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Unionville goes straight ahead to attack middle of defenses

EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Every team has a wrinkle or change of pace that opponents have to prepare for.
For some it’s a hurry-up mode, others a screen game or trick plays. For Unionville, it’s the midline option.
Unlike West Chester Henderson, who runs the option offense primarily, or Downingtown West, who mixes in more outside zone, Unionville likes to attack a defense with an option play right up the gut.
When the Indians have been at their best, and they’ve won a league-high 84 games in the last 10 seasons, they’ve used midline as a key accessory to a playbook that mixes the wing-T and the spread.
The midline option attacks the A and B gaps. The quarterback will read the first unblocked defensive lineman past the A gap. If he’s upfield or not crashing, the QB will give the ball to the fullback through the A gap. If the A gap is occupied, the QB will pull the ball and run it himself through the B gap.
“Its a downhill, physical play and it’s designed to hit inside and, knock on wood, doesn’t really lose yards,” Unionville coach Pat Clark said. “It makes the defense be disciplined.”
Despite being a prolific running team, Unionville hardly has a list of star running backs under clark. Richie Sampson was the rare 1,000-yard back in 2011. Rather, it’s been the QB that has powered the engine.
Quarterback Matt Carroll set the bar high in Clark’s early years as arguably the best thrower/runner combo, and more recently, Tommy Pancoast reached the 1,100 yard mark in 2012.
“I think most high school quarterbacks are athletic and have the ability to run the ball,” Clark said. “A running quarterback opens up the offense. It’s very rare that you get a polished passing quarterback in high school so the quarterback has to be a runner.”
Football is different in the Ches-Mont League American Division, compared to the National. Where the top bigger schools in the National typically have good depth on the line and in the skills, the better teams in the American often have a group of strong talent but less to go around.
The result is a lot of kids playing both sides of the ball as well as using deceit on the offensive side to make up for the lack of overall size.
Unionville runs a lot of similar plays as West Chester Rustin, with the wing-T power and trap, but the midline is a play that can give a team fits if its not used to seeing it.
“It’s really hard to prepare for and if you don’t run it, it’s hard to simulate the offense in practice,” Rustin coach Mike St. Clair said. “It’s total assignment football.”
Clark came to Unionville from Marple Newtown and found success almost immediately. A 5-5 inaugural season was followed by a perfect regular season in 2005 and a win in the playoffs. Clark’s teams won 32 games from 2005-2007 and have collected two American Division championships and four runner-up finishes to Rustin, using the midline option he learned while at Marple.

Nate Heckenberger -  21st Century Media Austin Hoffman-Reardon scored 11 touchdowns last season as a fullback for the Indians.

Nate Heckenberger – 21st Century Media
Austin Hoffman-Reardon scored 11 touchdowns last season as a fullback for the Indians.

“My second year at Marple Newtown we were 2-9, but if we had scored 20 points a game we would have won seven or eight games,” Clark said. “I was looking for something to move the ball and control the game so we looked at the academy stuff. When I came to Unionville it fit with the kids we had here.”
In the past two seasons midline was used less often due to quarterback Alex Pechin, who was more of a passer than a runner. The Indians averaged about five more passes the past two seasons than they did the previous three, and their rush yards per game dropped 30 yards as a result.
Still, the Indians won 14 games in Pechin’s two seasons and with a new signal caller under center this fall, the probability of the option game working its way back in is a good one.
“It’s something else teams have to prepare for,” Clark said. “It’s multiple and you can get to it a lot of different ways. Even with Alex Pechin, some of his biggest runs were on midline. I like it because it’s flexible and we’re able to keep it even with other kids.”

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