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DiGIOVANNI: Wetzel, Downingtown West showed off their heart in stunning win

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Football is a game of compassion and commitment. These are two of the traits, along with talent, you need to succeed on the gridiron.

Friday night at Kottmeyer Stadium, Downingtown West defeated archrival Downingtown East, 28-7, with fourth-string quarterback Ryan Wetzel at the helm.

When I visited the Downingtown West practices back in August, optimism was high for the Whippets. Head coach Mike Milano played a lot of sophomores last season and everyone around the program felt the experience would pay big dividends this seasons. Plus, West had Division I talent at the quarterback position in Will Howard.

Downingtown West started the season 6-0 and things were moving along quite well. Then, the Whippets traveled to Coatesville and got blown off the field by the talented Red Raiders. And to make a miserable night much worse, the Red Raiders broke Howard’s wrist, ending his season.

Did West worry? Sure. No team can withstand losing a talent like Howard without feeling some drop off. And with Downingtown East next up for the Whippets, no one outside the West community (including this writer in his Friday picks) thought the Whippets had a chance to win with its fourth-string quarterback calling the signals.

Those people did not know Wetzel, and a dedicated bunch of Whippets who refused to see their season go down the drain, and to a man, believed they could beat the undefeated Cougars. Wetzel was already one of the best linebackers in District 1 and is a throwback type of player. He just brings his lunch pail to the field, hits everything that moves and plays the game the right way. In essence, he is the typical Downingtown West kid Milano speaks so fondly of.

Wetzel completed 11 of 15 passes for 154 yards and rushed for another 53 with two touchdowns. It didn’t hurt that the Whippet defense stuffed the vaunted Downingtown East run game and West sprung an upset that resonated around District 1. Wetzel will remain the signal-caller for as long as the Whippet season goes on, and no one knows how it will turn out. But never bet against the passion Wetzel and his teammates bring to the table, and a group that refused to let its season go down the drain once Howard left the playing field.

It was a picture of what high school football should be all about. Coming together in tough times to achieve a goal as one. Wetzel was the star of the Downingtown East game, but the entire Whippet roster and coaching staff showed what it is all about and that was a pretty special thing to witness. Downingtown West endured a couple of tough seasons, and one could see all the way back in August that this bunch of Whippets were determined to turn those things around and change the narrative around Whippet football. That was on full display Friday night at Kottmeyer Stadium, and it was a great picture of what high school football should be about.

Peter DiGiovanni covers high school football for the Daily Local News and Pa. Prep Live. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDLN.

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