The Program: Unity football in 2023, Week 1

Aug. 24—A look back

An 11-2 season in 2022 saw the Rockets rattle off an 11-game win streak and make it to the Class 3A state semifinals before seeing its season end in a 12-7 loss to Williamsville. A stout defense powered Unity, along with the sturdy efforts of since-graduated running back Matt Brown. "It's probably the first time in my career here that we have been a defensive-dominated team," said Scott Hamilton, Unity's coach entering his 30th season. "We coached differently. We punted way more. We didn't take as many risks offensively. We really tried to let our defense win games for us, probably to a fault in that Williamsville game. We got that first score fast and then we got a little too conservative. I guess until we figure out a way to win the last game of the season, we're accustomed to this."

A look ahead

The Rockets' Week 1 opponent handed Unity its first loss last season and also gave the Rockets their last win. Prairie Central beat Unity 34-12 in the season opener in Fairbury, but Unity returned the favor with a 14-0 win in the Class 3A state quarterfinals, also in Fairbury. Prairie Central welcomes in a first-year coach in Mike Goodwin, so the Rockets are a bit unsure about what to expect. "Their line play is always so good," Hamilton said. "It's a good program. Obviously it's nice that they have to come down here. It's a tough opener for us, and it's not an easy beginning for us, especially when you're so young defensively, and you're trying to figure things out."

Senior spotlight

Aiden Porter

senior wide receiver

1. My favorite Unity football memory is ... my sophomore year and being able to go to the state finals. You got to experience all of that in the locker room, and it was a great field there in DeKalb.

2. The best part of Hicks Field is ... the student section whenever they show up. It's great to have that energy from the student section supporting us.

3. Three people I'd like to have dinner with are ... Michael Jordan, Ryan Reynolds and Drake.

Nate Bleecher

senior center

1. My favorite Unity football memory is ... definitely going to the state title game my sophomore year. I had never experienced anything like it.

2. The best part of Hicks Field is ... the field itself. Just everything about is so nice and clean.

3. Three people I'd like to have dinner with are ... my grandpa because I never really met him, Albert Einstein to see what that mind is thinking and Lawrence Taylor.