Thursday, December 13, 2012
Morgan is Coatesville's Iron Man
By NATE HECKENBERGER
It’d be hard to say that one player deserved or earned his spot in the state championship game more than the other, but if you were taking nominees, Coatesville’s Dylan Morgan would have to be on the list.
The PIAA Class AAAA championship game Saturday in Hershey against North Allegheny will be Morgan’s 39th straight start as a lineman for the Red Raiders. It will be a fitting way to end an impressive run for a kid who has survived the trenches in the Ches-Mont National, and has started both ways for the last 28 games.
“Dylan is the kind of kid that’s started every game since he’s been here and he’s an old-school workhorse,” Coatesville coach Matt Ortega said. “He doesn’t come out of the game and has played almost every snap the last three years. He’s a team captain and at the top of his class in school. He’s an unbelievable kid with a great work ethic in the classroom and on the football field.”
Morgan was there to help turn around a squad coming off a 5-5 record in 2008 and convert it into a perennial playoff team. Since, the Red Raiders have gone 30-8 in that stretch, and 6-2 in the postseason.
“Our motto was, it’s not about them, it’s about what we do to contribute to the team,” Morgan said. “I think that’s what was missing before. Coach Ortega established an identity for our team and put us back on the map when we went 8-3 my sophomore year.”
Morgan started at defensive tackle his sophomore year before adding right guard to his title as a junior. He said the transition to playing on both sides of the ball took some adjusting to at first, but now it feels “weird” if he’s not out there.
Defensively, Coatesville has come a long way in Morgan’s three years. Two damaging losses to Suburban One teams the prior two years coaxed a stronger dedication to the weight room. The result has been a bigger, stronger line -- with Morgan, Joe Phillips, Mike Boykin and Clinton Leslie -- that hasn’t been worn down all year.
On the offensive side of things, Morgan has helped his starting running backs total 3,498 combined rushing yards the past two seasons. Teamed with Colin Raysor, Titus Richards, Andrew Baker and Phillips, Morgan is a part of an offensive line that has improved each week of the postseason.
“They’re a group, where I think at the beginning of the year was a little bit of a weak link,” Ortega said. “Lately, they have been one of our strongest links. In the third quarter, the drives we had against La Salle to control the game showed how far we’ve come.”
North Allegheny will be a different beast. Known for their power running abilities and shutdown defense this season, the Tigers present the greatest challenge for Morgan and the gang at the end of their high school careers.
The combination of incredible skill players and consistency on the lines has made Coatesville into a juggernaut on the eastern side of the state. Expect power versus power against the Tigers.
“We have a great game plan,” Morgan said. “People say we haven’t seen a defense like theirs, but they haven’t seen an offense like ours.”
It may be a while until a player comes along and plays in 39 straight high school games again. Ortega knows a kid like Morgan is hard to find, and he truly will be missed.
“He’s a kid who gets every rep in practice and his teammates respect him for that,” Ortega said. “He does the right things and gives his best every practice.”
Saturday, win or lose, there will be great emotion when the game reaches its end. This will be the last time the Coatesville seniors ever buckle up their black helmets together and walk out onto the field as a team. At least it’ll be on the biggest stage.
For Morgan, it will be hard to compress 39 starts into something comprehensible at first, but he knows what he’s been a part of won’t go away.
“When I come back and see the banners and look up, I’ll be able to say that was my year,” Morgan said. “My story.”