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Unionville aims to upset mighty Archbishop Wood in 5A semifinal

Joe Zubillaga and District 1 champion Unionville look to stop Wood's drive toward another state championship.

Unionville’s Joe Zubillaga (1) takes down Springfield’s Ja’Den McKenzie (13) in last week’s PIAA District 1 Class 5A final.
Unionville’s Joe Zubillaga (1) takes down Springfield’s Ja’Den McKenzie (13) in last week’s PIAA District 1 Class 5A final.Read moreMARK C PSORAS

Pat Clark and his Unionville players realize it will likely take a near-perfect effort to derail Archbishop Wood's drive toward a fifth state football title in seven seasons.

But, not surprisingly, the Indians believe they have a shot at becoming the first District 1 squad to knock off the Vikings in nine playoff tries.

"We really don't worry about talk of them being favored," Clark said. "We just worry about our team and being as prepared as possible to play them."

Fresh off beating Springfield (Delco) for its first district crown in 23 years, Unionville (13-1) will take on Wood (10-2) in a PIAA Class 5A semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday at Northeast.

After a 2-2 start, the Vikings have won eight straight games by a combined margin of 334-75. In their latest victory, a 41-14 romp over District 2's Wyoming Valley, they rushed 43 times for 319 yards and five scores.

Unionville has a do-everything player in Joe Zubillaga. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior excels as a wide receiver, occasional quarterback, and outside linebacker.

"They try to get him the ball in a lot of ways," Wood coach Steve Devlin said. "He's a great athlete, quick, and dangerous with the ball."

Zubillaga is supported on offense by QB Alex Gorgone, running backs Dante Graham and Joe Fariello, and receiver J.T. Hower.

Of Hower, who also plays cornerback and returns punts, Devlin said, "He's very good on both sides of the ball. He definitely stands out on film."

The charge up front for the Indians, who average 35.1 points per game, is led by tackle Joe Hagen (6-3, 235) and guards Pablo Aviles Bernal (5-10, 205) and J.B. Bowers (6-1, 245).

Vikings tailback Nasir Peoples has carried 184 times for 1,427 yards and 22 touchdowns. Fullback Adrian Lambert has chipped in 265 yards and four scores on 49 attempts.

"Peoples is extremely talented, and then they'll throw you a change-up in No. 1 [Lambert]," Clark said.

Unionville needs a rock-solid showing from a defense that is headed by Zubillaga and fellow outside linebacker Alijah Woodall, ends Hagen and Zach Lawrence, cornerbacks Hower and Connor Schilling, and safeties Aidan Boyle and Theron Schilling.

Pick: Wood, 38-14.

Class 4A

Imhotep Charter (11-1) looks to punch is third straight ticket to Hershey when it takes on District 11's Bethlehem Catholic (12-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at the Northwest Philly Super Site.

Imhotep running backs Isheem Young, Carl Jones, and Khadarius Sampson have combined for 1,892 yards and 30 TDs.

Jalen Sutton-Christian has connected on 86 of 132 throws for 1,562 yards and 21 scores. His primary targets are Yusuf Terry, Tykee Smith, and Anthony Gordon.

Bethlehem Catholic squeaked past District 4's Selinsgrove, 33-32, in the quarterfinals. The Golden Hawks' Tavion Banks, Matt Bisko, and Zahir Seabrooks have combined for 2,740 rushing yards and 41 TDs.

Imhotep's defense also has to be wary of QB Javon Clements, who has thrown for 2,236 yards and 19 TDs.

Pick: Imhotep, 30-23.

Class 3A

Conwell-Egan's Cinderella run in the playoffs continues against District 3's Middletown. The speed-laden Blue Raiders (13-0) have outscored foes by 548-93.

Middletown's Brady Fox has rushed for 1,402 yards and 26 TDs. Backfield partner Jose Lopez (1,749, 25) did not play in last Saturday's 35-0 rout of District 2's Scranton Prep.

Conwell-Egan (7-6) counters with junior halfback Patrick Garwo, a Division I recruit who has carried 225 times for 1,838 yards and 24 TDs.

Also in the mix for the Eagles are QB Alex Goldsby and fullbacks Dajuan Harris and Dwayne Majors.

Pick: Middletown, 36-12.