Football: Unionville survives slugfest against Garnet Valley

In another classic between the host, Unionville, and Central League opponent Garnet Valley, nearly 45 minutes of unrelenting defense by both teams boiled down to a fourth-and-goal from the Unionville five yard line.

As Garnet Valley’s Conner Flanagan rolled to his right, Unionville sophomore Shane Jones, who entered the game two plays prior, wrapped the senior quarterback’s legs, forcing him to heave the ball straight up in desperation. Unionville’s Sam Gangel came down with it, creating an eruption from the Indians’ sideline and all but sealing an 8-6 victory by Unionville, Friday night.

The nailbiter marks the fifth straight season the neighborly rivals have decided their annual season opener by a touchdown or less.

“Everything was going through my head,” Jones said. “I had to do one thing, (squeeze the tight end), and I tried my best to do it and to make a play.”

Unionville (1-0) and Garnet (0-1) made play after play, defensively, both turning one another away inside the red zone in the second half. The difference was special teams, as Unionville got two field goals by Alex Pechin, including a 50-yarder, and a high snap by the Jaguars’ punt team that resulted in a safety.

“Wow,” said Unionville coach Pat Clark when trying to summarize his team’s effort. “It was back and forth and we played great D. It’s as good an effort as I’ve seen in 10 years. … 1-and-0 is better than 0-1, but we still have things to work on and have to get better, but it helps to play hard against a good team.”

Garnet struck the first play of the second quarter on a fourth-and-four play action pass from Flanagan to tight end Tom Cleary from 20-yards out. The extra point was wide, making it 6-3.

“It’s a great rivalry and most years it comes down to the wire,” Garnet coach Mike Ricci said. “It’s a great crowd and great atmosphere and it’s great to have a first game against a quality opponent to find out what we need to do to get better.”

The Jags clung to a 6-5 lead the entire third quarter even though Unionville had the ball for 10 minutes, 15 seconds. On the Indians first drive to open the half, they reached the Garnet 20 before Martin Faith stripped Pechin and Joe Hagarty recovered.

“In a close game the team that controls the ball most times wins the game,” Ricci said. “(Unionville) had a big drive to do that, but I was proud of our D for stopping them from getting into the endzone.”

Unionville forced a three-and-out and got the ball back at the Garnet 34. Once again the Indians marched deep into Jaguar territory, but couldn’t capitalize on a first-and-goal from the three and settled for a 20-yard field goal by Pechin.

“That’s why we defer to the second half,” Clark said. “We feel like we can control the second half and make it a 24-minute game. Our kids did a nice job playing physical, tough football and we were able to run between the tackles and chew up some clock.”

Flanagan orchestrated the option offense very efficiently on the ensuing drive, marching the Jaguars 73 yards for an eventual third-and-goal at the Unionville two. A bad snap on third down resulted in a three-yard loss, setting up a decision on whether to try a field goal or go for it.

“We know Pechin is so solid that we didn’t want to give him a chance to win it with a field goal,” Ricci said. “We felt we had a play call that we could execute, but we weren’t able and (Unionville) made a big play.”

Unionville mustered 212 total yards, while Garnet finished with 207. Big plays were hard to come by, offensively.

Pechin, who accounted for over 2,000 yards rushing and passing last season, did not have his best game from the QB spot, losing two fumbles and completing just three of eight passes. But between the two field goals, a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff and a 22-yard run on a fake punt, he found ways to make an impact.

And when his team needed him most, he ran for 25 yards on third-and-seven from the Unionville 28 to milk almost two minutes on the Indians’ final drive.

“(Pechin’s) one of the best athletes in the county,” Clark said. “Whether it’s football or baseball or basketball, he has great skills in all the sports. He’s as well-rounded a kid I’ve ever experienced.”

Garnet ran a hook-and-ladder the final play of the game, but came up about 20 yards short of a miracle ending.

Since Clark took over Unionville in 2004, Garnet has won seven of the 12 matchups, including four of the last six.

Garnet Valley 0 6 0 0—6

Unionville 3 2 0 3 — 8

Scoring

UV- Pechin 50 FG

GV- Cleary 20 pass from Flanagan (kick failed)

UV- Safety

UV- Pechin 20 FG

TEAM STATISTICS

GV UV

First downs 9 13

Rushing yards 158 168

Passing yards 49 44

Total yards 207 212

Passing 6-11-1 3-8-0

Punts-Average 4-29 2-36.5

Fumbles-Lost 2-0 3-2

Penalties-Yards 10-60 4-40

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing: GV- West 19-72; Flanagan 13-50; Pyrih 0-27; B. Williams 2-10; team 1-(-1). UV- Hofmann-Reardon 13-62; Pechin 11-44; Boyle 6-27; Boon 15-24; Nash 1-8; Cheyney 1-3.

Passing: GV- Flanagan 6-11, 49 yards, TD, INT. UV- Pechin 3-8, 44 yards.

Receiving: GV- Cleary 3-34, TD; Nelson 3-15. UV- Nash 1-21; Hofmann-Reardon 1-12; Marmo 1-11.

Sacks: GV- Granahan 2, Faith. UV- Cheyney.

Interceptions: UV- Gangel.