Redskins roll on
BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Saturday, September 01, 2012
9/01/12 at 4:50 AM
Related story: Trojans’ mistakes cause frustration.
In Friday night's season-opening MidFirst Backyard Bowl, Dalton Rodriguez and his Union defensive teammates picked up where they left off at the end of last season that ended with a fourth consecutive Class 6A state football title.
Rodriguez made several key plays, including a fumble recovery that set up Justin Silmon's winning 5-yard touchdown run with 5:47 left, to lift the top-ranked Redskins past No. 3 Jenks 14-7 before an estimated 15,000 fans at Chapman Stadium.
Union's defense carried it through the playoffs last year, stopping late drives in each of its final three wins that were decided by one point each. Rodriguez's strong pass rushing late last season made him one of the state's top college recruits, and he has committed to the University of Oklahoma.
"We talk quite a bit to our kids that big-time players make big plays," Union coach Kirk Fridrich said of Rodriguez. "When we had to have a pressure or sack or a turnover, Dalton was there."
His biggest play of a night that included two sacks came midway through the fourth quarter with Jenks pinned at its 5, Trey'Vonne Barr'e fumbled a bad handoff from quarterback Kyle Alexander, who stumbled on the play. Rodriguez fell on the loose ball at the 5. It was reminiscent of last year's state title game when Union linebacker Coleby Evans returned a fumbled bad handoff 30 yards for the winning TD late in the fourth quarter against Broken Arrow.
"I was going to pick it up and score, but I didn't want to risk me fumbling," Rodriguez said. "We were trying to get a turnover and when we get a chance for one, we've got to get it."
On the next play, tailback Silmon scored on a 5-yard run around right end. Silmon, a junior in his first varsity start, had 17 carries for 93 yards.
"I was pretty happy they gave it to me then, I wanted to get it right in the end zone," Silmon said. "We had been going to the outside a lot and been successful, so as soon as I heard it, I knew it would be a good play."
On Jenks' ensuing possession, the Redskins stopped the Trojans without a first down, and then Union's offense picked up two first downs to seal a fourth consecutive victory over Jenks in the rivalry.
"When we need a stop, we get it," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez helped keep the game tied at 7 when Jenks was threatening to take the lead late in the third quarter. His strong rush on Alexander forced an incomplete pass that was followed by a missed 31-yard field goal.
Jenks missed several other opportunities to break the tie that had lasted since late in the first quarter. The Trojans lost three fumbles, including two that ended scoring chances. Early in the fourth quarter, Alexander fumbled a snap after a lengthy injury timeout, and Union's Sam Blankenship recovered at the Redskins 8.
"It's certainly frustrating," Jenks coach Allan Trimble said. "I was really proud of the kids' effort, but unfortunately when you're playing against a good football team you can't make that many unforced errors. I am really, really proud of our defense. We kept them out of the end zone except for that 5-yard drive at the end."
The Trojans' defense nearly posted a shutout as Union's other TD came on Khalid Kornegay's 85-yard kickoff return with 3:45 left in the first period.
Kornegay's return came right after Barr'e opened the scoring with a 45-yard touchdown dash. Barr'e finished with 129 yards on 21 carries. The Trojans' 7-0 lead, however, lasted only 13 seconds.
For the next 2 1/2 quarters, the teams exchanged punts and each had a missed field goal as both defenses dominated for the first time in this usually high-scoring rivalry since Jenks' 9-6 win in the 2006 Backyard Bowl. So perhaps it was fitting that a defensive player set up the winning points.
"You never know what's going to happen - it's crazy to say it, but that's the way it is," Fridrich said. " 'Expect the unexpected' is probably as close as you can get to put a title on the MidFirst Backyard Bowl."
Union 14, Union 7
J: Barr'e 45 run (Donley kick)
U: Kornegay 85 kickoff return (Butler kick)
U: Silmon 5 run (Butler kick)
Barry Lewis 918-581-8393
Union's Justin Silmon (right) is tangled up by Jenks' Steven Parker on Friday night during the Backyard Bowl. Silmon scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Union's Jeffery Mead (left) fights for the ball with Jenks' Austin Casillas during the Backyard Bowl on Friday night at TU's Chapman Stadium. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Union players hoist the Backyard Bowl trophy after Friday's game. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World