EAST MARLBOROUGH—Dante Graham ran for three touchdowns, and Alex Gorgone threw for 201 yards and a touchdown, while the Unionville defense pitched a shutout for three-and-a-half quarters as the No. 3 Indians (11-2) cruised to a convincing 39-8 victory over No. 11 Strath Haven (6-6).
With the win, Unionville advances to next week’s District 1, Class 5A semi-finals, where they will play host to No. 7 Marple-Newtown, a 24-18 upset winner over second-seeded Upper Moreland Friday night.
“We got outplayed by a good football team tonight,” said Panthers’ coach Kevin Clancy, who registered the 300th win of his coaching career last week against Bishop Shanhan. “We thought we had a chance tonight, and the kids gave it everything they had. But maybe Unionville was even a little better than we thought.”
Unionville came up with a number of big plays in the early going. On its first possession, the Indians were facing a third-and-11 when quarterback Alex Gorgone connected with JT Hower for 37 yards to set up a first and goal from the ten. Two plays later, Dante Graham ran it in from two yards out for a 7-0 Unionville lead.
“We were a little sloppy there for a while,” said Unionville coach Pat Clark. “We were jumping offsides, a couple bad snaps-just making mistakes. But Alex played with great poise. He hung in and had great pocket presence and put some throws on the money.”
On the next Indian possession, Gorgone came through with clutch passes not once, but twice. Facing a third-and-21, Gorgone, while being chased by Panthers defenders, hit Graham with short pass, which Graham turned into a first down. Later in the drive, the Indians converted a fourth and two to set up Graham’s second touchdown of the night.
“It’s great when we get everyone—the offensive line, Alex, the running backs and the receivers, all working together to do what we do best,” said running back Joe Zubilaga, who finished the night with 147 yards from scrimmage. “It was great to be able to dig ourselves out of the holes we dug for ourselves to begin with.”
The Panthers put together a nice drive late in the first half, and seemed to be riding a shift in momentum that could result in cutting the Unionville in half headed into the break. Paced by running backs Zack Hussein (14 carries, 69 yards) and John Francis (5 carries, 41 yards) the Panthers moved inside the Unionville 25.
But Graham came up with a big sack of Panther QB Jake Fisher to knock the Panthers back eight yards, and then the Unionville defense thwarted a fourth-and-ten try to take over on downs.
“That is a play we practiced all week,” said Graham. “It was just a matter of the coaches calling the perfect play for us to succeed.”
Coming out in the second half, Gorgone worked his magic yet again on third and long, hitting Zubilaga for 38-yards down to the Panthers’ three. Graham ran it in for a 20-0 Unionville lead.
Then it was the defense’s turn again. With Strath Haven moving the ball once more, Hower picked off a Fisher pass. From that point on, Unionville put the game out of reach with touchdown runs from Joe Farriello and Connor Schilling, and a 37-yard strike from Grogone to Zubillaga (10 of 14, 201 yards, TD).
“Our kids came up with some big plays defensively that really changed the momentum,” said Clark. “And that interception right after we scored in the third quarter was big, too. Two playoff wins is the most we’ve had in my tenure hear. We’re excited to be playing next week and seeing how far we can take this.”
The season comes to a close for Strath Haven, whose score came on a 9-yard run from Francis, but a strong finish to the regular season and a playoff win is something Clancy hopes can carry into next season with his younger guys.
“You grow from playing games like this,” said Clancy. “I hope the way we closed out this season is something that these kids carry with them, building their love of football, and into the offseason and the weight room, hoping to get better and maybe get a different result next year.”
Unionville 39 Strath Haven 8
Strath Haven 0 0 0 8 — 8
Unionville 7 21 14 0 — 42
UN— Graham 2-run (Braithewaite Kick) 7-0
UN— Graham 1-run (Braithewaite Kick) 14-0
UN–Graham 1-run (kick failed) 20-0
UN — Farriello 6-run (Braithewaite Kick) 27-0
UN— Zubillaga 37-pass from Gorgone (run failed) 33-0
UN–Schilling 2-run (kiled failed) 39-0
SH —Francis 7-run (Hussein run) 39-8
First downs 8 19
Rushes-yards 37-144 38-153
Passing 3-6 10-14
Passing yards 9 201
Total yards 153 353
Punts 3-25.67 1-20
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-35 5-40
Rushing —Strah Haven Hussein 10-69 Francis 6-41 TD, Daly 5-11 Pio 7-24, O’Connor 2-9, Fisher 2- (-17) Harper 1-7 Unionville Graham 7-44 3TD, , Zubillaga 11-35 Farriello 4-27 TD Gorgone 4-8, Hower 3-25, Schilling 4-26 Grim 3-(-12)
Passing —SH Fisher 3-6, 9 yds, INT UN Gorgone 10-14, 201, TD
Receiving —SH Pio 2-9, Francis 1-0 UN-Zubillaga 5-112 TD, Hower 4-59, Graham 1-23 Farriello 1-6
Interceptions — UN Hower
Sacks — UN Schilling, Graham, Julier
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