Second half dooms Unionville, 41-7

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Neshaminy’s running game too much for Indians in playoffs

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Unionville’s Kevin Welch (12) and Mike Sarver (25) attempt to bring down Neshaminy’s D’Andre Pollard Friday, as the Indian fell in the opening round of the PIAA District One AAAA playoffs, 41-7. Jim Gill photo.

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
LANGHORNE — Maybe the hints were there.

With Unionville and Neshaminy tied at the half, 7-7, Friday night’s PIAA District One AAAA opening round playoff game gave all the appearances of going right down to the wire. But then Neshaminy totally dominated the second half, beating the Indians 41-7.

Still, even at the half — maybe there were a few red flags: Neshaminy committed nine penalties in the first half, a couple of which reversed long runs by its star running back, D’Andre Pollard (who finished with 266 yards and four scores in the game). Add in the fact that beyond using the fluttering yellow flag, the Indians struggled to contain Pollard and the Unionville running game was struggling to get yards, gaining just 48 yards in the first half, and maybe, in retrospect, the potential for second-half trouble was there.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Unionville head coach Pat Clark said afterward. “That was the story. They did the same stuff (in the second half) in the first half, but they executed better.”

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Unionville’s Dom DiBiaggio powers in for the lone Indians’ touchdown of the day. Jim Gill photo.

With far fewer Neshaminy penalties in the second half, Pollard ran amuck using his speed and elusiveness to shred the Unionville defense, much as the halfback has done all season to teams in District One.

“The kid (Pollard) is an outstanding football player,” Clark said. “He made some great runs and we didn’t tackle well.”

Worse for the Indians — who finish the 2013 season 8-3 — without a sustained running game of their own, it put more pressure on the passing offense, which then also began to struggle — leading to a pair of interceptions in the second half — and three turnovers overall.

What had been a tight, tense contest imploded in the third quarter — first when Pollard raced 43 yards downfield, and fumbled, ultimately recovered by Neshaminy’s Cole Creighton, seven yards down field. Two Pollard carries later, Neshaminy took the lead, 14-7.

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Unionville’s Chris Koehler looks for running room against Neshaminy. Jim Gill photo.

But it was the next play — on the ensuing kickoff that may have set off a series of unrecoverable events for Unionville. The Indians’ Garrett Scargill — who otherwise had his usual solid game, rushing for 75 yards on 16 carries — lost the handle while returning the ensuing kickoff. Neshaminy’s Matt Bianchino recovered the ball on the Unionville 31. Two plays later, Pollard raced 31 yards for the score and very suddenly, it was 21-7, and all the momentum had flipped to Neshaminy.

“The fumble hurt — because it is a short field,” Clark said. “We couldn’t swing momentum back.”

Moments later — quarterback Alex Pechin — 16-of-32 for 134 yards and two interceptions — was picked off by Boniface Stevens, who returned the ball to the Unionville 20. Two plays later Denny Lord scored from five yards out to make the score 28-7.

Forced to largely throw in the final quarter, Unionville couldn’t get sustained offense. Turning the ball over on downs on their own 38, the Indians were burned for another long TD run by Pollard on the next play, effectively putting the game out of reach.

Although the ending was difficult, Unionville again had a strong season — and it’s only losses came at the hands of the No. 1 (Garnet Valley), No. 2 (West Chester Rustin), and No. 4 (Neshaminy) seeded teams in PIAA District One AAAA.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” Clark said. “Our senior class, over the last four years, has upheld the kind of things we want to do, upheld the traditions of our program.”

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