D-West bat­tles past D-East

Even with­out QB Howard, Whip­pets find groove and hand archri­val East its first loss of sea­son

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Nate Heckenberger nate­heck­en­berger@gmail.com @nheck­en­berger on Twit­ter

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.

NATE HECKENBERGER — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

NATE HECKENBERGER — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Down­ing­town West’s stu­dent sec­tion erupts af­ter Ryan Wet­zel’s sec­ond touch­down run of the game Fri­day.

NATE HECKENBERGER — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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.

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