Zubillaga steps up to propel Unionville over Rustin, 14-0

Indians’ defense again overwhelms, forces four turnovers

By Al Tustin, Staff Writer, The Times


Unionville’s Joe Zubillaga takes off on a key run that set up a second half score, leading the Indians past West Chester Rustin, 14-0, Friday night. Jim Gill photo.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — The term “next man up” is a sometimes overused cliche in football, but Unionville junior Joe Zubillaga was the living embodiment of the term, stepping in for his team’s injured quarterback with virtually no experience at the position, helping to lead the Indians part arch-rival West Chester, 14-0, Friday night.

Unionville’s usual quarterback Alex Gorgone went down early in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and back up QB Drew Lenkaitis was already out with an injury — which meant Zubilaga was quite literally “next man up” despite little in the way of experience at the position.

“I haven’t played quarterback in a long time, all the way back to my flag football days,” Zubilaga said, afterward. “I just kind of winged it. But I have to give it up to my brothers up front and my defense for shutting out Rustin — that was the greatest.”

Zubillaga said he grew up watching current Penn State player Tom Pancoast — like the current Indian, a big, strong athlete and powerful runner, and hoped to emulate him.

Despite lacking experience, Zubillaga — a starter at DB and receiver normally — filled in ably, showing both a strong arm and good command of the running game from the QB position, rushing for 67 yards, leading the Indians downfield in the third quarter for the TD that put the game away. Zubillaga did manage to get practice reps during the week, which clearly showed on the field.


Unionville’s Zach Nance puts pressure on Rustin Quarterback Tim Durant. Nance had an interception for the second straight week. Jim Gill photo.

“Our normal number two (QB) is a little bit banged up, but we had a week where we said ‘what are you going to do if Alex goes down?’ so you’ve got to have a kid ready,” Unionville head coach Pat Clark said. “Joe is a three-sport athlete — he’s got really good athletic ability and he makes good decisions and that’s the kind of kid you need if you can’t have your number one guy.”

And that guy, Zubillaga, rose to the challenge.

“He is among our most competitive kids in every sport,” Clark said. “I have been fortunate to coach him in two different sports — the kids rally behind him and we were lucky to have him tonight.”

The win — moving Unionville up to 2-2 and 1-0 in the Ches Mont American — is the team’s first step, albeit a big one, toward defending its league championship.


Unionville’s James Watson lowers the boom on Rustin punter Cole Gallagher on a fake punt attempt. Jim Gill photo.

Again, though, it was the Unionville defense that came up big. Every time the Knights (0-4, 0-1) threatened to score, the Indians managed to come up with a big play — usually a turnover, the Indians forced four, two fumbles and two picks — to stop it and keep Rustin off the scoreboard. Rustin’s usually fearsome running game was hurt by not having the injured Ty Pringle — one of the county’s top backs — but they were able to bottle up the capable Brandon Frazier.

Knights’ QB Tim Durant found himself under pressure for much of the game, before finally giving way to Joe Dougherty in the fourth quarter, who fared no better. Zubillaga and Zack Nance both had interceptions.

“Our guys take a lot of pride in their defense,” Clark said. “We’re fortunate to have three senior linebackers, who are two-three year starters. I thought in the secondary, we did a real good job, too. And we had five d-linemen, playing four spots tonight, and we were able to muck up the run a little bit. When you can put Rustin into passing downs, that’s a victory for your defense.”

Before suffering the injury, Gorgone engineered an impressive drive, the key play was a 27-yard pass to Jack Adams. Adams, who had another big rushing game, capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge off a pitch left. With the Matt Mainwaring extra point, the Indians led 7-0, which is how the game went to half time.

On Unionville’s first possession of the second half, Zubilaga sparked a drive with a 27-yard run to the right. He finished the drive by rolling left and finding Aidan Boyle in the endzone for the score.

The Indians don’t get much time to enjoy their win — the winner of the Unionville-Rustin game has won the Ches-Mont American in each of the last seven years — with powerhouse Downingtown East looming on the schedule. The Cougars (3-1) manhandled Avon Grove, 35-7, Friday night and look to be the top team in the Ches Mont National Division.

“Every week is a tough week,” Clark said. “If you look at our first half of the schedule, we’ve played some really good football teams. And Downingtown East — no disrespect to the teams we’ve played already — could be the best of every team we’ve played so far.”

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