Mistakes, turnovers nearly doom Indians, but second half turnaround saves the day
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
EAST MARLBOROUGH — These are the kind of games that give football coaches gray hair.
Yet, Unionville High School’s Pat Clark was able to come out of it with one positive — maybe the biggest one. His team came from behind to edge Frankford, 27-26, Friday night.
“It’s a win,” he said.
Although the Indians (2-0) were able to eek out a victory over the Philadelphia public school, an already banged-up roster took even more hits on the injury front and needed more than a quarter to shake a funk that had them trailing 18-7 in the second quarter — and it wasn’t exactly error-free football.
“We hurt ourselves with penalties and turnovers,” Clark said. “But you also have to give some credit to that team. I thought Frankford did a really good job, tonight. They played hard, they moved the football on us.”
Unionville struggled, particularly in the early going, to maintain offense, despite another strong effort by junior quarterback Tom Pancoast. Pancoast completed three of six passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked four times, leaving him with only 24 net rushing yards (sacks knocked 48 yards off his rushing totals).
Senior Matt Maggitti, who struggled last week in the opener against Garnet Valley, seemed to find his mojo midway through the game and ended up leading the Indians with 52 yards on 10 carries, including a 14-yard TD blast. Richard Sampson was impressive in the return game, but was largely contained by the swarming Pioneer defense, held to 39 yards on 13 carries with one score.
Frankford, coming off a tough 27-26 loss to Hatboro-Horsham last week, came out with a clear chip on its shoulder. Pioneers’ quarterback Tim DiGeorgio came out on fire and proceeded to shred the Unionville defense — already weakened by the loss of DE Jimmy Gill, who suffered a Lisfranc injury in week one and could miss the rest of the season.
Injuries — as was the case in 2010 — may be a big story in 2011. Center Connor McEvoy went down, another key player.
“We got a few more banged up tonight, but we had some kids step up,” Clark said.
DiGeorgio hit Renz Compton for a 51-yard score on the opening drive, immediately sucking the air out of an already sluggish Indians’ squad. After a Unionville turnover on downs inside the Frankford 40, DiGeorgio went to work again, even after his apparent 11-yard TD run was called back after a penalty. On 4th and 12, he hit Aaron Allison, who made a juggling catch on the edge of the end zone. After failing again on the point after, Frankford had a 12-0 lead.
Maybe little shellshocked, the Indians found a little composure and Pancoast ripped off a 23-yard run and then hit Doug Ott with a 40-yard pass, giving them 1st and goal on the one. Sampson managed to get in — although he got flipped heading for the score, but Unionville was back in business at 12-7, with Sean Barnes’ extra point kick.
But Frankford and DiGeorgio weren’t done. The junior coolly led his squad down for another score, hitting Compton again. Another failed extra point kept the damage to 18-7, but the game on the verge of getting out of hand.
And then Pancoast got rocked on a sack and fumbled on the next possession. But on the next play, DiGeorgio fumbled himself, and while he recovered it, he had to chase the ball back some 29 yards, setting up a 2nd and 39. While the Indians bent, they did not break and managed to get the ball back.
Pancoast hit Ott again, this time from 50 yards out. With the extra point, Unionville managed to climb within 18-14 by half time.
“We were fortunate to get out 18-14 at the half, it could have been a lot worse,” Clark said.
The Indians roared out in the second half and grabbed the lead for good, when Maggitti scored on a 14-yard run. Minutes later, Jerry Rassias picked off a DiGeorgio pass deep in the Frankford end. Although the extra point was missed, Unionville had a 27-18 lead, midway through the third quarter.
But the Pioneers and DiGeorgio weren’t done. Although the Unionville defense began to stop them, the final quarter they mounted a long drive, capped by a DiGeorgio run and his two-point conversion pass to cut the lead to just 27-26.
From there, though, the Indians defense was able to shut down DiGeorgio’s passing attack — he was held to just one of eight passes and a sack the rest of the way.
With Avon Grove looming next week — likely in a surly mood after being upset by Oxford — Clark said his team has to cut down on mistakes if it wants to keep winning.
“I don’t know that we can win another football game this year if we make that many mistakes,” Clark. “We just really have to eliminate our mistakes. Every team on our schedule can beat us if we don’t play better.”