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Downingtown East rolls into playoffs on high note with win over Whippets

DOWNINGTOWN >> The emotion in the players’ faces was easy to see, and the electricity in the air Friday night at Kottmeyer Stadium was easy to feel.

The annual Battle of the Brandywine brings that out in both teams, and in the 13th such crosstown battle, things had a little more juice than normal.

Downingtown East seized the moment and ran away with a 42-20 Ches-Mont National Division win over rival Downingtown West as the Cougars (5-1 Ches-Mont, 8-2 overall) rushed for 400 yards, with two players topping the 100-yard mark.

Dan Liaudatis carried the ball 37 times for 205 yards and three scores and Jeremy Jennings helped out with 140 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries.

“All the credit goes to the offensive line,” Liaudatis said. “They did the job all night for us. We worked so hard since January in the weight room and we still are lifting hard. We are a very physical team and tonight we showed that. And to beat West is a big thing for us. It always is the most important game of the season and I am glad we took it from them.”

East jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the first series of the game as the Cougars ran the ball down the throats of the Whippets (3-3, 5-5) as Liaudatis and Jennings churned up big yardage. East went 80 yards on six plays, all runs, and Liaudatis cracked over the left side for the final five yards and a 7-0 lead. The Cougars rushed the football 56 times on the night for 400 yards.

After West went three and out and punted the ball back to East, the Cougars went at it again. But the West defense stiffened deep in its own territory, forcing a fourth and seven play. Byrce Lauletta went back to throw looking for Jennings, but Kenny Costello jumped in front of the Cougar receiver and ran 99 yards for a touchdown on the interception return and the game was tied at 7-7.

East did not lose its composure as the Cougars came right back to score the next three touchdowns of the first half to take a commanding 28-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. Jennings broke the tie with a scintillating 69-yard scamper, and then Liaudatis ended long Cougar drives with touchdown runs of three and two yards. Two big Downingtown West fumbles in the second quarter contributed to the Whippets’ offensive woes.

The West offense could not generate much as the Whippets totaled just 118 yards of offense against the rabid Cougar defense led by Seth Davis, Steven DiLullo and Will Kiely. The Whippets were also not helped when they lost quarterback Kyle Geiser to a shoulder injury late in the first half when Davis blitzed the West backfield and threw Geiser to the ground. Mitchell Micale came in for the injured Geiser at that point, but the Cougars’ size advantage up front was taking its toll on the Whippets.

“They are a very well coached team,” said Downingtown West head coach Mike Milano. “And they are big up front with a couple of good backs and you have to try to stop the run by not sacrificing your defensive backfield and we could not stop the run.”

The second half started much like the first half ended as West took the kickoff and went three and out. After punting to the Cougars, East went on a 63-yard, nine-play drive with Jennings capping it by going seven yards for the touchdown and a 35-7 East lead. West showed some heart as the Whippets came back on a long drive of their own with Costello scoring from four yards out to make it a 35-14 game.

“Tonight it was all about the defense and our offensive line,” Lauletta said. “And this atmosphere is great. I don’t think you get this atmosphere anywhere else. You remember games like this forever.”

Lauletta finished the night by completing five of seven passes for 95 yards, and East took an 8-5 advantage in the all-time Battle of the Brandywine series.

“This was all about the kids buying in and working in the weight room with coach darren Wasser,” Downingtown east head coach Mike Matta said. “He gets all the credit. And this is more important than the playoffs. This game is a celebration of Downingtown football. These kids all played against each other growing up and I tried the take the seniors out but they wanted to stay on the field because it was the last time they would play West. This game is always the biggest game of the year.”

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