Downingtown East grinds down Unionville, 47-16

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By Al Tustin, Sports Editor, The Times

Downingtown East’s Zach Hamilton battled for yardage against Unionville.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — For one quarter, Unionville woke.

The 3-6 Indians looked like the District One, 5A champions they were a year ago, playing stingy defense and using a slashing option run game centered on its quarterback, while arguably outplaying 6A powerhouse Downingtown East for a quarter.

But then — as has been the case throughout the four-year interdivisional ChesMont matchup between the two teams — a bigger, stronger Cougars’ team wore them down, as Unionville fell 47-16, Friday night.

Between being a larger team — both in numbers and size — and running a hurry-up offense that just wore down the Indians’ defense, the Cougars were able to rely on a powerful run game to control the ball, and ultimately, the game. A pair of turnovers for touchdowns started the Unionville downfall before halftime, and East was able to take firm control in the second half.

For 8-1 East, coming off a tough loss to arch-rival Downingtown West, the win puts it back on course to have a shot to host a Section One, 6A playoff game — they travel to 9-0 Coatesville and may still need help to hang on to the No. 8 seed if they can’t pull the upset over the top team in ChesMont National Division.

Nick Schnaars of Unionville finds running room.

Unionville (3-6, 3-1), whose five of six losses came to top tier 5A and 6A teams which have a combined five losses, may need help to reach the Section One, 5A bracket, but a win next week in the regular season finale hosting Sun Valley would probably be enough, as they enter play as the No. 12 seed — were the current seedings to hold (which is somewhat unlikely), the Indians would travel to rival West Chester Rustin for the first round of the playoffs.

Still, after some uneven performances, Unionville Head Coach Pat Clark saw a lot that gave him encouragement about his team’s ability to compete against 5A programs.

“We played with tremendous effort,” Clark said. “Our kids always answer the bell. When things go well, we stay up, and when things don’t go well, we bounce back. That’s what I love about this program.”

The Indians got off to a hot start, using senior QB Nick Schnaars to run the familiar read-option run game that had been so powerful in years past under QBs such as Tom Pancoast and joe Zubilaga. And for nearly a half, Unionville’s offense looked like some of its formidable predecessors.

Schnaars set up the first score of the game with a 41-yard run and then hit senior back Alex Pelligrin with a short pass that turned into a 24-yard TD. Dominic Braithwate missed the extra point making the score 6-0.

While Unionville was initially able to contain the Cougars’ offense — scores off turnovers were a major problem. East’s Nino Lempke ripped the ball out of Pelligrin’s arms as the latter fought for yardage, and then raced 56-yards for a score. With the extra point, the Cougars led 7-6.

The Indians immediately responded with a long drive, capped by senior Joe Fariello’s 25-yard run, to give them a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Downingtown East’s offense found its footing behind the running of Garvey Jonassaint and Zach Hamilton, pounding the ball down the field, with Hamilton scoring from 14 yards out. With a two-point run attempt falling short, the game was tied at 13-13.

Later in the quarter, a failed pitch from Schnaars — it was unclear whether it was a lateral or a forward shovel pass — went awry and Weston Menzie scooped up the ball and scored for the Cougars. Despite another missed two-point try, they led 19-13.

As Unionville’s offense began to sputter, Downingtown’s found it’s higher gear, powering to another drive late in the second quarter. QB Luke Davis scored from 17 yards out. Another missed conversion run left the score at 25-13.

Unionville nearly cashed in on a shocker – running a near perfect hook and ladder in the final seconds of the half. QB Blake Charlton hit Schnaars, who then lateraled to Fairello, who was pushed out of bounds at the Downingtown 22. Braithwaite hit the goalposts on a field goal try to end the half, leaving it 25-13.

Running the no-huddle, Downingtown poured it on the third quarter, mounting long, but rapid drives in quick succession. The cougars took the opening kickoff right down the field, with Hamilton scoring from the 1 to make it 33-13.

The Indians did manage one more solid drive, but it stalled, and they had to settle for  30-yard Braithwaite field goal to make it 33-16.

East immediately responded with another speedy drive, this time with Jonassaint scoring from the 3 to make it 40-16. Hamilton scored again late in the quarter, one a five-yard run, to make it 47-16.

The final quarter saw both team begin to blend in younger players, and while Unionville’s youngsters mounted a long drive against the Cougars’ largely JV defense, they were unable to score before time ran out.

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