EAST MARLBOROUGH — All night, and really all season, Unionville struggled to finish drives and find the end zone.
Leave it to the safety-turned-quarterback with a gimpy ankle, Joe Zubillaga, to figure things out. With 42 seconds left in the game, Zubillaga sprinted off the right side for a 17-yard score to give the Indians their first and only lead against visiting Great Valley.
Forty-seconds later, JT Hower intercepted a pass in the end zone from Great Valley’s Rob Geiss to preserve Unionville’s 16-13 league victory, Friday.
The win not only put the Indians in the driver’s seat to win their second consecutive Ches-Mont American Division title, but gave head coach Pat Clark 100 career victories at the helm of Unionville.
“I knew we had to get the win,” Zubillaga said. “We worked all offseason and all during the year and in my three years of high school I have never felt something like this. It’s great.”
Great Valley (2-2 division, 4-3 overall) scored the lone touchdown of the first half on a one-yard QB-sneak by Geiss, and the Pats went up 13-3 late in the third on Pat Sauer’s second field goal.
Unionville (3-0, 4-3) missed a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to try to make it a one-score game. After a quick series by the Patriots ended with a punt, Jack Adams capped a four-play, 54-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run to make the score, 13-10, with 9:10 remaining.
Great Valley managed three first downs on the ensuing drive, but Zach Nance knocked Geiss out of bounds a yard shy of the first at the Unionville 25, setting the Indians up with a long field with four minutes to play.
“This is one of the top wins we’ve had here,” Clark said. “Down two scores against that team, we had to shut them out for almost a quarter and a half and that’s not easy to do.”
Zubillaga converted a fourth-and-three at the Unionville 32 with a five-yard run and then connected with Adams, who made an impressive one-handed catch, for a 19-yard gain later in the drive.
Two plays later Zubillaga finished the comeback with his TD jaunt. Adams had a game-high 144 rushing yards, while Zubillaga, who didn’t finish the first half after injuring his ankle, amassed 128 on the ground.
“I had an inkling going into halftime it wasn’t serious,” Clark said of the injury. “Joe is the kind of kid where he’s gotta be dead before he comes out. It was a great quarterback effort.”
For the second straight week, Great Valley came up just short at the end of the game, having lost to West Chester Rustin 31-27 the week prior.
“It hurts,” Great Valley coach Dan Ellis said.
The Pats scored on their first two possessions of the game, and then after a three-and-out their first drive of the third, Damien Carter recovered a muffed punt to set up the second field goal.
Unionville held the Pats to a season-low in points (13) and total yards (261).
“It was back and forth the whole game,” Ellis said. “We had to do a little more offensively, moving the ball in the beginning of the fourth and do more on defense, getting a stop here and there. That’s what it came down to ultimately.”
Unionville’s 16 points is actually its second-highest offensive output this season, and despite punting it three times inside Great Valley territory and attempting two field goals in the red zone, the Indians found enough offense when they needed to.
With Kennett, Octorara and Sun Valley left on the schedule, Unionville will be favored in each. It also owns the tiebreaker over Rustin, should both teams end with one divisional loss.
Clark emphasized one week at a time, but earned a well-deserved Gatorade bath while celebrating his 100th win with the team.
“It was a great way to get 100, but 100 wins just means I’ve been here too long,” Clark said. “We’ve had a ton of great kids and assistant coaches and they’re a big reason we have the type of program we’ve built here.”
While Clark downplayed the milestone, the day he does decide to step away will be too soon for Unionville.