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DiGIOVANNI: Harrisburg rematch won’t be as easy for Coatesville, but should end the same

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Here we are, back again.

Saturday afternoon, Coatesville will try for the second straight year to reach the PIAA Class 6A title game. Last year at this point in the bracket, the Red Raiders fell in a thriller against St. Joseph’s Prep at Downingtown’s Kottmeyer Stadium.

This time, Coatesville will face a red-hot Harrisburg team, which the Red Raiders easily handled back in Week 1, rolling to a 37-6 win.

But things have changed since then, as the 12-1 Cougars have really come on since the opening game, winning 12 straight games and scoring more than 50 points three times in that span.

Coatesville’s Ricky Ortega gets congratulated after a touchdown against North Penn. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

The Cougars are a very fast and athletic team, and Coatesville head coach Matt Ortega talked about what a huge challenge they present, despite the convincing win from Week 1.

“We really caught Harrisburg at the right time on a very hot day,” Ortega said. “But, they are red hot right now and they have some fantastic athletes. They may have the fastest defense in the state and their linebackers are very good and they are fast and they run to the ball.

“Offensively, the quarterback (Kane Everson), is special. He makes everything they do go. He can run, pass, throw on the run and he just makes plays, so we will have to contain him if we’re going to win the game. We are not going to be overconfident because we beat them once. Like I said, we caught them on a real hot day and they had about nine or 10 guys cramping up and missing some plays. So, our kids know how tough they are and they will be ready.”

Coatesville’s Dapree Bryant (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

Harrisburg is probably the third or fourth best team in the state. The problem for the Cougars is that Coatesville is the best team in the state, and if the Red Raiders play their game, there is little chance the Cougars can come out on top.

Everson is very special. The left-handed senior has accounted for more than 3,100 yards, and has thrown for more than 2,100 yards with another 1,000 on the ground. The Coatesville defense has met every challenge so far this season, and Everson is just another player the Red Raider defense has to shut down. In the 42-13 District 1 championship win over North Penn, the Red Raiders sacked the Knights’ quarterback seven times. The Coatesville first team defense has allowed just 16 points in four playoff victories.

Offensively, Coatesville has relied on Michigan State-bound Aaron Young more in the playoffs because teams have tried to stop quarterback Ricky Ortega’s vertical passing game. Young has more than 400 rushing yards in the last two playoff wins, so for Harrisburg, it is pick your poison and hope for the best. That is not a great prescription for reaching the state final.

Coatesville’s Eric Kirk (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

Coatesville just has too much for the Cougars, who are very talented themselves.

Remember, Coatesville has mercy-ruled every District 1 team it has played, along with Middletown South. The only teams to avoid the mercy rule were Harrisburg and Cumberland Valley, and those were both still comfortable Red Raider wins.

Pick >> Coatesville 42, Harrisburg 13

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