Unionville holds off Rustin, 28-21, to stay undefeated

Unionville quarterback Alex Gorgone, seeming surrounded by Rustin’s Ty Pringle (25), Dan Shoup (50) and Padraic Kearns (90), managed to evade all three and throw what proved to be the winning TD late in the fourth quarter, Friday night. Jim Gill photo.

By Al Tustin, Staff Writer, The Times

EAST MARLBOROUGH — Alex Gorgone was pretty much doomed.

On a crucial second and goal pass play in a tied game with a little over four minutes to go, West Chester Rustin defenders Ty Pringle, Dan Shoup and Padraic Kearns had the Unionville senior QB completely surrounded deep in his own backfield and it looked like he was going to have to take a costly sack, stalling a late drive.

But somehow — a mark of the QB’s emergence this season — he managed to evade all three with a nifty deke and sidestep, then stepped up and fired a TD pass to Connor Schilling for what proved to be the winning score, as the Indians held on for a thrilling come from behind 28-21 win, Friday night.

Gorgone threw for 174 yards on 10 of 16 passing for TDs, continuing his elevated play of late, despite sharing time with fellow senior Joe Zubillaga — who is more of a running QB, but showed his throwing skill with a 46-yard TD pass completion. Senior wideout JT Hower continues to emerge as a top receiver in the county, with 142 yards and a pair of TD catches.

In recent weeks, it seems like the game has slowed down for Gorgone, as he is able to look off first, and even second receivers to find the open man and improvise when the play breaks down.

“Alex Gorgone is having a great senior year,” Unionville Head Coach Pat Clark said after the game. “He missed most of his junior year with a shoulder injury and everybody knows that Zubillaga has to get some snaps for us to do some things, but boy, Alex was MVP as much as anybody was tonight.”

Rustin’s Ty Pringle looks to evade Unionville’s Joe Zubillaga. Pringle ran for 121 yards on 21 carries. Jim Gill photo.

Although the offense shined with spectacular play at times, it was the defense — which had no answer for for Pringle, one of the top running backs in Southeast Pennsylvania (121 yards on 21 carries, much of that in the first half) — that came up big in the fourth quarter when the Indians desperately needed stops.

“We couldn’t stop anybody in the first half,” Clark said, noting that Rustin, as usual, was well-prepared and a difficult team to defend.

“We tweaked a few things at half time and we talked about….just do your job,” he said. “Everybody is worried about chasing the ball and sometimes it’s not about everybody chasing the ball, it’s about doing your job. I’m just real proud we settled down in the second half.”

For undefeated Unionville (7-0, 3-0 Ches Mont American) to road to a third straight league title seems a little clearer — the winner of the Unionville-Rustin game has won the Çhes Mont American title in each of the last seven years.

Unionville’s JT Hower evades Rustin defenders and breaks away for one of his two TDs in the game. Jim Gill photo.

Still, the Indians must win the last two league games against Sun Valley and Great Valley to lock up the title without help. Great Valley, which has league games remaining against Octorara, Rustin and a season finale at Unionville, is tied with the Indians at 3-0 atop the Ches Mont American. Rustin is 2-1 and Sun Valley is 2-2 and will need outside to win the title — although the Knights will be in position to play spoiler in two weeks when they visit Great Valley.

With the win, Unionville has pretty much locked up a spot in the 16-team District One 5A playoffs and will likely host a game during the opening round.

Although the Indians managed to prevail, a hungry and talented Knights’ team literally kept the game hanging in the balance until the final seconds, in part with the running of Pringle, but also the improvisational skills of junior QB Will Pileggi.

Rustin grabbed an early lead after driving 75 yards on 10 plays when Pringle scored on a 5-yard run, setting off a flurry of offense from both teams.

Unionville immediately responded with a drive of its own — keyed by a 35-yard pass from Gorgone to Aiden Boyle — as Jack Adams scored from 11 yards out to tie the game.

Pringle powered an immediate response, during most of the heavy lifting on a 65-yard, 9-play drive. Nick Benoit scored from three out to give the Knights the lead back.

But Gorgone made sure that lead didn’t last for long. He hit three long passes, one to Nick Schaars, one to Hower and then another 34-yard scoring strike to Hower to again tie the game, which is where things stood at halftime.

The Indians grabbed their first lead, taking the opening drive of the second half 67 yards — most of it on Zubillaga’s 46-yard pass play to Hower, to take a 21-14 lead nearly midway through the third quarter.

But Rustin once again struck back, taking the ball 50 yards in eight plays to score when Pringle ran it in from the two, tying the game at 21-21.

It was at that point, Unionville’s defense stepped up.

After an Indians’ drive stalled at midfield, their defense managed to stop Rustin dead-cold, forcing a three-and-out.

Unionville then mounted another drive, keyed by an Adams’ 17-yard run and a Gorgone-to-Hower 26 yard pass inside the Rustin 10. But the drive threatened to stall — until Gorgone’s sidestep TD pass to Connor Schilling, which gave Unionville the lead for good.

“I thought the play down there on the waggle (bootleg pass play) where he escaped and had pocket presence and found Connor Schilling — that was a great play and it saved us,” Clark said.

The Indians may have had the lead, but the game was far from over.

Twice Rustin would drive the ball deep into Unionville territory, only to be unable to convert fourth-and-short running plays. On the first drive, a Pringle run fell just short at the Unionville 31, turning the ball over with 5:11 left in the game. The Indians looked to be moving the ball out of danger when Zubillaga was stripped of the ball and the Knights were back in business on the Unionville 44 with 3:26 remaining.

After a big Pringle run gave Rustin a first down on the Unionville 34, the Indian defense stiffened, ending the drive when Pileggi could not convert on fourth and three on the Unionville 26 with 1:41 to go.

Unionville faces its toughest challenge of the season, going into Kottmeyer Stadium in Downingtown to face Downingtown East, in a battle of two undefeated teams. The Cougars are coming off an emotional win over crosstown rival Downingtown West, 28-14, Friday night.

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