Academy Park defeats Indians, 19-14, despite second-half comeback
By Richard Gaw
No matter if it is a championship season or a rebuilding one, the story of the Unionville varsity football team is one that has always assured that a fraternity of playmakers will emerge, and despite a 19-14 non-league loss against Academy Park on Aug. 31, a few of Head Coach Pat Clark's Indians began to embrace that coveted role.
Coming off one of the most successful seasons in its history – which included 13 wins, a Ches-Mont American title, and a District 1 Class 5A title – the Indians entered this season as challengers rather than favorites, in search of new weapons to replace those like Joe Zubillaga and J.T. Hower, who have graduated.
It's a standard that every new team that takes the field has to live up to, and for, the second half of the game, the Indians lived up to those standards. Unfortunately for Unionville, now 0-2 in the early 2018 season, football is played in two halves.
In a game that was delayed for an hour due to a torrential downpour and a threat of lightning, the Indians came out of the locker room looking to avenge their 42-3 loss to Great Valley the week before, but as the game got underway, they ran into playmakers on the other side of the ball. A 61-yard carry by the Knights' running back Devon Covert set up a one-yard TD rush by quarterback Skylor Fillis to stake Academy Park to an early 6-0 lead with 4:13 left in the first quarter.
Deep in the second quarter, Unionville quarterback Blake Charlton marched his team from their own 9-yard line to its 30-yard line, but on fourth down, the Unionville punt was blocked and recovered by the Knights' Barry Brown on the 18-yard line. Covert carried the ball to the 10-yard line, which was followed by a TD run by Zion Bradley with 6:06 remaining in the half that gave Academy Park a 13-0 halftime lead.
With 6:39 left in the third quarter, Fillis sneaked into the end zone on a short run to give his club a 19-0 lead, and while it seemed that the momentum was clearly on Academy Park's side, the flourishes of potential that were seen in Unionville during the first half began to dominate the remainder of the game.
“We figured out that you have to play hard, and I told them that they have to play every snap,” Clark said. “You can't give a play away and hope to make it up later. We figured out that every play matters. That's been the hallmark of our program -- that our kids play hard on every snap.”
With 9:43 left in the fourth quarter, a swarming Indian defense tackled Fillis in his own end zone, which led to a fumble and recovery by Cole Sheehan. That, along with the PAT, narrowed Academy Park's lead to 19-7. On the Knights' next possession, Alex Pelegrin tackled wide receiver Zion Bradley for a loss, which was followed up with gang tackles of Fillis for losses. With 7:30 left and the ball on their own 29-yard line, Charlton marched his team up the field, but tossed an interception with 6:32 left.
Unionville then answered with an interception of its own. Mason Glennon picked off a midfield pass by Fillis and promptly ran the ball up the sidelines before being tackled at the 10-yard line. However, a Unionville penalty brought the ball back to midfield, and Charlton's second-and-three pass was picked off inside the 10-yard line by Danny Doegan with 3:11 left.
With 1:38 left in the game, Unionville regained the ball near midfield, and passes to Joe Fariello and Jeffrey Lang moved the ball to the 30-yard line. Charlton then scampered for six more yards, rifled a pass to Fariello on the 2-yard line, and scored on a QB keeper that was boosted by a PAT to shorten Academy Park's lead to 19-14.
With one minute left in the game, Unionville added to their dramatic comeback attempt when offensive lineman Eli Lyons recovered an on-side kick at his team's 47-yard line, but Charlton could not puncture the Academy Park defense on four downs.
In what may be called a transitional year for Unionville, the common adage of many associated with Ches-Mont football – that the Indians consistently trace their success to the work of its playmakers – was evident last Friday night, Clark said.
“We have two explosive players in Connor Schilling and Joe Fariello, and I think Blake Charlton took some positive steps tonight,” he said. “I think he really grew tonight, and I am very pleased what I saw out of Blake. We have four juniors on the offensive line, and I thought they all stepped up tonight. I thought our defense, especially Matt Julier, Alex Pelegrin, Gabe McLaughlin and Jeff Lang, guys who should be leaders, really made contributions for us.”
The Indians travel to West Grove on Sept. 7, where they will take on the 1-1 Avon Grove Red Devils, while Academy Park, now 2-0, will travel to Great Valley on Sept. 7.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].