Unionville uses strong ‘D’ special teams to hold off Oxford, 24-7

Sets up pivotal contest at Great Valley next week

By Al Tustin, Staff Writer, The Times


Unionville’s Trevor Gardiner blocks a punt by Oxford’s Dan Green, resulting in a safety. Gardiner has three sacks for the Indians. Jim Gill Photo.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — Michelangelo’s David, it wasn’t.

Unionville will take its, at times, sloppy and uneven win over Oxford, 24-7, Friday night, but it remains clear that the 4-2 Indians (2-0, ChesMont American) have some work to do before being ready to take on a tough Great Valley team (5-0 heading into Saturday afternoon’s showdown with West Chester Rustin) next Saturday, with potentially both the ChesMont American Division Title and a possible Section One playoff berth on the line.

In the end, strong special teams and defensive play may have saved Unionville — a defensive TD on a bad punt snap and a second half punt block safety kept the game from being a nail-biter. A swarming Indians’ defense tormented Oxford QB Dan Green all night, sacking him five times (three by Trevor Gardiner) and largely containing power running back Tim Davis, held to 75 yards on the ground.

For the Indians, coming off a rugged lopsided loss to Downingtown East, the positives clearly outweighed any negatives.

“We hurt ourselves,” Unionville coach Pat Clark said afterward. “We turned the ball over, obviously, we can’t do that.

“But I thought defensively we we solid, on special teams we were effective. We’re still working stuff out, we’ve been dealing with four or five kids out of the lineup the last few weeks, (but) we’re getting some kids back. Our timing was a little bit off, but, look, we’re still in first place in the league, we bounced back, we held them to seven points. There are a lot of positives tonight.

“I’m proud of the way this group played. they played real hard.”

The plucky and clearly improving 1-5 Hornets under first-year coach Mike Means gave Unionville a battle — between grabbing turnovers (a pair of fumbles and an interception deep in Hornets’ territory) and managing to convert key third and fourth down plays, to keep the game close.


Unionville Brandon Boon (29) and Brendan Boyle (3) lose the connect on a handoff, resulting in a fumble deep in Oxford territory. Jim Gill photo.

After a first half that looked like the first act of an Indian blowout, the Hornets tightened up on defense and managed to largely corral the powerful Unionville running game. Indians senior running back Brandon Boon had a solid game, rushing for 68 yards, but was kept from any of his trademark long, explosive runs on offense or special teams.

Early on, it looked to be all Unionville.

After stomping out Oxford’s first possession — a lengthy drive that stalled near the Unionville 40 —  the Indians’ marched down the field, scoring on a 1-yard Boon run. A fake extra point, turned when sophomore Joe Zubillaga — apparently in to kick — threw a pass to Mark Knightly giving Unionville a quick 8-0 lead. Later in the quarter, Zubillaga recovered a botched snap over Green’s head in the end zone to make it 15-0 before the end of the first quarter.

After stopping Oxford on another lengthy but futile drive, Unionville immediately scored on a 60-yard pass from Brendan Boyle to a wide open Tyler Marmo over the middle. With an extra point, Unionville held a commanding 22-0 lead and it appeared that the rout was on.

The Hornets had other ideas, though.

Despite being constantly harassed by Indian defenders, Green was able to roll out and throw for completions at key times, including on the ensuing drive, hitting a 31-yard pass on a 3rd-and-17 play to tight end Brandon Holz, down the right sideline. After another Green pass kept the drive alive, Davis managed to muscle the ball inside the 1, and Green followed with a plunge up the middle to put Oxford on the board, 22-7.


Unionville’s Tyler Marmo can’t quite the handle on a first half pass. The senior did catch a 60-yard TD scoring pass earlier. Jim Gill photo.

The only other score came when Gardiner broke through the middle on a punt attempt in the third quarter and blocked the kick, sending it out of the end zone for a safety to make it 24-7.

The win does mean that Unionville controls its destiny in terms of the ChesMont American title: win out and the Indians will be league champs, thanks to the previous win over Rustin. An 8-2 record would also like mean a berth in the District One playoffs, as Unionville came into Friday night’s game ranked 16th — in the final playoff spot.

“It’s huge,” Clark said. “(Great Valley Head Coach) Dan Ellis has done a really good job with the program. They haven’t lost many games in the last year, so they present a bunch of challenges.”

After the Great Valley game, the Indians face Kennett (2-4), Octorara (0-5, pending Saturday’s matchup with Avon Grove) and Sun Valley (1-5) — meaning a win next Saturday over the Patriots would set them up with a solid chance to run the table and grab the league title.

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