This is the final story in a five-part series on the evolving role of the high school running back.
CALN >> During any given home football game at Coatesville, somewhere in the stands or along the fence, a debate is raging.
It’s about as predictable as a Lebron James versus Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant dispute on Twitter these days. But in a sports-crazed town like Coatesville, high school sports matter, and one of those marquee positions is running back.
“You go to the games, you’re gonna hear it,” said former Coatesville star running back CJ Gray. “In the barbershop, of course. It’s always Rip (Richard Hamilton) or Tootie (John Allen) or who’s the best running back. Coatesville, you gotta love it. There’s nothing better than putting on the red and black in Coatesville.”
Gray certainly put his name in the mix in the early 2000s, after posting a school record 5,828 rush yards for his career.
The beautiful thing about a sports debate with so many variables and such different eras means there rarely is a definitive answer. For every Abel, Billy or Jimmy Joe or Dwayne Miller, a CJ Gray and now Aaron Young throws his hat in the ring.
“It’s been an honor,” Young said. “I looked up to guys like Dae-Hon Cheung and (Daquan) Worley, and it’s great to follow the great running back culture at Coatesville.”
According to Daily Local News’ reports, Young has 2,264 yards on the ground, with 34 touchdowns, along with 45 receptions for 580 yards and six TDs.
“I feel like Aaron is already the best,” Gray said. “He’s the perfect combo of speed and size and he’s humble. He just has it. Even when he’s not trying to do something he does it. He just always stands out above all, and on both sides of the ball.”
Young is at Coatesville at the perfect time. Since Matt Ortega took over the helm of Coatesville in 2009, the Red Raiders’ spread offense has set the standard.
The 2012 state runner-up team was one of the most dynamic offenses this county has ever seen, and while the trio of quarterback Emmett Hunt and receivers Chris Jones and Dre Boggs was dominant, the emergence of Worley in the zone run game made Coatesville nearly unstoppable.
Once again the Red Raiders are quarterbacked by a major talent in Ricky Ortega, but no matter how much skill lines up outside, Young is the engine that drives the offense.
“People only keeping five or six in the box allows us to be able to run and that opens up the pass game,” Matt Ortega said. “Last year it was a bit of pick your poison. Teams try to load the box to stop Aaron, we threw the football. This year we’re going to do things offensively to get the ball in 4’s hands more.”
That’s a scary thought for opposing defensive coordinators. The rate at which Coatesville scored last year, and seems poised to again this fall, may be Young’s biggest obstacle in chasing Gray’s record.
Five times last season Young received 10 carries or fewer due to games turning into blowouts too quickly. In those five cases, Young ran for nine TDs on 40 attempts, averaging 11.1 per tote.
A five man box against Coatesville is a recipe for disaster, but loading it with seven or eight, gives Ricky Ortega a bunch of talented receivers now being single-covered.
“Coatesville always has good backs and sometimes they have a great back and every once in awhile they’ll have an unbelievable back,” Downingtown East coach Mike Matta said. “They always seem to have a top level kid. They have five guys who can score from anywhere on the field.”
The four Joe brothers will always be a huge part of Coatesville athletics lore, and the Young family may be the modern day version. Aaron is the youngest of three sons of former Temple University star Anthony Young. Oldest brother Jordan Young was a three-year starter at quarterback and is now playing at Old Dominion. Avery Young is almost overlooked as the middle child, but he is a star receiver and cornerback about to enter his senior year and has already committed to play at Rutgers University after graduation.
Aaron is getting major college attention, including plenty from the Big 10 Conference. For as many local star running backs who’ve have had amazing high school careers, there haven’t been many, especially recently, that get recruited to play the position at the highest college level.
Worley originally went to Penn State University, but as a defensive back. A few years ago Downingtown East star Drew Harris was committed to Virginia Tech before a knee injury derailed him.
It makes you appreciate just how good Aaron and Arlen Harris were for Downingtown in the 1990s, as they played running back at Penn State and Virginia, respectively.
“I try to stay humble and keep my mind right,” Aaron Young said. “I’m trying to do good in school and get through to college.”
Aaron’s reputation when he was a youth playing for the Downingtown Young Whippets was if he got the corner, no one ever caught him. There’s workout speed and there’s football speed. And at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, he’s happy to run a defender over if he needs to.
He has two more years to cement his legacy in Coatesville football, but Aaron Young’s coach is already convinced.
“There have been some unbelievable backs here, but I don’t think there’s been a more diverse or more skilled back,” Matt Ortega said. “He could play running back, fullback, slot, wide receiver, even quarterback. I think that’s what’s different about him. He plays cornerback but he could play safety or linebacker. He could play any position other than on the line and I think that’s what makes him different.”