|Photo by Nate Heckenberger/ Downingtown East quarterback Kyle Lauletta hurdles over Henderson's Adam Weaver during Friday's 6-3 victory that completed a perfect regular season for the Cougars.|
By NATE HECKENBERGER
DOWNINGTOWN -- More times than not this season, when Downingtown East’s defense is brought it up it’s to question whether or not it's good enough to match the offense and help win a district title.
On Friday, when the temperature finally dropped to the low 40s and the game had to be decided on the ground, the East defense rose to the occasion and gave naysayers a major stink eye.
When 48 brutal minutes had finally ticked off the clock, the Cougars outlasted a brilliant defensive effort by West Chester Henderson and rode its defense, for a change, to a 6-3 home victory in the Ches-Mont National Division finale.
Ryley Angeline carried the ball 37 times for 145 yards and the only score for East, who not only kept the Warriors out of the end zone, but completed a 10-0 season. The Cougars will be District 1’s top seed in the Class AAAA playoffs starting next Friday, and will wait on the outcomes of the numerous rescheduled games today to see who they play. A second date with the Whippets is certainly a strong possibility, however, with a West win.
Henderson will open the Class AAA playoffs against either Upper Moreland or Springfield (Delco).
“It means a lot,” East coach Mike Matta said of 10-0. “The kids have worked hard and they set out on a goal and got it. They care for one another and they started in January saying they weren’t going to make the same mistakes and they believed in each other. In the past we have gotten a little panicked in situations like that, but the defense said ‘we got your back.’”
From the outset the Warriors (3-3 league, 7-3 overall) frustrated the Cougars. Henderson forced three punts and two turnover on downs in the first half, and senior linebacker Chris Mitten had a one-handed interception off Kyle Lauletta to halt an East drive inside the five yard line.
Late in the second quarter East finally found the end zone when Lauletta literally jumped over linebacker Adam Weaver on a fourth-and-goal from the seven. But hurdling is illegal in high school football when the defender is upright, and the penalty stalled out the drive in the red zone.
Coming into the game the lowest amount of points East had scored all season was 26 against St. Marks (Del.). Lauletta was held to 84 yards on 10-of-18 passing, and Jay Harris was limited to 21 yards on three receptions.
“I would have loved to have won 100-0,” Matta said. “Let’s not say we played poorly, though. Let’s say (Henderson) played good. You have to tip your cap to their defense, they played well.”
On the first drive of the second half Wade Mastrog recovered a fumble for East at the Henderson 48. Angeline capped an 11-play drive, eight of which were Angeline runs, with a two-yard plunge to put East up 6-0 with 7:23 left in the third quarter.
“We knew they had a tough defense with no weak spots,” Angeline said. “Our defense was holding them and getting the job done for us. The offensive line was making some big holes for me, especially at the end of the game.”
Henderson responded, moving to the East 24. But on a second-and-six, Harris, who started at safety, picked off a pass from James Bady.
Angeline ran the ball five of the next six plays, but on his final carry --- a play that put him over 1,000 yards this season -- he was stripped and Derek Matonti recovered the fumble at the 20.
Spencer Rymiszewski ran 43 yards on a counter play, and the Warriors eventually got to the East 10 before a holding penalty knocked them back to the 20. Bady cramped up on second down, forcing Henderson to try a halfback pass by Rymiszewski, but it was completely sniffed out by the Cougars and he was dropped for a five-yard loss.
Sean Engle drilled a 36-yard field goal to make it 6-3 with 7:45 left. Earlier in the game Henderson faked what would have been a 40-yard field goal try.
“It was an unbelievable effort by our kids on defense,” Henderson coach Steve Mitten said. “I challenged them to go out and hit somebody and knock someone down on every play, and when you play like that you give yourself a chance to win.”
In the end, Angeline picked up key first downs to run out the clock and the Cougars’ defense picked up some major confidence.
“Throughout this whole season we’ve been disrespected and haven’t gotten the credit we’ve deserved,” East senior defensive lineman Josh Ganzelli said. “We proved (Friday) night that we have a lot to bring to the table.”
The playoff seeds will officially be released Sunday. Henderson will host Springfield if Upper Moreland loses to Wissahickon today. If the Bears win, the Warriors could either host or travel to Upper Moreland depending on power points, as both teams are neck and neck.
Downingtown East 6, West Chester Henderson 3
West Chester Henderson 0 0 0 3 - 3
Downingtown East 0 0 6 0 - 6
DTE- Angeline 2 run (kick failed)
WCH- 36 field goal Engle
First downs 11 14
Yards rushing 192 192
Yards passing 16 84
Total yards 208 276
Passing 2-5-1 10-18-1
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties 4-31 8-70
Punts-Avg. 4-29.5 4-36.8
RUSHING - WCH: Rymiszewski 12-89; Bady 10-52; Girafalco 10-42; Matonti 4-8; Green 4-8; Delaney 2-3; Dinacci 2-(-10). DTE: Angeline 37-145, TD; Lauletta 6-30; Beals 4-13; Harris 1-4.
PASSING - WCH: Bady 2-5-16, INT. DTE: Lauletta 10-18-84, INT.
RECEIVING - WCH: C. Mitten 1-16. DTE: Harris 3-21; Beals 3-18; Reichwein 2-25; Kozlowski 1-15; Chisena 1-5.
SACKS - WCH: Thompson. DTE: Feamster, Hearns.
INTERCEPTIONS - WCH: C. Mitten. DTE: Harris.