At Union High School, there are always players on the field capable of making big plays.
Only certain players, however, get to play what coach Stacy Robinson dubs the Scotties’ “baller” position. For the last two seasons, that position and honor belongs to senior Michael Flowers, who is officially listed as a running back and defensive back.
“He’s a quarterback, he’s a receiver, running back naturally and flanker,” Robinson said. “We try to get him the ball. We like to think as soon as people think he’s getting the ball, we have other people that also can take up the slack. It’s a heavy load to carry, but he’s in 12th grade and he can do it with no problem and he’s glad to do it. That’s the most important thing.”
The most recent player before Flowers in that position was Tre Charles, who helped the Scotties to the WPIAL quarterfinals his senior season in 2017.
“He’s the focus of the other team’s game plan each week,” Robinson said about Flowers. “Being a man comes with a price. It says a lot about him. He comes to practice. He wants to learn and get better. I have the old saying if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. He’s still getting better each week.”
A two-time team captain, being the “baller” means Flowers is in the spotlight, while also being a key player each opponent tries to stop each week.
“It puts a lot of pressure on you, but I’m used to it,” Flowers said. “I’ve been starting since my freshman year.”
Despite not being the biggest running back in the county, Flowers is perhaps the most elusive. Anytime the four-year player can get the ball in space, he’s a threat to take it all the way to the end zone.
“I feel unstoppable, like I’m not going to be stopped,” Flowers said when he finds a bit of green space on the field. “If I’m seeing the touchdown in clear view, I know I got it.”
He continued, “My motto is not to get tackled by one person.”
His full abilities were on display in a rare, two-day performance last weekend as the Scotties needed two days — a lightning delay in the third quarter suspended the rest of the game to Saturday — to dispatch visiting Northgate, 49-28. Flowers ran the ball 12 times for a season-high 193 yards and caught two passes for 76 yards. He scored on runs of 83 and 33 yards, while also taking a 68-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Benedict to the end zone. He also had two two-point conversions.
“(My offensive line) was blocking nice and doing their techniques like they were supposed to and I just ran,” Flowers said.
For his efforts, Flowers — the son of Stanley and Ashley Booker — has been named Lawrence County Athlete of the Week as voted on by the sports department of the New Castle News. A member of his school’s Spanish club, Flowers plans to study to become a physical therapist at Youngstown State and would like to try to walk on to the Penguins’ football team.
“I felt good. I felt very good,” Flowers, Lawrence County’s fifth-leading rusher with 306 yards, said. “We were looking for a ‘W’ after losing three times in a row. We can’t lose again at home. We just came out there and had to win.”
The Scotties (1-3) led 34-21 with 1:19 left in the third quarter before the game was suspended and resumed Saturday afternoon. That left players on both sidelines banged up and tired. For Union, it meant thinking of Saturday’s portion of the game with the mindset that Northgate wasn’t far behind.
The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak for Union dating back to last season.
“The win Friday and Saturday was definitely a confidence booster,” Flowers said. “We have to act like we’ve done this before and keep it rolling, get through practice and win the game.”
With the season just about halfway over, Flowers’ days being coached by Robinson are counting down. That doesn’t mean Robinson isn’t going to let up on his workload.
“He’s a great kid. He’s been wonderful to coach him for four years,” Robinson said. “He’ll leave his mark upon the place, that’s for sure. We’ll miss him when he’s gone, but right now we’ve got him so I’m going to use him to the utmost of his abilities.”