The St. James football team (4-3, 301 FRC) is fresh off a 36-22 Senior Night win over Sullivan last week and they're looking to string together their second win in a row with a trip in Union on Friday.
Union lost a pair of games to Farmington and Borgia at the beginning of the season, but come into the matchup with the Tigers having won five straight, including a win over St. Clair.
"They're quick in just about every skill spot," said St. James head coach Josh Rodriguez about Union. "They've got some big linemen that have been able to control the line of scrimmage against just about everyone that they've played."
Union has thrown the ball a ton this season and that attack is led by junior quarterback Derek Hulsey. He has thrown for 1,978 yards on the season with 15 touchdowns to go with 14 interceptions. The Tigers will need to find a way to get past the big Union line to get some pressure on the quarterback if they want to have success Friday night.
"We haven't really played anybody this year that's going to be as efficient in throwing as they are, so our pass-rush is going to be a necessity," said coach Rodriguez. "We'll have to have some quickness from our D-linemen and we'll have to have a good pass-rush from them and maybe bring in some stunts from the linebackers that will help, but we absolutely need to do a better job at getting pressure on the quarterback."
Union has a few receivers that St. James will need to key in on, but the number one target will be Peyton Burke, who leads the team with 773 yards and eight touchdowns. Eli Klenke and Joey Sullivan both have over 300 yards through the air on the season as well. St. James has a strong secondary with a ton of speed, so that will be an interesting matchup to focus on.
"We'll just have to put our skill set out there and see who's better at it," said coach Rodriguez. "They do some things that get those kids in space and they try to take advantage of their athleticism. That's one area I think we're pretty even, so we'll just see if our kids can hang with them and stay on top of it.
"As much as anybody in our conference, I think we're as skilled as anybody to stop what they do," continued the Tiger head coach. "They're still going to get their chunks and get their big plays, we've just got to try to limit that and force them into the short gains, not the big ones and stay on top of their speed."
On the defensive side of the ball, Union is pretty sound. When they've allowed points, it's been on big plays. St. James has had no shortage of explosive plays with guys like Tyler Recker and Grant Conway, so they'll look to find ways to break off big gains. That could include continued use of a package that puts Conway at quarterback, which they used for the first time last week.
"Some of the teams that have scored on them have been on the big play," said the St. James head coach. "Getting them out of position and just making people miss. They're very sound on defense. They play a really solid 4-4, they get after it and they don't really make a ton of mistakes, but teams that have scored on them have scored on some big plays. They don't make a lot of mistakes, so when you catch them in a mistake, you have to take advantage of it."