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A closer look at huge East-West battle in Downingtown

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DOWNINGTOWN — The old adage goes something like offense sells tickets but defenses win championships.

Well, the tickets for tonight’s Downingtown East-West game sold. So quickly, that the capped 6,000 were sold out by Wednesday to the outrage of many.

Now we will see if defense really does win championships. When the 9-0 Cougars face off against the 9-0 Whippets at Kottmeyer Stadium, more is at stake then just a Ches-Mont National Division title. West is going for its first undefeated regular season while East is going for its second since 2012. The winner gets the top seed in the Class AAAA District 1 playoffs as well as the initial batch of bragging rights.

Here’s a closer look at what to expect:

When East has the ball

West’s offense may get more attention, but East’s is hardly a slouch. The Cougars are second in the National Division with 31.8 points per game on offense.

East will try to pound the ball and wear a defense out. It has been able to be more patient with a defense that has given up nothing, and running back Jack Kincade has been the benefactor. He leads the league with 188 carries, and is third with 843 rushing yards. He’s not a home run threat, but he is more like a wrecking ball slamming into the defense for four or five yards, until late in the game it becomes seven or eight yards.

The Cougars will run a hurry-up offense and make the defense line up and react quickly. Overload the box and East has six-foot-seven tight end Cary Angeline (34 receptions, 563 yards, eight touchdowns) and Ethan Harris (19, 272, three) as options in the pass game.

Saunders Healy is a dual threat at quarterback, and has thrown for 1,307 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for 500 yards and seven scores in his first year as a starter.

East will lean on its big line, try to run power off tackle and then find big plays off of play action.

West has played solid defense this season outside a 49-point outburst by West Chester East in week seven. The Whippets are fifth in the area against the run and have created 16 turnovers to go plus-eight in the turnover margin.

Braden Harper is one of the best outside linebackers in the area and he has been the tone-setter from a physicality standpoint for the Whippets. Expect West to try to match East’s power game and get lots of early contact on Angeline off the line.

When West has the ball

The Whippets have been the most explosive offense this season and lead the league with 39.1 points and 404.4 yards per game on offense. Coach Mike Milano has talked numerous times this season about his bigger, stronger offensive line and it will be needed against East’s brutal defense.

The Cougars are giving up just 6.8 offensive points and 63.1 rushing yards per game and have gone three and a half games without giving up an offensive touchdown. They’ve only surrendered one since week three and 322 game minutes have passed since an opponent has scored on the ground.

The Whippets will attack with their wing-T, veer option combination and find ways to get running back Jake Barr the ball in space as often as possible. The senior back has 1,188 combined offensive yards and 20 total touchdowns.

Barr is a very good runner, but is most dangerous on screens and short passes with green grass in front of him.

Quarterback Thomas Mattioni has a passer rating of 241.4 thanks to 19 touchdowns and two interceptions. Without running back Mike Riddick, who was lost for the season in week five, West lost a key piece, but has hardly missed a beat.

East will challenge them on every play, in every direction. The Cougars are big up front, aggressive at linebacker and fast in the secondary. They have created an area-high 23 turnovers, and have a plus-10 turnover margin.

Jeremy Jennings leads the area with six interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. East has scored 37 points with its defense, while only giving up 61 points to opposing offenses.

The speed and talent in the secondary has allowed coach Mike Matta to deploy man coverage, freeing up the front seven to blitz and pursue.

Of course there’s Angeline, as well, who plays defensive end situationally, and has two interceptions on the season.

Special Teams

Both teams have one kick return for touchdown, but East may have the biggest under-the-radar weapon of the game. Senior kicker Drew Brennan is as close to a lock of automatic touchback as anyone in the district. With East’s stifling defense, making West go 80 yards multiple times will make things even more difficult.

Brennan is perfect on point after attempts outside of one blocked try.

West’s kicker Massimo Biscardi has been reliable with PATs. Barr has the ability to take any kick to the house, so Brennan’s ability to reach the end zone and punt away from him could loom large.

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