55-30 win over Octorara sets up crucial contest at Kennett, Saturday
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
EAST MARLBOROUGH — It’s on.
Guided by an explosive offense, Unionville overwhelmed Octorara, 55-30, Friday night setting up a much anticipated match-up against neighboring Kennett on Saturday — a game that could decide the playoff fate of both teams, as well as the ChesMont American title.
The Indians (7-2, 5-0) honored their seniors on Senior Night, by clinching at least a piece of the league title — a win Saturday over the Blue Demons (7-2, 4-1) would give them sole possession of the league title. A loss would mean sharing it with Kennett and likely West Chester Rustin, which plays Octorara next Friday.
“That’s nice that we clinched a share of the league title,” Unionville head coach Pat Clark said. “These kids are have worked really hard and they get to put their names next to, I guess, seven or eight other Unionville teams that have done that. For a league championship it’s been four years, it’s nice to have a piece of it.”
Aside from geography — the two schools are just a couple miles apart on Route 82 — most of the players on both teams came up playing youth football together on Kennett-Unionville Titans, so the rivalry is deep and long-standing.
The PIAA District One playoff picture is more complicated. Unionville entered the week ranked sixth in AAAA and all five teams ahead of it won. With 910 points (points are awarded on the basis of wins over schools of differing sizes) the Indians look to be in good shape, but a loss to Kennett could put them on the edge, while a Kennett win (760 points after a win over Oxford, Friday) could slip it into the 16-team field. The winner will get 100 playoff points — meaning both teams could be in the field with a Kennett win, but the Blue Demons would see their season end with a loss.
“We’re in no mood to share next week, that’s for sure,” Clark said. “They’ve got a lot to play for, we’ve got a lot to play for. It’s nice that it comes down to this in November. I’m happy for them. (Kennett Head Coach) Scott Green is a good guy, he’s done a nice job building that program. Look, I hope they win every week, but one. They can go 9-1 every year as long as long as we beat them. But we’re looking forward to a great football game and we’re going to be ready to play our best football next week.”
Unionville was pretty happy to share the ball – amongst itself. Senior QB Tom Pancoast scored four TDs and rushed for 94 yards on just seven carries, while senior tailback Brad Pechin rushed for a season-high 177 yards on 12 carries along with two TD. Sophomore QB Alex Pechin got more action this week — tossing another TD pass with the first team — and getting solid game action in the final quarter when the second team took over. The heir-apparent at QB was 3-of-6 passing for 74 yards and clearly was building chemistry with freshman wideout Elan Nash.
A plucky Braves squad (1-8) didn’t go quietly — and used team speed and elusiveness of two scary sophomores, QB Alex Gooden and tailback Corey Cooper — to frustrate the Indians’ defense all night. Gooden rushed for 174 yards, while Cooper had 131, both using the cutback effectively to combat the pursuit of the Unionville defense.
“Big plays have been our Achilles heel, and they hit a couple,” Clark said. “But we (held them) to a field goal and got a stop at the end of the half, and then we came out in the second half and got a couple scores to give us some distance. I thought we adjusted well at the end of the second quarter and halftime.”
Still, Unionville never trailed — Octorara fumbled the opening kickoff insides it own 10, setting up a Pancoast 5-yard run for a score just 46 second into the contest. The Braves did come right back to tie the game mounting a 66-yard drive, capped by Cooper’s 36-yard scoring run.
Pancoast responded by ripping off a 50-yard dash for a score and the offensive battle was on.
The Braves came right back, mounting another long drive capped by a one-yard plunge by Charles Rossiter, tying the game.
It was in the second quarter, when the Indians exploded on offense, where they finally took something like control. A big Brad Pechin run set up Pancoast two-yard dive to give Unionville the lead, 21-14 – a lead it would never surrender the rest of the way.
The Braves mounted a long drive, but were stalled and forced to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Ian Byerly to make it 21-17.
And again, the Indians roared right back. A 37-yard run by Dom DiBiaggio sparked another drive that ended with Brad Pechin’s 9-yard scoring run. After an Octorara punt attempt failed because of a bad snap, Alex Pechin came in at QB, with Pancoast split out receiver, and promptly hit Tim Christopher for a 29-yard scoring strike, to make it 35-17 at the half.
Unionville picked up right where it left off in the third quarter. After Christopher returned the opening kickoff to the Octorara 8 (an 85-yard return), Pancoast scored on the first play and the Indians had a secure 41-17 lead.
After getting a stop on defense, Unionville scored again, this time keyed by a 21-yard run by Christopher. Brad Pechin danced 34-yards — showing a much more elusive running style this week than in past outings — for the score to make it 48-17.
Malik Norris scored in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter from 13 yards out, but the Indians put the game away, this time with senior John Stradling scoring from 15 yards out.