With Ches Mont American title in pocket, Indians ready for Section One playoffs
By Al Tustin, Staff Writer, The Times
ASTON — Speaking to his team, post game, Friday, Unionville High School Head Football Coach Pat Clark ticked off the team’s pre-season goals: beat neighbor and rival Kennett, check, defend its Ches Mont American Division title, check, and last: head into the District One, 5A playoffs ready to do serious damage.
If Friday night’s dismantling of a good Sun Valley team — 42-17 — is an indication, the rest of the teams in 5A better be wary of a hungry Indians’ team finally hitting on all cylinders and ready to check that last box.
The Indians (7-3, 6-0) were able to move the ball at will — their offensive line playing its best game of the 2016 season — as backs Jack Adams, Dante Graham and Chris D’Amico found holes and consistently gashed the Vanguards’ (6-4, 3-3) defense. Clark singled out senior linemen Matt Dauphin, Nick Pileggi and Robby Maxwell for special praise in opening holes for the running game.
“it’s nice to get the offensive execution,” Clark said. “We ran it, we finally hit a few big play-actions over the top, I think that’s when we’re at our best.”
The win locks down the Indians’ second straight Ches Mont American Division title, certainly something Clark said he found satisfying especially as younger players grew into leadership roles with the team.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I think this is a team where we lost a really good senior class last year and we had a lot of questions about this team. But these kids were outstanding, they work really hard. it’s not easy to be back-to-back league champions, but I thought this senior class gave us great leadership.”
Now, this team is ready to focus on a bigger prize: a district title.
With the new PIAA configuration, Unionville no longer finds itself battling schools twice its size in the district playoffs. In fact, an early season 22-18 loss to Academy Park (a game where the Indians did not play their best), which entered the week as the No. 2 seed in Section One, 5A, gives them confidence that there isn’t a team in the entire bracket that they can’t match up with on at least an even basis.
“Look, they’re going to be close games, and you can’t make mistakes, and you have to play them one at a time,” Clark said. “We’re looking forward to whoever we get and it should be a home game.”
Unionville must await the completion of this week’s full slate of 5A contests to find out who it will host next Friday night, but entering the final week as the no. 6 seed — and with all five teams ahead of the Indians also winning, 6 seems their likely final seed, best bets would be either rematches against Great Valley or Sun Valley or taking on neighboring West Chester East.
This week, the Indians were all business even if things were a little rocky early on: QB Joe Zubillaga and Adams powered an opening drive, capped by a D’Amico run. But Sun Valley responded with a field goal and a long scoring pass from QB Gabe Boccella to James Gines, following a Unionville fumble to grab a 10-7.
But from there, it was all Unionville.
Adams set up a short drive with a long kickoff return, and then he and Zubillaga posted a pair of first down runs to set up a D’Amico score from the five. With Matt Mainwaring’s extra point, the Indians took a 14-10 lead — a lead they would never surrender.
Just before halftime, QB Alex Gorgone, who is splitting time with Zubillaga behind center, found JT Hower wide open, deep for a 60 yard TD score, to make it 21-10 at the half.
In the second half, Graham came to the fore, powering the first drive of the second half, as Unionville marched down the field for a score, off a short Graham run, to make it 28-10. Later, Gorgone found Hower again deep over the middle for a long completion that set up another short Graham TD run. Graham and D’Amico ground the ball downfield, eating the clock and locking up the game, before Bryce McManus scored Unionville’s final TD on a short run. The Vanguards did add a late score against the Indians’ junior varsity defense in the final minute of the game.