Avon Grove comeback downs Unionville, 24-22
By Richard Gaw
As the Unionville and Avon Grove football teams began to square off last Friday night in West Grove, the encroaching weather patterns in the area were prominent enough to have many believe that the rain, thunder and lightning in the forecast would serve as major factors in the game.
In fact, the presence of lightning was enough to postpone the contest with four minutes left in the third quarter, with Unionville holding to a 17-7 lead. Yet, as the Ches-Mont inter-divisional contest resumed the following afternoon, other factors began to render their influence, all of which favored the home team: A late-game comeback, a kicker, a lateral and the emergence of a sophomore running back.
During a quarter-and-a-half period of play that was resumed on late Saturday afternoon, Avon Grove (2-1) engineered a come-from-behind, 24-22 victory, highlighted by a 62-yard kick-off return by Tyre Stead with 1:41 left in the game.
Beneath threatening skies the evening before, Unionville (0-3) got on the board first when it inherited the ball near midfield after an Avon Grove punt. After a one-yard loss on a keeper by quarterback Blake Charlton, Connor Schilling scampered untouched for a 48-yard TD run with 5:13 left in the first quarter.
Avon Grove promptly responded with a score of its own when, on its second play from scrimmage, quarterback JT McDonald launched a perfect, 59-yard touchdown pass to Stead with 4:18 remaining in the quarter.
On its first possession of the second quarter, Unionville took a 10-7 lead on a 28-yard field goal by Dominic Braithwaite with 11:05 left in the first half, a slim margin that remained when Avon Grove kicker Bobby Smith's 45-yard field goal attempt veered off the mark with 5:40 left in the half.
The Unionville Indians added to the lead when they capitalized on a short punt that gave them possession on the Avon Grove 40-yard line. A 13-yard pass by Charlton to Joe Fariello moved the ball to the 27-yard line, and with 2:05 left in the first half, Charlton fired a pass to Nick Schnaars in the corner of the end zone that gave the Indians a 17-7 halftime lead.
During halftime, Avon Grove head coach Harry O'Neill saw two mountains his team needed to climb: the 10-point differential, and the loss of senior running back Dino Arhontakis, who was injured after a seven-yard run with 3:43 remaining in the half, and removed from the game. As the second half began, Arhontakis' absence was filled by 5'8” sophomore Sean Glatts, who punctured the Unionville defense with strong runs, including a 38-yard carry early in the third quarter.
With 4:04 remaining in the third period – at about 8:45 p.m. – lightning strikes in the distance precipitated game officials to delay the game, and at 9:30 p.m., a decision was reached that the game would resume at 4 p.m. the next day, with Avon Grove on its own 46-yard line.
The delay seemed to ignite the Red Devils, as Glatts ran the ball to the 38-yard line, and McDonald gained ten more yards on a QB option on the next play. After a penalty and an incomplete pass, Smith booted a 49-yard field goal with 1:32 left in the third quarter to bring Avon Grove to within a touchdown.
At the end of the third quarter, a 13-yard run by Glatts moved Avon Grove to the 11-yard line, and as play resumed at the start of the fourth quarter, Glatts tacked on ten more yards on two rushes, before being stopped for a slight loss on his third attempt to cross the goal line. On third and goal, McDonald scored on a QB keeper with 10:08 left in the game to tie the score at 17.
With less than three minutes remaining and on third-and-nine near midfield, Charlton tossed a 16-yard pass to Schnaars, that was followed by a four-yard Schnaars' run and a Charlton QB option that moved the ball to the 20-yard line. On fourth and short, Braithwaite booted a 37-yard field goal with 2:01 left to give the Indians a 20-17 lead.
On the ensuing kick off, Avon Grove's Gemere Paone collared the kick, and as he was about to be brought down, flipped the ball to Stead, who promptly ran 62 yards for the game-winning touchdown, with 1:41 left.
With one minute remaining and Unionville moving down the field, a Charlton pass attempt was picked off by Kyri Rossiter on the 17-yard line. Taking over with bad field position, a Glatts carry got the ball to the 21-yard line, but on fourth-and-11 with time running out, McDonald wisely chose to run to the back of his end zone and take a two-point safety.
Avon Grove will take its winning record to 3-0 Downingtown East on Sept. 14, while Unionville will attempt to enter the win column when it travels to 1-2 Great Valley on Sept. 14.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].