WEST FALLOWFIELD – You can’t blame the Unionville football team from casting their gaze away from the task at hand on Thursday at Octorara, and ahead eight days. It’s only human nature, what with the Ches-Mont American game of the year up next on Oct. 6 against West Chester Rustin.
But the lack of focus lasted for just a few minutes. Ranked 15th in the latest Pa. PrepLive Top-20, the unbeaten Indians actually trailed early, but bounced back in a big way to score the last 54 points on their way to a dominating 54-7 victory over the host Braves.
“If anybody can figure out the attention span of a teenage boy, they would be a millionaire,” said Unionville head coach Pat Clark.
“It was really a wake-up call,” added two-way star J.T. Hower. “After that we really got down to business. I just don’t think we were ready to play at the start.”
Now 3-0 in the league (6-0 overall), the Indians can now turn their full attention to Rustin, who also does not have a conference blemish. Next Friday’s showdown at Unionville will likely determine the American title.
“I think we are ready to go toe-to-toe with (Rustin),” said Hower, who scored twice, including a kick return. “Every year it seems like this is the Ches-Mont (American) championship game.”
Despite the start, the Indians were sharp offensively scoring touchdowns on six of their first seven possessions. Senior quarterback Alex Gorgone rolled up 199 passing yards and four TD tosses (to four different receivers) in the first half alone.
“We’ve been making strides everywhere,” Gorgone said. “I can’t do anything without our offensive line, and I’m sitting there with all of the time in the world. Plus, I have some of the best wideouts in the league and it seems like they are open on every play. It’s pretty easy for me.”
Playing in its final season in the Ches-Mont, Octorara has dropped three straight and falls to 0-2, 2-4. The Braves, however, gained more than half of their offensive total on a single play, and wound up with just 111 yards total.
“I was proud of our kids when we got off to a hot start, but (Unionville’s) defense really shut us down after that,” said Octorara head coach Jed King. “Overall, we struggled in every facet of the game.”
Clearly taking advantage of a distracted opponent, the Braves’ Sye Hall stunned the Indians with a 69-yard run on the game’s second play from scrimmage. A few plays later, quarterback Trent Pawling scored on a keeper.
Hall’s run down to the doorstep of the goal line wound up being Octorara’s lone first down in the opening half.
“We could have easily put our heads down and it might have been a different game,” Hower said. “But after that, we settled down.”
Standout Joe Zubillaga was everywhere on Thursday for Unionville. On defense he registered two sacks, while on offense he added a couple touchdowns — one on the ground and another through the air. Gorgone also hit Sam Ross on an 18-yard scoring strike, but the craziest came on a third-and-40 situation, when he found sophomore runner Connor Schilling in stride, and he turned it into a 75-yard TD.
“(Unionville) played great defense and we couldn’t tackle their athletes in space,” King said.
“We try to play to our strengths and this year we have a few more skilled kids, so we are able to spread things out a bit,” Clark explained.
In the final minute of the first half, Gorgone hit Nick Schnaars for a 16-yard score, and then Hower went 31-yards on a reverse to make it 35-7. Hower then took the second half kickoff 84 yards for another score.
“It’s always awesome to get into the end zone on a special team’s play because you need everybody on the field to do their job,” Hower pointed out. “I had the biggest hole ever, and run ran through it.”
Schilling got the start because the Indians’ top two runners – Jack Adams (illness) and Dante Graham (injury) were out. Both are expected back for Rustin. The Indians are the two-time defending Ches-Mont American champs.
“(Rustin has) great skill kids, they are strong up front, and our history with them has been a four quarter battle,” Clark said.
The Braves played the Golden Knights and Unionville in successive games (which they lost the two by a combined score of 110-14). King declined to give a prediction, but he did say that he thought it would be a great contest.
“I think it is two very good teams and it’s going to be a battle,” he said. “I honestly think it will turn into a defensive game. Both are good up front and play good defense.”