A year ago, Union High School was mired in an 0-4 start, it’s worst in over 40 years. This year, they’re off to a 2-0 start and ranked number one in Class 6A-I.
One key reason for the team’s improvement has been the play of senior tailback Rovaughn Banks. Banks began last season as the starting quarterback, but shifted positions when the team needed a spark. Now he’s reaping the benefits of the switch by becoming one of the top backs in the state.
“I’m really proud of Rovaughn,” said head coach Kirk Fridrich. “He’s one of our team captains. He’s a leader. He’s a guy that football is fun to him. Every single day of practice he’s excited to be here. That kind of energy is contagious for his teammates and for the coaching staff.”
Banks showed off some of that energy last week when the 5-10, 178-pound tailback rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns in a huge 38-28 win over crosstown rival Broken Arrow.
“I think anytime you change the role of somebody, for them to understand it and embrace that role is a different story,” claimed Fridrich. “One of the things that’s a testament to Rovaughn, again, you don’t get voted team captain by your peers and by your coaches if you don’t have an incredible outlook for the success of the team. I don’t know anyone else that would have handled it any better.”
“I knew the team needed a great leader,” stated Banks on becoming a captain. “I’m not only going to lead vocally, but I’ve been doing a lot of other things since my sophomore year. I’m glad they chose me.”
“Here at Union, we kind of do a job application,” explained Fridrich on how players become a team captain. “You’ve got to turn in a resume. You’ve got to list your qualities. You’ve got to interview with the head coach and with the team. It’s not just a popularity contest. You’ve got to put something behind it and care about it.”
Paving the way for Vaughn this season has been Union’s massive offensive line. The five guys up front tip the scales around 1,500 pounds and may be the largest line in the state.
Another reason for Vaughn’s improved play has been the tutelage of former Union and Oklahoma State tailback, and new Union assistant coach, Jeremy Smith.
“He’s taught me a lot of things that I didn’t even know about being a running back,” admitted Vaughn. “He’s taught me to keep my shoulders square. How to hit the hole, how to make the right move on the defender. There’s a whole bunch I’ve learned.”
Vaughn is the latest in a long line of Union tailbacks that have starred on Friday nights. Many of those before him have gone on to have successful college careers and Vaughn hopes to continue that tradition.
“I think he’s got a chance to play at the college level at that position,” remarked Fridrich. “The abilities that he has and the way that he runs the football, he has a chance to be one of those guys. For me, it remains to be seen. It’s early in the season, but we love the path that he’s on.”
Banks and the rest of the Union squad face another challenging test this week when they play host to rival Jenks in the annual MidFirst Bank Backyard Bowl in the recently remodeled Union Stadium. This Ford Game of the Week will be televised live on Friday, September 9th, at 7 P.M. on Cox’s YurView Channel 3 and streamed online.
“I’m real excited to play the MidFirst Bank Backyard Bowl here at Union in the new stadium,” admitted Fridrich. “I don’t think there’s a better place for a high school football game than this place. I know I’m biased, but there’s been some great atmospheres here and now with the new stadium, we’re real excited to have a quality opponent like Jenks here.”
“I like it because we played here my sophomore year and we won,” added Vaughn. “I’m glad we get to bring it back here my senior year to The Big House.”