Saturday, December 15, 2012

Red Raiders' run won't be soon forgotten


HERSHEY -- They say you always remember your first time.
For the Coatesville High School football team, their first time at the PIAA state championships will be remembered with a bittersweet touch.
The Red Raiders put up a valiant effort in trying to bring home the state title, but the unbeaten Tigers of North Allegheny proved to be to much of a mountain to climb, walking out of Hersheypark Stadium with a 63-28 victory for the Class AAAA crown Saturday evening.
Coatesville might have been considered the underdog, but with its explosive offense, was given a puncher’s chance. But the Red Raiders were beaten to the punch as the Tigers scored 21 points before our pre-game hot chocolate got cold.
But the Red Raiders did not quit, Emmett Hunt scoring from the one to put them on the board. And the large crowd that made the trip was given a reason to make its voice heard.
"It was awesome," Tyler Burke said of the crowd. "The stadium was nearly full and they kept us into it when we were down. I thank them and everybody from Coatesvile."
Though the goal of a title will go unfulfilled this year, and the hurt on the faces on the players was palpable, what should burn on is pride in knowing that a path was laid for future teams to follow.
A season for the ages that will be retold in living rooms, barber shops and locker rooms for years to come.
Faced with his hurting players gathered around after the game, coach Matt Ortega reminded them of the heights they scaled and the blueprint they laid out.
"Always remember how it felt to get here," Ortega said. "How you did it the right way and how you made the school and the community proud of you."
A season that might have been on the brink following a loss to Downingtown East instead became a year of glory. The Red Raiders reeled off 11 straight wins before Saturday’s title game, putting up offensive numbers that I couldn’t duplicate on any video game.
They did what no team from Chester County has done since Downingtown in 1996: have a chance to be called the best team in the state of Pennsylvania and gave many fans in and around the city plenty of thrills along the way.
But a strong front line and a secondary that features a Pitt and a Richmond recruit forced Coatesville into four turnovers -- with two fumbles returned for touchdowns -- and denied the Red Raiders their chance for football immortality.
But with Ortega proving to be the right man for the job, and with a nucleas including Worley and Burke coming back, this may not be their only trip to Hershey.
"We’ll definitely keep this with us and work hard during the offseason," said Burke. "This was our first trip here and it was a great experience."
One to always remember.

Tigers just too phsyical for Red Raiders


HERSHEY -- If you’re an old-school football fan, watching North Allegheny run the football was a thing of beauty.
For Coatesville, it’s likely to cause loss of sleep and nausea.
Sometimes in sports, the other team is just better than you. And that was the case Saturday in the Class AAAA PIAA championship game when North Allegheny pounded Coatesville to a 63-28 final.
The 16-0 Tigers did it behind a massive offensive line that was indefensible. Big left tackle and University of Michigan recruit Patrick Kugler (6-foot-5, 280 pounds) was a force, and when sandwiched between tight end Kevin Edwards (6’2", 217) and guard Nick James (6’4", 235), the trio would literally just wipe away Coatesville’s right side of the line.
"We’ve been very physical up to this point," Coatesville coach Matt Ortega said. "But they were more physical (Saturday night) and that was the difference."
North Allegheny ran for 265 yards on 38 carries, and had just one rush of negative yards, as well as a sack. The Tigers did much of their damage to the left side, running picture-perfect stretches, powers and sweeps.
At times the Tigers would line up in a tight end-wing formation and just seal the edge. Other times the left side of the line would block down and bring a backside guard, and sometimes tackle, too, to kick out and/or wrap.
Red Raider linebacker Tyler Burke gobbled up 18 solo tackles and a pair of assists, but many times it was Tigers running back Alex DiCiantis (115 yards) reaching the second or third level before he got touched.
"(North Allegheny) did the same stuff we prepared for at practice all week," Burke said. "It just didn’t help."
Coatesville knew it had to play a near-perfect game to beat a dominant North Allegheny team. Early on it seemed as if the Red Raiders pressed a bit to do so.
On Coatesville’s initial drive of the game, on a first-and-10 at the Tigers’ 20, Dre Boggs caught an Emmett Hunt pass, and after cutting inside, he tried to spin back toward the sideline. As soon as he began accelerating a North Allegheny defender stripped him from behind and the fumble was returned 80 yards to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead six minutes in.
About two minutes later, Hunt was sacked and stripped while trying to buy time in the crowded pocket, and another defensive touchdown put Coatesville in a place it simply could not be.
"Those turnovers in the first half put us behind the eight ball," Ortega said. "You can’t do that against a team like that."
With a 21-point lead, North Allegheny had the game where it wanted it. The Tigers would simply have to move the chains, which they did with 26 first downs, control the clock, which they did by a plus-seven minute margin, and at minimum, match Coatesville’s scoring.
The Tigers scored on their first four possessions of the second half, pushing the margin to 42.
"They got momentum and kept it," said defensive tackle Mike Boykin, who had Coatesville’s lone sack.
Tiger quarterback and UTEP commit Mack Leftwich went 16-for-20 for 199 yards, and his two touchdown passes on the night gave him 45, which was one more in Class AAAA history than Hunt.
Outside of Boykin’s sack, Leftwich wasn’t harassed much all night.
"Pressuring the quarterback," Coatesville defensive end Clinton Leslie said when asked what was the hardest thing about defended North Allegheny. "Their line was a physical, big line."
The silver lining in the wake of the disheartening loss is that Coatesville returns seven starters on defense next year.
Burke is the key cog, and his 18 total tackles and two fumble recoveries on the night did little to turn away the Division 1 offers that have already been heading his way. His two counterparts in the linebacking corps -- Devonte Suber (junior) and Steven Pawling (sophomore) -- return as well.
Boykin, Daquan Worley and Isaiah Flamer are only juniors, as well, and safety Jay Stocker is a sophomore.
"This was a wake-up call for us," Boykin said. "We gotta get better everyday."

