The Unionville High School football team captured its second straight Southern Chester County League championship last weekend, and now the Indians are gearing up for what they hope is a long post-season run.
Unionville (8-2 overall) will open the District 1 Class AAA playoffs on Friday night, Nov. 10, when they travel to Marple Newtown for a 7 p.m. showdown with the Central League Tigers at Harry Harvey Stadium.
The Indians will enter the game on a high note. For starters, they routed Academy Park, 40-7, in its regular season finale. More importantly, they won the SCCL title thanks to Garnet Valley's victory over Sun Valley last Friday night.
Unionville and Garnet Valley both finished 5-1 in the league, but the Indians held the tiebreaker by virtue of its 29-28 win over the Jaguars on Oct. 13. Sun Valley, who had defeated Unionville 7-6 on Oct. 27, would've captured the league crown outright with a win over Garnet Valley. However, a loss to the Jaguars last weekend coupled with an early season defeat at Great Valley dropped Sun Valley to 4-2 in the SCCL and out of the title picture.
"We needed a little help, but we'll take it," said Unionville head coach Pat Clark. "That was our primary goal -- to repeat as league champs and get back to the playoffs. We're in a good league, and having won it last year, we were everybody's big game this year, and our kids rose to the challenge. We overcame a lot of injuries throughout the year and it's a little sweeter winning it the second time around."
Last year, Unionville went undefeated in the regular season en route to the SCCL title. The Indians, seeded second in the district tournament, defeated Bok Tech in its opener before suffering its only loss of the season to Strath Haven, 21-3, in the District 1 Class AAA title game.
"That loss has been in the back of our minds ever since pre-season camp," said Unionville senior linebacker Colton Vosburgh. "We're ready to make our mark. Not only by winning the SCCL back-to-back, but we think we can play with anybody in the district."
Unionville's defense is allowing less than 10 points a game so far this fall. In seven of its 10 games, the Indians have surrendered seven points or fewer.
"We're always flying to the ball," said Vosburgh. "We're not the biggest around, but we play with a lot of heart and we hit hard. We pride ourselves on the fact that if the other team doesn't score, they can't win."
Unionville's only two losses this season have been by one point, to Avon Grove (21-20) on Sept. 15 and to Sun Valley (7-6) on Oct. 27. The Indians have outscored its opposition 306-96 this season.
Offensively, that's an average of more than 30 points a game.
Junior quarterback Matt Carroll leads an Indians offense that features one of the strongest rushing attacks around. Senior running backs Eric DiProspero and Joe Mulvihill are two of the primary ball carriers.
"We really have a lot of weapons on offense. A lot of people that can hurt you," said DiProspero. "Our line isn't the biggest, but they're one of the best around. And you can't say enough about Carroll."
When DiProspero and the rest of the seniors on Unionville's roster were freshman, the Indians suffered through a 1-9 season. The football program has gone from rags to riches throughout his senior classes four years at the school.
"I was here for the 1-9 season and to cap things off with what would be a complete turnaround would be a storybook ending," said DiProspero. "We've won the league title, and now we're shooting for the district title. As a team we don't like to lose at all. It's only happened three times in the last two years. The Sun Valley loss was devastating. We can make excuses, but it's a wakeup call heading into the playoffs."
Unionville will open districts against a Marple Newtown squad that finished third in the Central League. The Tigers (8-2 overall) suffered its only two losses this season to the teams that finished ahead of them in the league race: Upper Darby (20-12 on Sept. 8) and Ridley (24-0 on Oct. 13). Both Upper Darby and Ridley qualified for the District 1 AAAA tournament.
In its eight victories this season, Marple Newtown has outscored its opponents 219-27, and that includes five shutouts.
"I think our two teams are kind of mirror images of one another," said Clark, who spent five years as head coach of Marple Newtown prior to coming to Unionville. "They run the football well like we do and they play good defense."
The Unionville/Marple Newtown winner will play the winner of the Sun Valley/Upper Moreland game in the second round of the district tournament. Two wins gets you into the district title game.
"We're really looking forward to the playoffs," said Clark. "It's a wide open field and we have as good a shot as anybody. We've played some quality opponents and we're ready."