CONCORD >> Hey, Rutgers, you’re getting a pretty good player.
Scarlet Knights commit Avery Young took matters into his own hands — and feet — to deliver the biggest play at the biggest moment for Coatesville on Friday night.
With the District 1 Class 6A final with Garnet Valley tied at 28-all, Young intercepted a pass and raced 72 yards to give the Red Raiders the decisive touchdown as they edged the Jaguars, 35-28, for their first district title since 2012.
“It’s just a great feeling,” said Young. “My whole family and my Coatesville family are here. I’m just proud of everyone on this team and want to keep it rolling.”
In the first half, the points and the yards came in buckets, the teams traded shots in different styles, Garnet mostly on the ground, while Coatesville went to the air.
They even went to bit of trickery. On their first drive, after seven consecutive runs, they were facing a 4th-and-16 at the Garnet Valley 28-yard line. I’m not sure how many fans were thinking “This would be a great time for a trick play,” but, call one they did, as Mekhi Alexander took a lateral from quarterback Ricky Ortega, then threw a strike to Young for the first TD of the night.
In a classic case of foreshadowing, it wouldn’t be the first time Young’s feet found turf in that end zone Friday night.
The game went from a track meet — tied at 21-21 — to a tractor pull. Both teams made adjustments at halftime that helped the defenses tighten down and become stingy.
Even so, it still felt like the last team to have the ball would win, and the Jaguars were trying to make that premonition into a reality. They were driving, set up by a surprising 45-yard pass from Cole Palis to Jon Ricci as Garnet was backed up on its own 12.
Young, who blamed himself for the long pass, made up for it with an exclamation point no one in Coatesville will ever forget.
“We called a timeout, and he was hard on himself,” said coach Matt Ortega. “But, he’s the kind of kid who’s going to play the next play. He’s not going to get out of sorts. He didn’t let it bother him and he came out and made the play to win. And that’s the kind of kid he is.”
Palis went back to pass, but Young stepped in front and intercepted the ball. From there, it became the climactic closing scene in every football movie you’ve ever seen.
Young sped down the sideline with a convoy leading the way. With his teammates and fans urging him on, Young reached the end zone, stretch the ball over the pylon, and sent the road crowd into a frenzy.
“I read my key, unlike the first time when they had that big pass play,” said Young. “I told myself I was going to make this play and no one was going to catch me. I knew I was getting in. I wasn’t going to get stopped.”
But, before the Red Raiders could cement their place in next week’s eastern final against Parkland or St. Joseph’s Prep, they had to withstand one last Garnet attack. On the last play of the game, you just knew it would be Young who locked it all down, as the senior made one final interception to see the game off and start the celebrations.
“There’s no better win than a dogfight to the end and you come out on top,” Young added. “I really appreciate my team, my guys, we worked hard for this.”
The respect and admiration his teammates have for Young was evident in the bearhugs and the way they lifted him in the air as the team received the district trophy.
“Avery’s worked so hard, he deserves all of this,” said quarterback Ricky Ortega. “He’s the hardest worker. He’s always focused. He deserved this and I love him to death.”
So. before he goes Turnpike to Turnpike to New Brunswick, Young has at least one, and maybe two more chances, to excite the loyal Coatesville faithful.
And more big plays may follow.
Bryan Davis is assistant sports editor of the Daily Local News and a staff writer for Pa. Prep Live. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @btdavis25.
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