By Chuck Reherman
Getting the tough ones out of the way early.
It’s the way the Yukon schedule has fallen.
The Millers will head to the east side of the state to take on No. 2 ranked Tulsa Union in a District 6AI-2 contest. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Union-Tuttle Stadium.
It will be only the third time the teams have met in district competition and fifth overall, all won by the Redhawks. YHS and Union played in the first round of the playoffs last year. The teams only other district contests came in the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
The Millers go into the game with a 1-3 overall record and an 0-1 district mark after losing to Mustang 52-13 last week. The Redhawks are 4-0 overall and beat Owasso 35-17 in district opener last week. Union also owns a 38-3 win over Jenks.
The Millers will face an Owasso team that is solid on both sides of the ball and will have to play their best game of the season to have a shot at the Redhawks.
“We get a little road trip and change of scenery, I don’t know if it is a pleasure trip, but we get to go play a very talented Tulsa Union team,” YHS head coach Marshall Hahn said. “We get to see the finish product of their stadium, it wasn’t quite finished when we were there for the playoff game and it will be a unique experience.
“Union appears to be pretty stout on film and looking at their scores from their first four games they have been playing very well and it will be another good challenge,” he said. “They have a different style of quarterback this year. Last year they had a quarterback that was a potent run threat. The one at quarterback now is an adequate runner, but throws the ball really well and they have adjusted their scheme to that, but overall, they look very similar to last year.”
The Redhawks’ starting quarterback led Jenks to the state title last season as a freshman and has been a standout as a sophomore. Shaker Reisig moved over to Union back in May and has led the Redhawks to their 4-0 start.
Deon McKinney and Dae’Mar Nealy lead the ground attack and the offensive line is let by Bennett Ringleb (6-5, 265).
Union’s defense has also been stout, allowing only 37 points in four games.
“We have to limit turnovers to have any success against their defense,” Hahn said. “We had that early turnover last week and that was a momentum swing just the way it happened after a big play from us. It took some wind out of our sails and gave them a burst of energy. Our defense did hold them to a field goal, that was good to see, but we can’t turn the ball over and give Union extra possessions.
“We have to try to find ways to finish drives,” he said. “We have moved the ball okay, we just are not finding ways to finish drives with points. We had some turnover on downs and punts and then we have to eliminate the big plays.
“We gave up four or five big plays to Mustang last week, one was on a fourth down play and the other on a third and long and we just can’t keep giving up those type of plays, especially for touchdowns.”
The Union defense, although they had only four starters back from last season, have proven they are a stout team led by noseguard De’Marion Thomas (6-4, 330). Their front seven is strong, but the secondary has not really been tested yet.
“Union is big and they can move,” Hahn said. “They have good linebackers and in the secondary they do have kids in the back end, bit because they are so strong in the front seven, their secondary has not really been tested.
“We have to be able to put the football in areas of the field with space, whether we are able to create by throwing the ball or by running the triple at them and make them defend the whole field horizontally, we will have to do a combination of things to keep them off balance. If they are dialed in on what you are trying to do, they are very formidable.”
The Millers offense has shown improvement as the season goes along and broke several big runs against Mustang last week, but not on a consistent basis.
“The thing we have to do is we have to keep the chains moving on offense,” he said. “We can’t play from behind the chains, that will give them too much advantage.”