Unionville cruises to 2nd playoff win, 39-8

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Unionville assistant football coach Jeff Sanders — a Marine veteran and Purple Heart recipient — leads his team onto the field Friday night as part of a salute to Veterans. Jim Gill photo.

By Al Tustin, Staff Writer, The Times

EAST MARLBOROUGH — While the ambient temperature was downright frigid, one of the hottest football teams in the area — Unionville — continued its march through the District Playoffs with a convincing 39-8 win over Strath Haven, Friday night.

The win put the Indians (11-1) in position to host a District One, 5A semi-final match up with Marple-Newtown, which upset Upper Moreland, Friday. That round formally represents the opening round of the PIAA State 5A championships, as well.

Unionville again used a familiar formula: stout defense and a balanced, ball-control offense to slowly smother the no. 11 seeded Panthers (6-6).

Senior QB Alex Gorgone had a strong night, completing 10-of-15 passes for 200 yards. Jim Gill photo.

“I thought defensively, we were really good,” Unionville Head Coach Pat Clark said. “We knew that they were going to try and control the clock — and within reason, we were going to let them run the ball a little bit, but we had to get stops. I felt we were pretty good at getting stops and then scoring after stops…”

Clark said that putting the Panthers in a hole on the scoreboard took them away from their preferred running game — which is exactly what he hoped for.

The win marks the second time in the Clark era – joining 2005 — that the Indians have won two playoff games. No team under Clark has won three — and possibly no team in school history has either. PIAA records show that the 1994 team lost in the third round to Allentown Central Catholic.

Unionville’s Dante Graham breaks free against Strath Haven. Jim Gill photo.

Although Unionville has run up some impressive rushing nights of late, despite the cold, windy conditions, it was passing — behind senior QB Alex Gorgone — that paced the Indians’ offense. Gorgone threw for 200 yards and 1 TD on 10 of 15 passing.

Unionville, for the second straight week, took a very business-like, no drama approach in dismantling a playoff opponent, scoring early and then forcing Strath Haven, a team that likes to run, to have go to the air.

After stopping a fairly lengthy Panther drive to open the game, but one that stalled at midfield, the Indians methodically marched down the field, mounting a 10-play, 68-yard drive, capped by Dante Graham’s two-yard plunge. With Dominic Braithwaite’s extra point, Unionville grabbed a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.

After forcing Strath Haven into a three and out, Unionville struck again, on another long drive paced by three Gorgone passes (the longest, a 24-yarder to Graham), with Graham scoring on the ground from one yard out. With the extra point, the Indians led 14-0, which is how things stood at the half — a tense game, but one with the Indians in command.

Then Unionville exploded in the third quarter, putting the game totally out of reach. Taking the opening kickoff, the Indians scored quickly — keyed by a lofting pass from Gorgone to Joe Zubillaga for 37 yards. Graham again scored from in close to make it 20-0 after a missed extra point.

After stopping the Panthers again in their tracks, Unionville marched down the field again, with runs by Graham, Joe Fariello, and Zubillaga setting up Fariello’s 7-yard scamper up the middle for a score. With the extra point, Unionville held a dominant 27-0 lead.

Seconds later — after JT Hower picked off Panthers’ QB Jake Fisher at the Unionville 38, the Indians moved quickly to convert, scoring when Gorgone hit Zubillaga with a 38-yard TD pass. A two-point run attempt failed, leaving the score at 33-0.

After another quick stop on downs at Strath Haven 23, Unionville opened the final quarter with another short scoring drive, this one largely carried by Connor Shilling, who powered the ball in from 2 yards out to make it 39-0 after a failed extra point try.

Much like last week against Glen Mills, the Indians defense only showed cracks when junior varsity players started being blended into the lineup. Like last week, the lone score — Zach Hussein’s two-yard run — came when most of the starters were on the sideline.

After wins against a 13 seed (Glen Mills) and an 11 seed (Strath Haven), Unionville faces a much tougher matchup with 7th seeded Marple-Newtown, which upset No. 2 Upper Moreland, 24-18, Friday night.

The Tigers (8-4) feature star senior quarterback Anthony Paoletti — who has signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Delaware — who holds the all-time passing yardage record for Delaware County. After sluggish 4-4 start, Marple-Newtown is on a four-game winning streak — including wins over Strath Haven (38-28), Oxford in the opening round of the District playoffs (42-13) and Friday’s win over Upper Moreland.

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