Trib HSSN football player of the week for 2023 Week 10

Sunday, November 5, 2023 | 6:44 PM

Early in the third quarter of their WPIAL Class A first-round playoff game Friday, Burgettstown had just scored to take a 30-14 lead over defending champion Union.

The host Scotties never blinked, and thanks to senior quarterback Braylon Thomas, Union scored five straight touchdowns to win 51-37 and advance to the quarterfinals.

“Every team is different and this team is completely different from last year’s in all aspects,” Union coach Kim Niedbala said. “We were able to create some turnovers, and we got back to playing fundamentally sound football with everyone doing their job.”

Especially Thomas, who after his team went down two scores, threw two touchdown passes and had a pair of scoring runs in a 27-point third quarter for Union.

“He knew he had to make plays and put points on the board,” Niedbala said. “He took control of the offense at that point.”

Thomas connected on 14 of 22 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns, all to senior wide receiver Dayne Johnke for 68, 8 and 20 yards.

“I think Braylon was able to throw the ball well against Burgettstown,” Niedbala said. “He was able to mix in short, intermediate and deep balls.”

The dual-threat Thomas also did damage with his legs, carrying the ball 19 times for 122 yards and scoring runs of 50, 1, 4 and 1-yard, accounting for seven total touchdowns.

“Braylon has been working extremely hard with all aspects of the game,” Niedbala said. “He and offensive coordinator Rob Nogay have really worked on the mechanics every day since June.”

Last week, Thomas became the first Lawrence County quarterback to throw and pass for 1,000 yards in the regular season.

After the opening playoff win, Thomas is 18 passing yards shy of 2,000 for the season and has rushed for 1,160 yards.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do future-wise for football,” Thomas said. “It’s just great to know I left my mark somewhere.”

Union has three more big obstacles in the way to match the success of 2022 when, as a No. 10 seed, the Scotties stunned many by winning the WPIAL Class A championship.

The next roadblock for the 9-2 Scotties is a battle with No. 4 Clairton. The Bears also improved to 9-2 with a 44-7 victory over Laurel.

Clairton has won nine in a row after the early setbacks to two great teams,” Niedbala said. “It’s a storied program with great players which they have again this year. It will be a major challenge for us.”

WPIAL Week 10 Honorable Mention

Josh Bladel, Moon

In one of the few playoff openers that went down to the wire, there was a full Moon shining over Monroeville on Friday. Moon senior running back Josh Bladel did what everyone expected the Tigers to do, run the ball. He rushed out of the wildcat formation most of the night, gaining 165 yards on 29 carries while scoring three touchdowns, all on 1-yard carries, including the final one that proved to be the game-winning score as Moon eliminated 5A Big East Conference champion Gateway, 35-31.

John Wetzel, Latrobe

Following a postseason victory over Kiski Area at Forbes Field in 1968, Latrobe football fans waited 54 years until their next WPIAL playoff win in 2022. Their next wait was only 12 months. One year after breaking their playoff win drought, Latrobe is advancing again in the 4A brackets after an impressive road victory. Junior quarterback John Wetzel rushed for 244 yards and scored four touchdowns as the Wildcats crushed host West Allegheny, 39-7.

Drey Hall, Beaver

For most of this football season, the Beaver offense has had a nice balance between the passing of sophomore quarterback Travis Clear and the running of Drey Hall. In a Class 3A first-round playoff game, the clear path to victory was down the Hall and right into the end zone. The Bobcats junior running back rushed for 183 yards on 14 carries and scored four touchdowns on jaunts of 14, 11, 71 and 11 again as host Beaver cruised past Shady Side Academy, 42-7.

2023 HSSN Players of the Week

Week 9 – Anthony Boyd, McKeesport

Week 8 – Armand Hill, West Mifflin

Week 7 – Donald Barksdale, Steel Valley

Week 6 – Ethan Varesko, Beth-Center

Week 5 – Jay Wrona, Mohawk

Week 4 – Elijah Faulkner, Central Catholic

Week 3 – Jonah Williamson, Trinity

Week 2 – Jake Wolfe, Montour

Week 1 – Bruce Giles, Connellsville

Week Zero – Cameron Epps, South Allegheny


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