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Early Unionville challenge pushed aside as Downingtown East pulls away

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EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Whether it was a hangover from last week’s game against Downingtown West, or being off-balanced by a gritty Unionville squad, the first quarter ended with Downingtown East behind and the whiff of an upset started to hang in the crisp fall air.

But, with the help of two fumble returns for touchdowns, the Cougars turned the game around, as they went on to post a 47-16 victory over Unionville in a Ches-Mont League nonleague crossover contest Friday.

“They kind of snookered us a little bit. We weren’t ready for all of the stuff they were going to do, and they did it,” said East coach Mike Matta. “No. 2 (quarterback Nick Schnaars) is a hell of player. He can play for us. He does a lot of things. They had us us oft-kilter.”

Schnaars showed his talents the second time the Indians had the ball. On 1st-and-5 from their 33-yard line, Schnaars found a seam on a keeper and brought open before being stopped on tghe East 26, 41 yards yards later. One play later, Schnaars hit Alex Pelegrin, who turned a short pass into a 24-yard scoring play. The missed extra point put Unionville’s lead at 6-0.

The Cougars’ offense was sputtering, so the defense stepped in to provide some scoring. as Pellegrin was stacked up, Niko Lempke pulled the ball away and set sail for a 42-yard score and a 7-6 lead.

“Scoring points from our defense, bumped our energy up when we needed it,” said Lempke. “I ran to the running back and saw the ball, and I wanted that ball. I pulled it out of his hands and scored.”

The Indians regained after going on a 12-play drive. The march was capped off as Unionville caught the Cougars by surprise as Joseph Fariello took a shovel pass from Schnaars up the middle for a 25-yard score.

“I like to think we’re a little better than our record indicates,” said Unionville coach Pat Clark. “They are a very good football team. Maybe it was a combination of they weren’t quite ready and we have some good skilled kids. Our kids play with tremendous effort and energy. We just came up a little short.

East would go on to score 40 of the next 43 points. They tied the score five plays into the second quarter as Zach Hamilton rambled 15 yards to tie the score at 13-13.

The defense got back into the scoring act on the Indians’ next possession. Weston Menzie scooped up another fumble and scooted 23 yards to give the Cougars the lead for good.

“Right now, the glass is half empty,” Matta said after being asked about the scoring from the defense. “It’ll be half-filled tomorrow. I’m still thinking about them scoring twice on us. It was disappointing.”

The lead would grow late in the half as the Cougars broke two sizable runs — Garvey Jonassaint for 31, then Hamilton for 18. Luke Davis cashed in as he sprinted in from the 17.

Unionville used a little trickery to try to put points on the ball with under a minute left. They pulled off a perfect a hook-and-ladder play. Schnaars caught a pass from Blake Charlton, then lateraled it to Fariello, who scampered 35 yards to the East 21. But the field goal attempt hit the front of the goal post as the Cougars took a 25-13 advantage into the locker room.

East made a statement to open up the second half. They went 65 yards on nine plays — all on runs by Hamilton and Jonassaint. Hamilton dove over from the one as the Cougars started taking firm control.

Dominic Braithwaite booted a 29-yard field goal to make the score 33-16. Jonassaint and Hamilton added tallies for the final margin.

Both teams face important games for their season finales next week. The Cougars (8-1) have a showdown with Coatesville, while Unionville (3-7) needs to beat Sun Valley to have a shot at making the District 1 Class 5A playoffs.

“We need to regroup and beat Sun Valley,” said Clark. “These kids have worked hard and they deserve to make the playoffs.”

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