|Photo by Nate Heckenberger/ Downingtown East's Jay Harris high-steps into the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Friday's 35-21 victory over Downingtown West.|
By NATE HECKENBERGER
DOWNINGTOWN -- If there’s football left to play, count on Downingtown to get every last second out of it.
After an almost 40-minute delay, Downingtown East and Downingtown West didn’t let a few strikes of lightning or some steady rain ruin their fun, as the final quarter was played in a rather barren Kottmeyer Stadium.
It was quite the contrast to how the game started, with an estimated 7,000 fans in attendance, adding an electricity of its own in the air. In the end, East’s Jay Harris and Kyle Lauletta were too much for the second straight year, and the Cougars topped their crosstown rivals, 35-21, as the away team in the Ches-Mont National Division contest. It was East’s third straight win in the series.
Harris caught seven passes for 117 yards and both of Lauletta’s touchdown passes, while both tacked on a running score.
“It was a live crowd and the stands were packed and we were anxious to get out there and put points on the board,” Harris said. “We got our goal.”
The Cougars (4-0 division, 8-0 overall) got started quickly, hurting West (3-1, 6-2) on a pair of early mistakes. On its first drive, East drove the ball into West territory, but needed a facemask penalty on fourth-and-seven to continue it. Two plays later Harris took a handoff and darted 17 yards up the middle for the initial score.
On the second play of the Whippets’ first drive, quarterback Nick Pagel tried to connect on a big play via the flea-flicker, but East was not tricked and Eddie Kozlowski intercepted the pass. The next play Lauletta was able to avoid pressure and lofted a pass to a streaking Harris, who outran everybody for a 66-yard TD.
“We stopped them early and then we had that facemask penalty and we had the kick sacked, but (Lauletta) is good,” Milano said. “They’re so good, you can’t make mistakes. You gotta make plays. We had five or six procedure calls, and that just gets us behind schedule.
“Defensively (East) stretches you and they spread you out. Lauletta can run and that Harris kid is special.”
After helping to dig themselves in an early hole, the Whippets climbed back out, methodically moving the ball down the field, going 70 yards on 10 plays, finally scoring on an 11-yard run by Pagel.
A fumbled handoff on the next East series gave West the ball 18 yards away from the end zone, and five plays later a 4-yard TD scamper by Mitchell Meleski tied the game at 14. But the Whippets fumbled away their next possession and penalties hampered their next two as East gained momentum from there.
“(West) came out and ran more option than we anticipated, and they work hard over there and are well-coached,” East coach Mike Matta said. “We picked things up and made some adjustments, but you have to give them credit.”
East’s final two drives showed the separation between the two schools. Lauletta scored on a quarterback sneak with 1:49 left in the half, and after Brandon Feamster had a pick six called back to the East 35, Lauletta showed his brilliance.
With 39 seconds remaining, Lauletta hit Harris for 11, then Chris Beals for 19. After an incompletion, he hit Harris for another five and Beals for another 26. And with nine ticks remaining Lauletta connected with Harris on a back-shoulder pass to put East up 28-14 at half.
“We never gave up,” Harris said. “We knew it would be a fight and that we’d have to face adversity. It’s the East-West game, so we faced some adversity and I think we do that well.”
The third quarter was a stalemate, as both teams moved the ball on the ground but could not finish. Angeline marched the Cougars down to the West six when the delay came, but 40 minutes later he finished what he started, plowing in for his fifth TD of the season.
The junior finished with 143 yards rushing. Harris carried the ball four times for 16 yards, lining up in the power-I a few times in a new wrinkle for the Michigan State recruit.
“That’s (offensive coordinator Tom) Wolfe in the laboratory,” Matta said. “We made it a point to get Jay Harris x amount of touches a game, and that is definitely something we were trying to do.”
Tino Bunhu led the Whippets with 126 rushing yards, while Pagel added 76 and two scores on the ground.
“Our quarterback played great,” Milano said. “This was his best game. He managed the option game and threw the ball well.”
East will play West Chester East Friday and then West Chester Henderson for the finale. The Cougars have never gone 10-0, and as Matta explained, have gone into the playoffs the last couple years not playing their best. A win against the Vikings clinches the National crown.
“The Ches-Mont championship is not even on our radar yet,” Matta said. “We’ve kind of stumbled down the stretch the last couple years, and we’d rather be going ahead full throttle.”
Downingtown East 35, Downingtown West 21
Downingtown East 14 14 0 7 - 35
Downingtown West 14 0 0 7 - 21
DTE- Harris 17 run (White kick)
DTE- Harris 66 pass from Lauletta (White kick)
DTW- Pagel 11 run (Caruso kick)
DTW- Meleski 4 run (Caruso kick)
DTE- Lauletta 1 run (White kick)
DTE- Harris 4 pass from Lauletta (White kick)
DTE- Angeline 6 run (White kick)
DTW- Pagel 32 run (Caruso kick)
First downs 15 11
Rushes-Yards 172 245
Passing yards 247 67
Total yards 419 312
Passing 11-16-0 6-16-2
Punts-Average 2-30.5 4-41.5
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 4-2
Penalties-Yards 6-43 10-57
Rushing: DTE- Angeline 29-145, TD; Harris 4-16, TD; Lauletta 11-11, TD. DTW- Bunhu 17-126; Pagel 10-79, 2 TDs; Meleski 11-43, TD; Sauder 1-1; team 1-(-4).
Passing: DTE- Lauletta 11-16-0, 247 yards, 2 TDs. DTW- Pagel 6-15-2, 67 yards; Schmitt 0-1-0.
Receiving: DTE- Harris 7-117, 2 TDs; Beals 4-66; Kozlowski 1-56; Foley 1-19. DTW- Varano 3-35; Schmitt 3-32.
SACKS- DTE- none. DTW- Speca; Nanni .5; Perelli .5.
INTERCEPTIONS- DTE- Kozlowski; Feamster. DTW- none.