For the first time in program history, the Union Titans are the defending state champions.
But added pressure and larger targets don’t faze the Titans.
In fact, they’re embracing it.
“Everybody is looking at us,” free safety and receiver Daron Ulrich, Jr. said.
Winning football state titles might be new for Union, but isn’t for fourth-year coach Rory Rosenbach. He won two Oregon 3A titles at Eugene’s Marist Catholic, and what he’s telling his team, as a defending state champion, is simple: last year is last year. Go set your own legacy.
“Your story,” the coach said, “is just getting started.”
What the Titans know is the road won’t be easy. State titles seem to make already-large targets widen, and they saw it as early as this summer. From scrimmages to team camps, teams wanted a piece of the Titans.
Expect nothing less for 2019.
“Everyone is going to give us their best each and every game,” Ulrich said.
Make no mistake: this isn’t the same Union team that went undefeated winning the school’s first football state championship behind 14 all-league departed seniors. On its way to winning its first state championship, Union won five games by seven or fewer points and the defense went through a five-game stretch allowing just two second-half touchdowns.
But the Titans hope the title momentum built from 2018 stays put behind a defense that Rosenbach calls a strength of the team with five full-time returning starters. It includes Ulrich returning as a starting free safety and linebacker Tyler Summers as the team’s leading tackler last fall. Offensively, CJ Jordan, a transfer from Clackamas (Ore.), is expected to start at quarterback, filling the void left by reigning state player of the year Lincoln Victor.
“The culture is still the same,” Ulrich said, “and we’re making sure we’re out grinding and doing our time. We’re going to come out and shock everybody.”
3 things to know
— The defending 4A champions also are back-to-back 4A GSHL champions.
— Team graduated 14 all-league seniors.
— Union’s last loss came in 2017 state first round against Sumner 42-14.