EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Desperate for a win to get back on track and notch its first home victory in three tries this season, undermanned Unionville turned to two longtime and reliable facets of the program: defense and the running game.
Senior runner Joe King handled much of the first priority by rushing for 156 yards on 26 carries, and scoring the only two touchdowns of the evening. And the Longhorns’ defense limited West Chester East – and star runner Mitch Ragni – to well below its season average, on the way to a 17-0 shutout over the Vikings in Ches-Mont American action on Friday.
“We had a lot of new kids step up this week,” said Unionville head coach Pat Clark. “We always talk about ‘next man up,’ and I’m so fortunate to have kids who care and compete.
“We are a little banged up, but we were able to run the football. And I thought we were really good on defense. Our front seven did a very good job on a great running back.”
The ‘Horns are, indeed, banged up and had to go without starting quarterback Levi Brawley (concussion) and key two-way stalwarts: lineman Quintan Boyle and wideout/safety Tucker Opdahl, who were out with knee injuries.
“After losing to Oxford (last week) for the first time in 25 years, we needed this win,” King said. “A lot of people got hurt in that game, but we were still able to bounce back.”
Ragni entered the day averaging just over 100 yards per game on the ground, but was held to just 34, and his longest play from scrimmage was 10 yards. The bruising 220-pound senior did have a highlight reel 73-yard TD run in the second half, but it was negated by a holding call.
“We’d take two steps forward and then there would be some sort of critical play, error or mistake that set us back,” said East head coach Scott Stephen. “It cost us tonight. We have got to get better.”
Unionville improves to 2-1 in the division (2-2 overall). The Vikings fall to 0-3, 0-4.
“Even though we’ve lost a couple games, our kids haven’t questioned who we are,” Clark said. “They were really focused tonight. We had a good week of practice and got better each day.”
In all, the Longhorns limited East to just 121 yards of total offense. The Vikings also committed a couple turnovers and also went for it on fourth down and failed to convert three separate times.
“It was just like every game, it is going to come down to execution. Unionville did a nice job with that, so hats off to them,” Stephen said.
“I wish we could have scored a few more points, but I love seeing that zero on the scoreboard,” added King, who is a cornerback on defense.
“We knew (Ragni) is a big asset to (East) and that they would try to pound the ball to him.”
Unionville got a 35-yard field goal from Jack Reichert early in the second quarter to take the lead. And then the Longhorns made it 10-0 after taking advantage of an East turnover, when junior linebacker Mick Levendis forced a fumble deep in Vikings territory that was recovered by teammate Nate D’Angelo. Three plays later King found the end zone on a 3-yard run.
The lone score in the second half came on a 32-yard, fourth-down run by King, culminating a six-play, 57-yard scoring drive. It was his longest of the day. And his backup – freshman Brody McLaughlin – chipped in an additional 42 yards on nine attempts.
“I loved it,” King said. “And I wasn’t the only one running the football. When I needed a little break (McLaughlin) came in and did the job.”
Clark agreed: “We’ve been blessed with great tailbacks here and Joe is the next in line. And I thought his backup, Brody, gave us a couple good series. Joe plays all the time for us, so that enabled us to keep Joe fresh until the end.”
Sophomore quarterback Nate DeRosa threw for 60 yards and ran for another 25 for East. His favorite target was tight end Mason Grear, who nabbed two catches for 51 yards.
“We have work to do,” Stephen said. “There is nothing we can do right now to change what just happened, but we can control how we prepare for our next opponent (Chester).”
Sophomore Luke Stang filled in for Brawley. He only attempted six passes and connected on two for 31 yards.
“Our coaches say: ‘next man up,’” King said. “Everybody on this team, even our freshmen, are not JV. We are all here to play varsity football.”
Unionville 17, West Chester East 0
WC East 0 0 0 0 — 0
Unionville 0 10 0 7 — 17
U – Reichert 35 FG
U – King 3 run (Reichert kick)
U – King 32 run (Reichert kick)
First downs 5 12
Yards rushing 61,218
Yards passing 60 31
Total yards 121,249
Passing 5-15-0-1 2-6-0-0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 3-1
Punts Ave. 4-26.2 1-48
Penalties yds 3-20 9-55
RUSHING – WCE: Ragni 10-34; Wileczek 2-2; DeRosa 10-25. U: King 26-156, 2 TDs; Rod 14-20; McLaughlin 9-42.
PASSING – WCE: DeRosa 5-14-0-1, 60 yards; Renzi 0-0. U: Rod 2-6-0-0, 31 yards.
RECEIVING – WCE: Grear 2-51; Driscoll 1-4; Wileczek 2-15. U: Tarr 1-20; Kelly 1-11.
Sacks — WCE: Kulp, Morine. U: Cassidy, Holt, Levendis.
Interceptions — U: Tarr.