EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Like two skilled prize fighters, the Unionville and Avon Grove football teams counterpunched each other for the entire 48 minutes in Friday’s nonleague matchup.
The outcome was not decided until Unionville’s Elan Nash picked off a tipped Shane McLaughlin pass in the end zone to preserve Unionville’s 27-17 victory that brings each teams’ record to 2-1.
Unionville took a 14-3 halftime lead even though the Red Devils had 38 offensive plays to the Indians’ 16. A big 84-yard kickoff return by Brandon Boon and a 12-yard Trevor Gardiner return of a blocked punt accounted for Unionville’s scores.
“Avon Grove is a very tough club and they are an up-and-coming program,” Unionville coach Pat Clark said. “But, special teams are one part of the game, and we made two very big plays on special teams to take the lead.”
Unionville asserted itself in the third period, taking a 20-3 advantage when Boon went in from a yard out, capping a long drive that took over six minutes. Boon rushed for 131 yard on 19 carries and quarterback Brendan Boyle had 108 yards on 12 carries.
Avon Grove monted a fightback as they recovered a Boon fumble and marched down the field, led by the passing of McLaughlin, who completed 21 of 38 for 244 yards. The two favorite targets were Chris Fahey and Henry Buchanan. Fahey caught 10 passes for 107 yards and Buchanahn hauled in seven balls for 104 yards.
Kevin Francis carried a Unionville defender across the goalline for an eight-yard score to make it a 20-10 game with 1:34 to play in the third. The TD capped an eight-play drive.
“I told the kids at halftime that we competed well on both sides of the ball,” Avon Grove coach Harry O’Neill said. “But they made those two great plays on special teams. But, when it 20-3, we did not quit. My kids just love to compete and fight. I love these kids. They give everything they have.”
After forcing a punt midway through the fourth, McLaughlin went to work again. He scrambled 16 yards down to the Unionville one-yard line before Francis bulled in on the next play. Suddenly, it was 20-17 with 4:22 left.
“We got right back in the game and it was 20-17,” O’Neill said. “We threw the ball 38 times, which is a lot, but we really got back in the game.”
Unionville came right back, however, as Boon rambled 57 yards to the two. He notched his second running TD on the next play to give the Indians a littles breathing space with 2:55 left.
“That was Unionville football,” Boon said. “We knew we were in for a tough game because their coaches are very good and we knew they would be ready to play. On the kickoff return, I just made one fake and it broke up the middle. We needed a win like this coming off a loss last week. Now, we have to get ready to play Rustin for the league championship next week.”
Avon Grove tried to mount one last comeback, they drove to the Unionville 13, but McLauglin’s pass was tipped and Nash cradled the football to secure the victory.
“Harry is doing a great job and they are tough,” Clark said. “But, we got back to our roots, running the football, and now we need a great week of practice to get ready for a real tough game with Rustin. Brendan Boyle is a first-year quarterback and he did a great job running the football for us tonight.”