Late drive puts Unionville over the top, 21-18

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Unionville’s Elan Nash hauls in a pass from Brendan Boyle in the final minute to lead the Indians past Great Valley, 21-18, Saturday. Sean Helle photo.

Indians control fate for Conference title, District One berth with win

By Al Tustin, Staff Writer, The Times

MALVERN — Sharing might be caring, but with 2:33 remaining in the game and facing an 18-14 deficit after 45 minutes of uneven, turnover-plagued play, Unionville wasn’t much in the mood to be generous.

The Indians (5-2, 3-0) needed to beat Great Valley Saturday to avoid a possible scenario where they might share the ChesMont American Division title with the Patriots and West Chester Rustin (which beat the Pats a week earlier). Unionville took over the ball on its own 20 with 2:33 left in the game after stopping a Great Valley drive deep in their end.

The league title and a possible berth in the District One playoffs (the Indians were ranked no. 8 in AAAA coming into this week, with the top 16 teams making the cut) were on the line — but it would take a touchdown to win the game.

Senior quarterback Brendan Boyle guided his team downfield, using both his feet and his arm to move Unionville downfield swiftly — culminating in a perfect 18-yard pass to senior Elan Nash with :57 seconds left to give the Indians a 21-18 win and a clear path to both a league title and the postseason.

“Our kids have so much fight in them,” Unionville coach Pat Clark said afterward. “We find different ways to win — we’re not perfect, but this team has fight and heart and character and that’s what pulled it out today.”

Both teams struggled with turnovers — there were a total of eight in the game, four by each team — part of that a tribute to how well both defenses played (Mark Knightly picked off a pair of passes for Unionville), but part was an indication of uneven play. After a number of fumbles in the first half, after which the Indians only trailed 6-0, had to give them hope that cleaning things up after the intermission would lead to better things.

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Unionville’s stout defense kept it in the game — especially with a key late stop of Great Valley. Here Trevor Gardiner and Laz Kirifides the Patriots Alex Crouse. Sean Helle photo.

While neither team could sustain a running game, both teams were impressive with their passing games.

Great Valley junior QB Robert Geiss threw three TD passes junior Ryan Hubley, while Boyle  just missed doing the same with Nash — a shaky call by the officials had Nash out of bounds on the 6-inch line, when it appeared that the ball crossed the plane of the end zone prior to his going out of bounds at the pylon — a Boyle plunge immediately afterward did manage to cash in the score.

But with both teams’ hopes for a conference title and post season in jeopardy (Great Valley came in ranked no. 6 in AAA in District One, with the top eight teams getting a berth), it was the final drive that told the story.

Great Valley grabbed an 18-14 lead on a 55-yard pass play from Geiss to Hubley — a perfect short pass up the middle, which saw the junior wide out outrace the Indians’ defenders for a long score — and the lead.

After an exchange of possessions and the Indians’ stout defense stopping a Patriots’ possession that started on the Unionville 23, the Indians got the ball back for one looked like one last shot.

Starting at the 20, Boyle raced right for six yards and the sideline to stop the clock. He then his Pat Clark Jr. for an 18-yard pass.

Boyle’s 19 yard run up the middle with a little more than a minute to go — on a crucial fourth and two play — set up the final play. After a first-down pass fell incomplete, Boyle laid up a perfect throw to Nash in the right corner of the end zone for the score and a 21-18 lead with :57 remaining.

The Patriots were unable to mount much of a final drive — and time ran out.

With the win, Unionville controls its fate for both the league title and a playoff berth and a potential home game in the opening round. The Indians host rival 2-5 Kennett (which lost to Rustin 49-7, last Friday) this Friday, followed by a road game at struggling (0-7) Octorara before wrapping up the regular season at home against 2-5 Sun Valley. If they win out, they’ll finish 8-2 and 5-0 in the league — but no easy task, especially with Kennett up next.

It’s a game both teams always circle on the schedule — many Kennett and Unionville players grew up together playing for the Kennett-Unionville Titans, not to mention competing playing together in KAU Little League, Unionville Recreation Associations and YMCA leagues, making the game not just another contest, but a personal one. Add in the fact that the Blue Devils have not beaten Unionville since reviving football roughly a decade ago, and it’s safe to say they will be looking to spoil the Indians’ season.

“It’s a neighborhood rivalry,” Clark said. “It’s another reason to be focused in practice and come out and play hard next Friday night.”

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