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High school football: Union Cougars 2019 preview

Note: Union finished with a 5-6 overall record in 2018 and was third in 3A North with a 3-2 record. It lost to North Sanpete 21-7 in the 3A quarterfinals.

Union 2018 offensive and defensive stats

ROOSEVELT — Heading into the season with a relativity inexperienced team, Union knows that the season will be a marathon, not a race.

“Ours is a process; we know it’s a marathon. We know it’s a long season, so our goal is to get better every week. We lost quite a few guys that started for two-plus years for us. We’re bringing in some guys that haven’t started a lot of varsity games. They’ve got a lot of playing time in some varsity games, but they’ve been working hard this summer,” Union head coach Matt Labrum said.

Union has just three returning starters on offense, quarterback Lincoln Labrum and offensive linemen Kobe Gurr and Brenn Aguinaga, and two on defense, linebackers Colton Harding and Labrum. The Cougars will have to get lots of contributions from newcomers this year.

“We’re excited about where we’re at. We don’t have a whole lot of numbers, but we do like the guys that have been committed and been coming in this summer. I like the progress that we’ve made through the summer,” Labrum said.

Team at a glance

Coach: Matt Labrum is entering his eighth year as head coach at Union. He has a 36-40 record at the school.

Labrum’s comments on new UHSAA RPI:

“There’s definitely teams in some regions, every year, there’s teams every year that get kept home that probably could compete. Just because they were in a tough region, they didn’t get to make it. I like that part that everybody has a shot of doing some things that way.”

Team offensive snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Matt Labrum/Rob Davis

2018 offensive production: 20.3 ppg (8th in 3A)

— 3 returning starters

— Spread offense

Key offensive returning starters

— Lincoln Labrum (QB)

Labrum threw for 928 yards with seven touchdown and six interceptions last season. He also rushed for 307 yards and four touchdowns.

— Brenn Aguiniga (OL)

Will anchor the offensive line for Union.

Returning offensive starters

Lincoln Labrum (QB)

Kobe Gurr (OL)

Brenn Aguinaga (OL)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Boone Latham (WR)

Ryan Russell (WR)

Labrum’s comments on Lincoln Labrum:

“I expect him to be a leader and to be a coach out on the field. He’s started three-and-a-half years for us now. Assuming he does healthy and does that, I expect him to make great decisions and run our offense for us and be the leader — no matter if it’s good, bad, the things that are happening. I think he’s worked really hard in this offseason and throughout the season and we’re excited for him to take the reins and lead this younger club.”

Labrum’s comments on offensive linemen:

“It’s always nice to have guys that have been in there. They’ve learned from the other guys that they’ve played last year. We have a tradition of trying to build our program, just not a one-year team, but we want our program to be better overall, so as we do that, as the older guys pass on to the younger guys, that’s a key to our program that we’re building to become stronger. They’ve been around, they’ve seen what works, what doesn’t work, and then they also add their own niche. We have some great guys that are stepping into some shoes and I’m excited to see them fulfill their role.”

Labrum’s comments on wide receivers:

“We have a lot of guys that are trying to take spots there. It’s going to be a rotation. Right now we don’t have a guy that’s come back that caught a bunch of balls for us and scored a bunch of points for us and so it’s pretty wide open, and I like that. I’d like to have a guy that can do that but it opens us up to maybe not just keying on one guy. We can read the whole field and we can do some things that way. We definitely have some guys that are vying for positions. With our lack of so much depth, we’re actually looking at platooning a little bit more, so some guys, even though they might want to play receiver, they might be a better corner for us, so we’ll try and use them more on that side of the ball. We’re excited where we’re at, we don’t have anybody that’s really, totally stepped up and that’s taken the No. 1 spot, but we will get the ball to the open guys and they’ll be able to make plays.”

Keys for offensive success in 2019:

Labrum’s keys to offensive success is being able to get first downs and moving the ball, not turning the ball over and converting in the red zone.

Team defensive snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Justin DeCol

2018 defensive production: 21.3 ppg (7th in 3A)

— 2 returning starters

— 4-3 defense

Key defensive returning starters

— Colton Harding (LB)

Had 49 tackles and an interception last year.

— Lincoln Labrum (LB)

Had 14 tackles and a sack in 2018.

Returning defensive starters

Colton Harding (LB)

Lincoln Labrum (LB)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Imged Alatabi

Zach Foote

Owen Cook

Labrum’s comments on Colton Harding:

“He’s like a scud missile. He’s not very big, but he’s just a ballhawk. He’ll find the ball and he’s not afraid to hit it. Physical kid, we look forward to some great things, him being the cornerstone of our defense, the leader of our defense. I think he’ll have a great season.”

Labrum’s comments on Lincoln Labrum:

“He’s probably going to have to play quite a bit of defense. We’ll see where we’re at, but there will be situations where he’s going to need to come in. He needs to help us win wherever we can use him and the things that we need to do with him. He’s a physical kid, he’s grown quite a bit, so we look forward to him being physical and helping us out wherever we need him on the defensive side.”

Labrum’s comments on defensive newcomers:

“I think just repetitions. Once we start and we’re going and learning their position, learning their role, not trying to be somebody else, a prior guy, maybe a guy they were behind. They don’t need to be that guy, they need to be themselves and they need to just do what they do best. One kid that’s done well and we’re looking for some big things out of him is Imged Alatabi. He’s going to probably man one of our corner positions. He’s been dedicated, hasn’t missed a day in the weight room, comes to all of our evening stuff, and we look forward to some big things out of him.”

Keys for defensive success in 2019:

Labrum’s keys to defensive success are controlling first and second down, making sure they put offenses in third and long positions and winning the turnover margin.

Coaches preseason Region 14 straw poll: Second

Deseret News Region 14 prediction: Second

Key region game: vs. Juab, Sep. 20 (Week 6)

Bottom line

Union doesn’t have a lot of returning starting experience, but Labrum knows how to develop talent. The Cougars should improve week to week and have a solid chance to make a run in the playoffs.

2019 schedule

Aug. 16 — MOUNTAIN VIEW, 7 p.m.

Aug. 23 — UINTAH, 7 p.m.

Aug. 30 — GRAND, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 — at Summit Academy, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 — at Carbon, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 — JUAB, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 — at Manti, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 — at Delta, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 — NORTH SANPETE, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 — at American Leadership, 7 p.m.

….

Felt’s Facts for Union High School

All-time record: 270-351 (68 years)

Region championships: 11 (1951, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 2000 co, 2005 co, 2007 co)

Playoff appearances: 33

Current playoff appearance streak: 2

All-time playoff record: 16-31

State championships: 2 (1965, 1993)

State championship record: 2-0

Most played rivalry: 78 meetings with Uintah dating back to 1951. Union leads 41-36-1.

Felt’s Factoids: 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).

...

Last five

  • 2018 — 5-6 (3-2 in 3A North — 3A quarterfinals)
  • 2017 — 6-5 (3-2 in 3A North — 3A quarterfinals)
  • 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)

...

Union coaching history

  • 2012-current — Matt Labrum (36-40)
  • 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

  • 2018 — Chase Birchell, WR
  • 2018 — Brigg Edwards, OG
  • 2018 — Nate Foote, P
  • 2017 — Chase Laing, P
  • 2017 — Gage Roberts, CB
  • 2017 — Jarom Miller, RB
  • 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

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.