Pancoast, Sampson lead heroic comeback for Indians
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
CALN — There are football games. And then there are contests that stick with you.
Overcoming a late deficit, Unionville knocked off Coatesville, 27-26, Friday night with both teams making convincing arguments that they are not just the elite teams in Chester County, but potentially in southeast Pennsylvania. The back-and-forth contest resembled a heavyweight boxing match of decades ago, with both teams slugging and taking punches — and coming back for more, with the game literally coming down to the final seconds of regulation.
The win puts the Indians (4-1, 0-1) in control of their post-season fate — and while the Raiders (4-1, 1-0) were dealt their first loss of the season, they remain undefeated in Ches-Mont National Division and also control their fate — win out and they win both the league title and a berth in the playoffs.
The win was enormous for Unionville, a loss to Coatesville in 2010 ended its playoff hopes — and Indians’ coach Pat Clark was understandably emotional following the game.
“I am so, so proud of our kids,” Clark said. “We stood toe-to-toe…that’s (Coatesville) a great football team.”
For Raiders’ head coach Matt Ortega, his worries that a pesky Unionville team could grind its way to a win — came to pass, despite the fact that most observers see his squad as possible the best in District 1.
“We had every opportunity to win the game, we had missed extra points, two drives in the first half we didn’t get points out of, dropped a ball in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown and then they come back and score, and that was a 14-point swing,” a disappointed Ortega said after the game.
But maybe even more, Friday night’s game was a tale of two quarterbacks: one, you know, Manny Stocker, the Raiders’ senior who is being heavily recruited by numerous Division I football programs; the other, Unionville junior Tom Pancoast, the Indians’ signal caller.
While Stocker played his usual solid game, throwing for 123 yards (8 of 19) and a TD and rushing for 69 more, including a touchdown, Pancoast, overcoming an uneven performance last week against West Chester Rustin, outplayed his more heralded opponent, completing 8-of-10 for 129 yards and a score, while running for 104 yards and another score.
A couple of gifted running backs, Coatesville’s Dae-Hon Cheung (136 yards, 1 TD on 18 carries) and Unionville’s Richard Sampson (110 yards, 2 TD on 21 carries) had their excellent nights, too (Clark said, in part because of Sampson’s exceptional night on defense, that he might have been the best player on the field — and wondered why the senior isn’t getting more attention from colleges). But the two talented tailbacks saw their impressive efforts overshadowed by the two quarterbacks attempting, almost by sheer force of will, to drag their teams over the top.
If any Coatesville players had any doubt Friday night would be a slugfest, it took all of seven seconds to disabuse them of the notion, when the opening kickoff bounced off a up man and Unionville ended up with the ball on it’s own 48. The Indians ripped through what appeared to be a startled Raiders’ defense, quickly marching down the field, with Sampson punching it in from the two, to take an early lead, 7-0.
Stocker got his teammates ready and calmly led a drive right down the field, capping by hitting Kyle Kerrick with a 24-yard scoring pass to tie the game.
After both teams saw their offenses stall — both defenses were forced to constantly make adjustments in a night-long cat-and-mouse game — Unionville got the ball bac midway through the second quarter on its own 15. Pancoast unleashed a bomb down the right sideline to Ross Kim-McManus for a 85-yard touchdown and the Indians had the lead again, 14-7.
Again, though, Coatesville was able to counterpunch and came right back. Cheung powered a 65-yard drive, capped by Stocker’s 1-yard plunge for the score, tying the game at 14-14 just before the half.
Taking the second half kickoff, Unionville managed another of its methodical, clock-eating drives, 70 yards on 14 plays, virtually all either Sampson or Pancoast taking the ball in the ground. A missed extra point gave the Indians a 20-14 lead.
“In the second half, their intensity was more,” Ortega talking about Unionville coming out on a mission after the half. “They had more intensity and wanted to win the game more.”
As if following some cosmic script, Coatesville came right back, with Stocker completing a couple of passes before scoring himself on scramble that broke down the right sideline for 39 yards. The Raiders also missed the extra point, leaving the score tied at 20-20 with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter opened, it looked like Unionville would be able to respond again, but Coatesville’s defense stiffened, stopping the Indians cold, after it had reached the Raiders’ 24. Both teams’ defenses stepped up — forcing an exchange of punts.
On a third punt play, it looked like Coatesville had finally found the knockout punch for the plucky challengers from Unionville. With the Indians punting from their own 48, the snap sailed over the head of punter Chris Baker. While Baker was able to scramble back and get the ball, he was swarmed upon by the Raiders’ defense. Coatesville was in business, with the ball on the Unionville 19 and just 6:20 left in the game.
“The short field was going to be dangerous,” Clark said. “And it was going to be ‘how are we going to respond to that?’ And our kids were just phemomenal. I can’t say enough about that.”
Two quick runs by Chueng and the Raiders had the lead back, but again missed the extra point.
Knocked to the mat, the young Unionville got right back up. Pancoast and Samspon led another drive — this one 81 yards — keyed by Pancost’s 27-yard ramble and Sampson’s hammering runs. Pancoast plunged in from one out with just :31 left in regulation to tie the game. Kicker Sean Barnes, who had something of an uneven night, nailed the pressure extra point kick, giving the Indians a 27-26 lead.
“Our kids have really handled adversity really well,” Clark said. “We were down big to Rustin last week and came back. The guts, we showed…we pretty much ran the ball the whole drive.”
Coatesville got the ensuing kickoff, but a penalty backed it up to its own 13 to start the drive. Stocker managed one completion and a scramble, but the Raiders ran out of time with the ball on their own 41.