EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Octorara’s impending move from the Ches-Mont to the Lancaster-Lebanon League in 2018 was announced earlier this week, and what happened on Friday evening at Unionville was a good example why the Braves wanted to make the move.
Just one week before the regular season football finale, the Indians were a bit lackadaisical but still cruised to a 25-7 triumph over an Octorara squad that played well defensively and certainly never quit.
“We were flat,” admitted Unionville running back Jack Adams. “We were looking past this opponent for sure, and at halftime, the coached really laid into us.”
But a win is a win, and along the way Unionville (5-0, 6-3 overall) secured at least a share of its second consecutive Ches-Mont American championship. A full-game ahead of West Chester Rustin, the Indians can win the title outright with a win at Sun Valley next Friday.
“Everybody doubted us because we lost so much from last year’s team and we’ve also had some injuries,” said Adams, who rushed for 92 yards and scored two touchdowns. “But this team has been resilient. Our seniors stepped up, our defense has been great and the offense is coming along.”
The Braves – who have the smallest enrollment of any member of the 14-team Ches-Mont — dropped their eighth straight contest, are 0-5 in the division (1-8 overall) and must beat Oxford next week in order to avoid yet another last-place, winless finish in the division.
“I think moving to the Lancaster-Lebanon League is a better fit for our whole school,” said Octorara head coach Jed King. “It’s not like we are going to be a powerhouse in that league, but it’s better playing schools more our size.
“We are the smallest AAAA school in District 1 and in the Ches-Mont. We have 313 boys right now, and we are facing teams with 150 more kids to draw from every week. I just want to put our kids in the best situation to have success. They aren’t just doing it for football but for all of our sports.”
Statistically, Friday’s clash was close, with Unionville actually getting outgained (240-239) and the Braves had a couple more first downs. But the Indians pounded out nearly 100 more yards on the ground, added in a special teams TD, and came just a few seconds away from notching the shutout.
“It’s a long season — a grind,” said Unionville head coach Pat Clark. “But I think Jed is a good football coach and their kids are competitive.
“We are fortunate to have a few more numbers and some more depth than them. Our kids know we didn’t play our best and we still managed to do a pretty good job.”
With scores on two of its first three possessions, the Indians never trailed. Adams opened the scoring with a 33-yard first quarter run, and kicker Matthew Mainwaring made it 10-0 with a 30-yard field goal.
Adams upped the margin to 17 with a 40-yard scoring run in the third quarter, and moments later junior J.T. Hower went 67-yards on a punt return for a score to round out the scoring … almost.
With time running out and most of the Unionville starters on the bench, Octorara put together an 11-play, 83-yard march to end the shutout. Quarterback Trent Pawlings found wideout Brandon Garver for six-yard scoring strike on fourth down with just 3.8 seconds remaining.
“It wasn’t pretty at times, but we basically shut them out. I was playing ninth and 10th graders at the end against (Octorara’s) varsity, I thought our kids competed really well,” Clark said.
“I’m proud that they didn’t quit,” King countered. “We made mistakes, the offense sputtered on those short yardage situations, and Unionville has a really good defense and they’ve been stopping everybody in the league. They knuckle up when they need to. They have that bend-bug-don’t-break philosophy. But my kids gave it their all.”
Pawling finished with 153 yards through the air and Garver grabbed six receptions for 105 yards. But King was pleased that his defense surrendered just 63 yards in the second half.
“Our defense played great, I was proud of a lot of kids,” he said. “But you can’t give up special team’s touchdowns. If it wasn’t for that, we would have been in the game a bit longer.”
In the end, however, the Indians did it the way they’ve done it all year: with defense and a bruising running attack.
“Our defense was lights out, we got a special team’s touchdown tonight, and at time we were efficient on offense,” Clark pointed out.
“We didn’t get into a great rhythm offensively, we had a few penalties and that can get you off schedule. We took a couple vertical shots and didn’t hit on them. Are there things we can correct? Sure, but I’m not upset.
“We won, and we have a chance to win the league and get a home playoff game. I’m thrilled.”