Miscues cost Indians in season opener

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Unionville drops 21-20 battle to Garnet Valley

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Unionville running back Brad Pechin breaks into the open in the early going, heading into the endzone. Pechin, a senior, finished with 60 yards rushing on 17 carries in the Indians’ 21-20 loss to Garent Valley, Friday night. Photo by Jim Gill.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — At times dominant, others sloppy, Unionville opened its 2012 season with an uneven performance — and a loss — that head coach Pat Clark said he hopes doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the season.

But Friday night’s 21-20 loss to visiting rival Garnet Valley may have prompted more questions about this team than it answered.

When the Indians (0-1) were good, they looked overwhelming — in the second quarter it looked like they were about to open the season with a blowout win. But the second half proved another story as miscues and a failure to establish anything like offensive momentum opened the door for the opportunistic Jaguars (1-0).

Unionville kicker Sean Barnes sees the ball go off the side of his foot on a first quarter extra point attempt. Photo by Jim Gill.

While he said he was pleased with the overall effort, Clark said that mistakes — a plague at times during the 2011 season — told the story at the end of the night.

“We lost that game 10 different ways,” Clark said. “They (Garnet Valley) have a very good program, we respect their program, but we gave a game away tonight. They made enough plays, but we didn’t make enough plays. We didn’t get the job done in all phases at different times and it cost us.”

“We didn’t play to put the game away,” Clark said. “We had our shots.”

And yet, there were many bright spots. Unionville went to dedicated starters on offense and defense, allowing whichever unit wasn’t on the field to huddle with coaches and make adjustments — the benches were set up in a “V” shape on the sideline and a coach with a whiteboard was able to run sideline chalktalks. Clark said he felt that worked well and it showed on the field.

And then there was the 37-yard fumble return of Steven Lange. The senior defensive lineman rambled down the field, refusing to go down, often carrying a number of Garnet defenders with him.

Senior defensive lineman Steven Lange drags a large percentage of the Garnet Valley offense into the endzone, scoring on a 37-yard fumble recovery. Inset: Lange celebrates with his teammates after the play. Main photo by Jim Gill.

“That was a great individual effort,” Clark said. “That was as good an individual effort as we’ve had here in nine years. The kids is a senior, he played hard. Look, he’s a rugby player — it looked like he knew what he was doing, running the ball.”

In the very early going, though, it looked like the Indians might be in for a rough night. The Jags took the opening kickoff, after Unionville won the toss and deferred, and marched right down the field, with Jake Irving capping the 57-yard drive with a five yard run.

Unionville stormed right back, though, mounting it’s own long drive, with senior running back Brad Pechin pounding the ball in from six yards out. But Sean Barnes’ missed extra point would prove costly later.

Moments later after a botched punt snap and recovery by Tim Christopher, the Indians struck again, this time on a 10 yard pass from QB Tom Pancoast to Patch Johnson. With Barnes’ extra point, the Indians had a 13-7 lead.

Then came Lange’s fumble recovery. After scooping up Wellington Zaza’s fumble, the burly lineman rumbled toward the endzone, appearing to be stopped a couple of times, only to fight off the pack of defenders trying to bring him down, seemingly willing himself to the endzone.

Unionville quarterback Tom Pancoast fires downfield in the first quarter. After a promising start, the Indians offense sputtered in the second ha;f. Pancoast finished with 85 yards passing on 6-of-11 attempts.

Before the half, the Jags cut the Indian lead to 20-14, on a touchdown pass from Ryan Corkery to Jude DiGiacomo. That score came after a controversial pass interference call penalty on Unionville that gave Garnet new life — on a pass that appeared to have been tipped at the line of scrimmage.

Unionville’s offense stalled in the second half — held to a total of 203 yards of total offense in the game — and couldn’t respond after Garnet scored on a 76-yard TD pass from Corkery to Michael Bruette. That pass came

The Indians had one last shot: Kevin Welch recovered a muffed punt, giving the Indians the ball on the Jags’ 39 with 8:11 left in the game. After methodically pounding the ball down to the Jags’ 5, the offense stalled and then got pushed back to the 11. Barnes missed a 28-yard field goal that would have given Unionville the lead.

After that, Garnet just needed to hang onto the ball and eat the clock, which it did, driving 40 yards and killing some four minutes off the clock.

With tough 1-0 Souderton looming next week — coming off an easy, 35-0 win over Methacton Friday night — Clark said he knows he and his team have to find a solution, and quick.

“We’ve got  to fix some things for week two,” Clark said. “I think if we fix some things, we can be a very good football team. But it’s about us getting to work and correcting mistakes, because there are no breaks in our schedule. Souderton is going to be a big, physical football team, and if we’re not ready to answer that challenge, we’re going to be in trouble.”

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