Young defense comes up aces in win over Garnet Valley
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
EAST MARLBOROUGH — Take away the warm August sunshine and you might have mistaken this for November, playoff football. The intensity — never in short supply when Unionville plays neighboring Garnet Valley — crackled off the charts like a Tesla coil run amuck.
And as is often the case, the team that better keeps its cool — especially when the game is on the line — finds a way to prevail, as the Indians did in Friday night’s 8-6 victory over the Jaguars, in front of a large and loud crowd of supporters from both schools.
Unionville Head Coach Pat Clark paid tribute to the effort on both sides.
“What a great effort by our kids, what a great effort by their kids,” he said. “I’m so proud of the execution of our football team.”
It was the young, somewhat unproven Unionville defense that stole the show — stuffing the high-powered Garnet Valley offense time and time again, and most importantly, in the closing minutes inside the Indians’ five-yard line.
Clark suggested it might have been the best defensive effort he’s seen in his decade at the school, no small thing, considering some of the great teams at the school during his tenure.
“I was just so proud,” he said. “They ran, they made plays, they executed their assignments.”
Although the defense deserved kudos for the overall effort, in the end, the game came down to an amazing sequence in the final minutes.
After the Indians took an 8-6 lead on Alex Pechin’s second field goal of the game, a mere 20-yarder, after his amazing 50-yarder earlier in the contest, the Jags managed their best drive of the game. Behind a much larger offensive line, Garnet Valley appeared to be finally wearing down the Indians’ defense, which, despite the size mismatches, stymied the Jags’ option offense.
Garnet Valley took over on its own 25, and behind the running of quarterback Steve Flanagan and running back Derrick West and methodically moved down the field, creeping down to the Unionville two-yard-line with about 4:00 remaining in the game.
With a third and goal on the 2, Flanagan lost the handle and had to scramble to get down on the ball back at the five, which brought up fourth-and-goal — and Garnet head coach Mike Ricci opted not to kick what would have been a field goal to take the lead.
Exhausted, a bit physically outmanned (both the Jags’ size and a handful of injuries had taken their toll) and literally with their backs to the wall, the Indians’ defenders geared up for one last stand.
And it turned into the stuff of nightmares — for Garnet Valley.
The Unionville defense — in the person of sophomore Shane Jones — got to Flanagan, who looked to pass, chasing him back, all but locking him up in a sack when he heaved the ball almost straight up in desperation and into the onrushing tide of Unionville defenders. The ball ended up in the arms of Sam Gangel of Unionville, which took over possession on its own 25 with 3:28 to go.
“The defense on fourth down….” Clark said. “I’m so proud of the execution of our football team.
The Indians were able to drive the ball and eat some clock, but stalled, returning the ball back to Garnet with just 45 seconds left, no time outs on its own 37. One last time, Unionville stopped the Jags — as they fell 20 yards short on a desperation hook and ladder play as time ran out, with Pechin making the final, game-saving stop — locking down the win.
Although the mighty Garnet defense kept wraps on Pechin in the passing game — his two field goals, the first an epic shot from 50 that might have been good from 60, timely running (44-yards on 11 carries) and a touchdown saving tackle on a kickoff — the senior managed to put him imprint on the game.
Despite the mismatch up front, the Unionville offensive line was able to get a good push in the running game, opening holes for Austin Hofman-Reardon (61 yards rushing), Pechin, Brendan Boyle (28 yards), Brandon Boon (24 yards), amassing 167 yards of rushing offense.