Union small in numbers but big on talent

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019 | 8:20 PM


Another year, another common scenario for coach Stacy Robinson and the Union Scotties. One of the smallest schools in the WPIAL, Union had just 20 kids arrive for the first day of camp.

While those numbers are small, the veteran head coach knows that the effort of his players, especially his three seniors, will be anything but little.

“Our seniors are going to have to lead, and I don’t expect them to do anything different,” said Robinson, who enters his 23rd season as head coach of the Scotties. “They’re four-year players, and they’re good football players, and the rest of the guys have to grow up quick and follow their leaders. We’ll take our chances and see where we end up.”

One of those seniors returning to the lineup is quarterback Tyler Benedict, who threw for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns during his first full season as the team’s starting quarterback. He played most of his freshman season under center because of injury before moving to the offensive line as a sophomore.

“He’s a senior, I think he’s ready to assume the role,” Robinson said. “He knows a lot is on his shoulders. That’s what comes with age. More is expected of you. I think he’ll get it done, and he’s looking forward to the challenge.”

Benedict also rushed for four touchdowns and returned an interception for a score on defense. His fellow seniors, Michael Flowers and Bryce Smith, also will see roles in multiple situations for the Scotties. Flowers was the team’s leading rusher and receiver last season, scoring five total touchdowns, and figures to again line up all over the field offensively during his senior year. Smith, who has started on the offensive line the past two seasons, will move to fullback this season.

“They have to play dual-roles up here,” Robinson said. “You have to play everywhere. Makes you a better football player.”

Some skill position underclassmen who Robinson and his staff expect to have significant roles in the offense include junior Anthony Nealy and sophomores Tyler Staub and Jackson Clark. All three scored multiple touchdowns over the course of the 2018 campaign.

Limited numbers makes for difficult situations for Union. With 20 players, the Scotties cannot even do full 11-on-11 practice drills, which makes individual work even more important during practice.

One who has thrived with that work ethic has been junior Aaron Gunn. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound all-conference lineman was selected as a member of the Trib 25 Preseason Football All-Star Team. With Division I offers from Kentucky, West Virginia, Michigan State and Western Michigan, Gunn looks to have another big season while likely drawing double- and triple-teams both in practice and in games.

“We expect big things from him. He keeps improving, and he’s only a junior. He’s going to keep getting better,” Robinson said.

Like always, the key for Union revolves around their playmakers making plays and staying healthy. Also, finding sustained success throughout the game is a point of emphasis. The Scotties scored on the first drive of the game in more than half of their contests, but the offense struggled to maintain that success throughout the team’s 3-7 season. The Scotties outscored opponents 67-0 in two Big 7 Conference victories, but averaged a 45-5 defeat in the team’s five losses.

Schedule

Coach: Stacy Robinson

2018 record: 3-7, 2-5

All-time record: 348-477-26

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, Shenango, 7

8.30, at Cornell*, 7

9.6, at Sto-Rox*, 7

9.13, Northgate*, 7

9.20, at Rochester*, 7:30

9.27, Bishop Canevin*, 7

10.4, at Laurel*, 7

10.11, Carmichaels, 7

10.18, at OLSH*, 7

10.25, West Greene, 7

*Class A Big 7 Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Tyler Benedict

94-149, 1,088 yards, 11 TDs

Rushing: Michael Flowers

113-337 yards, 2 TDs

Receiving: Flowers

25-355 yards, 3 TDs

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