D-West battles past D-East
Even without QB Howard, Whippets find groove and hand archrival East its first loss of season
DOWNINGTOWN >> With the weight of a Downingtown East defender forcing his face mask into the turf, Downingtown West’s Ryan Wetzel heard the roar of the crowd and assumed the worst.
After a 28-point loss to Coatesville last week, as well as losing star quarterback Will Howard for the season, a lot of folks outside of the West locker room were assuming the worst, Friday, as well.
But in the 15th edition of the Battle of the Brandywine at Kottmeyer Stadium, what Wetzel saw when he finally picked his head up was a microcosm of the night for the Whippet faithful.
“I got tackled, so I was on the ground, but I heard the crowd go crazy so I was thinking I needed to get up at tackle the guy who picked it off,” Wetzel said. “Then I saw Jackson (Luneburg) running down the field with the ball. It was great.”
West may have been down Howard, but it got plenty of will from senior captain Wetzel, who practiced at quarterback this week for the first time since his sophomore year.
With the injury moving him from his tight end/h-back duties, Wetzel had a magical night, completing 11 of 15 passes for 154 yards, while rushing for 53 yards and two scores as the Whippets gave Downingtown East its first loss of the season, 28-7, in the Ches-Mont National tilt.
It was also the Whippets (3-1 division, 7-1 overall) first win over East (4-1, 7-1) since 2013.
“Will was out and our backup quarterback is in concussion protocol and Ryan has run the Wildcat for us a little bit this year,” West coach Mike Milano said. “This week we tried to figure out how much he could learn. Tuesday we had him confused, Wednesday he was a little less confused, Thursday was better and (Friday) he was unbelievable.”
The play to Luneburg was the back-breaker for East. The Whippets had a third-and-24 at their own 32 when Wetzel climbed the pocket and fired a pass that looked destined for an interception.
Out of nowhere, Luneburg streaked in front to steal the pass and race 43 yards to the East 25. Two plays later Wetzel scored his second touchdown of the night to give West a 21-7 lead with 10 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game.
“It didn’t surprise me,” East coach Mike Matta said of Wetzel’s perfomance. “He’s a winner and he’s a senior and had never beat us, so I’m sure he wanted this win.”
West got off to a quick start after receiving the opening kickoff when Tyriq Lewis raced 59 yards on the second play from scrimmage to the Cougars’ two. Lewis punched it in and the 7-0 lead held until midway through the second.
“That play when Tyriq ran it to the two yard line I had a feeling in my heart,” West receiver Dan Byrnes said. “It picked the team up and we knew we had this win.”
Luke Davis’ one-yard TD run got East back to even and the Cougars had a shot to take their first lead on the opening drive of the second half. East drove to the West 16, but on fourth-and-six, Davis couldn’t connect with Connor Noble, who was fighting through some physical coverage.
Wetzel, who was 2-5 for 16 yards in the first half, got the green light from Milano on West’s first drive in the third and proceeded to connect on six of seven attempts for 64 yards. Byrnes caught five of the passes on the drive, while Wetzel was 3-3 on third down before calling his own number on an eightyard TD run to break the tie.
“We knew we were a great team and we knew how hard we worked,” Wetzel said. “Will is a great player but we have guys who stepped up and our running backs and receivers and offensive line played great.”
West’s defense was just as impressive. The Cougars averaged 278.4 rush yards per game coming in, but the Whippets held them to 113 on 35 carries.
“Their defense was outstanding,” Matta said.
It had been since week seven of the 2016 season that East had been held to 113 rush yards or fewer and the area’s leading rusher, Garvey Jonassaint, who went over 1,000 yards for the season, was held to 60 yards on 16 carries.
“We’ve been good against the run all year,” Milano said. “We felt really good about getting them out of their comfort zone and we impressed our will against them, defensively.”
Now West will root for the Cougars in two weeks when they travel to Coatesville. If West wins out and East could upset Coatesville, the three would share the Ches-Mont National title.
Above, Downingtown West’s Terrence Gainer lifts his helmet in victory as players and fans merge in celebration after Friday’s game at Kottmeyer Stadium. Below, Downingtown West’s Ryan Wetzel finds a seam on his way to an eight-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Downingtown West’s student section erupts after Ryan Wetzel’s second touchdown run of the game Friday.
Downingtown East’s Connor Noble can’t haul in a fourth-down pass in early in the third with Downingtown West’s Alex Rosano all over him during Friday’s game.