Indians hold off Blue Demons, 34-17 win league title, playoff berth
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
KENNETT SQUARE — Two sidelines, two stories: the pain of loss on one side, and the joy and celebration on the other.
While Unionville was able to celebrate its first ChesMont American Division Title since 2007 and a berth in the state playoffs, Saturday, Kennett’s rapidly improved program fell just short, still having its best season since football returned to the school in 2005.
The victory was also head coach Pat Clark’s 75th at the helm of the Indians and ended with a shower from his players as he conducted post-game interviews.
“That’s a nice way to get a 75th win,” Clark said. “That’s just a testament to all the kids who have been in the program. This is the best thing that ever happened to me, coming to Unionville.”
Kennett, eliminated from league and state playoff contention with a loss, could only ruminate on what might have been.
“It’s tough to reflect on how the season went when you’re facing a loss like this,” Kennett head coach Scott Green said afterward. “We’re extremely disappointed that our players didn’t get an opportunity to experience something that could have been great. It just wasn’t meant to be today and congratulations to Unionville.”
The Indians (8-2, 6-0) won a tough-fought 34-17 contest, in a game that was closer than the score might indicate, clinching an undefeated record in the ChesMont American and a berth in the state playoffs, and likely a home opening round game. The Blue Demons (7-3, 4-2) likely fell out of the top 16 in power points in PIAA 4A.
The Indians enjoyed a balanced offense — largely on the ground — with senior running back Brad Pechin rushing for 92 yards on 18 carries, while senior quarterback Tom Pancoast rushed 18 times for 85 yards. Senior all-purpose weapon Tim Christopher had only three carries, but 59 yards — but was outdone by junior back Dom DiBiaggio who rushed for 85 yards and two scores on just three carries.
“The strength of our team has been running the football,” Clark said. “We were able to use our strength to get to victory.”
Although Unionville has used its high-powered offense to bludgeon opposing teams, Saturday, it was defense — and stopping Kennett’s strong option offense that was the difference. The Blue Demons were limited to just 146 total yards — and star running back Jordan Lardani was limited to 72 yards (53 of which came on one play). Junior QB Jordan Jones was limited to just 36 yards rushing, and 40 yards passing on 2-of-6 attempts.
“Defensively, people had kind of questioned the fact that we had given up some points,” Clark said. “We’ve gievn up some points, but when we’ve been up 34-17, 42-17 and kids lose their focus. You don’t want them to, but we had to come out and do the job today, and the kids were phenomenal. The key, defensively, is that we slowed down Lardani — he had the one big run, but that was it.”
“They (Unionville) came out in a defense that they hadn’t shown all year,” Green said. “But they played it against us last year. So we were in between, trying to think if with a short week (because Hurricane Sandy limited both teams’ practice week) they were going to try and play something different against us and come out of what they’ve been running all year. So it took us a little bit to get going. And they have good defensive players — that made it tough to move the ball on them, too.”
Both teams came out fired up and battled to a near draw in the opening half — and while the Indians had better success moving the ball, they couldn’t cash in until after recovering a fumble on the Kennett 36, they pounded the ball down the field. Pancoast scored from 15 yards out, to give Unionville a lead it would never surrender — but the game didn’t become remotely comfortable for the navy and gold until the final seconds.
Kennett struck back with a 31-yard-field goal by Brett Rose, leaving the score 6-3 at the half.
Unionville came out strong in the second half, mounting a drive sparked in part by the running of Pechin and junior Garrett Scargill, with Scargill scoring from six yards out to open the lead to 13-3.
The Blue Demons struck right back, keyed by Lardani’s 53-yard romp to the Unionville 5 . Three plays later, Jones scored from two yards out and Kennett served notice that it would not be fading away.
Then the Indians struck right back, this time set up by a 43-yard run by Christopher. DiBiaggio pounded the ball in from the four and Unionville had a 20-10 lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
Down 10 points, Kennett found itself in a do-or-die situation: 4th-and-4 on its own 35 with less than 10 minutes left. The Blue Demons had little choice but to roll the dice and go for it. A Jones pass failed and the ball went over to Unionville on downs.
“We had to make a move,” Green said. “We were having a hard time stopping them on defense and we had to make a move. We had to do something if we were going win this game. If we didn’t go for it there, and they go down and score and lead by a bigger margin, we still lose the game.”
Pechin and the Indians made the defensive stop count, moving the ball quickly down the field. Pancoast scored from two out and suddenly it was 27-10, Unionville with 6:39 left to go. That score led the West Chester Rustin players in attendance — a Kennett win would have shared the ChesMont American title between Kennett, Unionville and Rustin — to leave en masse.
But those Knights’ players should have had a little more faith in the Blue Demons’ refusal to quit. Jones cooly led his team right down the field, hitting senior wide out Maalik Rochester with a 37-yard scoring strike, to cut the lead to 27-17.
It was DiBiaggio that ended Kennett’s hopes. His 72-yard scoring run sealed the deal for Unionville, 34-17, with 3:19 left in the game.