EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Joe Zubillaga hasn’t played quarterback since his flag football days at Unionville.
The way he lined up under center for the Indians Friday night, one would think he started at the position for three years.
Instead, Zubillaga was on in relief of starter Alex Gorgone, who exited the game in the second quarter with an arm injury.
“I just kind of winged it,” Zubillaga said.”Coach (Pat) Clark just told me ‘next man up.’ I had to fill in and do what’s best for the team.”
Zubillaga did more than “fill in” in relief for Gorgone as he ignited Unionville to a 14-0 win over West Chester Rustin in the Ches-Mont American Division opener for both teams.
Zubillaga finished with 10 carries for 68 yards and completed his only pass of the night for a touchdown, a nine-yard toss to Aiden Boyle in the back corner of the end zone that put the Indians (1-0, 2-2) up two scores with 7:06 left in the third quarter.
“We were running the ball really well and with Joe (at quarterback), everything he gets has a chance to get on the edge,” said Unionville head coach Pat Clark. “(Aiden) Boyle made a great move to get open on a little in-and-out route. Joe put the ball on the money.”
“Aiden and I are great friends,” Zubillaga said. “I knew he was going to come down with that. I just had to throw it up there.”
With Unionville holding on to a 7-0 lead once Zubillaga entered the game, the dynamics of the offense changed. The Indians had a dual-threat at quarterback, similar to the days of Tom Pancoast four years ago.
“I try to represent my game like Tom,” Zubillaga said. “I just loved the way he played. It was all downhill and pound with him.”
Zubillaga used that downhill and pound style two plays prior to his touchdown pass with a 27-yard run on 3rd-and-6 to extend Unionville’s opening drive of the second half. He capped his big night with an interception to stall the Golden Knights (0-1, 0-4) best drive of the second half, sealing the game for Unionville with 1:32 remaining in the game.
“Joe is one of our most competitive kids in any sport,” Clark said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to coach him in two sports. The kids rallied behind him. We’re lucky to have him tonight.”
Unionville had the deciding score on its opening drive as Jack Adams reached his arm out on a 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard line to put the Indians up 7-0. Despite the early deficit, Rustin had plenty of opportunities to tie the game up.
The Golden Knights had two fumbles deep in Unionville territory that would have at least resulted in two field goals. On Rustin’s first drive of the game, a holding penalty assisted a missed 32-yard field goal by Cole Gallagher with 2:32 left in the first quarter to keep the Indians up 7-0.
Rustin has been decimated by injuries this season as star running back Ty Pringle missed the game. Backup running back Nick Benoit suffered an injury in the third quarter and did not carry the football the rest of the game while Mylek Durnell also missed portions of the contest with a second-half injury.
Rustin finished with four turnovers in the loss, which led to Unionville’s shutout. The Indians held them to 206 yards on the night.
“Our guys take a lot of pride in their defense,” Clark said. “We’re very fortunate to have three senior linebackers who are two, three year starters. We had five defensive lineman playing four spots and were able to muck up the run a bit.
“When you can put Rustin in the passing downs, that’s a victory for the defense.”
Unionville has rebounded from an 0-2 start to take the early lead in the Ches-Mont American. The Indians aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“When we were 0-2, everyone thought we were down,” Zubillaga said. “We stayed up, kept our poise and were ready for everyone that came in our way.”