By BRYAN DAVIS
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.