Friday night’s clash of the titans between Coatesville and Downingtown East at Kottmeyer Stadium will be the ultimate duel of contrasting styles.
Downingtown East (8-0) enters the night as the top ranked public school in the Pa. Prep Live Top 20, sitting at No. 4 behind St. Joe’s Prep, La Salle and Archbishop Wood. Coatesville (7-1) is one spot back at No. 5.
The winner will likely be the one who’s able to dictate the pace for the majority of the game.
A year ago Coatesville made the game a track meet, like it hoped to do, and raced to a 40-7 victory. That result was an aberration in the series, recently, as the prior six matchups were decided by an average of six points.
Since Matt Ortega was hired as head coach at Coatesville, the Red Raiders are 4-4 against the Cougars, winning three of the last four.
Coatesville’s offense has only gotten faster. East’s style has only become more physical.
Here’s a look at what to expect when speed meets strength.
When Coatesville has the ball
If the Red Raiders want to gain the advantage, they will need to maintain their rhythm. They’re their best when the defense is on its heels and it can’t get completely settled before the next play begins.
It all starts with the zone run scheme and junior running back Aaron Young. He has 1,001 yards on just 87 carries, and if he is able to pick up chunk gains, the offense really starts to hum.
East may have an advantage at the line of scrimmage, giving up an area-low 77.8 rush yards per game. Defensive linemen Joe Janick and Ryan Reynolds, among others, have been problematic in the A gaps. If they’re able to get penetration and force Young sideways, East will be better off.
Young certainly has the speed to bounce to the outside and get the edge, but no back wants to make his first cut against his terms. The zone game works best when Young is able to set up his blocks and use his vision to make cuts.
Coatesville’s answer to being undersized up the middle will be to attack the edges with its short passing game. Ricky Ortega has gone five games without an interception and is 254 yards away from reaching 4,000 for his career (according to Daily Local News stats).
Dapree Bryant is Ortega’s favorite target this season, catching 31 passes for 552 yards and nine touchdowns. He has tortured teams with his ability to run after quick-hitting receptions.
Kahtero Summers gives Ortega a big target outside, and Mekhi Alexander and Avery Young are more than viable options.
When East puts six in the box to stop the run, Ortega will have one on ones with his receivers. If East tries to give extra help outside, Ortega, who has 366 rush yards and four touchdowns, has the ability to make plays on one of Coatesville’s staple plays, the QB draw.
East has given up 230 or more passing yards three times this season, and in last year’s game, Ortega was continuously able to break the pocket and find receivers while rolling out.
East’s challenge is a daunting one, but Cumberland Valley showed, in week two, that keeping the Red Raiders in front of them and making them continue to snap the ball is the best shot at success.
Coatesville has been penalized at least 10 times in four games this season, and the Cougars will have to capitalize when the Raiders are playing behind the chains and out of sync.
Coatesville’s offense is third in the area with 37.9 points per game, while East’s defense is third in points per game against (15.9).
When Downingtown East has the ball
If there’s a play that has likely kept Matt Ortega, who also coordinates the defense, up at night, it’s a counter trey that would make Joe Gibbs and Washington’s Hogs proud.
East will line up in an I-formation with a tight end to the right. All three blockers on the play side block down while one of the three Cougar running backs will take a jab step left before taking an inside handoff and following the left guard and tackle, Garrett Farmer and Carter Regitz, through an expressway to the secondary.
East’s running backs Brassir Stocker (725 yards, seven touchdowns), Garvey Jonassaint (717, eight) and Tim Aivado (712, 10) are the third, fourth and fifth-leading rushers in the Ches-Mont. They all bring something different to the table, but the biggest thing will be fresh legs, as the trio averages just under 40 carries a game.
The Cougars won’t get flashy in the run game, going to the shotgun formation with a back on either side as one of its “wrinkles.”
Coatesville seemingly has figured something out against the run after giving up 187 and 222 to Cumberland Valley and Reading in weeks two and three, respectively. The Raiders have surrendered 70 rush yards a game since.
The formula has been simple: put Avery and Aaron Young at cornerback to mark receivers one on one and try to keep eight or even nine in the box.
Unlike Coatesville, East has stayed away from the penalty flag, committing an average of four for 31 yards each game. Being able to stay on schedule will force Coatesville to have to stop the run or East will control the clock and keep Ricky Ortega on the sidelines.
The Cougars prefer to pass off of play action, not out of necessity. Fullback Spencer Umberger leads the team with 12 receptions and receiver Jack Riley has a team-high 105 receiving yards.
Bryce Lauletta is starting his 21st career game at quarterback and has seven touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.
A lead and scoring margin is always important (thanks, Captain Obvious), but especially against Coatesville, where a seven-point deficit can turn into 21 in the blink of an eye.
East has shown the ability to score and score fast, as displayed in its 61-44 win over North Penn in week two, but Coatesville is built differently than any other team in District 1. The Cougars have to keep this fight in the corners and hope the body blows take their toll.
The Cougars’ offense is tops in the area with 40.3 points per game, while Coatesville’s defense is tops in points against per game (9.4).
Coatesville’s last loss in the National Division was to Downingtown East in mid-October of 2015. Since then, the Raiders have reeled off 12 straight divisional wins. Both teams will play in the Class 6A playoffs next month, but a win Friday will likely guarantee home games in the first two rounds and potentially all the way through.
Downingtown East and West have had their share of big time games, but there’s little debate that Coatesville against a Downingtown, more East of late, is the top rivalry in Chester County.
It appears local fans are in for another potential classic.
Nate Heckenberger covers high school football for Pa. Prep Live and the Daily Local News. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nheckenberger.
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