Unionville holds off Kennett, 50-36, in wild one

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Unionville’s Connor Schilling led a potent Indian run attack as they held off a tough Kennett team, Friday night.

By Al Tustin, Staff Writer, The Times

KENNETT SQUARE – In the aftermath of a wild, high scoring contest between neighboring rivals, both Unionville and Kennett find themselves with more questions than answers after the Indians’ 50-36, Friday night, in Ches Mont American action.

For undefeated Unionville, there were many strong points — an amazing 446 yards rushing on the ground, including a coming out party for sophomore Connor Schilling, who rushed for 129 yards in getting his first real varsity action. But the Indians (4-0, 1-0) continue to make mistakes, ranging from turnovers, to penalties to missed tackles. With powerhouses such as West Chester Rustin and Downingtown East looming on the schedule, the Indians have limited time to clean things up or these types of errors could prove costly.

“We did 90% good, but the 10% ugly was really ugly,” Unionville head coach Pat Clark said after the game. “But, that’s a compliment to them (Kennett) as well. Jake Dilcher is a real gamer — he kept a ton a plays alive. A lot of our problems is that he escaped the rush. We can only ask our guys to cover for so long, and then their guys sprung open.”

Kennett’s Jake Dilcher — seen here working to evade Unionville Aiden Boyle and Eli Lyons — managed to elude the Unionville rush most for the night and threw for 239 yards.

For Kennett, under first-year head coach Josh Kaufman, the loss to a neighboring rival was deeply frustrating in a season of revived fortunes for the plucky Blue Demons (2-2, 0-1). And yet, there were many positive signs for a program that has struggled to find its footing in recent years. When the game was on the verge of turning into a Unionville blowout — twice — Kennett hung in, fought back and gave Unionville all it could handle. Post game, though, that might have been tough to see.

“We really wanted this one,” Kaufman said. “We thought we really had a good chance in this one. It was a really good game against a good team. The kids are playing hard, they showed a lot of fight in the second half, and they’re going to be really disappointed because we believe in this team. I truly believed that we could win this game.”

Still, the Blue Demons offense managed to do what few have been able to do against the Indians, move the ball and score. Senior QB Jake Dilcher was deadly, running just enough to keep the defense honest, but flinging three TD passes, throwing for 239 yards. Sophomore running Garrett Cox turned in another impressive performance, rushing for 101 yards and a score.

Garrett Cox powered a strong Kennett running game.

And it was Cox, in the early going, who signaled that Kennett would not be an easy out. The back lead the Blue Demons right down the field after the opening kickoff, powering through the Unionville defense. He capped the drive by catching a 34-yard TD pass from Dilcher. A missed extra point left Kennett up 6-0.

The Indians, though, made sure that didn’t last long. Behind the rushing of Dante Graham (11 carries, 87 yards), Joe Zubillaga (8 carries, 116 yards) and Jack Adams (eight carries, 43 yards), Unionville showed off what would be a power run game, an attack that Kennett struggled to find answers for. Zubillaga finished a methodical 60 yard drive with a 5-yard scoring run and Dominic Braithwaite kicked an extra point to give Unionville a 7-6 lead with 3:27 left in the first quarter — a lead it would never relinquish.

After the Indians forced a quick stop on defense, a Blue Demons’ punt by Drake McNamara went bad, just reaching the line of scrimmage — the Kennett 35 — setting up Unionville with excellent field position. The Indians didn’t waste it.

After Graham powered the ball for 12 yards, QB Alex Gorgone hit JT Hower for a 21-yard gain, and then Zubillaga scored from the 2, to make it 13-6 after the extra point kick was blocked.

Unionville’s Joe Zubillaga fights past Kennett defenders for a late score.

Shortly there after, another punt went bad for Kennett as a bad snap resulted in a safety to make it 15-6. On the ensuing kickoff, Theron Schilling returned the ball to the Kennett 37, setting Unionville up with another short field. Five plays later, Graham stuffed it in from 7 yards out. With the extra point, Unionville held a commanding 22-6 lead.

After Kennett was again stopped after a short possession, Unionville again drove down the field, deep into Blue Demon territory. But it was here where the Kennett fortunes began to change.

After coming up big on defense — stalling the Indians’ drive — the Blue Demons’ blocked a Braithwaite field goal attempt. And while Kennett’ next offensive possession stalled, the Blue Demons again were able to get a stop deep in their own territory, when Gorgone fumbled on the Kennett 2 with just over a minute to go in the half.

Dilcher was able hit payday, converting on a long pass to McNamara, setting up Cox’ 1-yard in the final seconds of the half. Suddenly, Kennett had new life and trailed just 22-12 at the half.

A fired up Unionville team came out in the second half and again threatened to put the game away, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the first five minutes. Zubillaga capped a quick 61-yard drive to open the half with a 23-yard run. Then Alijah Woodall blocked an ensuing punt, recovered for a TD by Jake Kriznuski — and suddenly Unionville held a commanding 36-12 lead not even halfway through the third quarter.

Another Unionville TD — this time on a 31-yard run by Hower — threatened to turn the game into a rout, as the Indians ran out to a 42-12 lead.

But the resilient  Blue Demons had other ideas. McNamara ran back the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a score. With a two-point run by Cox, suddenly Kennett closed to within 43-20. Unionville looked to take control, driving deep again into Kennett territory, only to see Connor Schilling fumble at the Kennett 17, giving the Blue Demons’ new life.

Kennett struck again in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, with Dilcher hitting McNamara for a 56-yard TD pass. With Dilcher’s two-point pass to Cox, the Blue Demons closed to within 43-28 and things got a bit more tense.

Unionville found its composure, though, and behind the running of Graham and Adams, marched down the field, with Zubillaga scoring again, this time from 6 yards out. With the extra point,  the Indians grabbed a 50-28 lead, with 7:16 remaining in the game.

Dilcher wasn’t done yet — managing another drive downfield, this one a 77-yard march. He hit Justin Shacknai with a 29 yard scoring pass — and with a two-point pass to McNamara, the Blue Demons closed to within 50-36.

But from Unionville reasserted itself, using the running of Connor Schilling and Adams to eat yardage and the clock, again marching deep into Kennett territory before killing the final minute of the clock to end the game.

Kennett will need to tighten up its defense when it hosts a much improved Sun Valley team, which comes off a tough 26-22 loss to Great Valley Friday night. Meanwhile Unionville needs to focus tightly on its matchup with a clearly upgraded 3-1 Oxford team, which lost a heartbreaker to West Chester Rustin, 42-34 Friday night.

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