Coatesville's magical season ends in Hershey


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)
Team Totals
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
Individual Statistics
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.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Morgan is Coatesville's Iron Man


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.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homecoming pays off for Coatesville coordinators


It’s after midnight early Monday morning and Coatesville High School rests quietly before its inhabitants return hours later.
All is quiet and still, except for the room where Tim Lucci teaches history by day. At this hour, however, Lucci is still up, preparing for his role in the history he and the rest of the Red Raider staff is busy penning.
This is exactly why Lucci, as well as Nick Felus, migrated north four years ago to coordinate the defense and offense, respectively, for head coach Matt Ortega.
“I always knew I wanted to come back to Pennsylvania,” Lucci said. “When I heard from Matt, it was something I definitely had to consider. When I came up here and drove through downtown (Coatesville) it reminded me of all the steel towns I grew up around back home. It was like western Pennsylvania.”
Lucci and Felus took an eerily similar track to becoming some of the top coordinators in the region. Lucci hails from a little town northwest of Pittsburgh called Beaver. Felus grew up not too far away, near Johnstown. After a couple stops at some small colleges, the pair found themselves on the same staff at Sherando High in Northern Virginia.
Both helped lead the Warriors to a state title game in 2007, but an opportunity to return to the Keystone state to compete in District 1 was an easy decision.
“I knew the type of program Coatesville was and it was a no-brainer,” Felus said.
The two coordinators have hardly been the only benefactors as Coatesville’s offense has reached new heights the past couple years and Lucci’s defense has outplayed opponents all postseason.
When Ortega took over in 2009, he was quick to track down the impressive duo he had connected with in the clinic cycle.
“I felt like they were sharp, young, up-and-coming coaches,” Ortega said. “When I talked football with them I could tell they were sharp and they came from a successful program. When they came in to interview, they impressed me and I was willing to take a shot and give them a chance. They’ve done a heck of a job.”
For Felus, football runs in the family. His brother, Carmen, is a co-offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee-Martin. Nick’s presence has been felt in a big way in his short stint, helping 2012 graduates Manny Stocker and Kyle Kerrick earn scholarships to North Carolina State and Michigan State, respectively.
As if he needed validation that last season’s offense with a Division 1 quarterback-wide receiver combo, as well as running back Dae-Hon Cheung (Delaware State), was a product of its players, Felus has produced an even more explosive unit this fall.
“When we lost those guys, and they were great players, we sat down as a staff to see what we had coming back,” Felus said. “We knew (quarterback) Emmett (Hunt) was capable of running the offense and we had some good wide receivers. Putting the numbers up that we have is a little bit of a surprise, but we always focus on player development. We tried to get (running back) Daquan Worley and (wide receiver) Dre Boggs a lot of reps in the offseason and it’s been paying dividends.”
Hunt has gone from a backup quarterback whose notable plays as a junior came on fake punts as the punter to a 43-touchdown slinger with growing Division 1-AA attention. Senior wide receiver Chris Jones has 1,492 yards and 25 receiving touchdowns, and Boggs and Worley are now touchdown threats with every touch.
“He has a lot of knowledge on quarterback-wide receiver play,” Ortega said of Felus. “It’s exceptional the success he’s had with quarterbacks and developing wide receivers. I think he’s one of the best around.”
When asked if he’d ever coached an offense like the one he steers each week currently, Felus was succinct.
“No,” he said.
And he knows exactly why.
“I was thinking a little bit about it this week,” Felus said. “In the summer the kids worked extremely hard, with Emmett and Chris and Vinnie (Williams) throwing together. We actually had to try and get them to rest a little bit so they didn’t get burnt out. It started back in the offseason, and we started to gel together. That’s part of the reason we’re playing so well now, because they know each other so well.”
For Lucci, the circumstance that has presented itself is something that fits his style just right. A football guy through and through, Lucci relishes coordinating a defense that hardly gets credit in a community that mirrors his upbringing.
“The blue-collar work ethic and how football is a way to teach life lessons are important to me,” Lucci said. “When I came to Coatesville I thought, ‘these are the things I know.’”
That might be because Saturday’s game is one that he has been readying for since growing up in the football-rich quadron of the state.
“What hit home for me was North Allegheny has been a big-name program out there since I was young,” Lucci said. “It’s an honor to compete against them and play it on the biggest stage. It’s something I thought about since I was a kid. … It’s beyond cool. Not taking anything away from (the 2007 championship game), but it pales in comparison to this one.”
As has been stated each week of the postseason, the opponent ahead provides the greatest hurdle for the Red Raiders. And each week Lucci has managed to stifle his opponent’s strengths.
It won’t be for a lack of trying against the Tigers, Ortega said of Lucci.
“Tim is a hard worker,” Ortega said. “He’s going to really dot his I’s and cross his T’s. He’s very sound and very thorough and leaves no stone unturned. He makes sure he covers his bases and the kids have confidence in him and play hard for him. They really buy into his system.”
The result has been a defensive squad that resembles its leader by playing tough, scrappy, well-prepared football. With a core built around middle linebacker Tyler Burke, linemen Mike Boykin and Dylan Morgan and Worley at cornerback, Coatesville will once again have to top itself.
That wouldn’t surprise Lucci.
“I’ve never seen a group of kids remain calm when presented with a challenge and readily accept it,” Lucci said.
A proposal of becoming another team’s head coach may very well present itself to Felus or Lucci or both in the near future. Whether or not they’d decide to accept that is irrelevant at the moment.
For now, getting that sour flavor of a loss in the 2007 Virginia state championship out of their mouths is priority one.
Home cooking tastes better anyways.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Coatesville's Hunt playing QB like a virtuoso


