Despite strong showing by Avon Grove, Unionville picks up a win
● By Steven Hoffman
The Avon Grove Red Devils treated their large Homecoming crowd to a number of highlights in last Saturday’s game against Unionville.
Avon Grove Running back Sean Glatts scored on an 11-yard touchdown run just two minutes into the game as the Red Devils capitalized on a Unionville turnover. Running back Colby Riddell rumbled for 40 yards on the first play of the third quarter, igniting a drive that would result in a touchdown. Wide receiver Zach Brown caught a pass from JT McDonald and turned it into an electrifying 65-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. But the visiting team matched each big play by Avon Grove with one of its own, emerging with a hard-fought 31-23 victory.
The win improved Unionville’s record to 5-4, and the team has now won three of its last four games as they work to build momentum for another playoff run.
“You like to be playing well late in the year,” Unionville head coach Pat Clark said after the victory.
Against Avon Grove, Unionville demonstrated an ability to answer back whenever they were pushed.
When Avon Grove jumped out to a 7-0 lead following the turnover, it took the Indians just three plays to tie the game. Running back Connor Schilling bolted 21 yards on one play, and then quarterback Blake Charlton threw a 25-yard touchdown to Stefan Twombly.
Twombly hauled in a 15-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to cap a 12-play, 72-yard drive that gave Unionville a 14-7 lead.
On Avon Grove’s next offensive series, Brown made a leaping catch on a McDonald pass in the middle of the field and raced to the 25-yard line for a 41-yard gain. Avon Grove moved the ball inside the 10-yard line, but the drive stalled and they sent kicker Bobby Smith out to boot a 22-yard field goal. That kick trimmed Unionville’s lead to 14-10.
The Indians put together another long drive late in the second quarter. Charlton demonstrated his running ability—twice he picked up a first down by scrambling for good gains as the Indians moved into Avon Grove territory. Schilling carried the ball on three straight plays, picking up 19 yards, and then Charlton raced in for a nine-yard touchdown. It was 21-10 with 1:38 left to play in the second quarter.
Avon Grove wanted to make the most of the opportunity to score before halftime so on first down they pulled out a trick play—a hook-and-ladder pass play. Unfortunately for Avon Grove, Twombly, now playing defensive back, was in the right place at the right time: He plucked the ball out of midair for an interception near midfield. Charlton threw a 15-yard pass to Twombly and a 20-yard pass to Weston Grim to get the team in position for a field goal attempt. Twombly booted a 24-yarder, making it 24-10.
Avon Grove got the ball to start the third quarter. Riddell’s 40-yard gain on first down started a nine-play drive that culminated with Riddell scoring from six yards out. It was now 24-17.
Unionville answered right back, relying on Schilling, a senior running back, for a few big plays. He picked up 23 yards on a pass play from Charlton and gained 16 more on a good run to move the ball into Avon Grove territory. Two plays later, he scored on a 22-yard run, making it 31-17 with 3:29 to play in the third. Schilling finished the game with 144 rushing yards.
There was no quit in Avon Grove. As the third quarter turned into the fourth quarter, the Red Devils’ offense was on the move again. On a fourth-and-five from the 45, McDonald scrambled to pick up nine yards and a first down. He later moved the chains on an 11-yard gain with another bootleg play. A few plays later, with Avon Grove in the Red Zone, McDonald lofted a pass toward a receiver in the end zone. Unionville defensive back Declan Boyle had a good read on the ball and picked it off in the end zone, ending the scoring threat. The touch-back gave Unionville the ball at the 20-yard line.
Boyle, a senior, has been making big plays for Unionville for four years.
“He is the third Boyle brother to play for us,” Clark said. “He knows what’s expected. We ask a lot of him. We count on him to steady the ship, and that’s what he did for us.”
Avon Grove scored one more time—a 65-yard pass play where McDonald rolled out to his right and found Brown open as he ran a crossing pattern. Brown raced down the sideline and into the end zone, cutting Unionville’s lead to 31-23 with just under six minutes to play.
The Indians took about half that time off the clock with its next drive, but Avon Grove’s defense came up with a big stop on a critical fourth-and-three play to give the team one more chance to tie the game with 2:49 left to play.
This time, it was the Indians’ defense that made a stand, preventing Avon Grove from moving the chains on the next four plays. Avon Grove also had to utilize their timeouts so when Unionville took over again, all they had to do was run the clock out. After three snaps, Unionville wrapped up the win.
Afterward, Clark was proud of his own team, but also praised how Avon Grove played.
“Avon Grove’s record is deceptive,” Clark said. “Their schedule has been a gauntlet. They are a much better team than their record indicates. We were able to make a few key stops and hold on for the win.”
The Indians finish the regular season with a home game against Sun Valley on Friday night. A win would put Unionville in a good position for the district playoffs once again, despite the fact that the 2019 team is on the young side. The Indians have also been working to overcome some injuries. Clark credited the assistant coaches with helping to get the younger players ready to go.
Avon Grove is also playing well as the season heads toward its conclusion. They went toe-to-toe with a team that has a winning tradition and is once again heading to the playoffs.
“I’m proud of the team and the way we played,” Avon Grove head coach Harry O’ Neill said. “I’m happy with the effort. We’re getting better each week.”
There were a lot of positives for Avon Grove to take away. McDonald had a very efficient game at quarterback. He also combined with Glatts, and Riddell to account for nearly 200 yards on the ground. Avon Grove’s defense turned in a very solid effort. Best of all, Avon Grove is a young team and many of its key contributors, including the talented running back tandem of Riddell and Glatts, will be returning next year.
Avon Grove closes out the 2019 campaign with a home game against Downingtown West on Friday night.