MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Union Area High School football lost a tough game, 22-8, against Steelton-Highspire in the PIAA Class A Championship Game Thursday afternoon at Harry C. Chapman III Memorial FIeld.
The loss ends a great season for the Scotties (13-4). They won the most games in program history and became the first double-seeded team to win the WPIAL Class A title game, their first WPIAL Title since 1959. They also defeated Port Allegany, a fellow Lawrence County school, in the PIAA Semifinals last weekend.
Union achieved all this with first-year head coach Kim Niedbala. Niedbala served as an assistant under legendary head coach Bob Palko for many years, winning state titles at Mt. Lebanon last year and West Allegheny.
Niedbala noted that his team fought hard in the loss, but the difference came against the lines, where Steel-High had a size advantage against them.
“They played hard,” Niedbala said of his team’s performance. “We were in it until the end of the fourth quarter.”
The Scotties had many chances throughout the first half, but turned the ball over three times in the end zone, twice on downs and one interception.
Niedbala credited his team of only 26 players fighting against the Steamrollers, who have Division I athletes, like junior quarterback Alex Erby. The Scotties forced an interception and safety against Erby, keeping him in check most of the game.
Union brought a great amount of fans to the game, rivaling Steel-High. The drive from New Castle is close to four hours long, compared to the drive from Steelton of only 30 minutes.
Senior wide receiver/outside linebacker Matt Stanley said that he is proud of his team’s performance. He also said that having the opportunity to show the strength of Lawrence County school is a great feeling.
“The Scotties fans they travel,” Stanley said. “They love and support us no matter what sport it is. You just tell them what time and what place and they will be there. To see the fans packed with Scotties fans is just awesome. We just got a great community.”
Stanley also said that this state title run is inspirational for other kids in the area. He said the program will grow under Niedbala and improve in the future.
“It definitely helps the program out,” Stanley said of the state championship appearance. “You see little kids out there and they’re playing football while the game is going on. They’re watching and they’re giving you high fives and stuff and it inspires them. Hopefully it gets more kids out and it gets kids to play. It’s a great program builder.”