By Shawn Fox
PITTSBURGH — It was a roller coaster eight days for the Union High football team.
The Scotties were riding high after upsetting Rochester last Friday, then they hit a dip.
A big one.
Northgate scored 22 unanswered points Friday night to upend Union, 22-16, in WPIAL Class A Big Seven Conference at Alumni Field in the city’s Bellevue neighborhood.
“I knew Northgate was hungry,” Union coach Stacy Robinson said. “They’re a good football team that has some players who can make plays. As high as we were last week, things can happen to bring you back down. Sure enough, they did tonight. Obviously, I didn’t have my team ready to play.”
The Scotties (1-1 conference, 3-2 overall) were missing seven starters on both sides of the football and dressed just 17 players due to COVID-19 issues.
“Our playbook was limited because we had a lot of people out, especially at the skill positions” Robinson said. “No excuses. I still thought we could come down here and win, but their coach had them ready to play.
“Those are the ups and downs of coaching football. The world changes daily.”
Union got on the scoreboard first, with 2:54 remaining in the second quarter. Facing a first-and-10 from the Flames’ 20, quarterback Tyler Staub dropped back to pass. He was nearly tackled for a loss by Davonte Christie at the 40, but Staub got away and raced down the sideline and into the end zone.
Staub connected with Kaden Fisher on the conversion pass to give the Scotties an 8-0 lead.
After forcing Northgate (1-1, 2-3) to punt on its next possession, Union scored again as Staub hooked up with Fisher on a 25-yard TD strike. Staub ran in the conversion and the Scotties held a 16-0 edge with 43 seconds remaining before the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Flames, who had lost three straight, took over at the Union 49. On first down, quarterback Austin Mitchell found Lewis Clark for a 10-yard gain. On the play, the Scotties were whistled for a roughing the passer penalty.
Mitchell made Union pay as on first down, he scrambled for a 25-yard score. Christie was stuffed on the conversion run by Jamel Mitchell and the Scotties held a 16-6 lead at the intermission.
“It was a momentum shift,” Robison said. “But, I thought we could come out in the second half and stem the tide.”
Northgate took the second-half kickoff and drove 60 yards in eight plays, with Mitchell’s 33-yard TD pass to Jordan Smalley capping the drive. The conversion run again failed, but the Flames trimmed the deficit to 16-12 with 7:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Following a short punt on Union’s first possession of the second half, Northgate went back to work on offense.
Mitchell threw his second touchdown pass of the game, this time a 17-yarder to Lewis Clark, and then ran in the conversion to give the Flames their first lead, 20-16, with 2:46 remaining in the third quarter.
Mitchell, a sophomore, completed 10 of 17 passes for 126 yards.
“Their quarterback is dangerous,” Robinson said. “We tried a couple of different things to stop him, but obviously they didn’t work.”
Vito Pascale closed out the scoring with 33 second remaining in the game when he tackled Staub in the end zone for a safety.
Union struggled offensively in the second half, running 22 plays and gaining just 36 yards.
“The kids played hard, but Northgate’s a good football team,” Robinson said. “They’re going to beat some other people this year too. We’ve just got to regroup and get ready for the rest of the Big Seven. If not, we’re going to be disappointed every week. We’ll try to get ourselves back up off the mat (today).”
The Scotties will travel to Cornell on Friday in another conference test.