Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Coatesville's Burke a force on both sides of the ball
By NATE HECKENBERGER
Coatesville linebacker Tyler Burke has stood out in his fair share of game films, but early this season the junior was standing out for the wrong reasons.
Opposing coaches surmised that the complacency bug had bitten Burke, while others pondered if the added weight did more harm than good.
It wasn’t until the week four matchup against Downingtown East that Burke found his old self, making an impact, playing fast and standing out on film like the budding star he was as a sophomore.
From there, a 2-2 Coatesville team and Burke have not looked back. With a bigger body and added expectations, Burke started slowly for some, but his performances of late have far surpassed any early season disappointments.
“You always tend to see big-time players really develop in the second half of their junior years,” Coatesville coach Matt Ortega said. “Especially the marquee players, they usually turn a corner in the second half of the year. Tyler is a veteran player and has played some big games and has really produced the last couple weeks.”
While many compared Burke to former West Chester Henderson and current Villanova linebacker T. J. White last year, others believed he had already surpassed that level as a sophomore.
In the offseason, Burke added about 25 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame, getting up to around 240 pounds. At that size, North Carolina State, Maryland and Temple have already offered him a scholarship, according to rivals.com.
But that bigger, stronger frame required time to get used to, as well as his added workload playing tight end on offense.
“The first part of the season was hard on him,” Ortega said. “It was a transition for him, going from one side of the ball to playing both ways. He gained about 25 pounds from his sophomore year to his junior year, and he had to play his way into shape. He definitely turned the corner in the second half, and our defense has been very, very dominant.”
Burke has certainly not been the only reason for the Red Raiders’ emergence, but it’s clear to see that his play sets the tone. Last week in the second round of the Class AAAA District 1 playoffs, Wissahickon attempted to get the edge on a jet sweep on its first drive, but Burke hit the seam perfectly and dropped the Trojan runner in the backfield. The Red Raiders rolled from there.
Burke also had a sack against Wissahickon, not to mention a touchdown reception on offense, and halted Unionville’s comeback attempt in the first round with a late interception.
“I think this is the best I’ve played this season,” Burke said. “I definitely didn’t play up to my abilities early on. Playing both ways this year, the first three weeks I was dead. As I got into shape I got used to it.”
Coatesville has won eight straight games since the one-point setback to East. The defense has allowed just 11 points and 171.6 total yards per game since.
Burke benefits from two bullies in the middle in Dylan Morgan and Mike Boykin, and Joe Phillips at defensive end. Coatesville’s base defense is a 4-3, but its combination of size and speed allows flexibility.
When teams try to spread the Red Raiders out, they stay in that 4-3, with two safeties. But when teams try to pound them, like Neshaminy will Friday, Coatesville slides its defensive lineman toward the strong size, and shifts safety Isaiah Flamer down just off the line on the backside. That adjustment gives the Red Raiders a 4-4, with strength to the tight end side, and extra speed on counters or waggles coming back.
Flamer had two picks against Unionville, and his secondary mates Daquan Worley, Jason Totoram and Jay Stocker have all taken their turn making plays this fall. Especially since week four.
“After the East game, our guys looked at what they did against East for the last two and a half quarters and built on it each week after,” said Ortega, whose defense shut out Unionville the following Saturday. “They were embarrassed that they had underachieved to that point, and they just turned it around.”
In the last 32 quarters of football, dating back to halftime against East, Coatesville’s starting defense has allowed just 10 touchdowns. The offense will continue to get the publicity, and it deserves all it gets. But if Coatesville keeps advancing and helps the Ches-Mont finally clear the Suburban One hurdle, its defense will be every bit as responsible for it.
“We try to say it doesn’t make us mad,” said Burke of the offense getting most of the credit. “But I think we do try to play our best to get our names out there.”
We all remember what happened when the Hulk got mad... Only now, the Hulk wears a black jersey with the big white number nine on it.