By Michael Kinney
NORMAN - After many years under his belt, Tulsa Union coach Kirk Fridrich has learned not to mince words.
Whether it’s good or bad, the Redhawks' skipper is normally straight to the point.
So after his team came away with a 42-28 victory Thursday against Norman High, Fridrich had only one word to describe the contest. Sloppy.
“Give credit to Norman,” Fridrich said. “They had a good plan for us. We didn’t execute well enough. And when we put some (substitutes) in, they weren’t quite good enough to hang on.
"Pretty sloppy for us at times. But I’m proud of our kids for getting a district win.”
Despite a mid-game quarterback change and a slew of penalties, Union still found a way to create offense against a stingy defense. Most of it was built off the running of tailback DJ McKinney, who accounted for four touchdowns on the evening.
“We played good,” McKinney said. “It’s our first Thursday game. It was a little different.
"We looked like we had a lot to fix and we still do. We have to come out harder.”
On its opening possession of the game, Tulsa Union tried to be aggressive and went for a fourth-and-long near midfield. However, Norman’s defense came up with the stop and took over on downs.
This left the Tigers with a short field and they made the Redhawks pay when Dax Noles scored on a 1-yard dive to give NHS a 7-0 advantage.
McKinney scored twice in the first half for the Redhawks; yet they still found themselves tied at 14-14.
“Norman had a really good plan,” Fridrich said. “But it just felt like we didn’t fit very well defensively up front.”
However, the game seemed to turn on a defensive play by the Redhawks. Midway through the second quarter, a Tias McClarty pass was tipped and landed in the hands of junior Issac Covington, who returned it 50 yards for a 28-14 Union advantage.
Norman tried to slow down Union’s momentum by taking the air out of the ball. The Tigers ran the clock down to five seconds before attempting a 30-yard field goal.
However, the Redhawks blocked the kick and maintained a 14-point lead at halftime.
Union came out of the break and picked up where they left off.
McKinney scored from 5 yards out on the Redhawks' first possession in the third quarter. He then added another TD run in the fourth to put the game away.
“We’ve got athletes and we’ve got the talent, that’s really what it is,” McKinney said. “We locked in in the second half and decided to come back and put some points on the board.
"We’ve got the best run game in the state. Once that run game gets going, the whole offense is going.”
Noles and McClarty each scored once more for Norman in the final minutes, but the game was out of reach. McClarty ended the night with more than 200 yards rushing and Noles had three touchdowns.
The Tigers dropped to 1-5 on the season and will face Edmond Santa Fe next week.
Union remains undefeated at 6-0. They face Mustang (5-1) next Thursday at Mustang with the lead in District 6AI-2 on the line.