CALN >> Only on a team loaded with college-level talent, spread out all over the field, could a football player of Aaron Young’s caliber actually fly under the radar.
That’s not to suggest that Young is underappreciated by his teammates, his coaches or even opposing teams. On Friday in the District 1 Class 6A semifinal against previously unbeaten Garnet Valley, Young could not be ignored. He led the way as Coatesville steamrolled the visiting Jaguars, 42-7.
“I have to give all the credit to the O-Line,” the soft-spoken Young said. “I want to do whatever I can for the team. Tonight, the running game was open.”
Young gashed the Jaguars for a season-high 20 carries for 227 yards, and he scored touchdowns on runs of 14-, 70- and 43-yards.
“I learned from Tim Rumpfel, the old Cumberland Valley head coach, who used to say that the big-time players are the ones that play at a highest level in the playoffs,” said Red Raiders’ head coach Matt Ortega.
The Coatesville senior is the top-ranked running back in the state and a prized Division I recruit with an impeccable football pedigree. And yet the generously listed 5-foot-11, 190-pounder gets overshadowed, at times, by talented teammates like quarterback Ricky Ortega and wideout Dapree Bryant.
“Aaron’s been wanting to do more all season, but his biggest goal is winning the state final,” said his father Anthony, who is a coach on Ortega’s staff. “He is fresh and healthy and ready.”
In addition to having to share the football with other stars, Young rarely plays deep into the second half because the unbeaten Raiders have been so dominant in 2018. His numbers are excellent, of course, but a bit skewed because he just doesn’t see the football nearly as much as just about every other elite back.
Heading into Friday, Young ranked 15th in rushing in Southeastern Pennsylvania, but had just 123 total carries, which is 75 fewer than the average of the 14 runners ahead of him.
“As long as we’re winning, I am fine with it,” Young said.
“Honestly, the way the regular season went, we rested him,” Ortega acknowledged. “We didn’t need him. But this is why.
“Some people think we didn’t run Aaron enough, but at the end of the day, in the back of my mind, I wanted him to be a well-rested machine, and right now he is that. That was part of the plan.”
Designated a three-star recruit, Young received nearly 30 scholarship offers, including very early interest from Rutgers, who successfully recruited his brother Avery a year ago. He eventually narrowed his wish list to five this summer, including the Scarlet Knights, Penn State, Michigan State, Arkansas and Northwestern.
Young then visited Happy Valley for the ‘White-Out’ showdown with Ohio State on Sept. 29th. But on Oct. 21st, he surprised more than a few by verbally committing to the Spartans on Twitter, calling it one of the hardest decisions in his life.
“I tried to go with my gut feeling,” Young said.
“When he decided on Michigan State, Avery was a little upset,” his father admitted. “He thought Aaron was coming to help him. But at the end of the day he realized that it’s Aaron’s decision.”
Avery is a freshman at Rutgers and is a starting cornerback. His oldest brother, Jordan, is a two-year starting linebacker at FCS Old Dominion. And Young’s dad is a Temple football hall of famer who was drafted in 1985 by the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and started a dozen games before a neck injury forced his retirement.
Not long after Ortega took the head job at Coatesville in the summer of 2008, he met the Young family, and even at the tender age of eight, Aaron made an impression.
“We had just moved in and we were having a cookout, and we were on the deck of my house,” Ortega recalled. “The Young boys were the same age as mine and they were out back playing pickup football. (Aaron) was just eight years old, and I said to his dad, ‘that kid is going to be a Big 33 running back.’
“He has a different motor and skill-set. And the biggest thing is that he is aggressive.”
When told of the story, Aaron said: “It’s just crazy to think about how far we’ve all come since then.”
Anthony Young also remembers that day. And along the way, he saw other incidences that bolstered Ortega’s prediction.
“I had Aaron play flag football for three years, and every time they took his flag, he was mad. And I mean mad,” he said. “So, Aaron always had drive. And he has two older brothers, and he always played up.”
Ortega, calls Young a “throw-back” type of player. And it’s not just because he has accepted the role of being a two-way player for the first time in his high school career. On Friday, he started as the boundary cornerback and had six tackles, including three that drew some oohs and aahs from the crowd.
“He’s just a special kid,” his dad said. “He is multidimensional. He can catch it better than any receiver I know. And if he was being recruited as a corner, he’d be one of the top corners in the state.”
Brian Dohn of 247Sports says that Young “can change direction at a high rate of speed, possesses good vision and is a patient runner. Once he sees the play, he is quick to accelerate and get through the hole. He knows how to set up a player in the open field and make a move.”
The only negative you hear from recruiters is that Young doesn’t possess great size and needs to add some bulk to become an even more powerful runner. But everybody raves about his versatility. How he can line up in the slot and play in the secondary on defense, and still be a difference maker carrying the football.
“I feel like I can do anything that the coaches want me to do,” Young said without a hint of bravado.
Heading into the district final, Young has rushed for 1,458 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. But perhaps more impressively, he is averaging 9.8 yards per carry.
“When you are only playing a half and still have the numbers he has, that speaks volumes about how talented he is,” Ortega said.
Plus he is a team captain, a member of the National Honor Society and the 2018 Homecoming King.
“I am so proud of Aaron,” Anthony Young said. “He’s done everything I’ve asked of him and more. And the best thing is that Aaron is humble and respectful.”
Neil Geoghegan is a staff writer for the Daily Local News and Pa. Prep Live. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NeilMGeoghegan.
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