Indians grab big lead, Sampson scores 4 TD, but have to hang on for win
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
CONCORD — If there was any question about whether Richard Sampson is back, he answered it pretty quickly.
The senior tailback who missed most of the 2010 season season, stormed back to action Friday night with four touchdowns — including runs of 55 and 52 yards — to lead Unionville to a 35-28 victory over rival Garnet Valley on a sticky opening night for both teams.
“It’s nice to have Richard Sampson healthy after a year,” Unionville head coach Pat Clark said after the game. “I’m so happy for him — I’m so happy for our team, because we have new kids up front and they blocked well. The receivers got involved tonight. And I’m so happy for Richard. The kid had worked an entire year to get himself back and boy, he kind of showed what he can do tonight.”
Sampson rushed for 199 yards on 20 carries and his spectacular night may have overshadowed a very strong performance by junior Tom Pancoast, making his first start at quarterback for the Indians. Pancoast rushed for 124 yards and was 4-for-8 for 80 yards and a touchdown throwing the ball, while leading his offense to an impressive 436 yards of total offense.
Still, it was kind of a sloppy game — especially at the start — as an explosion of turnovers put Unionville in big trouble early.
“It was an exciting start, but sloppy,” Clark said. “And then we settled down and jumped out to the lead and then we held on. Its (Garnet Valley) a good football team, they made their run at us and we were lucky enough to have enough juice to hold them off there.”
But the defense stiffened and frustrated the Jaguars’ option offense — now featuring a lot of four-wide spread sets — before Garnet managed to find itself in the second half and turned what threatened to be a laugher into more of the sort of nail-biter one expects when these two teams squareoff.
“We might have worn down, we might have gotten a little complacent,” Clark said. “I thought the key point was after they made it 21-7, we got 28-7. And then we got to 35 and kept stretching it. That was really, really big for us. We didn’t let it get close early.”
Sampson dropped a pass from Pancoast, giving the Jags the ball on their own 49 — and they looked to strike quick, but Unionville’s Brad Pechin pounced on a fumbled pass reception by Patrick Tees, giving the Indians the ball on their own 1. But, seemingly, disaster struck on the next play when Matt Maggitti fumbled the ball right back to Garnet, leaving them right on the doorstep of grabbing an early lead.
But there, the Indians defense turned into a stone wall, stopping the Jags cold (an illegal procedure flag pushed them back to the 6), on four plays, Garnet could not get back closer than the 1.
It looked like Unionville’s offense was finding its balance — driving out from its own 1 after taking over on downs to midfield — when again Maggitti lost the ball. And again the defense rose to the occasion and stopped Garnet cold.
Getting the ball back, the Indians struck like lightning: Sampson raced 55-yards down the left sideline for the first score of the game, giving Unionville a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Garnet got its own case of turnover fever and Pechin picked off a Ryan Corkery pass at the Unionville 35. Three plays later, Sampson exploded again, this time scampering 52 yards for the score. With the extra point, Unionville grabbed a 14-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
After holding a suddenly shellshocked Jags offense to a punt, the Indians hit for another big play, this time a 43-yard scoring strike from Pancoast to wideout Ross Kim-McManus down the left sideline. With the extra point, Unionville now had a sudden — and convincing — 21-0 lead with just under five minutes left in the first half — a lead that held to the half.
Garnet clawed its way back into the game in the third, seemingly finding its roots, running more of its classic option offense and with a Unionville defense — with a lot of players starting on both offense and defense — that seemed to tire, especially on a warm, sticky early September evening.
The Jags marched right down the field, capping a 65-yard scoring drive on Kyle Keyser’s 14-yard scoring run, to make it 21-7.
After a trade of punts, the big play again set up a Unionville score, this time Pancoast racing 52 yards, down to the Garnet 18. Four plays later, Sampson scampered in from nine yards out, putting Garnet down a seemingly terminal 28-7 at the end of the third quarter.
However, Unionville-Garnet Valley games are rarely that simple — and the Jags — like a bunch of Freddie Kruegers (albeit wearing maroon jerseys with unintelligible black numbers) kept popping back up to put a scare in the Indians.
Jordyn Bennett recovered a fumble — by teammate Justin Pyle — to cap a scoring drive as Garnet climbed to within 28-14.
Sampson then struck again — trying to slam the door on the pesky Jags, racing in from 30 yards out to make the score 35-14, and seemingly putting the game away.
Cue the scary music.
Once again, the Jags raced down the field, tearing up an increasingly worn down Unionville defense, with Pyle scoring from the 1 to make it 35-21. Then after stopping the Indians on four plays at midfield, Pyle scored again with 46 second left in the game, cutting the lead to suddenly scary 35-28.
Unionville managed to hang onto the onside kick — and averted a last-minute shock, with Pancost lining up in “victory” formation to run out the clock.
Scary or not, though, a win is a win — and it was losses to Garnet, Coatesville and Rustin that kept the Indians from the state playoffs in 2010.