Indians surprise with potent passing game in dominating performance
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
EAST MARLBOROUGH — For about 18 seconds, it looked like Unionville might be in trouble again.
That’s how long it took visiting Souderton to put up a score, scoring on a 75-yard double-reverse, flea flicker. But then the 1-1 Indians turned it up a notch, dominated the rest of the game and cruised to an easy 28-7, Saturday morning.
And while Unionville got the kind of stifling defensive effort expected from this veteran unit — essentially shutting down 0-2 Souderton’s running game all day — it was the offense, or more correctly, the type of offense the Indians had on display that might have been the biggest surprise.
Known for its power running game in the decade since head coach Pat Clark took over the program, Unionville spent the first half throwing the ball all over the lot: 18 pass attempts (and two more were nullified by penalties), as junior quarterback Alex Pechin took to slinging the ball. And the more surprising fact: the Indians were held to just 55 yards rushing, part because they went to the air game.
Clark seemed a bit surprised to know his team had thrown so much.
“That’s usually more than we pass in the first half…of the season,” he joked, but then allowed that with Souderton bringing defenders up to stop the run, they were inviting his Indians to go to the air. And with a strong-armed QB and a nice stable of receivers, he allowed that as a coach he has to adapt to his talent.
“Alex made good reads and our receivers caught the ball,” Clark said, noting that while it was a different look for his team, it was effective under the circumstances. “You have to coach to your talent…I think we have better balance this year.”
The second half seemed much more familiar to Unionville fans, with the power run game replacing the air game — after Pechin opened the half with a 55-yard touchdown bomb, one of just two pass attempts in the second half — to eat the clock and lock down the win.
And while the story of the switch in offensive theory might be entertaining, when it comes down to it, it was the dominant performance by the Indians’ defense that dictated the outcome of the game.
After that first play, the Unionville defense was strong, consistent and disciplined.
“We were really good defensively,” Clark said. “We made them run sideways and cleaned them up.”
After Souderton QB A.J. Curatto hit Manny Nieves to open the game, it was pretty much all Unionville from there, even if early on the score didn’t show it.
In the early minutes of the second quarter, the Indians tied the game, with Pechin diving in from one yard out to cap 59-yard, 11-play drive.
The second scoring drive of the quarter highlighted the nature of the throw first, run second offense. In the eight-play, 50-yard drive, Unionville ran the ball once. But Pechin was able to get the ball into the endzone on a 7-yard pass to tight end Dan McClaskey to give Unionville the lead for good — and a 14-7 margin.
Pechin all but shot down any hope of a Souderton comeback on the late in the third quarter — finally hitting the seam pass up the middle that had eluded him (a couple of near misses earlier in the game kept things close), connecting with David Daly for a 55-yard score, in what would turn out to be his final pass of the game.
With a solid lead and the defense in complete control, the Indians returned to their ground roots, and pounded out a short scoring drive, capped by Garrett Scargill’s 6-yard scoring run.
With last week’s difficult loss to Garnet Valley in the rearview mirror, Clark said he felt that a focused week of practice had made a difference, but facing a short week and another rivalry game — Avon Grove, next Thursday — his team will have to keep working, build on Saturday’s performance.
“That’s the level that we have to play at,” Clark said. “Our kids know that. There’s some tradition behind them and they have to play at a very high level every week.”