Unionville overwhelmed by Wood, 49-28 in state semifinal

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Archbishop Wood running back Nasir Peoples races to the endzone for a score against Unionville. The Indians struggled to contain the star running back. Jim Gill photo.

By Al Tustin, Staff Writer, The Times

PHILADELPHIA — The dream came to an end, a bit like losing those last precious moments of sleep, with a jarring realization that its all slipping away and can’t be recovered.

Unionville’s bid for the school’s first ever state football title came up short against a deep and talented Archbishop Wood team, 49-28, Friday night in the state 5A Semifinal at Northeast High School.

The Indians (13-2) feel behind early — in part because of the dominant running of Nasir Peoples, in part because of some early mistakes — and never could get back in the flow of the game against the Vikings (11-4), one of the top-ranked teams in the state, and the winner of four of the last six state titles, including last year’s state 5A title.

Unionville’s Connor Schilling comes up with a first quarter fumble. Jim Gill photo.

Although painful in the short term, the loss hardly dims a spectacular, record-breaking season for Unionville, which won four postseason games, the most in school history, marking a step up for a program that has already been one of the best in Chester County for more than a decade.

“Our program has been a really good program, but they (the Indians’ players) kind of elevated it to the next level,” Head Coach Pat Clark said after the game. “My hope is that this becomes the new normal. I don’t think there’s any reason why this doesn’t become the new normal for us.”

The Indians will have to reload a bit in 2018, losing a very special group of senior players from this years’ squad — a team that managed to overcome adversity and challenges time and time again.

Unionville’s JT Hower has nothing but open field in front of him as he returns a kickoff for a scoe. Jim Gill photo.

“What a great group,” Clark said of his seniors. “They really came into their own last year at the end of the year and then this year, just out of the game from day one. every single one of them provided tremendous leadership and not only that — they’re good football players. How guys don’t see what JT Hower, Joe Zubillaga or Dante Graham has to offer is beyond me.

“Anytime we needed a play, we got a play from those guys. Even tonight, we’re down a little bit and JT rips off the kickoff. Joe had some clutch runs, we just couldn’t keep anything sustained. Even the guys up front, Joey (Hagen) and Pablo (Avililes Bernal) and JB (Bowers) provided great leadership, helped our other young linemen grow and round into form. We’re going to miss them terribly.”

And even Friday, when challenged by a Wood team loaded with Division I prospects — Peoples is signed to play for Virginia Tech next year, as an example – and down 21-0, Unionville didn’t quit. They hung in, fought back and played hard to the final whistle, as they have all season.

“What a great effort,” Clark said. “I think we got everything out of our kids this year — they didn’t leave anything, that’s for sure. We just made some mistakes — we had to play perfect tonight, and we didn’t play perfect. They force you into mistakes, that’s a heck of a football team. We were beaten tonight by a better team, I think, and it wasn’t for lack of effort, congratulations to Wood.

“Overall, we got everything out of this team I wanted to get from this team. These guys have been awesome.”

And Wood came out loaded for bear — and struck quickly behind Peoples’ running. Although the Indians knew they had to find a way to stop the star back, and keyed on him, executing proved difficult. Peoples was able to grab yards and lead a quick march downfield, scoring from two yards out to take an early 7-0 lead.

The Indians also struggled early to find a rhythm on offense, first going four and out and then being unable to do anything with a fumble by Wood QB Jack Colyar at the Vikings’ 34. That lead to more Peoples rushes — and another quick score for Wood, who scored his second TD of the quarter on a three-yard run to make it 14-0.

After another stalled Unionville drive, the Vikings — and Peoples — mounted another scoring drive, with Colyar scoring on a one-yard keeper to make it 21-0 early in the second.

At that point, things were looking pretty bleak for the Indians.

But Hower — as he has so many times this season — provided a big spark, racing 90 yards for a kickoff return TD, close it to 21-7.

But Wood continued to grind it out on the ground, mounting one more drive before the half, with Peoples scoring his third TD of the half, from nine yards out, to make it 28-7 at the half.

The the third, Wood pulled away, scoring on a 33-yard fumble return TD by Bill Shaeffer to make it 35-7. Then after Coylar hit Kyle Pitts with a long pass, Adrian Lambert scored from the five to make it 42-7.

Unionville QB Alex Gorgone managed a 30-yard scoring run, but Wood struck right back, blending in younger players, with Chris Blackstone scoring on a one-yard plunge.

The Indians added a couple of late scores — Joe Fariello broke off a 20-yard TD run and Nick Schnaars scooped up a fumble and race 78 yards for a TD in the final minute to make it 49-28.

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