Coatesville (1, 13-2)
It’s been quite a long time since the Ches-Mont League has been in the statewide spotlight. Ever since the late 1990s, the Suburban One League had staked its claim to ownership of District 1 AAAA hardware, with few exceptions sprinkled in, like a pair of Ridley championships in 2007 and 2009. Otherwise, it had been North Penn, Neshaminy, North Penn, or, in 2006, Pennsbury, who reigned the kings of District 1.
That’s not to diminish the teams in the Ches-Mont over that span – Downingtown East boasted a prolific passing attack fronted by Pat Devlin in 2005. Henderson, of West Chester, reached a District 1 AAAA title game and then, as a No. 16 seed, felled No. 1 Ridley in another playoff run. Coatesville also had found its stride under Matt Ortega and reached the District 1 AAAA quarterfinals in 2011.
But, from 1997-2011, all the Ches-Mont had to show for its postseason hardware was one solitary championship – a D1 AAA title won by Bayard Rustin in 2008. The Knights then rolled to an 11-win season the following year before bumping up to AAAA and reaching the D1 AAAA semis in 2010 opposite Neshaminy.
Now, Coatesville has withstood every challenge thrown its way en route to a chance to bring the Ches-Mont its second PIAA football championship.
The District 1 champion Red Raiders (13-2), fielding one of eastern Pennsylvania’s most explosive offensive units, will face WPIAL champion and two-time PIAA champion North Allegheny (15-0) Saturday evening in the PIAA AAAA championship game at Hersheypark Stadium, with kickoff slated for 6 p.m.
North Allegheny has never lost at Hersheypark Stadium in its history; Coatesville, conversely, has never played in Hershey for a football game in its history. But the postseason run for these Raiders has been all about a series of firsts. For starters, the team won its first District 1 championship since 1992 (a 20-year gap) and then claimed its first PIAA semifinals victory in school history one week later.
Coatesville is the 25th different AAAA program to play for a PIAA championship since 1988, and teams making their initial appearance in the “big game” own a combined overall record of 13-11. That includes Central Dauphin, which won its initial AAAA title game appearance in 2011. If Coatesville would win state gold Saturday, it would mark the classification’s second straight first-time champion, which hasn’t happened since Neshaminy, Parkland and North Penn each won their first PIAA titles in a span from 2001-03.
Additionally, if Coatesville were to hoist state gold Saturday, the Red Raiders would become the Ches-Mont’s first state football champion since 1996, when Downingtown Area, then unified, routed WPIAL champion Woodland Hills, 49-14, in Altoona. The 49 points still stand as a record for the most points scored by a AAAA state champion, matched in 2004 by Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s machine of a team which routed Neshaminy.
That Whippet team scored a District 1 record (and Ches-Mont single-season standard) 630 points in 14 games. Coatesville has ripped and rolled its way to 602 points, including 246 in its last five games. The Red Raiders’ 602 points are the second most points scored by any Ches-Mont team in a season and are easily a school record.
District 1 also marks sending consecutive AAAA reps to Hershey for the state football finals since 2003-04, with North Penn and Neshaminy, respectively. District 1 last won a PIAA football championship in 2004, when Lansdale Catholic, then a AA school and member of the Pioneer Athletic Conference, defeated Grove City. D1, which has won 10 state championships, last won a AAAA title in 2003. Seven of the region’s 10 titles have come in Class AAAA.
Head coach Matt Ortega is in his fourth season at Coatesville, joining the Red Raiders’ fold in 2009 after a five-year stint as head coach at York-William Penn High School. In his final season in York, Ortega helped guide the team to a 10-win season and the Bearcats boasted a prolific scoring team which averaged 44.2 points per game. Ortega is 35-13 overall at Coatesville entering Saturday’s contest and 72-31 in his career.
Ortega’s Red Raiders are averaging 40.1 points per game and haven’t lost since September, ripping off 11 consecutive victories since a 35-34 setback to Downingtown East. The Cougars boasted an offensive arsenal which averaged 35.5 points per game and featured Richmond recruit Kyle Lauletta at quarterback and Michigan State recruit Jay Harris at wide receiver. Over those past 11 victories, the Red Raiders’ average margin of victory has been 27.8 points.
Coatesville’s offensive arsenal has been just as explosive. Senior field general Emmitt Hunt is on the verge of becoming the school’s first career 3,000-yard passer for any single season. He’s completed 146-of-229 passes for 2,982 yards and 43 touchdowns, averaging 198.8 yards per game. Hunt’s 43 touchdown passes rank him among the top-13 single-season marks for scoring passes in state history. He’s presently tied with Kyle Smith, formerly of Lancaster Catholic, Mack Leftwich of North Allegheny and Brendan Nosovitch from Allentown Central Catholic, for eighth all-time.
Hunt has enjoyed the luxury of throwing to a pair of talented receivers in Chris Jones and Dre Boggs. Jones, the Raiders’ featured target, has hauled in 68 passes for 1,485 yards and 24 touchdowns. The 24 touchdown receptions ties Jones for the second-most touchdown receptions in a single season in state history and is only three TDs shy of tying the state record of 27 touchdown receptions set by Kevin Gulyas of Allentown Central Catholic in 2011. Boggs, meanwhile, has caught 33 passes for 811 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s averaging 24.6 yards per reception and a touchdown every third catch.
Daquan Worley headlines a ground game which rolled up more than 270 yards in the semifinals against LaSalle. Worley has rushed for 1,599 yards and 20 touchdowns on 217 carries. Boggs, Jones and Hunt have also contributed to the Raiders’ ground game over the course of the season.
Fronting the Coatesville offensive unit is a line comprised of Titus Richards, Joe Phillips, Dylan Morgan, Collin Rayser and Andrew Baker, along with tight end Tyler Burke. Morgan, Phillips and Baker are seniors and Richards and Rayser are juniors.
Between its first string and reserves on defense, Coatesville allows an average of 19.3 points per game.
Can Coatesville bring District 1 its 11th PIAA football championship? Or will District 1 fall to 10-9 all-time in PIAA championship games?
Find out Saturday night.
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