By NATE HECKENBERGER
After Coatesville center Andrew Baker snaps the football, different speeds of the game flow from every direction.
An improved offensive line braces itself and delays the pace up front, while wide receivers Chris Jones and Dre Boggs accelerate off the line and into enemy territory. And at the same time as an opposing defensive coordinator’s heartbeat increases, Red Raider quarterback Emmett Hunt slows the process inside his head.
The longer Hunt is able to stand in the pocket, the more space Jones and Boggs and the other speedy receivers are able to find. And that is where all those different speeds combust into one explosive result.
Talk to enough football people around Chester County, and Coatesville may be named the scariest offense to face right now, even over Downingtown East. While opinions won’t earn anyone a playoff spot, the Red Raiders will face the area’s top two defenses the next two weeks, and something has to, and will, give.
“We have confidence going into every game,” Hunt said. “Throwing the ball is our identity and that’s what we’re determined to do. Our speed is a big advantage in every matchup and its a mismatch until the defense proves itself.”
Coatesville (2-1 division, 5-2 overall) has been torturing defenses in every game this season, including the losses. Hunt has been at the forefront of it all, throwing 23 touchdowns and zero interceptions entering week eight.
Those aren’t his only impressive numbers. Hunt is completing 64 percent of his passes, averaging almost 24 yards per completion and an astounding 33.3 yards on his 23 TDs tosses.
“For a first-year starter, his pocket presence is very good,” Coatesville coach Matt Ortega said of Hunt. “When he gets a rush in his face, a lot of quarterbacks start to get a little antsy, but he’s so calm and collected in the pocket. His biggest strength is his accuracy. He’s a very intelligent football player and an all-around quarterback.”
After giving up six sacks against Malvern Prep in week two -- a game in which Baker was injured -- Coatesville has shored up its pass protection behind Joe Phillips, Dylan Morgan, TItus Richards, Colin Raysor and Baker.
The game against the Friars showed just how important a pass rush against the Red Raiders really is. When Malvern was able to get to Hunt, Coatesville was put in some tough spots. But despite the third-and-longs, when Hunt had time he continually picked apart the Friars’ secondary, converting long first downs multiple times.
Jones, who tied Kyle Kerrick for the team-lead 43 receptions last fall and led the Red Raiders in receiving yards and touchdowns, has been a nightmare for defensive backs. The senior has 26 catches for an area-high 745 yards and 11 scores while averaging 28.7 yards per snag.
An offense that sent Kerrick to Michigan State, quarterback Manny Stocker to North Carolina State and running back Dae-Hon Cheung to Delaware State last offseason might very well be more potent in 2012.
“Defenses have to guard so many guys and so many good weapons,” Jones said. “I think we’re way more explosive this year. Guys have stepped up this year and made plays.”
If 2011 was a run-first version of the Red Raiders, this year’s team has become a pass-oriented squad, partly out of obligation and partly due to the success.
Coatesville averages 118 yards on the ground this fall, 100 yards less per game than in 2011. Daquan Worley has rushed for 196 the last two games, largely in part to defenses backing off to help against the pass. Boggs is the hybrid back for Ortega, rushing for 171 yards and two scores on 18 carries and hauling in 21 receptions for 423 yards and eight more TDs.
“Early on we wanted to be a power running team,” Ortega said. “With as much speed as we have, we saw what kind of team we were. Our identity is spreading the field and getting our athletes in space.”
When Coatesville’s athletes get that space, there’s no team in the county that can match the speed. It’s almost ironic that a team that has made its living in expanse is a matter of feet away from being undefeated. Against Malvern the Red Raiders were a yard short from winning the game on the final play, and the Cougars were just barely into the end zone on a game-ending touchdown.
With arguably the Ches-Mont’s best secondary at West Chester Henderson hosting Coatesville tonight, the challenge will be there. But adversity is something Jones is comfortable dealing with at this point.
“We feel good,” Jones said. “We’ve clearly been in some bad situations, but we know how to respond to them now.”
So tonight, when everything seems to be going in hyperspeed, slow yourself and watch Hunt. If it looks like he’s been playing quarterback for years, it’s because he has. Even if much of it has been in his mind.
“Last year I learned by watching,” Hunt said. “But I didn’t just watch. I was doing mental reps and going through things during games. When I took over this year everything kind of worked like clock work.”