By NATE HECKENBERGER
Since Pat Clark became head coach at Unionville in 2004, arguably only the Downingtowns have had a better run of quarterbacks in that span.
From Matt Carroll to Connor Gades to Tommy Pancoast, Clark has won a lot of games (8.3 per year on average) with multiple-year starters in his first nine years.
Maybe as much as it's been nice to have returning starters under center for Clark, it's been his ability to adapt to the talents of his signal caller -- a task not all coaches are willing to do.
Junior Alex Pechin is proof of that. In the last decade Clark's offense has gone from a predominantly option-oriented scheme to one that totals more passing than rushing yards this season. With the multi-talented Pechin at the helm, Clark really had no choice.
"The pass attempts and yards are up because I think it complements what we're always trying to do and that's win football games,' Clark said. "The passing game allows you to change momentum so quickly.'
Like his predecessors, Pechin dictates how effective the offense is. Unlike those QBs before him, Pechin does it more with his arm than his legs.
Through six games, Pechin has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1099 yards and 11 touchdowns, with only three interceptions. The result has been a five-game win streak and a four-game streak without a turnover.
"He has such good vision,' Clark said. "He's able to see and read the defense and process it and make decisions so quickly.'
Pechin's natural ability transcends into other sports, as well. The 5-foot-11 QB plays guard on the basketball team in the winter and uses his arm as a pitcher and outfielder in the spring. Just this summer Pechin was a part of Kennett Square's little league team that reached the Senior League World Series final.
Pechin pitched a complete game seven-hitter in a 2-1 loss to Panama, and though it delayed the start of his football season a bit, it's been a heck of an athletic year so far.
"Coming off of baseball I thought that would be one of the best things I'd ever do,' Pechin said. "But we've been playing great on the football field, so that's been awesome, too.'
As Clark explains it, he's traded "quarterback carries for quarterback passes.' Unionville has always used the midline option to attack defenses, but through six games, Pechin has less than half the carries Indian quarterbacks have the past three seasons at this point. On the other hand, Pechin already has more passing yards in six games than Pancoast or Gades did in any season.
Unionville has actually become a very balanced offense, despite Pechin's impressive numbers. Eight Indians have caught passes, and six have eight or more receptions. Chris Koehler leads the team with 12, David Daly is next with 11 and Elan Nash (10), Dan McClaskey (nine), Garrett Scargill (nine) and Dom DiBaggio (eight) follow.
"We try to play to Alex's strength,' Clark said. "It helps spread the defense out. There's a lot of ways to get stuff done.'
Clark's offense has passed for 1,147 yards and rushed for 1,065. Scargill leads the team with 447 rushing yards and five scores, adding 255 receiving yards and three more TDs.
Defenses used to focusing on Unionville's power running game now have to add an equally dangerous passing game to the mix.
The Indians travel to Octorara as a healthy favorite tonight before finishing their year with West Chester Rustin, Great Valley and Oxford. Since a week one loss to Garnet Valley, Unionville hasn't really been challenged, but the difficulty level is about to be elevated. For Pechin, that's right in his wheelhouse.
"Competition makes it all amazing,' Pechin said. "Everyone wants to win. I hate losing and love competing. Playing against some very good teams is part of it.'
For Clark, adaptation never felt so good.