Win­ning Drive: 4 games, 1 night

New play­off brack­ets make for a busy night in Ch­ester County

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Nate Heck­en­berger nate­heck­en­ @nheck­en­berger on Twit­ter


MARL­BOR­OUGH >> As I was driv­ing all around Ch­ester County, Fri­day evening, I re­al­ized some­thing.

this is what life was like be­fore Twit­ter.

I made it to four dif­fer­ent Dis­trict 1 play­off games in two hours. Well, tech­ni­cally, I missed the end of the West Ch­ester EastUnionville game after it con­cluded just be­fore 9 pm. Mix in a pass or two, Gueriera, come on.

My night started in Coatesville and my trip was a much more pro­duc­tive one than Abing­ton’s. On the Red Raiders’ first drive, they ran a run-pass op­tion right to­ward me, with quar­ter­back Ricky Ortega, run­ning back Aaron Young and a re­ceiver out wide. All I could think was, I’m glad I’m not re­spon­si­ble for fig­ur­ing out who to tackle, or bet­ter yet, who to try and stop.

That is what makes Coatesville so scary this time of year. They’re so young, but so skilled. Who do you stop? And if you stop one, does that even solve any­thing?

Ortega is the top-rated quar­ter­back in the league, but co­or­di­na­tor Jim Cantafio got the fresh­man com­fort­able on his feet first, re­sult­ing in a long first-quar­ter touch­down run and nearly 100 yards for the night.

Young had a pedes­trian night, by his stan­dards, run­ning for 80 yards on 13 car­ries for two TDs, but Dapree Bryant tal­lied five catches for 144 yards and two scores to break out.

I don’t know how far Coatesville’s youth can carry it this post­sea­son, but if the 2012 team proved any­thing, if you have an

abun­dance of speed and solid line play, you have a shot. Be­tween the ex­plo­sive of­fense and shut­down de­fense, I think the Red Raiders should get by Ri­d­ley and set up a matchup against a North Penn team that will be, and should be, fa­vored to win the dis­trict. That ex­pe­ri­ence wouldn’t be a bad one, win or lose, with Coatesville bring­ing back so much next year.

From Coatesville, I made my way to Kottmeyer Sta­dium just in time to hear the Soud­er­ton crowd roar after tak­ing a 7-0 lead early in the sec­ond quar­ter. I couldn’t help but won­der if once again Down­ing­town East would fall to a Sub­ur­ban One League team on its home turf.

It may have taken too long to fig­ure out, but East fi­nally dis­cov­ered that Jeremy Jen­nings be­ing its best ath­lete equates to of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion, as well. The Tem­ple com­mit, who for most of the sea­son played mostly de­fense, had eight touches for 116 yards and three touch­downs to pro­pel the Cougars to a 33-21 win in a game that was tied at 14 head­ing into the fourth.

East has not typ­i­cally used its top ath­lete at the run­ning back po­si­tion since the days of Drew Har­ris, re­ly­ing

on more of the phys­i­cal, work­horse types. But Jen­nings may be chang­ing that phi­los­o­phy. Over the past four games he has 32 car­ries for 404 yards and seven TDs, adding 12 re­cep­tions for 262 yards and three scores. That’s good for 15.1 yards a touch and a touch­down in al­most one in ev­ery four touches.

The Cougars will have a greater chal­lenge at Perkiomen Val­ley on Fri­day, in a re­match of the 2014 play­off opener, won by East, 27-24. The core of that 2014 Perk Val­ley team is still around, and is rem­i­nis­cent of the Up­per Dublin se­nior class last year, which ended up win­ning the dis­trict ti­tle over North Penn.

Down the road from Kottmeyer, Bishop Shana­han was busy end­ing West Ch­ester Rustin’s night­mar­ish sea­son.

The Ea­gles had no trou­ble dis­card­ing the Golden Knights, who fin­ished below .500 for the first time since their in­au­gu­ral sea­son. Nick Skul­ski played er­ror-free foot­ball, and when the se­nior QB does that, Shana­han is hard to beat. He missed only three passes, rack­ing up 202 yards and two TDs, with an­other on the ground, to book a trip to Academy Park, which has won two of the last three dis­trict ti­tles in the for­mer Class AAA.

I only stayed one drive, in hopes of catch­ing the end of the West Ch­ester East game, but I saw all I needed to.

Shana­han has a good mix of speed, with re­ceiver Bren­dan Dear­ing, ex­pe­ri­ence with Skul­ski, and size up front, start­ing with cen­ter Jake Colby.

The Ea­gles didn’t al­low an of­fen­sive touch­down and looked a lot like the unit of the first half of the sea­son against other Class 5A teams.

It’s some­times hard to gauge Delaware County teams be­cause the Cen­tral and Del-Val leagues aren’t al­ways the deep­est in the re­gion. But Delco has been bet­ter as a whole in the for­mer 3A, and has three of the re­main­ing eight teams in 5A, while the Ches-Mont has four.

Academy Park has a bit of home-field ad­van­tage down by the air­port, but if Shana­han plays smart foot­ball, it has the po­ten­tial to keep its sea­son go­ing.

So, after weav­ing my way through the back roads of Down­ing­town to Unionville, I felt like a salmon run­ning into a sta­dium with fans pour­ing out.

I made it just in time to see West Ch­ester East cel­e­brate with its fans and hug its emo­tional coach, Dave Gueriera. It had been a long 10 years since the Vik­ings had sniffed the post­sea­son, let alone win a game in it. So all the ex­cess cel­e­bra­tion and tears for a first-round win were a long time com­ing.

In a game dom­i­nated by de­fense, where the of­fenses didn’t even com­bine for a

typ­i­cal out­put by Coatesville, of course it was a 17-play, 70yard drive that chewed up the fi­nal eight min­utes to set up a game-win­ning field goal for the Vik­ings.

The Vikes will have to bring their de­fense to Marple-New­town Fri­day, as the Tigers have a bit more po­tent of­fense. Of the eight 5A teams to make the play­offs de­spite be­ing .500 or lower, West Ch­ester East was the lone sur­vivor, and will try to get to 6-6, Fri­day.

The Ches-Mont, as a whole, went 6-2, with the two losses friendly fire. Coatesville is the only lo­cal team that will host a sec­ond round game, wel­com­ing Cen­tral League champ, Ri­d­ley.

The new for­mat with six clas­si­fi­ca­tions cer­tainly got more teams the play­off ex­pe­ri­ence, and more cash to the PIAA, of course, but also led to plenty more non-com­pet­i­tive foot­ball. In 6A, the eight win­ners won by an average mar­gin of 25.4 points. In 5A, it was 23.8 points. Only two road teams — West Ch­ester East and Gar­net Val­ley — pulled up­sets out of 16 games.

The more ap­pro­pri­ate eight-team brack­ets should lead to more com­pelling foot­ball this weekend.


West Ch­ester East play­ers cel­e­brate their win over Unionville Fri­day.

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