COATESVILLE -- Like it or not, the quarterback position is the most important on the football field. There are few successful teams that have average or below average signal callers. So much goes through the QB’s hands, it is paramount to have a talented individual at the helm.
The truly special ones have it all. They have a strong, accurate arm, can run the football effectively, make good, quick decisions and are the leaders of the offense.
Coatesville’s Emmett Hunt has all of those qualities and so much more. The numbers Hunt has put up this magical season are staggering. He has thrown for 2,982 yards, 43 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
If those numbers don’t knock you completely off your feet, how about guiding his team to Saturday’s PIAA Class AAAA championship game against North Allegheny. It will be Coatesville’s first trip to the state finals and look no further than Hunt to see why they are headed for Hershey.
“Emmett makes all the throws, he has a big-time arm and he makes such good decisions out there,” Coatesville head coach Matt Ortega said. “He is a true leader because all the kids have confidence in him and know that he is going to do the right thing.”
The right thing for Hunt was to sit behind Manny Stocker, now at North Carolina State, for the last two seasons. Hunt waited patiently and now has grabbed the opportunity by the throat and made the best of it, bursting onto the Pennsylvania quarterback landscape with a season for the ages.
Many Division 1 college programs are hounding the signal caller about playing for them next season. The offers have come in late because there was no film of Hunt from the last two seasons. But, now, they are lining up by the dozens.
“Me and coach Ortega will worry about that when the season is over,” Hunt said after a district quarterfinal win over Neshaminy. “Right now, I do not know where I will go to school, but there is plenty of time after the season is over. Right now, we just want to win the state championship.”
Hunt is also blessed with talented receivers like the underrated Chris Jones, Dre Boogs, Vinnie Williams and Jay Stocker. This deep receiving corps is like the high school version of the San Diego Chargers of the “Air Coyrell” days.
Watching Hunt lead these fleet footed receivers down the field with lazer like spirals that cannot be defended, is not something often seen at the high school level.
After Coatesville and Hunt downed West Chester Henderson, 28-6, in October, Warrior head coach Steve Mitten just shook his head in amazement at Hunt’s ability.
“He is just outstanding back in the pocket,” Mitten said. “ He just has great presence back there and his arm is so strong and accurate he is very difficult to defend.”
The Red Raiders will face a talented quarterback is his own right in North Allegheny’s Mack Leftwich. The Stephen F. Austin recruit has thrown for over 5,000 yards in two seasons.
But the man all Coatesville, and now, Pennsylvania football fans eyes will be on is Hunt. He will be the one to lead the Red Raiders to their dream of a state title. There is much pressure with the job of quarterback, but the cool Hunt sees it as another game.
“I am excited about it but I will just do what I do every week to prepare and play like I do every week.” he said after last week’s victory over La Salle.
Sounds like that is going to quite enough.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Defense holds its own against heralded opponent


