Indians hope faster start leads to success in 2019
EAST MARLBOROUGH >> It was a bit of a rebuild and the early schedule was brutal. But Unionville’s poor start to the 2018 football season wasn’t acceptable to head coach Pat Clark or his players.
“When we got out of the gate 0-3, our kids realized that you can’t rest on your reputation,” Clark said. “We started to practice better and our effort level picked up. The biggest lesson the guys learned was that we can’t afford to make any assumptions.”
When it comes down to it, the Indians got back to playing Unionville football in the last half of the campaign, promptly started winning and eventually advanced to the District 1 5A semifinals. And it should be no surprise that it’s the road map for success in 2019.
“In 2017 we won the district title and played in the state semifinal, and we got a little complacent,” acknowledged two-way senior lineman Declan Boyle. “Then we got back to what we do well, which is pound the football, and we finished really strong.
“That can carry over to the next season. We are ready to go.”
With all of that in mind, look for the Indians to do what is the program’s bread and butter: a downhill running attack combined with a swarming, relentless defense. Star runner Connor Schilling is a good place to start, and some big, experienced linemen can help make it happen.
“I think our strength is the kids up front, if we can improve upon the consistency we had at the end of last year,” Clark said.
“Having a good interior line really starts it off and it is really going to help us this season,” said Boyle, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder.
Despite the late surge and a 4-1 mark in the Ches-Mont American, Unionville still finished with a 6-7 overall mark. The Indians ceded the division crown to West Chester Rustin after a three-year reign, but they want it back.
“I’d like to think we are going to be there. I’m very optimistic,” Clark said.
“We saw the kind of progress you want to see (in 2018). I would have liked to have won a few more games but we got that growth.”
Just 5-9, 170 pounds, Schilling is a three-year starter and one of the area’s top two-way players. Clark admitted that he is going to be a big part of what the Indians do this fall.
“Connor may be the best all-around player in the league because he does so much with so much consistency,” Clark said. “He may get overlooked, but he’s six-seven yards per carry, and he covers the opponent’s best receiver. So he may be 80 snaps in where other kids are at 50 snaps.”
Boyle headlines an offensive line that has five others who already have varsity experience including Austin Weeber (6-5, 270) at tackle, Michael Burns at center, and brothers Ryan Son (6-0, 245) and Daniel Son (6-0, 245) at guard.
“Every single guy on the line has some varsity experience and I trust them,” Schilling said.
That’s good news for 6-foot-3 quarterback Blake Charlton, who has some starting experience and is poised for a breakout senior year. His top target will likely be senior wideout Bryce Whitlock.
“Blake is a good football player,” Clark said. “He’s grown and his strength has improved. He is ready to take control of the team.”
All of the offensive linemen will also play on defense, along with Gabe D’Angelo.
“A lot of the guys got reps, especially at the end of the season, so we have players who have been in those situations before,” said Boyle, a defensive end. “So I am very confident in what they can do.”
Schilling and junior Weston Grim are back at corner to anchor the secondary. The entire linebacker corps will be new, but sophomore Nate Holt (6-4, 210) looks like he could be the next great middle backer at Unionville.
“How quickly our outside linebackers and our safeties develop will end up telling us how good of a defense we are going to be,” Clark said.
“Our linebackers have played behind great players like Alex Pelegrin and Joe Fariello,” Schilling added. “So it’s just a matter of stepping in and getting their chance to play.”
Overall, Clark has a good core of returnees and he likes is senior class. It’s a good start for a program that wants to remain a postseason factor.
“We got to the District semifinal last season, but you can’t be happy with that,” he said. “In 5A, there are probably a half dozen teams that have a shot to win it and I’d like to think we are one of those programs.”
THE MINDSET OF A WINNING PROGRAM
The lone Ches-Mont American setback last season for the Indians was a 14-0 slugfest against West Chester Rustin. Unionville finished in second place in the division, but was 2-5 in all of the other contests.
“Our kids play with a ton of pride and they care,” Clark said. “It wasn’t OK that we were 0-3 last season with any kid on the program. That’s where tradition can help you. We have to play up to our standards out of respect of the work of those who went before us.
“We tell the kids regardless of your performance, you just need to get better. We want to be better every week. We can control the effort, the attitude and the execution. If we take care of that, you have a shot.”
SCHILLING IS INDIANS WORKHORSE
There have been workmanlike runners in the Ches-Mont in past seasons, like Avon Grove’s Kevin Francis. Current Kennett running back Garrett Cox sure fits the mold. And even though Schilling doesn’t have the size of Francis or Cox, he’s made a lasting impact for the Indians.
“He puts his head down and runs, gets six-seven yards and just pops back up and goes on to the next play,” Boyle said. “He doesn’t talk much. He’s not one to brag or anything.”
Schilling admits that Unionville’s offense always seems to work at peak efficiency when its running game is humming along the way it did later in 2018.
“By the end of the season, it seemed like we figured it all out,” Schilling said.
“In the games we won, we controlled the football. That’s Unionville football and it all starts with the line.”
Unionville 2019 Schedule
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Connor Schilling >> Running Back
Head coach Pat Clark thinks running back/cornerback Schilling is the best all-around player in the Ches-Mont.
Declan Boyle >> Defensive End
Boyle, who also plays offensive tackle, is big and experienced, and headlines an anterior line that is a strength for Unionville.
By Neil Geoghegan; email@example.com