EAST MARLBOROUGH - Garnet Valley senior quarterback Ryan Corkery wasn’t asked to throw the ball much during Friday night’s nonleague showdown against Unionville. He completed only two passes on the night, but boy were they both big ones -- each going for touchdowns.
The Jags certainly needed every one of them to prevail in a down-to-the-wire thriller. Corkery’s second touchdown pass of the game, a 76-yard toss to Michael Bruette late in the third quarter, proved to be the game-winner as Garnet Valley overcame a 13-point deficit to beat the host Indians, 21-20, in front of a packed house at Unionville High School.
The Jaguars (1-0), who trailed 20-7 and then 20-14 at halftime, used a ferocious defensive effort in holding the Indians scoreless over the final 31 minutes. They allowed just 71 yards of total offense in the second half.
Still, they needed to dodge a late bullet as Unionville’s Sean Barnes narrowly missed wide right with a 30-yard field goal with 4:16 left that would’ve given the Indians a late lead after the Jags had fumbled away a punt deep in their own end.
From that point, Garnet Valley chalked up three straight first downs -- two of which were converted by Corkery on key runs -- as they ran out the rest of the clock.
Corkery, who rushed for 63 yards and passed for 83 in his first game back after reconstructive surgery on his ACL after getting injured in last season’s district playoffs, didn’t have to do much work on his game-changing second touchdown toss.
He hit a wide open Bruette out in the flat about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, and Bruette did the rest on his 76-yard scoring reception that proved to be the difference.
“I got rushed on the back side, scrambled out, and got him the ball,” said Corkery. “He made a bunch of guys miss. It was an outstanding job by him. We might not throw it much sometimes, but we emphasize making big pass plays when we do.
“We’ve been down before so many times in games, but we refuse to hang our heads and we always fight till the end. There is definitely a rivalry between the two of us, and last year they beat us in the first game and that was our only loss of the regular season. We didn’t want to lose to them twice.”
Unionville (0-1) seemed to be in complete control of this one early.
After Garnet Valley marched right down the field on the opening drive of the game to score on a 5-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Jake Irving, who rushed for a team-high 94 yards on 18 carries, the Indians responded by scoring the next 20 points.
They answered right back on their first drive of the contest, as Brad Pechin (68 yards on 18 carries) scored on a 6-yard run. The ensuing extra point was no good, however, leaving the Indians down 7-6. That proved to be extremely costly down the road.
With 52 seconds left in the opening quarter, Unionville quarterback Tom Pancoast threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Patch Johnson on third-and-10 to give the Indians a 13-7 advantage.
Their lead grew to 20-7 with 6:58 left in the second quarter when defensive lineman Stephen Lange picked up a fumble and steamrolled 37 yards for a touchdown.
From that point, though, things went downhill for the Indians.
“I have a lot of respect for Garnet Valley and their program, and they certainly made the plays to win tonight, but from our perspective we feel like we let one slip away,” said Unionville coach Pat Clark. “I can’t fault our effort one bit, but we made a lot of mistakes and you simply can’t do that against a team as good as they are.”
Garnet Valley got a key touchdown right before halftime to cut the deficit to 20-14 at the break. Corkery completed a 7-yard scoring strike to Jude DiGiacomo with 1:02 to play in the second quarter.
“I told them at halftime to just stay together,” said Garnet Valley coach Mike Ricci. “We knew Unionville was going to give us problems -- they are always a great test for us.
“We are a team that believes in one another. Our defense made up our minds that they were going to make stops and they did just that, after Unionville moved the ball on us early on. Their field goal at the end was close, but in a game like this, every little thing helps.”
Garnet Valley 21,
Garnet Valley 7 7 7 0 -- 21
Unionville 13 7 0 0 -- 20
GV-Irving 5 run (Dowd kick)
U-Pechin 6 run (Kick failed)
U-Johnson 10 pass from Pancoast (Barnes kick)
U-Lange 37 fumble recovery (Barnes kick)
GV-DiGiacomo 7 pass from Corkery (Dowd kick)
GV-Bruette 76 pass from Corkery (Dowd kick)
First downs 12 11
Yards rushing 162 140
Yards passing 83 85
Total yards 245 225
Passing 2-7-0 5-11-0
Fumbles-Lost 5-2 2-0
Penalties 1-11 7-55
Punts-Avg. 3-29.0 4-33.2
RUSHING - Garnet Valley: Irving 18-94, TD; Corkery 13-63; Bennett 10-14; Bruette 2-14; Razzano 1-5; Zaza 1-3; Portale 1-(-31). Unionville: Pechin 18-68, TD; Pancoast 11-52; Stradling 4-15; Scargill 1-3; Christopher 2-2.
PASSING - Garnet Valley: Corkery 2-7, 83 yds, 2 TDs. Unionville: Pancoast 5-11, 85 yds, TD.
RECEIVING - Garnet Valley: Bruette 1-76, TD; DiGiacomo 1-7, TD. Unionville: Johnson 4-70, TD; Pechin 1-15.