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Union High senior Anthony Nealy knew going into Friday night's matchup he had two more games left on his home field.

Nealy made the most of Friday's home contest, turning in a performance to remember.

Nealy scored three touchdowns and added the game-winning two-point conversion in a thrilling 43-42 Scotties win over Fort Cherry in WPIAL Big Seven Conference action.

"It's the ebbs and flows of a game. I thought we made it a little too exciting," Union coach Stacy Robinson said. "But credit to them, they kept striking and they kept coming after us. But we answered the bell.

"They had us on our heels most of the game, but we were able to bounce back and pull off the win in the end." 

Union (3-3 conference, 3-3 overall) trailed 42-35 with 1:45 to go. Jackson Clark took a third-down handoff and plowed in from a yard out to cut the deficit to 42-41 with 1:38 left.

Robinson didn't hesitate in making a decision on the conversion.

"I wasn't even thinking about kicking an extra point," Robinson said. "I figured I had to come up with a play and go to our money people.

"All week, I've been starting to talk to the seniors, asking what are they going to say about when you when you're gone. Their careers are coming to a close. We had to fight all the way to the last second."

Quarterback Tyler Staub dropped back on the two-point conversion and zipped an aerial to the right side of the end zone. There were defenders around Nealy, but it didn't matter. Nealy hauled in the pass to put the hosts up 43-42.

"It was in traffic," Nealy said. "Thanks to our defensive backs in practice, that helped me make that play.

"We work on that. They help me catch the ball. It was a big conversion."

Said Robinson, "I talked to (Nealy) earlier in the week. I saw him grow up from a boy into a young man. As a ninth grader, he was wobbly kneed and unsure of himself. Now, he comes out there to play on both sides of the ball. He bounces back. He got beat for a TD, but he shook it off and was ready to play the next play. We count on people like him."

Mike Gunn helped seal the win for the Scotties when he intercepted Maddox Truschel with 1:01 left.

"It was an amazing win," Nealy said. "It's a true momentum boost. It's truly big for us. It was a true gut check. I'm thankful we hung in there."

Union trailed 42-27 after three quarters. Staub scrambled around and raced in from 19 yards out to cut the deficit to 42-33 with 9:56 remaining.

Rather than attempt an extra point to narrow the deficit to one score, Robinson rolled the dice and went for two.

"Our thoughts aren't the conventional thoughts," Robinson said. "We don't have a kicker that's a sure-money kicker. It's almost a no-brainer.

"We knew we had to go for two. That's our best shot at cutting the gap. We've been practicing our two-point plays. Unfortunately, these last few weeks I've used most of my bag of tricks. I have to get some more for next week."

Staub converted the two-point try to get Union within 42-35. He finished 17 of 29 for 310 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

"Tyler excites the crowd," Robinson said. "He'll make some bonehead plays. But, he'll make some plays that can put the ball in the end zone.

"It's a give and take with Tyler. He's getting better. He's done an admirable job for us."

Nealy caught five passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on passes of 48 and 42 yards from Staub.

"Tyler was amazing," Nealy said. "He tries his best to get his receivers to catch the ball and put us in perfect position. He knows what he's doing."

Nealy's third touchdown came on a five-yard interception return. The Rangers (2-4, 2-4) were backed up in their own end after stopping Union on downs at the 4.

The Scotties pushed Fort Cherry back to the 1 and on third down, Truschel fired a pass out to the right. A receiver was streaking down the field, but Truschel threw short and right to Nealy, who waltzed into the end zone for a 19-14 lead. Anthony Stanley caught Staub's two-point pass for a 21-14 second-quarter lead.

"He's got a good defensive backs coach," Robinson said of Nealy. "They work on that all the time, driving on the ball.

"Sometimes you have to gamble out there on the field. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. He won that one."

Former Scotties standout Linnell Robinson, a son of the coach, is the defensive backs coach.

"I was in the right spot at the right time, thanks to the coaches," Nealy said. "I read the ball well and was able to get into the end zone."

Union forged a 27-21 halftime lead.

Jackson Clark added 99 rushing yards on 18 carries, while catching three passes for 45 yards for the Scotties.

Union closes the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday when it hosts Burgettstown (3-3, 3-3) in a conference clash.


Sports Writer

Ron Poniewasz Jr. is a sports writer at the New Castle News. Email him at rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com.

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