Philadelphia >> A few minutes after their season-ending 49-28 loss to Archbishop Wood in the PIAA 5A state semifinal Friday evening, the Unionville football players acknowledged one last cheer from their fans in the stands at Northeast High School, then spoke with pride about their District 1 championship season.
“This was an amazing season,” said Unionville senior defensive back Aidan Boyle. “The seniors came together, and we made history. Last January, we met as a team and made it our goal to show the rest of the state what Unionville football is made of.”
“I wouldn’t want to play with any other group of guys, other than this one,” said Unionville senior quarterback Alex Gorgone, who finished with season with 22 touchdown passes and more than 1,900 passing yards. “We really played as a unit, played as one person, this season. We wanted to win one more game, but I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”
Unionville senior Joe Zubillaga, the linchpin of the Indians’ offense and the first Chester County player to record at least 10 rushing and 10 re-ceiving touchdowns in the same season since Jake Barr did it for Downingtown West in 2015, said, “Playing in the state semifinal tonight meant a lot to us. We broke through [last week] by winning the district championship [our first since 1994]. Everyone on this team has put out, every week.”
Unionville head coach Pat Clark said, “Certainly, I wish we would have won tonight, but in the big picture I think it’s quite a testament to this group of kids we have, and really it’s a testament to all the kids who have come through our program. The one thing I haven’t done enough of, is to say ‘Thank you’ to all the kids who have come through our program. We ask so much of our kids, and it’s just been this gradual progression [to the state semifinal]. I’m so proud of where this program is, and I’m so proud of the senior class.
“I think we played with great effort tonight, I think we were great in spots. We weren’t good in spots, and Wood forced us into mistakes. And Wood is a really talented football team. People will say, ‘Oh, they get their talent’ or whatever, but the reality is that it’s talent that’s well-coached, it’s talent that plays hard, and we ran into a little bit of a buzz saw tonight.”
Archbishop Wood, winner of four of the last six Class 3A/5A state titles, held Unionville to zero first downs in the first quarter, and led 21-0 with 3:46 to go before halftime following a 71-yard touchdown drive that featured 12 consecutive running plays.
But the Indians bounced back on the very next play when senior wide receiver JT Hower broke free on an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“We’re a team that never gives up,” said Hower. “Rather than go into halftime with our heads down, we wanted to make a big play. When I got the ball, I saw a hole on the right, and Dante Graham blocked for me, helped me get into the end zone.”
Hower, who caught four Gorgone passes for 48 yards Friday, added, “Playing this game tonight meant everything to me, and though I would have liked one more win, I’m proud of our team. Coach Clark is the best coach in the area – he’s taken our program to the next level.”
Unionville rebounded again in the third quarter following a Wood touchdown that made the score 42-7 with 7:37 left in the period. On the very next play from scrimmage, Gorgone hit Zubillaga on a 33-yard pass down the right sideline, then three plays later on 3rd-and-5, the Unionville quarterback scrambled down the right sideline for a 30-yard touchdown.
“Wood blitzed on that play, but we picked it up,” said Gorgone. “JT [Hower] went to the left, and so did Zub [Zubillaga], and I saw an opening on the right.”
Unionville trailed 49-14 early in the fourth quarter, but came back with two more scores before the night was over. Junior running back Joseph Farriello crashed through the middle for a 20-yard touchdown run with 7:54 left, then junior defensive back Nicholas Schnaars ran 78 yards with a fumble recovery for another six-pointer in the closing minutes.
“The ball popped out of the crowd, I grabbed it, ran around the left corner, and ran for my life down the sideline,” said Schnaars, with a smile. “I wanted to make that play for our seniors – they’re a great class. I know that next year, we’ll put in the work and try to make history again.”
Clark said, “Our team had great togetherness this season, great chemistry. You can have talent, but if the talent doesn’t mesh well, you’re not going to have the results we had this year. And that’s a credit to the kids – coaches can’t force team chemistry. The kids were the ones who wanted it, they did the work, they made it happen.
“You know, I think our next conversation with the team, after the new year begins, is, ‘Hey, can this become our new normal, why can’t we be like this on a regular basis.’”
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