DOWNINGTOWN -- In the box score it goes down as one of La Salle College quarterback Chris Kane’s 13 incompletions, but in the flow of the contest, it was a game-changer.
On La Salle’s third drive, fullback Mike Eife was streaking down the sideline as Kane’s pass arced perfectly towards his hands. Just as the ball made contact with Eife, Coatesville cornerback Jason Totoram made contact with Eife. The ball flew straight up, Eife ricocheted straight back and the game swung the opposite way.
“That gave us some momentum,” Coatesville coach Matt Ortega said. “That play was huge and showed the heart of the team. The first quarter, with all the penalties, we battled and showed the character of the team and we wanted it more.”
The drive prior, Eife had a 44-yard catch and run, to set up the first touchdown,on the same fullback wheel that Totoram blew up when the Explorers went to the well again.
It was the Coatesville defense that gave the team life early on when La Salle was about to go up two TDs, and it was the defense that picked Kane off on the Explorers’ final drive to seal a trip to Hershey. After riding shotgun to the offense all year long, the defense finally had its magical moment.
“I knew I needed to make a play for my team,” Totoram said. “(La Salle) tried to spread the ball around and throw it deep, but I was able to read it and make a play on the ball.”
All week, heading into the game, Coatesville heard about La Salle’s defense and how it had 12 sacks against Parkland the week prior. But at Kottmeyer Stadium, the Red Raiders outsacked the Explorers 2-0, getting one by Mike Boykin on the game’s first drive.
La Salle had a chance to expand its 7-0 lead on its third drive, but Kane overthrew star wideout Sean Coleman when he was open on a post pattern. The Red Raiders, however, became the more physical team. Coleman left the game with a bum leg a few plays later, and La Salle’s big lineman Tom Spiteri was forced out of the game with a knee injury.
“We made some mistakes down there on the third drive in the red zone and it took out all our momentum,” Kane said. “Once they got up two touchdowns, you can’t ask the defense to get two stops in a row.”
When Coatesville finally did get rolling on offense again, the defense kept pace and its swagger was hard for La Salle to match.
“We practiced hard all week,” Coatesville linebacker Tyler Burke said. “We knew (La Salle) was more confident than us and they thought they would just walk in and win. And that didn’t happen.”
Burke was a large reason for that not happening. After the Red Raiders took their first lead of the game, Burke broke up two passes on La Salle’s next possession. He was a menace to block, and made a huge tackle on a screen pass against three blockers in the third quarter.
But then came the fourth quarter. Up 42-21, Coatesville let the Explorers back in with a long TD pass from Kane to Jimmy Herron. The unit forced a turnover on downs, only to see La Salle breathe again when it recovered an Emmett Hunt fumble moments later.
It was then that Coatesville thought it had made the play to finally end it. Steven Pawling blitzed and appeared to have his second sack of the night. But Kane barely flicked the ball away on his descent and the referee called it an incomplete pass instead of a sack or an intentional grounding.
The Explorers went on to score on that drive and all of a sudden a 21-point lead was down to seven.
“We’ve been down and we’ve faced adversity all year and we know how to overcome it,” Totoram said. “We had to make a big play.”
When the Explorers got it back with 2:48 to go, keeping them out of the end zone become Coatesville’s priority. A tie game to send it to overtime would favor a hot La Salle team, so the Red Raiders knew they had to end it then and there.
La Salle drove the ball down to the Coatesville 19, but after two straight drops by tight end Jon Naji, the pressure was on Kane to make a play. On third down, Boykin got to Kane and wrapped his legs up before Kane heaved up a desperation pass. With nothing on it, the ball floated in the air and softly into the arms of Coatesville’s Devonte Suber, to end any comeback.
While Suber braced himself for one of the easiest, and most important, interceptions of his career, he could think of just one thing.
“I was thinking, we’re going to Hershey,” he said.
How sweet it was.

