By NATE HECKENBERGER
EAST MARLBOROUGH -- Perched atop the Class AAAA District 1 playoffs rankings coming into week eight, West Chester Rustin had its share of skeptics.
Sure, the Golden Knights were 7-0, but were they really an upper-echelon team in Southeastern Pa? That question will be answered better in the upcoming weeks, but after Friday, Rustin went a long way in changing some outsiders' perspectives.
The Golden Knights rolled into Unionville, smacked the Indians in the mouth by a score of 34-20, and set themselves up to win their fifth Ches-Mont American Division title in six years.
Rustin (4-0 division, 8-0) needs a win against either Kennett or Octorara the next two weeks to clinch the title. Terry Loper led the Knights with 185 yards on 33 carries against Unionville to unofficially punch Rustin's ticket to the postseason.
"We were determined to come out with a fast-paced tempo,' said Loper, who has a league-high 1,342 rushing yards this fall. "The holes were so big, any back playing in this offense could get as many yards as myself or TJ Kirk or Michael Pernsley. The line was outstanding.'
Everything worked out for Rustin to jump on Unionville, (3-1, 6-2) as the opening kick took a weird bounce and forced the Indians to start at their own eight. The Knights forced a three-and-out and Loper carried the ball on Rustin's first seven plays before scoring on the ninth from four yards out.
Unionville responded with a drive into the Rustin zone, but was forced to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Alex Pechin, who also made a 26-yarder and averaged 55 yards on three punts.
Rustin went right back at it and on a key play in the first half, Loper broke free on a run off the right side and sprinted for a 42-yard touchdown on fourth-and-one.
"We were able to get a little push up front and (Unionville) has some big boys that clog holes,' Rustin coach Mike St. Clair said. "They were able to give us some seams and when Loper hits a seam, I don't think many are gonna catch him.'
Ethan Ridgeway picked off Pechin three plays later and on the very next play, took a pitch from Loper on an end around and flashed to the corner for a 16-yard score to put Rustin up 20-3.
Andrew Amicone also recorded an interception for Rustin, who turned Unionville into a one-dimensional offense. Pechin struggled, completing 15 of 34 passes, with 77 of his 200 yards coming in the first half.
"If you can't get the ground game established it's going to be a long night for the quarterback,' Unionville coach Pat Clark said. "We made mistakes and everyone took their turn, but we could never get any assemblance of a run game established. Given that we had to throw every down, (Pechin) did a good job.'
The first drive of the second half often dictates how the game ends, and Rustin did its job in putting the game out of reach with a 10-play, 59-yard, 5 minute, 48 second drive concluding with a 16-yard TD pass from Dave Fithian to Matt Hosking.
Pechin got in more of a groove the second half, eventually hitting Chris Koehler for a 22-yard score in the third quarter, but Kirk scored on a 47-yard jaunt five plays later to push Rustin's lead back to 21.
Christos Moscharis, Phil Vecchiolli, Frank Hosking III, Sean Steinmetz, Ray Bordley and Hosking controlled the line of scrimmage for the Knights, helping their back to 272 yards.
Rustin will be a heavy favorite against Kennett and Octorara, who have four wins between the two of them.
"With the amount of players we have on this team, anything's possible,' Loper said. "We're happy to beat Unionville for the seniors and we're one step closer.'
Unionville's road to the postseason looks a little rockier with a pair of six-win teams, Great Valley and Oxford, on deck. At 8-2, Unionville probably gets in to the playoffs, but 7-3 is a murky predicament and 6-4 is likely a no-go.
"If we don't win two games we're gonna finish in fourth place (in the division) and that hasn't happened in 10 years,' Clark said. "All we can talk about now is winning next week.'
West Chester Rustin 34, Unionville 20
W. C. Rustin 6 14 14 0 --- 34
W. C. East 3 3 7 7 — 20
WCR- Loper 4 run (kick failed)
UV- Pechin 42 FG
WCR- Loper 42 run (Anderson kick)
WCR- Ridgeway 16 run (Anderson kick)
UV- Pechin 26 FG
WCR- Hoskin 16 pass from Fithian (Anderson kick)
UV- Koehler 22 pass from Pechin (Crowley kick)
WCR- Kirk 47 run (Anderson kick)
UV- Hoffman-Reardon 1 run (Crowley kick)
First downs 14 16
Rushing yards 272 91
Passing yards 38 200
Total yards 310 291
Passing 4-8-0 15-35-2
Punts-Average 3-37.3 3-55.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 5-41 4-25
Rushing: WCR- Loper 33-185, 2 TDs; Kirk 6-64, TD; Ridgeway 1-16, TD; Fithian 5-7. UV- Pechin 14-52; Boon 3-17; Scargill 6-13; DiBaggio 2-8; Hoffman-Reardon 1-1, TD.
Passing: WCR- Fithian 4-8-38, TD. UV- Pechin 15-34-200, TD, 2 INTs; Boyle 0-1-0.
Receiving: WCR- Ridgeway 2-16; Hoskin 1-16, TD; Stewart 1-6. UV- Nash 6-74; Scargill 3-40; Koehler 2-36, TD; McClaskey 1-20; Daly 1-11; Boon 1-7.
Sacks: WCR- Lindauer 1.5; Dunion; Miller .5. UV- none.
Interceptions: WCR- Ridgeway, Amicone. UV- none.