By PETER DiGIOVANNI
DOWNINGTOWN -- That is why they play the games.
Not many people gave 16th-seeded Wissahickon much chance to defeat top seed Downingtown East on Friday night in the first round of the Distric 1 Class AAAA playoffs. In fact, much of the pregame talk at Kottmeyer Stadium was how the Cougars would do next week against Coatesville.
Well, Downingtown East does not have to worry about Coatesville or any other team for that matter. A superlative performance by running back Dave Stellato, who scored four touchdowns and directed the final drive to set up a 22-yard field goal from Greg McDonough at the buzzer to give the Trojans a 38-35 victory and shockingly escort the Cougars out of the playoffs.
“I told the kids coming in here that we do not lift all those weights and put in all that hard work since January to just be a good team,” Wissahickon head coach Jeff Cappa said. “We do all that work to be the best in the district and the state. All these guys came in here believing they could win and I could not be prouder of them. Dave had a great game, but all those other guys who worked hard all year and all week allowed him to do some of those things. This was a total team effort against a great team.”
Wissahickon (8-3) gashed the Cougars (10-1) for 305 rushing yards -- 157 by Stellato, who went to the quarterback position for the decisive six-plus minute drive as he carried the ball seven times on the eight-play march.
“I was a quarterback, but I got mono at summer camp and missed time, so I moved to tailback,” Stellato said. “i am very comfortable in the wildcat formation and the offensive line did a great job for me tonight.”
Wissahickon’s special teams put the Cougars back on their heels early in the third quarter as Gordon Bentley returned a kickoff and a punt deep into Downingtown territory. Both long runs led to Stellato scores (10, 8) and the Trojans took a 35-21 lead with just over six minutes left.
But the man who has done it all season for the Cougars, Jay Harris, returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards to paydirt to cut it to 35-28 and put the boisterous East fans back into the game.
The Cougars then rose up to temporarily derail Wissahickon’s running attack and put themselves in position to tie the score. They advanced the ball deep into Trojan territory twice in the fourth, but bad snaps, penalties, dropped passes and two fumbles doomed the top-seeded Cougars.
Finally, Harris bolted in from five-yards out with 6:51 to play to knot the score at 35-35. But it would be the last time the Cougars held the football.
Stellato replaced Randy Frankenfield at quarterback, and went to work, driving his team from the Wissahickon 21 to the Cougars’ five with three seconds to play. The drive was aided by a crucial personal foul penalty that put the ball from the East 15 to the eight. One play later, McDonough booted home the field goal to send the Trojans into instant celebrations and shockwaves across District 1.
“We really believed we could win this game,” Stellato said. “And we beat a great team in Downingtown East. I mean the players, coaches and everything. They are a great footbll team and I am so happy right now.”
While the Cougars walked off the field, their hopes of a state title dashed very early, head coach Mike Matta talked about the victors.
“Give Wissahickon and their kids all the credit tonight,” Matta said. “Number one (Stellato) is a great player and they deserved to win the football game.”
Wissahickon will have to deal with another high-scoring team from Chester County next Friday when they face No. 9 Coatesville in the second round.
Wissahickon 38, Downingtown East 35
Wissahickon 7 7 21 3-38
Downingtown East 0 21 7 7-35
W-Stellato 19 run (McDonough kick)
D-Angeline 2 run (White kick)
W-Murphy 1 run (McDonough kick)
D-Harris 43 pass from Lauletta (White kick)
W-Stellato 1 run (McDonough kick)
W-Stellato 10 run (kick failed)
W-Stellato 8 run (Stellato run)
D-Harris 65 kickoff return (White kick)
D-Harris 5 run (White kick)
W-McDonough 22 FG
First downs 15 13
Yards rushing 305 158
Yards passing 32 152
Total yards 337 310
Passing 2-4-0 12-22-1
Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-2
Punts.avg 2-32.5 3-26.5
Penalties-yds 8-60 10-63
Rushing: Wis: Stellato 22-157, 4TD’s; Murphy 17-94; Smith 7-53; Frankenfield 7-1. Down: Angeline 17-85, TD; Lauletta 10-72, TD; Harris 2-1 TD.
Passing: Wis: Frankenfield 2-4-0 31 yards. Down: Lauletta 12-22-1 146 yards, TD.
Receiving: Wis: Smith 1-13; Stellato 1-19. Down: Harris 6-94, TD; Beals 4-28; Bovard 1-11; Kozlowski 1-19.
Sacks: Wis: Jackson. Down: Hearns.
Interceptions: Wis: Bailey. Down: None.
Follow Peter DiGiovanni at twitter.com/dlnsports