Tough playoff loss ends otherwise successful season
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
EAST MARLBOROUGH — Like a blind side block, Unionville couldn’t have seen this coming.
Taking advantage of some early miscues and a bit of a size edge, 14th seeded Neshaminy came in and stunned the third-seeded Indians, 28-0, ending what had otherwise been one of the better football seasons in school history.
As has been the case at times during the season, mistakes — turnovers, punt blocks and penalties — haunted 9-2 Unionville and while previously it could depend on a mix of speed and skill to overcome such errors, the red-hot Redskins (8-3) were just too talented for that to happen.
“We made some mistakes,” Unionville head coach Pat Clark said. “Our kids played with tremendous heart and effort. The early turnovers cost us, we weren’t able to change the field (position) around and gave them two short fields and that got us.”
And although the sudden loss hurts, Clark said that it should be put in perspective — and shouldn’t obscure the successful season that the Indians worked hard to produce in 2011.
“It’s going to sting,” Clark said of Friday night’s loss. “I thought our kids were really in a good place this week, they were focused and prepared, but when they look back on the season and what they’ve accomplished, they certainly carried on the tradition of the program. I’m really proud of them. We had a small group of seniors — we have a lot (of players) back next year, but this has been one of our better teams. They played at the same high level as the classes before them have.”
One player who was making his final — as it turned out — start for Unionville was Richard Sampson, the gifted senior tailback. He was held to 80 tough yards on 21 carries — but saw runs called back because of penalties, including a 30-yard run that would have been a touchdown. Still, Sampson had one of the most prolific seasons in school history, finished his 2011 Unionville season with 1,524 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns.
And it wasn’t just Sampson who was slowed — the entire Unionville offense was held to just 150 yards of total offense. Rushed and harried virtually the entire game, quarterback Tom Pancoast was held to just 4 of 18 passing for 33 yards and a pair of interceptions.
“They made us work for our yards,” Clark said. “We hit some and we missed some — but we weren’t consistent enough. Sometimes, that happens.”
But in the end, it was just too much Neshaminy — coming off a big win against Pennsbury (which itself posted an upset over No. 2 Abington Friday and will travel to Coatesville — a 60-28 winner over Spring-Ford — next week) — for Unionville to cope with. The Redskins were able to run the ball consistently, keep the ball out of the Indians’ hands and score when it was needed — but it was capitalizing on Indians’ miscues that really turned the tide.
Neshaminy scored quickly after Pancoast’s pass was deflected into the hands of Denny Lord, setting up the Redskins with the ball on the Unionville 14. Lord scored from a yard out a couple of plays later, giving Nashaminy a 7-0 early lead.
Sean Ulmer, who rushed for 160 yards on 23 carries, ripped off a 47-yard run in the early going of the second quarter and then capped the drive with a 7-yard scoring run, to give the Redskins a 14-0 lead with the extra point.
Although in a hole, Unionville still had good reason to feel it was in the game — until a sequence in the closing minutes of the first half put it in desperate straits. The Indians came within a fraction of an inch of drawing to within one score, on a just missed pass play from Pancoast to Doug Ott — that would have been a 30-yard TD, but was just a touch overthrown and went off the receiver’s fingers. On the next play, Pancoast was sacked back to the Neshaminy 45 on a fourth down play.
That gave the Redskins the ball with 1:38 left in the half — and they were able to move the ball right down the field and score — Ulmer, from one yard out — with just :15 left before the half.
Although Unionville was able to move the ball, drives continued to stall and break down — and it couldn’t find the endzone.
Neshaminy added a late score in the final quarter, after a long, clock eating drive, scoring on a reverse pass from Justin Andrews to Bobby Marterella.