Coatesville reaches first state title game


DOWNINGTOWN -- Chocolate Town here they come.
For the first time in school history Coatesville will be playing for a PIAA Class AAAA championship. The Red Raiders built a three-touchdown lead and then held off a furious La Salle comeback to post a 42-35 triumph in the Eastern Final at Downingtown West’s Kottmeyer Stadium on Friday. The win was Coateville’s 11th in a row and moves them to 13-2 on the season. More importantly, it advances them to the Class AAAA title game next Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium at 6 p.m. against the winner of today’s Western final between North Allegheny and Wilson West Lawn.
Coatesville, which held a 42-21 lead in the fourth quarter, saw the Explorers (11-3) score two quick touchdowns and were driving for the tying score when on a third-down play from the Coatesville 19-yard, Devonte Suber intercepted a Chris Kane pass to seal the victory.
Quarterback Emmett Hunt completed 16 of 29 passes for 234 yards and Coatesville rushed for another 278 as the explosive Red Raiders pounded the highly touted Explorer defense for 512 total yards and the offensive line, led by Dylan Morgan, did not allow a sack the entire night. La Salle had compiled 12 sacks last week against Parkland and dominated the line of scrimmage against the District 11 champs.
“We knew we had a battle with their defensive line tonight,” Morgan said. “We knew we had to just do our jobs and limit our mistakes and take control of the line of scrimmage. tonight we all worked together and we did the job. It was real physical out there and they started to take some shots, but at halftime our coaches told us to keep our heads and just do our jobs.”
Coatesville took a 28-21 lead into the locker room at halftime courtesy of two touchdown from Daquan Worley, an Emmett Hunt plunge and a Hunt to Chris Jones three-yard scoring pass right before the half. Jones had two TD receptions on the night, giving him 25 on the year, two behind Kevin Gulyas of Allentown Central Catholic on the PIAA list for most TD catches for a season. 
LaSalle’s defense started to show its frustration as they seemd to take late shots at Jones and Jay Stocker just before the half.
“They punched Chris Jones in the back and then hit Jay late,” Coatesville head coach Matt Ortega said. “But at halftime we just told the kids to do their jobs, keep their composure and let’s get a big drive to start the second half.”
The Red Raiders obliged their head coach, taking the second half kickoff and went on a five minute, 45 second drive that went 84 yards on 14 plays. The Red Raiders used Worley on the ground and Hunt completed three third-down passes to keep the drive going. Worley finsihed the night with 146 yard rushing on 31 carries.
The drive ended when Hunt hit Jones down the left side for a 30-yard touchdown score for a 35-21 lead. Then, after forcing a LaSalle three-and-out, they went on another long drive. This one was a 12-play, five-plus minute march that ended with Worley going up the middle from five yards out for a 42-21 advantage. Dre Boggs had a big 46-yard run to set the Red Raiders up deep in LaSalle territory.
Coatesville dominated the third period, holding LaSalle to just three offensive plays and less than two minutes of ball possession.
With the score 42-21 it looked like another cakewalk for the Red Raiders on their way to Hershey. But after a 46-yard touchdown pass from  Kane to Jimmy Herron, things got a little tighter on the Coatesville sideline. Herron became the Explorers first-choice receiver after Sean Coleman left the game in the first period with a knee injury.
Then, the unthinkable happened. With the ball on its own 48, Hunt fumbled the football and LaSalle’s Anthony Carlone recoverd. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty gave LaSalle glorious field position.
Kane drove the Explorers down the field quickly and Jordan Meechum went in from three-yards out to make it a 42-35 game with 4:38 to play and the Red Raiders and their fans squirmed some more.
The LaSalle defense then forced a punt to take over the ball at its own 46 with 2:48 left to play.
Kane, who threw for 260 yards on 16 for 30 passing, drove LaSalle down the field and appeared to hit Herron at the Coatesville 10. Herron took his eyes off the ball and it fell incomplete and a very loud sigh came from the Red Raiders side of the field. Kane’s next pass went right into the hands of Suber and Coatesville celebrated wildly. A few plays later, and the Red Raiders were on their way to Hershey.
“We said coming into this game, ‘we are not Parkland, we are Coatesville,’” Hunt said. “My offensive line has been great all year and they were great tonight. I let my guys down with that fumble, but Devonte saved us with a big play. We are going to Hershey and it is a great feeling.”
Ortega was surrounded by his family after the win and seemed drained by the exhausting 48 minutes.
“I can’t even tell you how it feels to be going to the state finals,” Ortega said. “It is great for these kids, the school and the community. It is a great group of kids and a great community and I am glad to be a part of it.”

