Deep roster of linemen should take pressure off inexperienced backs
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
EAST MARLBOROUGH — It might be an old bromide that football games are won in the trenches.
But if you’re a coach working in a lot of younger players at skill positions, as Unionville High School head football coach Pat Clark is, it is kind of nice to have a security blanket of a lot of large, experienced linemen, especially when you’re trying to defend a Ches Mont American Division title.
“Regardless of what you do on offense or defense, it starts upfront,” Clark said, whose Indians posted an 8-3 record overall, while going a perfect 6-0 in the league in 2012.
And it appears Unionville brings a lot back upfront, starting with senior Mark Caputo, a four-year starter and junior Andrew Jones, a three-year starter. Mix in seniors John McLaughlin, Len Johnson, Will Hart, Carson Ankney and junior Paul Steffi and the Indians enjoy depth and options upfront.
And while many of the faces in skill positions are new, they’re far from untested.
Junior quarterback Alex Pechin takes over for the graduated Tom Pancoast — but comes to the position with some spot experience at the position in 2012. Clark used Pechin — who has a big arm — as a changeup to the more run-oriented Pancoast.
While Clark isn’t too worried that Pechin will be overwhelmed — the junior showed ice in his veins earlier this month, pitching for the KAU Kings on national TV — he grants there will be a few adjustments to the offense to reflect Pechin’s skills. So, while that may mean a few more passes — don’t expect to see the Indians coming out in a spread offense and adopting a throw-first offense.
“I think there’s a ton a potential there,” Clark said of Pechin. “I think we always adopt to our talent. But, we do have an overall philosophy.”
And that typically is a punishing run game. And while Brad Pechin (Alex’s older brother) and John Stradling have graduated, seniors Dom DiBiaggio and Garrett Scargill are back and ready to handle what should be a strong ground game.
Receiver — with the loss to graduation of Tim Christopher and Patch Johnson — may have some growing pains. Sophomore Elan Nash, who saw time as a freshman, could be an electric option, while David Daly, a senior, is an experienced, steady option. Dan McClaskey, another senior, is a solid tight end.
And if the offense — with the potential to be explosive — has some early growing pains as younger players step up, it appears the Indians defense should be stout, deep and be able to take pressure off to score in great numbers.
Caputo, Hart and Ankney will anchor the defensive front — all experienced starters. Kevin Welch, a senior, will anchor the linebacking corps, while senior captain Mike Sarver will lead an experienced and deep defensive backfield.
“We have a lot of experience back,” Clark said of his defense, a benefit of working younger players in last season to keep most players only playing on one side of the ball, something likely to continue in 2013.
Put all together, the expectations for 2013, Clark said is not just a winning season — but to be right in the middle of the battle for the league title and a state playoff berth.
With a tough schedule — including non-league games against rival Garnet Valley, the season opener, Friday night, as well as Souderton and West Chester Henderson — the Indians will be tested early and often.
Clark, now entering his 10th season at the helm of the Unionville program, has never had a losing season, something he doesn’t expect to change in 2013. The program continues to set high standards — and looks poised for another strong season, in part because of the culture that Clark has instilled.
“I find it hard to believe that it’s been 10 years,” said Clark, who has notched 75 victories as coach of the Indians. He deflected credit, though, citing the buy-in of players, parents and the community working to make the program a success.