Although his team scored just once in its jamboree, Union Head Coach Erick Webster is confident heading into the team’s season opener against Poplar Bluff on Friday.
The Wildcats traveled to Hillsboro for their jamboree Friday and competed against Farmington, MICDS and Lift for Life Academy.
Union scored on its first drive of the night against Farmington and were scored on once by each opponent.
“I’m so excited we got this started,” Webster said after the jamboree. “Our defense did a great job. Our defense really rallied, really got to the ball. They’ve done everything we’ve coached them to do and it’s fantastic to see them go against competition and get all of it done. Offensively, boy, we were explosive to start with and it’s great because we didn’t have that at all times last year. It’s so much fun for us to get explosive and to be going and to be rolling.”
Union will host Poplar Bluff Friday at the newly renovated Stierberger Stadium.
The festivities open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6:30 p.m. and kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“Every day it’s fun because I go out there and it’s like, ‘Holy smokes, that’s new, I haven’t seen that before!’ ” Webster said about the stadium. “I’ve been seeing it every day and I’m kind of excited to see when people see everything new, so it’s really cool for us.”
Poplar Bluff played in the St. Clair jamboree. Besides having plenty of size, reports indicated the Mules have a proficient offense and a sophomore quarterback.
Last year the Wildcats opened their season with a 33-0 loss at Poplar Bluff.
In his second year as the head coach, Webster expects Friday’s game against the Mules to be completely different.
“Last year we took a really young team down to an intimidating place to play and just flat-out didn’t perform,” Webster said. “This year it’s a totally different story because instead of going in as the young pups who were just trying to figure out where to line up, we’re trying to figure out how to attack them. It’s going to be a totally different story this year and I can’t imagine a better night for us to kind of kick off what we do in the completely renovated stadium. . .”
This week the Wildcats’ main focus will be getting into their weekly schedule of preparing for their Friday night opponent. Webster is unsure about what to expect from Poplar Bluff since it will be the season opener for both teams.
Union and Poplar Bluff finished with records of 5-5 last year.
Union will look to returning junior quarterback Blake Hulsey to run the offense, which returns many receivers from last season.
Union’s offense struggled against Poplar Bluff a year ago with Hulsey completing 16 of 32 passes for 140 yards. He threw three interceptions and also was sacked four times.
Hulsey threw for 1,892 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. The Wildcats’ also return junior wide receiver Logan Bellamy, who led the team with nine touchdowns in 2012, senior wide receiver Jacob Carman who scored six touchdowns, senior wide receiver Jake Siddens who scored four and senior wide receiver Jobie Richardson who scored two touchdowns.
Can the Wildcats open the renovated stadium with a victory? MasseyRatings.com seems to think so.
MasseyRatings.com Projection — Union 16, Poplar Bluff 14