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Joe Zubillaga, Unionville to battle Springfield-Delco for District 1 football crown

Unionville's last District 1 football championship came in 1994, when the Indians defeated Methacton, 28-24.

Unionville’s Joe Zubillaga (1) looks for running room in a 41-14 win over Ches-Mont League American Division rival Great Valley.
Unionville’s Joe Zubillaga (1) looks for running room in a 41-14 win over Ches-Mont League American Division rival Great Valley.Read moreTRACI SCHILLING

Sparked by Joe Zubillaga, one of the area's top multipurpose players, Unionville is in position to win its first PIAA District 1 football championship in 23 years.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior shines as a wide receiver and outside linebacker. He also takes between 15 to 20 snaps at quarterback in the spread offense that the Indians switched to early in the season.

"We want to get the ball in his hands as much as possible," Unionville coach Pat Clark said.

Zubillaga ran for a pair of scores and was on the receiving end of two more as the No. 3-seeded Indians turned back No. 7 Marple Newtown, 36-21, last Friday night in a District 1 Class 5A semifinal playoff.

The Ches-Mont League American Division champs will try for their first district title since 1994 when they visit top-seeded and undefeated Springfield-Delco  at 7 p.m. Friday.

"We knew this could be a special season because we had a number of good playmakers coming back," Zubillaga said.

Zubillaga started at quarterback much of last season after Alex Gorgone went down with an injury. "It was a little difficult, but I believed I had the athleticism to do it," Zubillaga said.

A healthy Gorgone now takes the bulk of the snaps.

"He's making smart decisions with the ball and his pocket presence is very good," Clark said of the 5-11, 175-pound senior.

Zubillaga and Gorgone are supported by running backs Dante Graham and Joe Fariello and wide receiver J.T. Hower.

"I think my offensive coordinator [Tim Murphy] has done a nice job of blending the kids' talents," said Clark, whose squad operated out of an I-formation set to start the season.

The charge up front for a unit that averages 37.8 points is led by center Cole Sheehan (6-0, 210), left guard Pablo Aviles Bernal (5-10, 205), and right tackle Joe Hagen (6-3, 240).

Unionville's 3-4 defense is spearheaded by Zubillaga and fellow outside linebacker Alijah Woodall, end Zach Lawrence, and backs Hower, Aidan Boyle, and Connor Schilling.

A Springfield offense averaging 32.8 points is ignited by running backs Ja'Den McKenzie and Phil Shovlin, quarterback Jack Psenicska, and receiver Kyle Long.

McKenzie has carried 176 times for 1,222 yards and 17 touchdowns. "He's a powerful downhill runner," Clark said. "Once he gets going, he's hard to stop."

Zubillaga, who was selected the Ches-Mont American player of the year, has drawn the most recruiting interest from Bryant and Cornell. The Kennett Square resident plans to major in engineering in college.

Pick Six


Unionville (12-1) at Springfield (13-0), 7 p.m. The Cougars escape Zubillaga and company on a late field goal by Jack Coary. Pick: Springfield, 27-24.

Coatesville (12-1) at Garnet Valley (12-1), 7 p.m. The Red Raiders' quick-strike offense trumps Garnet Valley's run-heavy attack. Pick: Coatesville, 35-21.

Imhotep Charter (10-1) vs. Valley View (10-3), at Northern Lehigh, 7 p.m. The Panthers advance behind the one-two rushing punch of Isheem Young and Carl Jones. Pick: Imhotep, 46-16.

Neumann-Goretti (11-0) vs. Southern Columbia (13-0), at Lehighton, 7 p.m. Jim Roth has guided the Tigers to a 409-63-2 record in 35 seasons. Pick: Southern Columbia, 42-26.


St. Joseph's Prep (11-0) vs. Parkland (13-0), at Bethlehem Liberty, 1 p.m. The Hawks defense needs to slow bullish running back Jahan Worth. Pick: St. Joe's Prep, 23-21.

Palisades (13-0) vs. Conwell-Egan (6-6), at Northeast, 1 p.m. The Pirates netted 487 rushing yards to outlast Lehighton, 48-42, in the District 11 final. Pick: Palisades, 38-23.