Union Football Training Camp
Coach Cale Piland
Who are these guys?
One might hear that a lot this season in regard to the Union Titans. Remember when the program began a few years ago with a bunch of sophomores? They became familiar names, many playing varsity for three years. Well now, those guys are gone.
So yes, a lot of the names that led Union to the Class 3A state title game in 2008 and the state semifinals last year have graduated. But you know what? There remains plenty of talent at Union. And this year’s seniors, this year’s juniors, want to prove to the region that they have what it takes to keep winning.
It is time for the next wave of Titans.
These Titans have heard the whispers. They know there are teams out there that think Union will be down this season.
“It really is kind of getting old,” senior linebacker Zak Browning said. “Everybody thinks everybody’s gone and there’s no way we can rebuild in one year. We’re not rebuilding. We’re coming out with the mindset that we want a league championship. We want a state championship. These guys have been playing behind all these great athletes. They’ve been learning from them. They’ll fill the shoes nicely.”
Senior tight end T.J. Boatright said that while the team has a lot of new starters, these Titans understand what it is like to play Friday nights.
“They got in almost every second half last year,” he said.
Oh yes, when Union was beating several teams by more than 40 points. Plus, the second- and third-string guys all practiced until Week 13 last year, Week 14 the previous season. That extra work should help with the transition to the “new” Titans.
“We’re definitely not the same program as last year,” Boatright acknowledged. “But we have the ability to play the same and be just as good. We lost a lot of guys, but we have a great junior class and we have some good senior leaders.”
Part of being a leader is reminding the younger players that it is up to fans to compare teams year by year, but it is the players who can control this year’s team.
“You gotta forget the past and focus on the future,” Browning said. “And we can’t let any practice go to waste.”
Just like any other normal program now:
The turnover rate for the Titans this year might seem extreme, but as coach Cale Piland said, the Titans had the fortune of little turnover for two consecutive season after the inaugural campaign.
“To have as many guys back as we had the last couple of years was abnormal,” Piland said.
Established programs go through this every so often. There might be a large class of seniors followed by a small one, and the coaches must adjust every season to the returning starters. That’s what Union is doing this season. The coaches, including Piland, are giving more one-on-one instruction on the fundamentals than was evident in last year’s practices.
“We’ve had to take a few steps back, and there’s a lot more teaching going on this year,” Piland said, noting his player are receptive to the instruction. “They’re hungry. It’s going to come. Once we get a level of consistency, we’re going to be just fine.”
Hello 4A GSHL, how are you?
Reclassification has sent Union to the 4A GSHL this season, but Piland said it is not too much of a transition. Union has played several 4A teams in the non-league schedule the past two seasons.
“There’s definitely a level of familiarity,” Piland said.
No matter what classification Union is in, Piland said he will always try to find a challenging schedule.
Interestingly, Camas is not on Union’s schedule. Some fans have suggested that Union did not want to play its nearby rival because Union lost so many seniors to graduation.
As Piland says, if that were true, Union would not be playing Bellevue in Week 1 in Seattle. You remember Bellevue, right? The Class 3A state champion the past three years, the team that has defeated Union the past two seasons?
“We’re ducking Camas, but we’re playing Bellevue,” Piland said, rolling his eyes.
Browning and Boatright said they welcome the challenge of facing Bellevue one more time.
“We can show everyone we know how to play,” Boatright said.
“I think we have what it takes to show the state we’re still a good program,” Browning said.
Several teams are taking the first week or so of camp to determine their starting quarterbacks. Union is one of those teams.
“I don’t know,” Piland said when asked who his starter would be in Week 1. “That’s not press talk. I don’t know.”
Juniors Tanner Nelson and Kaben Humphrey-Butler are too close to call.
“They’re both doing good things, and there hasn’t been enough separation between the two to make a call at this point,” Piland said, adding that if he needs more time he would use both in non-league games to determine the starter for league play.
Union does not have a league game until Week 6.