Coatesville 42, La Salle 35
La Salle              7 14 0 14-35
Coatesville        7 21 7 7 -42
L-Herron 7 run (Winslow kick)
C-Worley 11 pass from Hunt (Bollenbach kick)
C-Hunt 2 run (Bollenbach kick)
C-Worley 6 run (Bollenbach kick)
L-Kane 3 run (Winslow kick)
L-Coonahan 27 interception return (Winslow kick)
C-Jones 3 pass from Hunt (Bollenbach kick)
C-Jones 30 pass from Hunt (Bollenbach kick)
C-Worley 5 run (Bollenbach kick)
L-Herron 46 pass from Kane (Winslow kick)
L-Meechum 3 run (Winslow kick)
Team Totals
                                  LS                         C
First downs                         17                             19
Yards rushing                    105                            278
Yards passing                    260                            234
Total yards                        365                           512
Passing                        17-30-1                     16-29-1
Fumbles-lost                     0-0                           1-1
Punts-avg                      4-38.0                       4-35.0
Penalties-yds                   5-55                        12-100

         Individual Statistics
Rushing: LS: Meechum 11-80, TD; Herron 5-18, TD; Eife 1-14; Coleman 1-(-1); Kane 4-(-6). COAT: Worley 31-146, 2TD’s; Boggs 7-83; Jones 5-34; Hunt 6-15, TD.
Passing: LS: Kane 17-30-1 260 yards, TD. COAT: Hunt 16-29-1 234 yards, 3TD’s.
Receiving: LS: Herron 5-94, TD; Meechum 3-64; Halton 2-12; Givens 2-23; Eife 1-44; Herrmann 4-23. COAT: Jones 6-92, 2TD’s; Boggs 3-71; Worley 2-27, TD; Williams 3-23; Stocker 2-7; Burke 1-14.
Sacks: LS: None. COAT: Boykin, Pawling.
Interceptions: LS: Coonahan. COAT: Suber.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Breaking down La Salle-Coatesville


Whatever you do, don’t be mad at La Salle College High School for its recent dominance in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
It’s the PIAA that allows the Explorers to partake in the same playoffs, since 2009, as the public schools around the state. So, if you were allowed to have students, who might also be very talented at sports, pay a good chunk of change to come to your school from all over and play against teams comprised of athletes within their districts, why wouldn’t you?
The overflowing talent La Salle has again this fall is one reason it is in its fourth straight PIAA Class AAAA state semifinal. Another reason is a tremendous coaching staff that rarely gets outmaneuvered.
Coatesville may have made things look relatively easy through the District 1 playoffs, but, as Dorothy might say to Toto, I don’t think we’re in District 1 anymore. The Explorers pose the biggest threat to end Coatesville’s magical postseason run, but they will also have to find a way to slow down one of the hottest offenses in the state.

When La Salle has the ball
The Explorers have a pretty good mix of size up front and speed outside. They will line up primarily in shotgun spread formations and quarterback Chris Kane (2,259 yards, 28 touchdowns) does a nice job of spreading the ball around and keeping defenses guessing. His biggest weapon is wide receiver Sean Coleman, who, as one of the top lacrosse players in the country, has committed to play for Harvard.
Coleman scored all four TDs against St. Joseph’s Prep in the District 12 title game, and leads La Salle with 63 receptions for 909 yards and 13 scores. He lines up all over the field, and does a ton of his damage from the slot, a spot where Spring-Ford’s Tate Carter hurt the Red Raiders last week.
“That Coleman kid is unbelievable,” Coatesville coach Matt Ortega said. “We gave up some things (against Spring-Ford) to stop the run, but (La Salle) has a totally different philosophy and we’re going to have to cover their guys.”
The Explorers are not primarily a running team and spread their carries out. Jimmy Herron leads the team with just 95 totes and 513 yards. Herron is second behind Coleman with 14 total touchdowns, six on the ground, and his runs can be devastating when teams forget about him.
Coatesville’s secondary of cornerbacks Daquan Worley and Jason Totoram, and safeties Isaiah Flamer and Jay Stocker will be taxed more than they have all season, and linebackers Tyler Burke, Devonte Suber and Steven Pawling will have to read quickly to make plays against the quick-hitting Explorers.
Against a big offensive line, tackles Mike Boykin and Dylan Morgan and ends Clinton Leslie and Joe Phillips will need to find ways to pressure Kane because he is too skilled, and has too many skilled teammates, to let sit back there comfortably.
The Explorers have upped their points per game from 30.1 in the regular season to 33.8 in the postseason. Expect La Salle to to be aggressive early, in hopes of gaining an early lead and taking some life out of the hot Red Raiders.
“We can’t let (Coatesville) jump out to 14-0 or 21-0 leads like they have the last couple games,” La Salle coach Drew Gordon said. “Then they own the game and dictate what they’re gonna do and what we’re gonna do. They don’t come out searching for what they’re going to do, they come out ready to go, believing they’re going to score touchdowns.”

