ASTON — Sun Valley's football team is having its problems, and for the most part those woes have something to do with timing.
After a seven-win growing season a year ago, the Vanguards are dealing with too much youth in vulnerable spots as they kicks into their tough Ches-Mont American schedule. That place of inexperience is primarily in the trenches, where, as the old and correct cliche goes, games are won and lost.
So it went Friday night, as a similarly young but still developing Unionville team controlled the line of scrimmage and eventually dashed to a 38-13 victory over Sun Valley. Unionville, just three weeks removed from being routed by nonleague rival Garnet Valley to start the season, has cut on a dime and reeled off three impressive victories. It was to the Vanguards' misfortune that they were playing host in the week that the Indians seemed to hit their stride.
"But we're really young,' coach Pat Clark stressed. "We're starting a lot of underclassmen, and that leaves you without a lot of depth.'
But along the line and certainly in the skill positions, Unionville seems just fine. As Clark acknowledged, "We have speed.'
Leading the way there for much of the night were alternating running backs Dom DiBiaggio, Garrett Scargill and sophomore Brandon Boon. They essentially served as clock killers and set-up runners for talented Indians quarterback Alex Pechin, a junior who used leg and arm alike in sinking Sun Valley fast.
"Our team's really fighting hard and playing well on both sides of the ball,' Pechin said. "All of our linemen are doing a really good job. We can run the ball when we want to and we can pass the ball when we want to, and that's pretty hard to defend.'
Pechin showed his prowess right away, as he finished up what had been a 12-play drive by booting a 41-yard field goal, which hit the back bar where it intersects with the crossbar and tumbled over. Longest field goal for this quarterback? "Yeah,' he said, "in a game. In practice, I've hit from 52.'
That's impressive enough, but Pechin soon showed where his true talents lie. He hit on touchdown passes of 27 yards to Chris Koehler and 11 yards to David Daly as Unionville ran out to a 17-0 halftime lead. Of course, the Indians' superb blocking had a lot to do with that. As did the Vanguards' youth.
"We're not stout up front right now,' Sun Valley coach Jim Grugan said. "On offense, we're replacing four offensive linemen and defensively, basically we're replacing everybody, linebackers as well. They're all guys that played JV last year. But that's not an excuse. We were in position, we just didn't make plays.'
Sun Valley senior receiver Ryan Riddle said the problems extend beyond just inexperience. He thinks the Vanguards have to learn to believe in themselves.
"I don't know, it's like we're not giving the effort that we need to,' Riddle said. "We're not going as hard in practice as we did last year and we need more leadership.
"I thought this was a very winnable game. But once they went up two touchdowns, it just fell apart.'
That showed on the opening kick of the second half, which was returned to the Sun Valley 44. Two rushes by Scargill later, Unionville had another touchdown. And before the Vanguards knew what hit them, the Indians struck again, this time on a 20-yard dash by substitute running back Austin Hoffman-Reardon for a 31-0 lead.
If the Indians do have depth, it is in that backfield. Hoffman-Reardon wound up rushing seven times in the second half for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
Of course, the Vanguards defense was a bit worn down by then.
"With our guys going both ways, it's not like I can say, ' All right, I've got to get my defense off the field,'' Grugan said. "They're the same kids going both ways. Our defense was definitely on there too long. We couldn't sustain a drive in the first half, and we're not eating up enough clock on offense to keep our guys fresh.'
Sun Valley would have its moments late. Riddle was fresh enough in the fourth quarter to catch an 8-yard scoring strike from Mancini, who earlier in the quarter scored from the 4 on an end around.