EAST MARLBOROUGH >> For Downingtown East head coach Mike Matta, there wasn’t much not to like about his team’s lopsided 42-5 football victory at Unionville on Friday evening.
The Cougars were a dominant force up front on both sides of the ball, and that led to an ultra-efficient offensive performance. And defensively, East completely shut down the Indian’s bread and butter: its running game. And if all of that wasn’t enough, there were a couple special team’s blunders that led directly to every Unionville point – but that wasn’t so bad either.
“When you win a game big, it’s always good to have a few things where to get on your guys,” Matta explained.
With division rival West Chester Henderson up next, the Cougars (1-0, 4-1 overall) looked like a team that is going to be a major challenger for the Ches-Mont National title. Downingtown East outgained the Indians by nearly 300 yards, and Matta was just as pleased with how his team did it: through brute strength.
“Lining up and going after teams is how we envision ourselves,” he said.
“Physically, they out-sized us,” Unionville head coach Pat Clark acknowledged. “I thought our kids competed and we were in it for a while, but they hit us with a couple plays late in the first half and that’s when the game got away from us. We didn’t have much room for error, and they exposed us.
“But (Downingtown East is) a very good opponent. Our kids have to learn from this experience.”
With players like defensive lineman 6-foot-4, 250-pound Will Kiely constantly in the opposition backfield, the Cougars disrupted everything the Indians (2-3 overall) attempted. And the Unionville offense was already in a state of flux because starting quarterback Alex Gorgone was out after suffering a shoulder injury, and his backup, Drew Lenkaitis, was out with a concussion. Converted wideout Joe Zubillaga made the start.
“As we get kids healthy, we will work (Gorgone and Lenkaitis) back into the lineup,” Clark said.
“We just had a rough start to the season and we’ve been able to adjust. Traditionally, our kids are level headed, and we are going to need to move on from this game.”
The Indians wound up with 27 yards rushing on 41 attempts, and top ball carrier, Jack Adams, was limited to minus-1 yard on 10 carries.
“In practice, we worked on staying low, firing off the ball and reading our cues. That’s what we did,” Kiely said.
“We have a very good defensive line,” Matta added. “I’m happy with our front seven. They did a nice job.”
Except for a fumble on the opening kickoff — which led to a 37-yard field goal by Unionville’s Matthew Mainwaring — the Cougars completely dominated the first half.
East proceeded to score touchdowns on its next four possessions to make it 28-3 at the half. And all four drives were lengthy, covering 62, 82, 80 and 81 yards. And keep in mind, this came against an Indians defense that had shutout its previous two opponents.
“We had a few bad plays in there, but we didn’t let it stop us,” said East quarterback Bryce Lauletta. “And when you can give your defense a rest like that, it’s good. And that’s a credit to our offensive line.”
Lauletta was involved in three early TDs including a wheel route toss that went for 41-yards to fullback Spencer Umberger; a 65-yard strike to Ethan Harris on a perfectly executed wide receiver screen; and a 1-yard keeper in the final minute. The last march before the half featured a conversion on a fake punt.
“We knew their coverages, and we put those plays into the game plan and when they gave us certain looks, we took advantage of it,” said Lauletta, who was 12 for 19 through the air, for 243 yards and three touchdowns.
“Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves after (Unionville) kicked the field goal, the offense came back and scored, we stopped them and scored again,” Matta added. “It just shows that our team is maturing. So I am kind of happy with it.”
Running back Dan Liaudaitis opened the scoring for the Cougars with a 7-yard scoring run, and finished with 75 rushing yards on 17 carries.
“That’s Downingtown East football right there,” Matta said, when asked about the first half. “We did have a couple quick ones, but we usually aren’t a quick scoring kind of team. When we grind it, our opponent wears out. We start by wearing you out.”
Things didn’t get better in the second half as Unionville turned it over twice, leading to 14 more points for the Cougars. A muffed punt led to Lauletta’s third TD toss, this time a 13-yarder to Tyler Fishbein. And later, a Brassier Stocker interception set the stage for a 1-yard scoring plunge by Paul Carpenter.
The Indians lone second half score came when a backup snapped the ball over the punter’s head and out of the end zone in the fourth quarter.
“I think our team feels pretty good about this win,” Kiely said.
“Pat (Clark) has a solid program and they do things the right way, so any win over a Unionville team is a big win,” Matta added.