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High School Football

Union Comes up Short Against Steelton-Highspire, 22-8, in PIAA Class 1A Title Game

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Images by JARED TODHUNTER

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. —  Union Area High School made an incredible run to the PIAA Class 1A State Title Game that saw win the WPIAL as a No. 10 seed.

Coming up against a tough Steelton-Highspire team, they played well throughout the first three quarters, keeping the score within a touchdown. Missed opportunities offensively doomed Union as they lost 22-8 Thursday afternoon at Harry C. Chapman III Memorial Field.

The Scotties (13-4) turned the ball over three times in the redzone and The Steamrollers (14-1) used three touchdowns on the ground from junior running back Ronald Burnette to earn their second state title in three years.

Union had two great chances to score in the first quarter, with two red-zone appearances, but both ended in turnovers on downs.

Steelton High scored first in the second quarter. They got a big play out of junior wide receiver Jaeion Perry, who caught a 40-yard pass on third down and 16 from their 13 yard line. They drove down the field, running 12 plays for 81 yards over five and a half minutes, with junior running back Ronald Burnette rushing three-yards for a touchdown.

Scotties Junior quarterback Braylon Thomas made two great runs late in the first half. He broke off a 34-yard rush to move past midfield and then a 33-yard rush to get back into the red-zone.

Union once again failed to score, as Thomas threw an interception that Steel-High senior Bamm Appleby caught in the end zone.

The Scotties stopped the Steamrollers on their first drive of the second half, taking Burnette down in the backfield on a fourth down rush.

Junior wide receiver Dayne Johnko made two important catches for Union on the next drive. He caught a nine yard pass on fourth down and five to the Steel-High 39 yard line. He then made a 30-yard reception to the one yard line, which allowed Thomas to run it in for Union’s first score of the game.

Their two-point conversion failed and Perry returned the Scotties’ kickoff 33 yards to their 32 yard line. The Steamrollers used a pass interference call on the Scotties to move further down the field. Burnette ran for 13 yards and one more for a touchdown, which gave the Steamrollers a 13-6 lead after the missed extra point.

Union failed to do anything on their next drive, but Thomas made a great punt to put it in at the Steel-High nine yard line.

Scotties Senior linebacker Brennen Porter took down Steamrollers quarterback Alex Erby in the end zone. Erby managed to throw the ball away, but his pass didn’t go near any wide receiver, and the Scotties earned a safety to cut the lead to 13-8.

Union did not manage to score the rest of the game. Thomas found himself harassed by the defensive line of Steel-High who forced him to make bad throws and sacked him.

The Steamrollers scored again as Burnette rushed 19 yards for his third touchdown on the ground in the game to make it a 20-8 game after the extra point.

A poor kickoff for Union saw them marked down at the 11 yard line. They ran four plays, all of which resulted in a loss and ended with a holding penalty in the end zone that restyled in a safety for Steel High.

The Scotties got one last chance after Erby threw a poor interception to senior defensive back Elijah Booker who returned it to the Steel High 27 yard line.

Thomas then suffered a sack and a holding penalty put Union back in their side of the field at second down and 44. Thomas tried to make one last great pass on fourth down, but it resulted in an interception and a loss.

Despite the loss, Union won the most games in program history and played some of their best football under first-year head coach Kim Niedbala. They also became the first double-seeded team to win the WPIAL title in Class A and will bring back many players, like Thomas and Gunn who will be important for next season.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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