WESTTOWN — The return of football was a highly debated and widely anticipated move, but that “R” word may be banned around Unionville for the near future.
After surviving three first-half kickoff returns for touchdowns by West Chester Rustin, Unionville used a dominant second half to win its season opener, 35-27.
With the Covid-19 pandemic delaying the start of Ches-Mont League football a month and a half, familiar foes finally got things going after the most bizarre offseason anyone has ever seen.
“We’re pretty young,” Unionville coach Pat Clark said. “We have 12 seniors, and they’re all great kids, but we need some underclassmen. In the first half, we were making some mistakes We know we have to be better on kickoff, and we overran the one buck sweep, but we settled down and didn’t make the mistakes and got some stops on defense in the second half.”
Unionville, who dropped its Indians mascot in the offseason and is still without a nickname, did more than just pick up a couple stops. Rustin was held to minus-16 yards rushing in the second half, aided by a bad snap and a couple fumbles, and outside of Tucker Flynn’s 73-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the Golden Knights mustered just 62 yards on 31 other carries.
“We shot ourselves in the foot, and we’re not a team who’s good on first-and-15 or second-and-15,” Rustin coach Mike St. Clair said. “We’re built to be able to grind the ball without those penalties and fumbles.”
Rustin felt the injury bug prior to the game, as starting running back and a the top sprinter in the state, Drew Gallen, was lost for the year with a leg injury. His speed was hardly missed, early on, however.
On the opening kickoff of the season, Dayshawn Jacobs scooped up the ball at the two and raced thru Unionville’s unit for a 98-yard touchdown.
On Unionville’s second play, Matt McCloskey hit Luke Schriver on a backside post for a 63-yard score, to tie things up. Jacobs fielded the following kick, and pulled off some déjà vu with a 90-yard touchdown.
After 64 seconds of action, 20 points were on the board.
“The thing I liked about it, was all the kids took responsibility for it,” Clark said. “That’s the best you can hope for in a week one. They made mistakes and rallied from it with a big second half.”
Things slowed down for a bit before Flynn broke off his long touchdown run, but Rustin’s 13-point lead was cut on Unionville’s next possession, when McCloskey kept a midline option for a 15-yard score.
Once a staple of the Unionville offense, the midline proved to be extra difficult to defend with Rustin not expecting it. McCloskey benefitted, finishing as one of three from Unionville with over 70 yards rushing, joining Wes Grim and Ethan Bennink.
“Pat came out and ran some stuff he hasn’t run in a long time and did a great job keeping us unbalanced,” St. Clair said. “We turned the ball over too many times and they capitalized.”
It looked like Rustin’s first turnover would be huge, when Unionville recovered a fumble at the Knight’s five and scored the next play, to take a 21-20 lead. On the kickoff, Jacobs was avoided, but the squib went to Travis Riley, who went 67 yards to give the Knights the lead, again.
After a scoreless third, Unionville finally got the lead for good when McCloskey connected with Nate Holt on a fourth-and-eight for a 17-yard game-winner.
“I had a tough week of practice with that play and a friend of mine helped me by telling me it’s just backyard football,” Holt said. “I just tried to have fun out here and I knew I’d have to compete for that ball and I just wanted it more and got the touchdown.”
Rustin, who switched from starting quarterback John Crispino to junior Kolbe Freney in the second half, nearly connected on a last-minute pass, but the connection was just off and Unionville ended a two-game losing streak to keep its hopes of making the four-team District 1-5A playoffs intact.
Unionville 35, WC Rustin 27
Unionville 7 14 0 14-35
WC Rustin 20 7 0 0-27
WCR- Jacobs 98 kick return (Elhendawy kick)
UV- Schriver 63 pass from McCloskey (Dym kick)
WCR- Jacobs 90 kick return (kick failed)
WCR- T. Flynn 73 run (Elhendawy kick)
UV- McCloskey 15 run (Dym kick)
UV- Grim 5 run (Dym kick)
WCR- Riley 67 kick return (Elhendawy kick)
UV- Holt 17 pass from McCloskey (Dym kick)
UV- Kelly 27 run (Dym kick)
First downs 14 6
Yards rushing 41-244 32-135
Yards passing 126 83
Total yards 370 218
Passing 8-13-1 5-11-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 5-2
Punts-avg. 4-33.5 4-25-3.
Penalties-yds 3-15 4-20
Rushing: Unionville — Grim 14-73, TD; McCloskey 12-71, TD; Bennink 9-71; Kelly 4-31, TD; team 2-(-2) Rustin — T. Flynn 12-101, TD; Crispino 8-16; Riley 3-13; Pratzner 3-12; Meadows 3-4; Freney 1-0; Jacobs 1-(-1); team 1-(-12).
Passing: Unionville — McCloskey 8-13, 126 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; Rustin — Freney 3-6, 52 yards; Crispino 2-5, 31 yards.
Receiving: Unionville- Schriver 4-87, TD; Farrell 2-18; Holt 1-17, TD; Sassi 1-4. Rustin — C. Flynn 1-31; T. Flynn 2-26; Jacobs 1-26; Meadows 1-2.
Interceptions: Rustin – Ferraro