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Union and Port Allegany set to duel in semifinals

Tagged under: District 7, District 9, News, Playoffs

| December 1, 2022


The Game:

PIAA Class A Semifinals

Union Scotties vs. Port Allegany Gators.

Friday, December 2nd.

Kickoff 7 pm

Clarion University Memorial Stadium

District IX Champion Port Allegany Gators

Head Coach: Justin Benkowski

League: District 9 Region 2

Record: 12-1

About the Gators:

Honestly, the ride our team has been on isn’t something we’ve spent much time discussing. We have approached each week as its own; our usual talking points center around making that game the best game of whatever week we’re in. As the season moved along and we got challenged in our league, our team realized that if we played our game, we could compete with anyone in District 9. Our region two schedules prepared us for the moment we’re in. The teams on our schedule gave us a fight every week. Again, I would reiterate that we’re not approaching this game any differently than we have all year. The community and school give off the vibe that it’s a bigger game, but we’re just looking to continue spending time together as a team family unit. The only way to keep doing that is to win. So, I guess that’s what we’ll continue to try and do,” said head coach Justin Benkowski.

Port Allegany is making its first trip to the state semifinals since 2012, when Benkowski was an assistant coach.

“Being back in the state playoffs now as a Head Coach has given me some perspective. It’s tough to get here, and it’s about getting all involved to work toward a common goal. In ’12, I was responsible for coaching positions and helping scheme Xs and Os, and now I’m responsible for ensuring everyone understands our objective. It is a different outlook, but at the end of the day, it’s about ALL of OUR kids and coaches working together for what’s best for our team.”

The Gators will now face WPIAL Champion Union – in 2012, WPIAL Champion Clairton beat Port Allegany 44-12.

“Union is as athletic of a team as we’ve seen all year. As I stated earlier, our schedule has prepared us for this game. However, Union is incredibly dynamic, and they potentially have multiple threats to throw at us. The respect we have for WPIAL football will never be questioned, and Union represents that tradition. They are well-coached, very athletic, and look to get after the opponent.”

“We’re looking forward to one helluva fight, and we appreciate the opportunity to compete. That’s all we’ve strived for each week a chance to compete. As I’m sure Union does, we feel that if we play our game for four quarters, we’ll have a shot.”

Key Players

Drew Evens – Evens has completed 113-of-190 passes for 1365 yards, 11 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He has also rushed for 527 yards and six scores.

Blaine Moses – Moses has rushed for a team-high 1099 yards and 20 touchdowns while adding 16 receptions for 149 yards and a score.

Noah Archer – Archer leads the Gators with 52 catches for 742 yards and sevens score while rushing for 954 yards and 12 touchdowns.

WPIAL Champion Union Scotties

Head Coach: Kim Niedbala

League: WPIAL 1A Section 4

Record: 11-3

About the Scotties:

Union played the underdog role through the WPIAL playoffs, winning their first title since 1959 – making their first appearance since 1973 – became the first double-digit team to reach the WPIAL finals since 2010. Head coach Kim Niedbala gives his thoughts on his team’s success in his first season at the helm. A group of kids that are no strangers to success.

“It’s hard to say… These kids have played in a Wpial Basketball final and have won the last 2 Wpial baseball titles… It just so happens that it has happened in Football now.”

Niedbala was an assistant head coach with Mount Lebanon last season under Bob Palko, which finished undefeated and won a state title.

“I don’t know if winning a State Title factored in it. You have to be lucky you have to be injury free.  There are a lot of factors that go into success.”

Niedbala returns to Clarion University, where he played college football, now with a chance to advance to a state final.

“It will be fun. Quite interesting going full circle, my first head coaching job, and I am back at Clarion Coaching to go to a State final.”

Union goes from the underdog in the WPIAL playoffs to the favorite with a trip to Cumberland Valley on the line.

“Port A is a very talented team.  They are big and physical up front on both lines.  They like to control the Football and have great playmakers in their QB 12… FB 16 and use 20 and 3 in different ways.  It will be a challenge for us!!”

Key Players

Braylon Thomas – Thomas has completed 70-of-151 passes for 1128 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Thomas also leads the Scottie’s ground game rushing for 1413 yards and scoring 20 total touchdowns.

Mike Gunn – Gunn has rushed for 460 yards and added 183 yards receiving, scoring ten touchdowns this season.

Matt Stanley and Andrew Cartwright rushed for 358 and 268 yards, scoring nine times.

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