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Rustin’s second-half ground game grinds down Unionville

Westtown >> Once West Chester Rustin got its ‘ground and pound’ game going in the second half Friday evening, the result was a 28-7 win against a strong Unionville squad.
Coming into Friday’s contest, the teams were rated more or less equal in the PIAA District 1 5A rankings – the Golden Knights were ranked No. 8, the Indians were ninth. And at halftime, Rustin and Unionville were deadlocked at 7-7.
In the second half, Rustin took charge. The Golden Knights received the second half kickoff, then marched 77 yards on 13 plays from scrimmage – 12 of them running plays – for a touchdown.
After a three-and-out by Unionville, Rustin ran the ball 11 consecutive times for 71 yards and another touchdown to take a 21-7 lead with only 9:43 left in the game.
“It was death by a thousand cuts,” said Unionville head coach Pat Clark. “They’re one of the few teams that can run 15, 16, 17 [consecutive] plays and not make a mistake.”
The Golden Knights (6-2) are now ranked No. 6 in the District 1 5A football ratings, while the Indians (4-4) fell to No. 10.
Through most of the first half, Unionville’s defense kept Rustin scoreless. Meanwhile, the Indians’ Sean Kelly blocked a Rustin punt late in the first quarter, giving the visitors the ball on the Golden Knights’ 6 yard line. On the very next play, Unionville senior running back Connor Schilling plowed through a hole up the middle for a touchdown and a 7-0 Indians’ lead.
“These Rustin-Unionville games are always a close affair,” said Rustin head coach Mike St. Clair. “Pat always does a great job defensing us.”
It looked like Unionville would add to that 7-0 lead when midway through the second quarter Schilling picked off a Rustin pass and returned it to midfield. But three plays later, Rustin junior defensive back Kevin Freas returned the favor when he intercepted a Unionville pass.
To this point, Rustin had earned only one first down, but, starting at their own 30 yard line, the Golden Knights began to move the ball. Rustin picked up 24 yards on eight consecutive running plays, then on 3rd and 9 from the Unionville 46, senior running back Nick Madonna grabbed a 31-yard pass from junior quarterback John Crispino to take the ball down to the Indians’ 15. Five running plays later, Madonna crashed over the 1 yard line for a touchdown with only 25 seconds to go before halftime to even the score at 7-7.
“At halftime, we made some adjustments, because Unionville’s defense was findamentally sound and was stopping our good old ‘ground and pound’ offense,” said Madonna.
St. Clair said, “We made a few adjustments at halftime that got us going a little bit, and we’ve got some quick backs, a good offensive line, and we were lucky enough to make a couple of plays in the second half.”
Rustin took the second half kickoff and marched 77 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown. Key plays in the drive were a 23-yard run by junior running back Drew Gallen on 3rd-and-3 from the Rustin 30 yard line; and a 12-yard pass from Crispino to junior wide receiver Caelan Flynn on third-and-8 from the Unionville 18. Crispino capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge, and the hosts had a 14-7 lead with 5:16 to go in the third quarter.
St. Clair said, “We try to control the clock, limit the other team’s possessions. When we get on a roll, hopefully we eat up 6, 7 minutes of a quarter. You have to play clean to keep that kind of offense moving, and tonight we showed a lot of discipline, very few penalties [in the second half]. Our whole offensive line does a great job – Matt Maiorano, Ryan Wittman, John Shallo, Steven Kuders and Dan Clancy.”
Unionville then went three-and-out, and a punt put the ball at the Rustin 29. From there, the Golden Knights ground out a 71 yard TD drive on 11 consecutive running plays, with Madonna and Gallen the prime ballcarriers. Madonna, who ripped off gains of 17 and 12 yards on the drive, scored from the 2 yard line to make it 21-7 with 9:43 left.
“In the second half, we started to run the ball outside a little bit, and then we ran the ball up the middle with our fullback,” said Madonna. “Our linemen stepped up big time tonight. In the beginning of the game, we were stopping ourselves with our penalties, but we did what we needed to do to fix ourselves and stay disciplined.”
With a little over four minutes left, Rustin senior defensive back Daniel McKnight intercepted a Unionville pass at midfield and returned it to the Indians’ 15. The Golden Knights chewed up the clock with six plays, the final one a four-yard touchdown pass from Crispino to sophomore back Anthony Meadows on fourth-and-goal to make the score 28-7.
St. Clair spread the credit around for the Golden Knights’ tough defense.
“[Defense end] Matt Montgomery does a great job, so does [middle linebacker] Anthony Meadows, our whole defensive team did a great job tonight, like they’ve done all year,” said St. Clair. “They did a great job shutting down a very good offense tonight.”
On the Unionville side, Clark spoke of the Indians’ need to tighten up their run defense.
Clark said, “Our kids played with great effort tonight, but if you miss a tackle, a second-and-six goes to a 2nd-and-3 and then they convert to a first down. We have to work on getting better, as coaches and as kids, against the run. If we have an Achilles heel, people have hurt us in the run game, and if we’re not better next week, Avon Grove will do the same thing to us.
“We’re still alive for a [District 1 5A] playoff berth; getting a fifth win is really critical, righting the ship and getting a little momentum the last two weeks. But I love our kids’ effort; we’re playing better and better. I think there’s some small things we can correct and be better next week.”

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