By NATE HECKENBERGER
DOWNINGTOWN -- There’s about two minutes left in the first half, and Coatesville’s Emmett Hunt takes a shotgun snap on third-and-12 at the Spring-Ford 46.
Minutes earlier the Rams scored their third touchdown of the game to make it a seven-point ball game, but none of this seems to faze Hunt, who settles into the pocket. Spring-Ford brings only three down linemen, dropping eight in hopes of finally stopping the Red Raiders and going into half with a chance.
It’s almost as if Hunt has done this before, as he calmly scans the secondary, finding a wide open Chris Jones on the right hash for a 20-yard gain and a crucial first down.
Spring-Ford resists again, forcing a third-and-13 this time, but once again Hunt doesn’t blink, setting Vinnie Williams up with a 25-yard catch and run to the 14 with under 20 seconds. After spiking it to stop the clock, Hunt leads Jones perfectly on a post from the left side and Coatesville heads into halftime up 35-21, but it no longer feels that close.
“He’s in total control,” Coatesville coach Matt Ortega said of his senior signal caller. “He gets better each week and he’s an absolute special player. There won’t a better player in the area for a long, long time.”
The scenario was reminiscent of the week prior when Hunt engineered a final-minute TD to give Coatesville (12-2) a 21-point lead against Neshaminy. This one took a little life out of a team that came in knowing mistakes and deficits were almost a deathwish.
“We had to come out perfect,” Spring-Ford quarterback Hank Coyne said. “We played great in the first half and kept fighting, but that touchdown before the half really hurt us.”
The difference in the Class AAAA District 1 championship game against Spring-Ford was the speed of the game, but not exactly how you might think. Sure, Coatesville’s team speed was too overwhelming for the Rams to match. More, however, it was the Red Raiders’ ability to slow things down and execute with efficiency that stood out from the sidelines.
Hunt oozes coolness and his teammates just feed off it. The result was a team playing downhill (Coatesville) against a team playing on its heels (Spring-Ford).
“Games like this, teams get overhyped,” Jones said. “We stayed even keel all game. We made mistakes, but when we did we didn’t get down. We kept each other up.”
It didn’t take long for Coatesville’s edge in poise to show. In an effort to steal momentum early, Spring-Ford went for it on the first drive of the game at its own 39. Running back Jarred Jones was stuffed a yard short, and you could almost sense an “uh-oh” exude from the home stands.
Knowing the Rams’ ability to pressure the passer, Coatesville countered with a quarterback draw right off the bat for nine yards. Hunt has run the ball 58 times this year for a grand total of 72 yards, and on the first drive alone he had two carries for 22 yards. On the sixth play he connected with Dre Boggs on a 10-yard slant for a 7-0 lead.
“We try to disregard each team we play,” Hunt said. “It’s just another name. We try to execute on every snap. We go against every defensive formation during the week, and sometimes even against 13 or 14 guys on that side, and it helps us.”
Coatesville ran 27 plays on four drives in the first half for 215 yards, scoring on each one of them. It wasn’t until the seventh drive, midway through the third quarter, that the Red Raiders didn’t put points on the board.
The gameplan was right on from the get-go. Hunt continuously got the ball out of his hands swiftly, hitting Jones and Boggs on wide receiver screens or quick stops. The Rams were content with conceding those, but as the game went on the short pops turned into bigger plays as Coatesville’s speed exposed Spring-Ford.
“I think (Spring-Ford) thought they could come in and win the game,” Ortega said. “I just don’t think you can prepare for how fast we are and over time we wore them out with our speed. Once we got a couple of stops on defense we could open up.”
The more the Red Raiders got rolling, the more loose they played. And the faster the game got for the Rams, the more they pressed each offensive possession. With the added pressure, the Rams simply couldn’t execute like they had the first three games and the game turned into a white and black blur.
“You could tell they were nervous,” Hunt said. “They tried to stay hyped in the game, but you could see in their eyes they were nervous.”
That seems to be an emotion Hunt doesn’t recognize. He had just two incompletions in the first half, a drop and a spike, and finished 13-for-18 for 171 yards and four TDs. He now has 2,746 yards and 40 touchdowns, with only two interceptions.
On the field where Pat Devlin became the most prolific passer in Pennsylvania high school history, Hunt took it to the next level, leading the first Ches-Mont team to a District title since 1996. Now he eyes another Downingtown great, Dan Ellis, who quarterbacked the Whippets to the state title 16 years ago. And don’t think Hunt and the rest of Coatesville didn’t relish their accomplishments just a little more at Kottmeyer Stadium Friday night.
“It feels good to win on their field,” Hunt said with a smile.