Prep football: Union Cougars preview

Returning starters almost always are good for a high school team. If those regulars still are young, there’s major upside for the future.

So it should be no surprise that Union High, despite only winning a couple of games last year, is brimming with optimism.

“I like where we’re heading. I think everybody’s excited,” Cougars coach Matt Labrum said about the possibilities.

Union brings back seven starters on offense and six on defense. The offensive line might be the best template for what’s happening — four of the five frontmen are back.

Labrum said adjustments were made almost as soon as last season ended, when evaluations were put together.

“I think we weren’t strong enough, fast enough,” said Labrum, whose team then started a strenuous weight program. “I don’t think we’re where we need to be, but we’re getting closer.”

UNION COUGARS <br>Coach • Matt Labrum, sixth year <br>Last season • 2-8, 1-4 in Class 3A North <br>State championships • 1965, 1993 <br>2017 SCHEDULE <br>Aug. 18 • at Summit Academy, 7 p.m. <br>Aug. 25 • North Sanpete, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 1 • Uintah, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 8 • at Mountain View, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 15 • at Carbon, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 22 • Grantsville, 7 p.m. <br>Sept. 29 • Judge Memorial, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 6 • Emery, 7 p.m. <br>Oct. 13 • at Morgan, 7 p.m.

Behind center • Depth at quarterback wasn’t really an issue for Union until both of its senior quarterbacks went out with injuries in the same game. That meant that a sophomore and freshman took their places at signal-caller. The coach expects that Lincoln Labrum (6 foot 2, 175 pounds) will be able to roll into this season based upon his experience as a ninth-grade starter. “I thought the guys rallied around him well,” the coach said. Senior Jarom Miller (5-10, 190) is set to be the primary back, but it’ll be without a year of experience behind him. Miller hurt an ACL in the last practice session of preseason last year and didn’t play a down.

Ball hawks • The other young quarterback last year was Nate Foote (6-0, 175), a junior who will slide over to receiver to start the 2017 season. The Cougars also have their leading wideout back. Senior Gage Roberts (5-10, 150) reeled in 359 yards receiving, and that amount could increase significantly if a rhythm between quarterback and receiver is established. Roberts also was a regular at cornerback. “He has a feel for the ball,” Labrum said. “He’s a tough competitor.”

In the trenches • The front five for the offensive skill players are full of juniors and returning starters. It starts at center with junior Mailoni Lutui (6-3, 255). He’ll be flanked by fellow juniors Brigg Edwards (5-10, 200) and Tevita Kaufusi (6-0, 220). Chase Laing (6-0, 205) is a senior who can play either a guard or tackle — and was a frequent member of the defensive line a year ago, along with Kaufusi. Also look for senior Brock Labrum (6-0, 205) to get his shot on the defensive front.

Hit men • For the returning members on defense, Colby Hyder (5-9, 160) is the leading tackler. He made 45 stops, including 31 solo tackles, as a sophomore. “He’s our most physical kid, a tough kid. He can come up and stick people in the hole,” Labrum said. Another junior, Easton Rohrer (5-11, 160), saw some limited time, but his experience should help as he takes a linebacking spot along with sophomore Jaden Horrocks (5-9, 185).

Key returners • Lincoln Labrum, Soph. (QB); Colby Hyder, Jr. (MLB); Gage Roberts, Sr. (WR/CB); Mailoni Lutui, Jr. (C)

Key losses • Cole Bertoch, QB; Tyler Swain, LB; Christian Llamas, LB; Cole Kelly, QB/LB

The next wave • Jarom Miller, Sr. (RB); Jaden Horrocks, So. (LB); Caden Hyder, Jr. (WR/DB); Hunter Hyder, Sr. (DL); Evan Percival, Sr. (DL)

from The Salt Lake Tribune


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