By PETER DiGIOVANNI
HERSHEY- Dreams die hard on the gridiron, and when you are going for the first PIAA Class AAAA title in school history they hurt a little more.
That is what happened to the Coatesville Red Raiders Saturday night at Hersheypark Stadium as they ran into a buzzsaw in undefeated North Allegeheny.
Coatesville turned the ball over twice via fumbles in the first period, and the Red Raiders never recovered as they dropped a 63-28 decision to North Allegheny. The 63 points were the most ever allowed in a PIAA Class AAAA championship game, as were the total points scored.
The Tigers (16-0) were led by the superlative play of quarterback Mack Leftwich, who threw for 199 yards on 16-of-20 passing. He also rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown and was clearly the best quarterback the Red Raiders (13-3) faced all season.
"We really got out on them early and that helped us," Leftwich said. "They were a good team but it helped to get the early lead."
North Allegheny ran out to a 21-0 lead in the first period, with Leftwich hitting Skylar Cox for a touchdown on the first drive of the game. Then, Brendan Coniker and Kevin Edwards ran back Red Raider fumbles for scores. Dre Boggs and Emmett Hunt committed the Coatesville fumbles.
"We have not done that all season," Coatesville head coach Matt Ortega said. "And you cannot turn the ball over against a team as good as that. Hats off to them. They are a real good football team and they took advantage of things tonight."
Coatesville quarterback Emmett Hunt was under pressure all night, primarily from Jeremy Gonzalez, who had his way with the Red Raider front line. Hunt was sacked four times and had to hurry his throws all night. Hunt did score from one yard out at the end of the first period to make it a 21-7 game.
But Leftwich, a University of Texas at El Paso recruit, was just too tough. He drove the ball down the field with short passes to Gregg Garrity and Coniker but he also took it in himself from the five-yard line for a 28-7 lead, and it was evident it was going to be a long night for the Coatesville defense. North Allegheny totaled 456 yards on the night.
With North Allegheny leading 35-7, the Tigers looked to be going in again, but Mark DeCiantis fumbled and Tyler Burke recovered at the Coatesville 11-yard line. One play later, Daquan Worley, who rushed for 160 yards on the night, went down the right side for a 89-yard score to make it a 35-14 game at intermission.
Coatesville took the opening kickoff of the third period at its own 44-yard line and immediately went to work. Hunt hit Dre Boggs with a swing pass for a 27-yard gain deep in Tigers territory.
Three Worley runs brought it down to the North Allegheny one-yard line, where on second down, Hunt leaped over the pile to make it a 35-21 game and the Coatesville sideline came alive.
"We needed that score early in the third," Boggs said. "It seemed like they wanted it a little more than us in the first half and those turnovers hurt us but that score got us back in the game."
Only for a little while, however. North Allegheny scored the next three touchdowns to put Coatesville’s title dreams on ice. A big interception by Edwards set up the second Tigers score. It was only Hunt’s fourth interception on the season.
The points record was achieved when Nick Cully burst through a huge hole in the Red Raider line early in the fourth period.
Coatesville came back to score on a nice 43-yard pass from Hunt to Boggs to close out the scoring.
One bright spot for the Coatesville defense was junior linebacker Tyler Burke, who had 18 total tackles. The superlative linebacker said that he and his Red Raider teammates did all they could.
"We just could not stop them tonight," Burke said. "They had a real good offensive line but we saw what they did on film and they did not do anything different tonight. We just could not contain them.
"We just have to work hard in the offseason to get back here and win this game next year."
Ortega spoke about the season and what it meant to him, the school and the community.
"We had a great season and tonight it didn’t go our way," Ortega said. "But, to win a district title was a great thing and I can’t say enough about this group of seniors and how much hard work an effort they put in this year.
"And we have a great group of juniors coming back and this season was great for the school, the program, and the community and tonight I am proud to be a Red Raider."
North Allegheny 63, Coatesville 28
Coatesville 7 7 7 7 -- 28
North Allegheny 28 7 14 14 -- 63
NA-Cox 8 pass from Leftwich (Ziolkowski kick)
NA-Coniker 80 fumble recovery (Zilokowski kick)
NA-Edwards 52 fumble recovery (Buchert kick)
C-Hunt 1 run (Bollenbach kick)
NA-Leftwich 5 run (Ziolkowski kick)
NA-DeCiantis 22 run (Buchert kick)
C-Worley 89 run (Bollenbach kick)
C-Hunt 1 run (Bollenbach kick)
NA-Garrity 17 pass from Leftwich (Ziolkowski kick)
NA-DeCiantis 1 run (Buchert kick)
NA-DeCiantis 1 run (Ziolkowski kick)
C-Cully 60 run (Buchert kick)
C-Boggs 43 pass from Hunt (Bollenbach kick)
First downs 11 26
Yards rushing 152 257
Yards passing 131 199
Total yards 283 456
Passing 11-18-1 16-20-0
Fumbles-Lost 5-3 5-2
Penalties 3-10 4-35
Punts-Avg. 4-24.8 1-41.0
RUSHING - C: Worley 17 160, TD; Boggs 4-39; Jones 1 (-17); Hunt 7 (-30). NA: DeCiantis 21-115, 2TDs; Leftwich 16-90, TD; Cully 1-160, TD; Bergman 2-3; Idowu 2 (-2); Galupi 2 (-9).
PASSING - C: Hunt 11-18-131, TD. NA: Leftwich 16-20-199, 2TDs.
RECEIVING - C: Boggs 4-71, TD; Jones 3-12; Burke 2-32; Stocker 1-11; Worley 1-5. NA: Garrity 5-55, TD; Lyon 4-54; Cox 3-32, TD; Coniker 2-24; DeCiantis 1-19; Baum 1-15.
SACKS - C: Boykin. NA: Gonzalez 2, Edwards 2.
INTERCEPTIONS - C: None. NA: Edwards.