Sloppy, penalty-filled game overshadowed strong performances
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
ATGLEN — If it had been about style points, it’s unclear whether there would have been a winner in Saturday night’s Unionville-Octorara high school football game.
Although the Indians posted a 28-0 win, the game was beset by numerous penalties and generally chippy play, as emotion seemed to overcome what had been Unionville’s ability to dominate smoothly and effectively while maintaining control.
“It’s a shame,” Unionville High School head coach Pat Clark said after the game. “We had a 10-minute period there…(Octorara head coach) Jed (King) and I spoke after the game, and certainly, that’s not what his team is like, that’s not typically what our team is like. It was bad on both sides and I think both of us were a little embarrassed with what happened out there. It overshadowed a really good effort.”
Style points aside, though, the 6-1 (3-0 Ches Mont American) Indians again were able to use their powerful offense to control the game and keep the Braves (1-6) explosive offense off the field. When junior quarterback Alex Pechin (5-of-9, 91 yards, 3 TD) wasn’t throwing over top of them, Unionville’s running game, led by senior Garrett Scargill, 19 carries, 129 yards and a TD, ate both the clock and territory in large bites.
“He was phenomenal,” Clark said of the senior running back. “Garrett runs the ball really well. We had good balance tonight, Alex carried us in the first half and Garrett carried us in the second half.”
If anything, though, the unsung heroes of the night were the Unionville defense, which bent but never broke, despite the efforts of junior quarterback Alex Gooden, one of the county’s most elusive runners. Although Gooden seemed to have a real gift at manufacturing yards after contact, the Indians’ defense managed to swarm to him and largely contain him.
The game, postponed from Friday night because of weather, right from the start seemed to indicate that the Indians might not be able to play from their recent script: use the passing game to build a big lead and then grind down the clock by running. In fact, when Octorara recovered the opening onside kick, it appeared that it wasn’t going to be just another night of running out to a big lead and then coasting home.
The Braves did nothing with the ball after recovering it, and were forced to punt, leading to the sort of Indians’ drive that has marked the 2013 season, a mix runs and Pechin passes. This 75-yard drive was capped by a 23-yard pass to Elan Nash.
Unionville’s defense produced another three-and-out for Octorara and a big Nash punt return set up a short field for the Indians’ offense. Pechin ran for 26 yards and then hit David Daly with 14-yard scoring pass to make it 14-0.
A turnover and some struggles in the passing game stalled the Unionville offense for the remainder of the half — and with the Braves getting the ball to start the second half, the game was far from comfortable.
Octorara, behind the elusive Gooden, got the ball moving a bit to start the second half — but again stalled just short of midfield. After a punt, the Indians showed off a bit of the classic ground-pounding offense that has led to so much success over the last decade — featuring Scargill. The senior back carried the ball six times on a 12-play, 82-yard drive that took almost 8:00 minutes off the clock and all but decided the game. The lone pass of the drive — which featured key runs by Daly, Dom DiBiaggio and Brandon Boon — was Pechin’s 30-yarder to — who else — Scargill, over the middle.
The Braves threatened again, driving deep into Unionville territory — pushing the ball inside the 10 — before a Nash interception turned them away. Again, the Indians went into roadgrader mode — with Scargill carrying the ball on seven of eight plays, grinding the ball and the clock for 68 yards. Scargill’s 2-yard plunge made it 28-0.
The second half was marred by at least eight penatlies — some mundane motion calls, but a number of personal fouls, as passions and frustrations appeared to increase on both sides.
While a win, it wasn’t the crisp, efficient game Clark might have hoped for heading into what is likely the game of year in the Ches Mont American, versus 7-0 (3-0 Ches Mont American) West Chester Rustin.
As has been the case for the last five years, it is likely that the winner of Friday’s night game will go on to win the American Division title — Unionville is the defending champion, but Rustin won the four years before that — so both teams are likely to know what is at stake.
“They’re undefeated, and we’re defending league champs,” Clark said. “The immovable object meets the irresistible force. We have to have our best week of practice and be ready for a challenge. Rustin is an outstanding football team, but we’re not going down without a fight.”