McCloskey, Dym lead Unionville to 23-13 opening playoff win11/10/2021 12:53PM ● By Richard Gaw
Photo by Richard L. Gaw Unionville quarterback Matt McCloskey led the Longhorns to a 23-13 opening round playoff win over visiting Springfield on Nov. 5.
By Richard L. Gaw
Perhaps the most meaningless batch of numbers heading into last Friday night’s District 1, 5A opening round playoff game at Unionville High School was the regular season record of the visiting Springfield Cougars: Four wins and six losses.
The record seemed to defy logic, given the ability of the team’s playmakers – quarterback Jake Rama, wide receiver Robby Longo and running backs Bryan Minott and Connor Roche. In fact, the team’s 70-yard, six-play opening drive that ended with a 26-yard TD run by Roche with just over one minute gone in the game seemed to cement home the truth that a) numbers can be deceiving and b) in the playoffs, anything can happen.
For Pat Clark’s Longhorns – who wrapped up their regular season undefeated in the Ches-Mont and 9-1 overall and entered the game as the third seed – Roche’s touchdown served as a wake-up call that ignited the team to reel off 23 unanswered points en route to a 23-13 victory.
The win kicks the Longhorns into the second round with a Nov. 12 match against visiting Academy Park (8-2 overall), who defeated Oxford 40-15 in opening round play on Nov. 6.
Following Springfield’s opening score, Unionville quarterback Matt McCloskey engineered a 60-yard drive that was highlighted by two passes to wide receiver Luke Schriver and carries by running back Ethan Bennink. With the ball on the 15- yard line, McCloskey then rushed 13 yards to move the chains to the 2-yard line, and after a penalty on Springfield moved the ball to the 1-yard line, McCloskey followed his blockers for a touchdown with 7:10 left in the first quarter.
With just 6 seconds left in the first quarter, Unionville kicker Brian Dym kicked the first of his three field goals when he connected on a 35-yard boot that gave the Longhorns a 10-7 lead.
Heading into the second quarter, Rama had been a perfect eight-for-eight in passing against a tough Unionville defense, giving full evidence that the game was on its way to becoming a back-and-forth shoot out. On the first play of the quarter, however, Rama was sacked by a blitzing Bennink, leading to a fumble recovery by linebacker Ryan Knightly and a 30-yard field goal by Dym with 10:48 remaining in the first half that gave the Longhorns a 13-7 lead.
Rama was injured on the play, did not return to the game and was replaced by back-up quarterback Tom Walls, who moved his team on his first try deep into Unionville territory, but on fourth-down, his pass attempt to Longo from the 24-yard line was incomplete.
In the third quarter, a fumble recovery by defensive back Tucker Opdahl gave Unionville great field position on Springfield’s 37-yard line, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Dym with 3:02 left in the quarter that extended the home team’s lead to 16-7.
McCloskey engineered Unionville’s final scoring drive on the first play of the fourth quarter, when he followed blockers Knightly and Bennink for a 19-yard touchdown run with 11:53 left in the game.
Down 23-7, Springfield added its final score on a 3-yard pass from Walls to Longo with 3:09 left in the game, which was followed by a two-point conversion that was broken up by Bennink. A list ditch scoring effort by Springfield was snuffed out when Walls’ pass was intercepted by Opdahl with 33 seconds left in the game.
Seeded sixth in the District 1 5A playoffs, Academy Park will enter into Unionville’s home field riding a four-game winning streak that gave them a tie with Chichester for the top standing in the Del Val League – the third consecutive season they’ve finished at the top of the standings. Stacked with playmakers, the Knights are led by quarterback Darrell Fields (8 TD passes on 49-85 passing), running backs Ibrahim Sanogo (405 yards in rushing and 9 touchdowns) and Terrence Oliver (461 yards in rushing), and wide receiver Eric Willis, who amassed 364 yards in receiving and scored four touchdowns.
The game begins at 7 p.m.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].