SPRINGFIELD — The driving rain and muddy field conditions reminded Nick Schnaars of his youth football days with the Kennett-Unionville Titans organization.
“It goes back to my first football game for the Titans,” said Schnaars, Unionville’s quarterback. “We were playing in Hurricane Irene. So this was a throwback to that day.”
Schnaars and the 11th-seeded Indians overcame the inclement weather, stormed into No. 6 Springfield and claimed a 9-0 victory in the opening round of the District 1 Class 5A tournament Friday night.
Springfield (7-4) was shut out in regulation for the fourth time this season. Unionville (5-6) advances to the quarterfinal round to play No. 3 Radnor, which downed 14th-seeded Marple Newtown, 27-25.
“We’re a team that has dealt with so much adversity this year. I said it last week and I’ll say it now,” Schnaars said. “We had a lot of injuries and played a tough schedule. But we don’t take any exceptions, we just came out, worked our butts off and got the win.”
For the second year in a row, Unionville handed Springfield a season-ending defeat. Last fall the Indians earned a 35-25 decision over the Cougars to capture the District 1 title.
“We had just enough guys coming back this year to know what level we have to (perform at) to be successful,” said Schnaars, who was 3-for-8 passing for 22 yards and added 46 yards on the ground. “Everyone is stepping up, and we’re playing Unionville football the way we know how.”
The steady rainfall forced both teams to run the football, but only the Indians sustained any success. They began the third quarter with a near eight-minute drive that ended in no points, but effectively set the tone for the remainder of the night. Meanwhile, the Cougars turned the ball over three times after intermission, courtesy of three interceptions by senior quarterback Jack Psenicska (6-for-21, 90 yards). With just over a minute left in regulation, linebacker Alex Pelegrin made a one-handed pick along the Springfield sideline to seal the victory for the Indians.
Leading the way was shifty running back Connor Schilling, who racked up 102 yards on 32 carries. Early in the fourth quarter Schilling accounted for the game’s lone touchdown when he took a pitch from Schnaars and darted four yards to the end zone.
Defensively, the Indians won the battle at the line of scrimmage time and again. Linebacker Joe Fariello had a key sack and an interception in the fourth quarter.
“It was a mess out there, but it was a lot of fun,” Fariello said. “It was a defensive game, for sure. We couldn’t throw the ball, they couldn’t really throw
the ball much. We stepped up, shut them down on their home field and they didn’t score at all. It was a great opportunity.”
Springfield was limited to 94 yards of total offense. They were held to four yards rushing on 14 carries. Buoyed by Schilling’s gritty running, the Indians produced 149 yards on 56 totes. Pelegrin, a fullback, picked up a clutch third down on the ground in the fourth quarter and finished with 18 yards on four carries.
“Everyone who played came up big for us,” Fariello said.
This was Springfield’s final game on its field. The school is in the process of making major renovations and will unveil a state-of-the-art, multi-sport turf complex in the fall of 2019.
And for seniors such as All-Delco linebacker Pat Clemens, who will play lacrosse at St. Joseph’s, it’s their last time playing football.
“We knew the weather was going to be a big factor coming in,” Clemens said. “It’s a hard way to come out. We just love to play hard-nosed football, but you can’t win when you don’t put any points on the board. I’m not taking any shots at the offense, because that’s a good defense over there. They showed it tonight. They get off the ball fast and they play really well together. I wish them the best of luck the rest of the way.”
Despite the lack of offense, Springfield had one opportunity to score and left points on the field. A botched punt attempt on fourth down by Unionville allowed Springfield to take over possession inside the Indians’ 20-yard line late in the first half. The Cougars moved the ball inside the five, but a pass by Psenicska on third down was dropped in the end zone. Brett Barber came on to try a 21-yard field goal that hooked wide left.
“It just came down to execution, especially on the little things,” said Clemens, one of the county’s premier linebackers since his sophomore year. “We talked about execution all year and there were moments, especially in this game, where if we can execute and get a touchdown, put some points on the board … but it just didn’t work out for us. Maybe it was just bad luck or whatever it is.”
Unionville proved that it isn’t some ordinary, run-of-the-mill team with a losing record.
“No, we’re not,” Fariello said. “We’ve played a tough schedule, we’ve had to rebuild. We’re not your average 5-6 team.”
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