EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Ever since Pat Clark became to be the head football coach at Unionville, his team has been one of the most successful programs in District 1, and the perennial favorite in the Ches-Mont League American Division.
So after watching West Chester East take home the league title in 2019, Clark and his players were especially ready to reclaim their spot atop the pedestal.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to stop that chance before it began.
But after a roller-coaster few months of “will they?” or “won’t they?,” Unionville is back on the field, and ready to roll.
“West Chester East won the league last season and it looks like Henderson is getting back on track,” Clark said. “Rustin is always fighting with us for top position in the league and (head coach) Lance (Frazier) has done a great job at Kennett, so we have to raise the bar a little bit. Our kids know what is expected and have worked hard all offseason to get ready for this 2020 season.”
Clark knows that Unionville’s regular appearances in the District 1 Class 5A playoffs (and a District 1 title in 2017) don’t scare league foes.
Unionville is usually known for big offensive lines, a punishing running game, and an all-out effort for the entire 32 minutes, every week.
That seems to hold true again in 2020.
Clark says he feels the strength of this Unionville team coming into the season is the running game. With both running backs returning from a team that advanced to the second round of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs, Clark feels good about his running game.
With big senior Ryan Knightly and 6-foot-5, 270-pound Jack Toole manning the offensive line, Clark feels run blocking is going to be a strength.
Tight end Nate Holt will also be counted on to contribute. At 6-foot-5, 25 pounds, Holt is one of the strongest players in the Ches-Mont League, and Unionville is looking for big things from him in the blocking and passing game.
Unionville will be piloted by a new quarterback in Matt McCloskey, who Clark says has worked very hard to win the signal-caller job. Weston Grim will also take some snaps at quarterback, so Clark feels good about that position.
“We feel good about Matt as our quarterback,” Clark said. “He can run and throw and we also have some sets where Weston will get some snaps, so we are excited about our quarterback play. Our kids have worked really hard in the offseason on strength training, skill workouts and we have good team leadership. This is a crazy year, but we are just happy to be able to get the chance to be playing football.”
Clark also feels good about his defense. With Holt at outside linebacker and Grim in the secondary, that’s two valuable starters back from last season’s team. Clark calls Grim one of the best cover men in the league, and with three other defensive backs who saw action last season, there is reason for optimism in the Unionville camp. Safety Sean Kelly is also going to be counted on in the secondary to stop opposing teams’ passing games.
“We do have some work to do in the secondary,” Clark says. “But we have people back that got good game experience last season in big games and our winning tradition helps us. The kids know when it is their time to step up and produce.”