It’s one thing to score touchdowns in football, but it’s something entirely different to pave the way for scoring predicaments. Braylon Thomas helped lead the way for the Union High football team to grab a 30-21 victory over Cornell on Friday.

“It’s just great for the team because it’s a big step for us,” Thomas said on beating a ranked Cornell squad. “Improvement could be done.”

Thomas contributed 203 yards on 18 carries and went 3 of 7 in passing to rack up 68 yards. He also managed touchdown totes of 55 and 85 yards against the Raiders.

“I got a good look from my tackles and guards,” Thomas said of the 55-yard touchdown. “They opened the hole for me to score.”

“He hit a seam, he found it and he put on the speed,” Union coach Kim Niedbala said of 55-yard run. “It was evident that he can move a little bit there.”

For his efforts, Thomas was named Lawrence County Athlete of the Week as voted on by the New Castle News sports staff.

“I don’t know if necessarily it’s about beating a ranked team,” Niedbala said of the victory over Cornell. “It’s about being able to go on the road and just compete and play hard. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Thomas was able to grab a huge first down for the Scotties after a fake punt play on fourth down with eight yards to go.

“It kind of just happened where I saw the hole and took it.” Thomas said on the play.

“He had an option to do that,” Niedbala said. “He read it correctly and he was able to pick up the first down.”

Niedbala commented on Thomas’ rushing ability.

“Obviously, he’s talented. He was able to bust a couple runs in,” Niedbala said. “It was testament to him and the blocking up front. He has some talent and we have to get him in the right direction.”

Thomas commented on the strengths and improvements Union needs for the 2022 season.

“The way we can run the ball and just keep pushing it and probably smash mouth football,” Thomas said of Union’s strengths. “(We can improve) tackling.”

A son of Theresa Thomas, the junior assumed the role of full-time quarterback this season.

“It was kind of hard since I played receiver the last two years,” Thomas said. “I have good coaches that put me back into the rhythm.”

Not only is it Thomas’ first time in the driver’s seat, but Niedbala’s as a Union coach. Niedbala talked about the learning curve.

“We’re still trying to figure out who we are as a team, what we can do well, what we can’t do well,” Niedbala said. “It’s been a learning curve for all of us, especially him taking snaps underneath the center for the first time, full-time.”

Thomas also plays basketball and competes in track and field. Out of the 26 players on the football team’s roster, 12 of them also play basketball for Union.

“Just more time to hang out with each other and have fun.” Thomas said on the football/basketball dynamic.

Thomas commented on what makes a good quarterback.

“Someone who can understand the offenses,” Thomas said. “Someone who can read the defenses and lead the team.”

Thomas commented on the upperclassmen leadership.

“Just experienced, making sure everyone keeps their heads cool,” Thomas said. “Sometimes the younger guys have to help us too. They’re good with us and we all communicate back and forth. Age really isn’t like a thing to us. We’re just all together.”

Niedbala commented on having Thomas in a leadership role.

“His playmaking ability is his best attribute,” Niedbala said. “He’s able to improvise a lot of the times if things went down. Like I said, we’re still in that learning curve of trying to figure it out. He’s a kid that shows up everyday and was here all summer long and doesn’t miss a workout. That’s obviously the most important thing. He has to be accountable. That’s where he’s headed right now.”

Niedbala said there’s always room for improvement in terms of his quarterback and everything in general.

“Every day, even today, we were working on specific things,” Niedbala said. “He’s a long way away from being the perfect QB, that’s for sure. He’ll tell you that, but every day we look for improvement.”

Thomas said the main emphasis on practices for the Scotties has been to get stuff done quickly and then proceed to have fun.

What does Thomas think the driving force behind Union’s success on the gridiron will be?

“Sticking together, listening to what our coaches tell us to do,” he said. “They know what’s best.”

Thomas praised the Scotties’ first-year coach Niedbala.

“(He’s) just helping everyone improve, getting better day by day,” Thomas said of Niedbala. “(He’s) making sure we have the best chance to win.”

The Scotties open up conference play at Shenango on Sunday. Thomas believes the extra day of practice will help drive Union to a victory.

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