When Coatesville has the ball
This is a matchup of great offense versus great defense. It’s been well-documented how Coatesville has been on fire offensively the last 12 games, and especially in the playoffs. In four District 1 playoffs games the Red Raiders have scored 202 points, including a district championship-record 59 against Spring-Ford.
Those fireworks have not gone unnoticed by the competition.
“The first thing you see is their speed,” Gordon said of Coatesville. “And I’m very impressed with their execution of plays and the way they play confident and deliberate. That indicates to me they’re very well-coached. That’s scary.”
What also fits the “scary” definition is the way La Salle plays defense. Against Parkland last week, the Explorers recorded 14 sacks and didn’t allow a touchdown until the final drive. Jon Naji gets after the quarterback faster than anyone Coatesville has faced and Tom Spiteri joins him on a very physical defensive line. Mike Eife and Zaire Franklin are playmakers at linebacker.
“They have a very good defensive line and it’s the best we’ve seen all year,” Ortega said. “Theeir linebackers are the best we’ve seen all year. We have to find a way to neutralize their front six.”
The attack against the Rams last week was with quick passes and screens, so expect much of the same against the Explorers. Emmett Hunt, who is now tied for 11th in PIAA history with 40 touchdowns in a season, and first in Class AAAA (according to a list on Wikipedia), will be responsible for making his reads promptly and getting it into the hands of his playmakers.
The onus will be on linemen Colin Raysor, Titus Richards, Baker, Morgan and Phillips to protect Hunt, who has not had to deal with much pressure all season.
“We have to protect the quarterback and make plays,” Ortega said. “We have to get something out of our running game, and those are tall orders.”
Worley continues to become a game-changing running back, and his decision making on the zone reads will have to keep improving because La Salle pursues and tracks down backs better than most.
If Coatesville can have early success to receivers Chris Jones, Dre Boggs and Vinnie Williams in the passing game, things will open up for everyone. As displayed in the St. Joe’s Prep games, La Salle is not immune to giving up big plays, but the Explorers don’t give them up often and the Red Raiders have to cash in when the opportunity arises.

Worley hitting his stride


For Coatesville running back Daquan Worley, hesitation is not really an option.
As the key piece to the Red Raiders’ zone-run scheme, Worley knows two things coming out of the huddle: whether or not he’s getting the ball, and what direction he’s heading. The rest is pretty much up to him.
With no clear hole defined in the zone-scheme, Worley’s job is to recognize defenses and the flow of the line, cut, and accelerate through a seam or around the corner. Early on this season, the junior running back found out that task was easier said than done.
“The first part of the season was kind of hard to know where I wanted to run,” Worley said. “Now I run behind my line, and they make holes for me and I see it and just hit it.”
As a sophomore, Worley watched Dae-Hon Cheung run the zone almost to perfection, springing him to the Ches-Mont rushing title. With only 39 carries, most in mop-up time, Worley came into this fall with limited exposure to how it actually looks to recognize a “hole” and commit to it fast enough to be productive.
The result was a wobbly running game and a 2-2 start in which Worley had just 164 yards on 39 carries, and no touchdowns.
Slowly but surely, Worley began to get it it. He ran for 62 yards in week five, then 93 and finally 103 against West Chester East in week seven. In five of the last six weeks Worley has cracked the century mark, starting with his breakout 203-yard performance against Downingtown West. In the postseason alone he has 660 yards on 73 carries and nine TDs.
“Daquan is one of our leaders on the football team, as a junior,” Coatesville coach Matt Ortega said. “He’s a rah-rah kid and has a great work ethic. For the most part, we feed off of him. He gets our team going and every week he gets better and that’s a testament to how hard he works.”
Coatesville started the season trying to be a power run team and eventually transformed into a spread passing team when the run didn’t take off. Since Worley has developed into what Cheung was a year ago, the Red Raiders have now become dangerously balanced. And don’t think the run has taken away some of their explosiveness.
On the first drive of the second half, up 35-21 over Spring-Ford, Worley took a handoff on the second play, and when nothing was there off tackle he quickly darted outside, got the edge and sprinted 51 yards for a backbreaking touchdown. He finished with 180 yards and two TDs.
“The beginning of the year he wasn’t as natural at it,” said of Ortega of Worley running the zone. “Cheung was a natural inside zone runner, but Worley kept working on it and he’s become very comfortable with the scheme and the reads. The one thing I like about him is, backs in the past went for the home run ball more, but Daquan is patient and takes the three, four, five-yard runs.”
Worley is not a one-trick pony, however. He also has a kick return TD to his name, as well as two interception returns for scores from his spot at cornerback. As good as he’s been on offense of late, the defensive side is arguably more vital against La Salle.
“He has to carry the load and run the ball,” Ortega said. “And he has to cover their best kid.”
Sean Coleman presents, quite possibly, the toughest matchup for Coatesville all season. The senior wide receiver who’s heading to Harvard next year as a top lacrosse recruit has tortured defenses in big games this season. Three weeks ago in the District 12 championship against St. Joseph’s Prep, Coleman had 14 catches for 138 yards and all four TDs for a one-point overtime revenge win.
“I’m very excited,” Worley said. “(Coleman’s) a real good player. I’m ready to go at it. It’s just two really good athletes.”
Coatesville plays five kids both ways, and the subs are often starters on the other side of the ball. La Salle plays a good chunk of its kids both ways, as well. While a few teams around the county try to “platoon” offenses and defenses, sometimes that backfires with your best kids on the sidelines. Sometimes it’s just a matter of depth, too.
“Our coaches go back and forth on it,” Ortega said. “We tried to platoon and thought we’d have enough kids to do it. We try to play the least amount of guys, but sometimes the best kid isn’t on the field. Those six games (from week five to week 10) our starters didn’t play past the first half and I really think that helped us, having some two-way guys.”
Fourteen games later, it’s the defenses that suffer if they hesitate against Worley. It’s been one cut and go since week five, and what Coatesville has now is best summed up by La Salle coach Drew Gordon.
“You can’t have six guys rushing the passer because they run that zone read so well,” Gordon said. “(Worley) can go 80 yards on you, too.”

