NEW CASTLE —
One drought is ready to end for the Union High football program.
Another one is just 48 minutes from coming to an end.
The 10th-seeded Scotties (6-3) are appearing in the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since the 2003 season. They are set to meet seventh-seeded Beth-Center at 7:30 p.m. today at California High School in Class A action.
“The guys are excited. They’re keeping things business-like,” said Union coach Stacy Robinson, who is in his 16th season at the helm. “We’ll try to keep it that way. We don’t want us to get big eyes and then go down there and get ambushed.”
The winner advances to meet the survivor of the Sto-Rox-Carmichaels matchup Nov. 9 at a time and site to be determined.
The last time Union won a playoff game was in 1979 when it defeated Albert Gallatin in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals. The Scotties lost the next week against Knoch in the semifinals. Robinson was a junior on that team.
“Winning in the playoffs is great for the program. Moreso, it’s great for the kids,” Robinson said. “Like I can recall from when I played, it’s a memory they can take with them wherever they go; it’s a pleasant memory.
“For the program, we need it. We work hard. We work just as hard as any other team. It won’t be given to us. We’ll have to work for it. But we’ll be prepared.”
CHANGE OF PLANS
The game was originally scheduled to be held at Beth-Center. Higher seeds get to host first-round playoff games in the WPIAL football playoffs. But because the Bulldogs play on grass and the field was in such poor shape, the game site was changed Wednesday to California.
“On the one hand, I don’t blame teams for wanting to play at home,” Robinson said. “All year, they thought they’d get a home game as a reward for having a good year and a high seed.
“But it’s out of everyone’s hands. I’m glad (the WPIAL) came to their senses and moved the game.”
This will be the second straight game for Union on an artificial (field turf) surface. The Scotties lost to Neshannock last week in the regular season finale, 42-34. That was the first time Union played on anything but grass since last year.
“New Castle High School has been kind enough to let us use their field (Wednesday and yesterday),” Robinson said of his team’s preparation for the surface. “You can stop more abruptly and start quicker on field turf. We have to get used to running on it. After running on it for an hour or two, it becomes second nature.
“I don’t think playing on field turf gives either team an advantage, but there’s no disadvantage either. Visions of Dick Butkus running all over the field in the 60s in the mud are over. There’s no reason to play in the mud if you don’t have to.”
Making the decision Wednesday to switch the site came as a relief to Robinson.
“I’m glad the decision was (made Wednesday),” Robinson said. “It lets us concentrate on the game now. Nobody in western Pennsylvania wants to play in the slop or mud. We can move on now and get ready to play the game.”