Indians need win over Kennett Saturday, help, to return to 4A District playoffs
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
EAST MARLBOROUGH — It will take one more win and some level of help from the football gods, but Unionville made a strong statement Friday night about why it should make a return trip to the district 4A playoffs — after running roughshod over an Octorara team itself fighting for its playoff life.
The Indians (6-3, 4-1 in the Ches-Mont American) took control early and dominated the Braves, 42-0, but they need a win over local rival Kennett next Saturday and some help. Right now, Unionville is ranked 22nd in 4A in terms of power points (the win-quality score assigned to high school football teams) and needs to vault up to 16th or higher after next weekend to make the postseason.
“Our kids came out and played with great intensity,” Unionville head coach Pat Clark said afterward. “In reality, the loser is probably eliminated from the playoffs, they’d be out of 3A or we’d be out of 4A and we treated it like a playoff game.”
For the first couple minutes, it looked like the Braves (4-4, 2-3 in the Ches-Mont America) had that same mentality and proceeded to drive down the field to start the game. Kadeem Ford — while stopped running up the middle, was a constant threat on the edge — was stopped short on a 4th and 2 at the Unionville 35. Throughout the night, Octorara had no luck getting an offensive push up the middle.
“Our kids up front on the D line were better,” Clark said. “They couldn’t establish an inside run game. When they’re beating people, they’re running the ball inside very well. We forced them to be perimeter and that made a big difference.”
Catching their breath, the Indians — behind the stellar play of senior quarterback Connon Gades — marched right down the field, capped when Gades scampered 35 yards for a score. Minutes later, Zach Rigby blocked a John Simpson punt and Jimmy Gill recovered it on the Octorara 5, setting up an Evan Weslyk TD run.
But the play that changed the game — and maybe ended the night for the Braves — was right after Unionville made another key fourth-down stop and took over the ball on the Octorara 39. Gades flipped the ball to Tom Pancoast who rolled to his right and found the QB deep down the left sideline. Gades made an incredible, over the shoulder catch (think Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series) and raced in for the score.
The life just seemed to go out of the Braves then and there and just moments later, Mason Popham had a brilliant 59-yard punt return for a score. Only a block of Norb Sax’ extra point attempt kept Unionville from a near perfect half — but it took a 27-0 lead into the locker room.
Gades hit Rich Kaiser for a 30-yard TD score and then Kaiser ran one in from three yards out to cap the scoring.
It was a strong performance in a crucial game, but Clark knows next weeks game at Kennett will be tougher. Friday night, Kennett held off a tough Oxford team that pushed Unionville hard earlier this season. The Blue Demons (3-6) seem to be getting the hang of their new option offense and quarterback Barry Tomasetti led a thrilling comeback in the final minutes Friday. The proximity of the two towns — many of the kids from both teams grow up playing youth sports together between the Kennett YMCA and KAU — so bragging rights for both teams, as well as the playoffs for Unionville, are at stake.
“It’s a huge rivalry game,” Clark said. “There’s nothing like a rivalry game to keep your focus.”