DOWNINGTOWN >> When people talk of shortening the game, this is probably not what they have in mind.
Fifth-seeded Downingtown East scored on all six possessions of the first half to waltz to a 42-13 victory over No. 12 Owen J. Roberts on Friday in the first round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs.
The Cougars moved to 10-1 and set up a highly anticipated rematch at No. 4 Coatesville in the quarterfinals next Friday. The Wildcats fell to 8-3 with a Thanksgiving Day game against Pottstown remaining.
Owen J. came into the game having won three in a row, allowing 20 points in that stretch, but it all came crashing down quickly.
The opening kickoff was short, falling in between the deep backs and the wedge. Connor Mullen jumped on it for East at the OJR 26.
A procedure penalty moved the ball to the 31. Then Tim Aivado ripped straight up the middle through a huge hole for a 7-0 lead, mere seconds into the contest.
“That kickoff was just a killer,” said Owen J. coach Rich Kolka. “It just spiraled out of control quickly.”
“It was just straight up the middle,” said Aivado. “I had a big hole. We have the best offensive line in District 1 and it felt real good to jump on them early.”
The next time the Cougars got the ball, it took them all of three plays to double the advantage. Bryce Lauletta hit Albert Choi perfectly on a deep post. Choi strolled in to complete the 68-yard scoring play.
“It was definitely our goal to jump on them early,” said East coach Mike Matta. “We took advantage of that kickoff, it wasn’t on purpose, but we turned it into points.”
The third time the East offense touched the ball, it took a comparably long time for them to get back to the end zone. A seven-play, 78-yard drive culminated when Brassir Stocker squeezed through a collapsing line and went 16 yards to make the score 21-0 after one.
The first quarter ended with the Cougars outgaining OJR, 199-33.
Two more scores by the Cougars — a 53-yard pass from Lauletta to Jack Riley, and an 18-yard run by Stocker — made it 35-0 when the Wildcats finally got some momentum.
They went on a long methodical march, going 16 plays, mostly behind the running of Sean Praweckyj, who carried six times for 35 yards.
However, on a 2nd-and-12 from the East 13, they fumbled the snap with East recovering.
“That was disappointing, going on a long drive and fumbling the ball,” said Kolka. “We’re playing with our fourth-string center, but to go 16 plays and get nothing from it, it sucks.”
Lauletta etched himself into the scoring ledger, sneaking over from the one for a commanding 42-0 lead at the half. The last touchdown epitomized the frustration the Wildcats had. A high snap forced a bad punt that bounced backward for a net of minus-5 yards that set the Cougars up at the OJR 22.
East finished the half with 372 yards of offense to 91 for Owen J. Lauletta was 6-of-9 for 176 yards and two scores. Stocker ran the ball for 74 yards and Aivado had 70.
The Cougars took their starters out at that point. The Wildcats broke up the shutout in the fourth as as Hunter Scherfel scampered in from the five.
They scored one more in the fourth as QB Dawson Stuart hit Jay Bocci for a 9-yard score.
“At that point, you play for pride.” Kolka said on what he told his team at half. “You like to play, just go out there and play.”
Now, the Red Raiders loom in the most tantalizing matchup of the quarterfinals.
“It was good to play to a lot of our second, third and fourth strings,” said Matta. “Hopefully, it will be another good game. They’re a really good team with a lot of great athletes. We’ll be ready to play.”
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