns. The Redskins have since won five more 6A state titles.
Thursday night could be another pivotal moment when third-ranked Broken Arrow (12-1), still looking for its first championship and in the title game for the first time since '02, meets No. 2 Union (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. Union is trying for its fourth consecutive championship. This will be the first time since 2006 the title game won't be Union-Jenks.
In '02, Union had the advantage of having played in three title games over the previous four years.
"Having been there before can give you an advantage," Broken Arrow coach Steve Spavital said. "When you've never been there before, there can be the tendency to be too hyped up. It's like running the 100-yard dash; if you try too hard that can slow you down.
"This is unfamiliar territory for us. We just need to come and play our game and hope the ball bounces our way."
Spavital was Union's defensive coordinator in '02 and helped the Redskins win three state titles before leaving Union's staff after Bill Blankenship's resignation as head coach following the '05 season.
Spavital is in his second season as Broken Arrow's head coach after being assistant head coach for the previous three years.
Union head coach Kirk Fridrich was an assistant with Spavital at Union from 1993-2001. Fridrich has led Union to the title game in all five seasons as the Redskins' head coach.
"Coach Fred is a good friend and a great coach, " Spavital said. "He also did a tremendous job as head coach at Stillwater and Owasso before he came back to Union. I have great respect for him."
And so does Fridrich for Spavital.
"I learned a lot from him when I coached the defensive line here," Fridrich said.
Broken Arrow is the only team other than Jenks to have defeated Union in Fridrich's five seasons as head coach. The Tigers' 24-9 win in the 2008 season opener is their only victory over Union in 27 meetings since the 1990 season. Union is 5-0 against Broken Arrow in the playoffs during that span, with their most recent postseason battle in the 2009 semifinals when Union scored two touchdowns in the last five minutes for a 24-13 victory.
Union defeated Broken Arrow 21-14 in Week 3 this season as Ryan Mischler caught a 70-yard bomb from Hunter Atyia for the winning touchdown late in the third quarter. Devon Thomas, who has rushed for 1,770 yards this season, had a TD run early in the third period to give Broken Arrow a 14-7 lead, but the Redskins shut down Broken Arrow's running attack the rest of the game.
"Devon Thomas has been huge," Broken Arrow quarterback Zack Mills said. "He's had a breakout year. If we can keep him running great and come up with some throwing, it will be good."
Fridrich has been impressed by how the Tigers have improved since their September meeting.
"Their offensive line is working so well as a unit, which doesn't surprise me because I know how good Coach Garner is from his time here," Fridrich said about Broken Arrow assistant Mark Garner, who is a former Union assistant. "Their quarterback (Mills) looks like he's operating their offense more naturally than he did when we first played them. And their skill position kids have so much athletic ability."
Broken Arrow, which averages 43.4 points, was held to its season-low scoring total in the loss to Union.
"Without a doubt they have the best defense we've played all year," Spavital said. "Union's speed impresses me; they are a lot bigger than us, and they are so well-coached.
"We've played each other, and the teams know each other. It's going to be kind of like a chess match."
And it has the potential to not be decided until the final seconds, a much different game than when the schools met for the 2002 title.
"It's going to be a great game," Union tight end Matt Hermann said. "They're a great team, we've got a great team, too, so it's going to be a great battle."
BROKEN ARROW 2011 SCHEDULE
S. 2 Owasso W, 48-20
S. 9 at Permian (Texas) W, 65-26
S. 16 at Union L, 21-14
S. 23 Putnam City West W, 65-6
S. 30 at Muskogee W, 33-26 (OT)
O. 7 Sapulpa W, 52-19
O. 13 at Southmoore W, 56-7
O. 21 at Norman W, 16-14
O. 28 Jenks W, 31-21
N. 4 at Shawnee W, 49-0
N. 11 Bixby W, 58-19
N. 18 Lawton W, 47-7
N. 25 Owasso (at Muskogee) W, 30-17
6A championship game
D. 1 Union (at OSU)
UNION 2011 SCHEDULE
S. 2 Evangel (La.) W, 21-0
S. 9 Jenks (at TU) W, 41-19
S. 16 Broken Arrow W, 21-14
S. 23 Bixby W, 67-17
S. 30 at Sand Springs W, 44-20
O. 7 Owasso L, 41-38
O. 14 at Ponca City W, 51-14
O. 20 at Bartlesville W, 38-7
O. 28 Enid W, 35-3
N. 4 at Stillwater W, 35-0
N. 11 Southmoore W, 49-14
N. 18 Edmond North W, 17-16
N. 25 Jenks (at Stillwater) W, 30-29
6A championship game
D. 1 Broken Arrow (at OSU)
6A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: UNION VS. BROKEN ARROW
7:30 p.m. Thursday
Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater
Radio: KYAL fm97.1, KCXR fm100.3
World Sports Writer Kelly Hines contributed to this story.
Original Print Headline: Golden opportunity
Barry Lewis 918-581-8393
Union, led by quarterback Hunter Atyia (left), is a frequent title-game participant. Newcomers Zac Veatch and Broken Arrow are ready to break through. Tulsa World photos by MATT BARNARD (Atyia) and JEFF LAUTENBERGER (Veatch); Photo illustration by ETHAN ERICKSON / Tulsa World
Head coach Steve Spavital's Broken Arrow team was held to a season-low scoring total in a loss to Union earlier this season. JEFF LAUTENBERGER / Tulsa World