Indians get running game going to knock off Red Devils
By Al Tustin, Staff Writer, The Times
WEST GROVE — It was a Friday night, but for Unionville High School’s football team, it sure seemed a lot more like Turnback Thursday, as the Indians went back to their roots, played stout defense, powered the ball up the middle, played ball-control offense and dominated the line of scrimmage to beat a previously undefeated Avon Grove squad, 20-0.
After a couple of uneven performances against top competition, Unionville head coach Pat Clark seemed happy to get be able to get back to basics — and the style of football his program has made so successful over the last 13 seasons.
“I was really impressed with the effort our kids put in up front,” Clark said. “We thought that we could get a few things in the run game and both Dante Graham and Jack Adams ran hard — they had the bulk of the carries — and we did good a job up front.”
The 1-2 Indians’ defense was outstanding, able to contain Red Devils’ star running backs Nate Jones and Kevin Francis — bending, but never breaking, and coming up with key plays — such as Zach Nance’s clutch pick just in front of the end zone to stop an Avon Grove drive and James Watson’s 50-yard fumble return for a score.
But for the Indians, the big break through was the offense. Running behind an energized offensive line, backs Jack Adams and Dante Graham were able get tough yards up the middle — which until this week had been something of a struggle. Quarterback Alex Gorgone continued to show improvement, with a series of key pass completions to keep drives alive and a 36-yard TD pass to Joe Zubilaga.
With the history of the two programs — 2-1 Red Devils’ head coach Harry O’Neill was a long-time Unionville assistant, with a similar proclivity for grind-it-out, ground pounding football — it was a clear from the outset that this game was likely going to be won in the trenches.
In this case, on both offense and defense, Unionville emerged as the better team — and it didn’t hurt that the Indians seemed to be able to make the big play when needed.
After a shaky snap to Matt Mainwaring was nearly lost and resulted in a punt short of the original line of scrimmage — giving the Red Devils the ball right around mid-field, it was Zubilaga who literally came up big, leaping high to grab a Joey Borcky pass at the sideline on the 3-yard line.
That set up a clock crushing drive, ending the first quarter and into the second, capped by Gorgone hitting Zubilaga in the right side of the endzone, from 36 yards out for the first score of the game.
Just minutes later, Watson alertly picked up a fumble at midfield and raced, all alone, for the score. Even after Mainwaring’s extra point hit the left goalpost, the Indians had a solid 13-0 lead at the half.
Both teams moved the ball some in the third, but ended up trading numerous punts — as both defenses stiffened.
In the final quarter, Adams’ applied the coup de grace, taking a pitch right and racing 37 yards for the final score.
Now Unionville, the 2015 Ches Mont American champs, begins conference play, hosting powerhouse West Chester Rustin, next Friday night.
“We’ve played tough competition and I think when we get into the league, it’s going to pay off for us,” Clark said.
Rustin beat West Chester East 29-10, Friday night, but looks to be every bit as hungry as the defending Ches Mont American League champion Indians. Although Great Valley — coming off a surprising loss to Glen Mills Friday night — should be in the picture, as usual it appears the fate of the Ches Mont American will come down to Rustin and Unionville.
As well may be the case this season, for the last half dozen or more years, the winner of the Unionville-Rustin game has gone on to win the league title.