Holds off late Great Valley comeback to stay undefeated in ChesMont American
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
MALVERN — You’ll excuse Unionville head coach Pat Clark if he might have been furtively looking into the stands for another Pechin, as a game that looked to be in control Friday night turned into a nail biter in the final minutes.
Both Pechin brothers — sophomore Alex and senior Brad — threw touchdown passes to pace the Indians (6-2, 4-0) to a 35-13 second half lead, as they hung on for a 35-27 win Friday night, as rain and lightning hovered in the distance, but held off until minutes after the game.
The win leaves Unionville just two wins — next week at home against struggling Octorara and then in the regular-season finale at Kennett — from the ChesMont American title and a likely berth in the state playoffs. But it took Clark changing up from his typically conservative offense and going to a few trick plays. More unusual: the usually-run heavy Indians were an unusually balanced offense — 164 yards rushing and 163 yards passing.
“Well, you have to have something,” Clark said afterward. “When they’re stuffing the run, always have a trick. We were able run a little different package, and now Alex Pechin is now 1-for-1 with a TD pass.”
Unionville must get past (1-6) Octorara next Friday night — the Braves scheduled game hosting Kennett Friday was rescheduled for Saturday night, due to weather. As many of the players from both Unionville and Kennett grew up playing together on the youth Titans football team, Clark said he knows his team must continue to focus on one game at a time and not get ahead of itself.
“We have two steps to take before we can claim a championship,” Clark said. “We can’t afford any letdowns. I think our kids are in a good spot, they’re excited that we won tonight, but they’re not satisifed with their performance. I think that’s when teams start to come around, they police themselves. There wasn’t a whole lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ that we won the game, it was more like ‘we got the job done, let’s get out of here.’ So, I feel pretty comfortable with us where we’re at mentally.”
For three quarters, Unionville appeared to be in complete control of the Patriots (4-4, 2-3), even stopping the high-powered Great Valley offense on fourth down on the first two possessions.
On the first offensive play of the game, senior quarterback Tom Pancoast hit Tim Christopher over the middle with a 33-yard completion that set up the first score of the game, a one-yard plunge by Pancoast. The senior QB ended up with 85 yards on 30 carries, two rushing TDs, one receiving and 86 yards passing on 3-of-6 completions.
The Indians’ second touchdown was also set up by a long pass, this time a 46-yard throw from Pancoast to senior receiver Sean Barnes. Brad Pechin scored from one out to give Unionville a solid 14-0 lead at the half.
But it was on the first play of the second half, where Clark channelled his inner Don Coryell (the 1970s NFL coach noted for his high-power air game). Alex Pechin — the seeming heir apparent at QB for 2013 — hit Christopher over the middle for a 65 TD score.
Although the Pats, led by talented senior QB Chris Geiss, struck back quickly — Geiss hit Max Burgess on a 41-yard scoring strike, the Indians appeared to be in total control of the game.
On a tricky play that appeared to be the coup d’grace, Pancoast pitched the ball back to Brad Pechin and then raced out to left into a pass pattern. The elder Pechin hit Pancoast in stride for a 12-yard scoring pass, putting Unionville up 28-7.
“It’s hard to cover the quarterback in a pass route,” Clark said. “And we really executed it well. That was (assistant coach) Matt Carroll…Matt Carroll called that.”
But Geiss and his Great Valley teammates didn’t quit. He engineered another quick drive, capping it with a 20-yard scoring run. After a missed extra point, the Pats closed to within 28-13.
Again, though, Unionville managed a more traditional clock-eating drive: pushing the ball 51 yards down the field, with Pancoast scoring from two yards out. With 9:50 left in the game, the Indians had what appeared to be a secure 35-13 lead.
Again, Geiss showed why he is one of the top QBs in Chester County. He lead Great Valley on a five-play 56-yard drive, capped by a 12 yard pass to River Johnson, to cut the gap to 35-20.
After a Unionville drive stalled, Geiss hit Johnson again in the flat, and he raced 86 yards for another score. With 4:34 left, the Pats closed to within 35-27 — and what looked to be secure for the Indians was suddenly a high-tension affair.
Unionville’s offense managed to chew about three minutes off the clock, but its drive stalled on the Great Valley 29, giving Geiss and his teammates 1:40 to try to tie the game and send it to overtime — and with weather threatening, the real possibility of the game being continued Saturday.
Great Valley was able to move the ball to midfield before the Unionville defense stiffened, stopping three straight passes — and forcing a turnover on downs to effectively end the game.