Coatesville ready for toughest test yet


Coatesville has one more foe to take on before playing for a state title, but it will be a formidable one.
Tonight, at Downingtown West’s Kottmeyer Stadium at 7 p.m, the District 1 champion Red Raiders tackle District 12 behemoth La Salle in the PIAA Class AAAA Eastern Final. The survivor will face the North Allegheny-Wilson West Lawn winner at Hersheypark Stadium on Saturday, December 15, at 6 p.m. for the AAAA crown.
The Red Raiders are looking to make their first appearance in the state final after losing semifinals to Cumberland Valley (22-6) in 1992 and Wilson (32-30) in 1990. The Philadelphia Catholic League power is making its fourth appearance in the semifinals, having gone 2-1.
The Red Raiders (12-2) went through the District 1 playoffs like General Sherman marching through Atlanta. Coatesville, winners of 10 straight games, has scored 202 points in four playoff wins, but will be tested by a stout Explorers defense which has allowed just 13 points per game this season.
The Explorers (11-2) looked very impressive in last weekend’s quarterfinal win over Parkland. La Salle defeated the Trojans, 28-7, recording 12 sacks along the way.
Coatesville head coach Matt Ortega talked about how important it will be to give quarterback Emmmett Hunt time, something that has not been an issue yet this season.
“We have done a great job protecting Emmett this season,” Ortega said. “We are going to work this week on containing pressure. I think LaSalle will not only rush their front four, but they will bring pressure on top of that. They really got after the quarterback in the Parkland game and when you look at them on film, you see they love to pressure the quarterback. We know their number one goal is to pressure Emmett (Hunt).”
Ortega knows that when La Salle has the ball, they have playmakers that can do some damage as well.
“This is the best team we have faced this year by far and I feel they are a great team. They not only have a very good defense, they have a good kicking game and their offense is good. Their receiver (Sean Coleman) is always open. They use him a lot like we use Chris Jones. He is going to have to be watched because he is very good. But, we have prepared for this spot all season and we feel we are prepared for a team as good as LaSalle.”
La Salle quarterback Chris Kane has thrown for 2,092 yards and 26 touchdown passes compared to Hunt’s 2,674 yards and 40 TD passes. On the ground, Coatesville’s DaQuan Worley has amassed 1,467 yards and 17 touchdowns and always seems to find the right holes to run through. Sophomore Jimmy Herron leads the way for La Salle with 782 yards and six TDs. He is also a threat in the pass game.
The kicking game is almost even. LaSalle’s Ryan Winslow, a University of Pittsburgh recruit, has five field goals and is very dependable as is Coatesville junior Jon Bollenbach, who has three field goals.
Pick: The key to this football game and a coveted trip to Hershey is if the Coatesville offensive line can hold up to the pressure applied by linemen Jon Naji and Sean Hoffmann. They are the big guns for the Explorers up front. No one in District 1 has laid a glove on Hunt, so this is where the game will be won.
LaSalle also likes to run the Wildcat formation with Herron. The Explorers will use Coleman in the backfield. I said in September that LaSalle would represent the East in the Class AAAA title game, but Coatesville may have too many playmakers for the Explorers to contain. The Explorers have played a more difficult schedule, taking on St. Joseph’s Prep twice and blowing out Malvern Prep, but it may be the Red Raiders’ time. Coatesville 28, LaSalle 24.