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Young’s interception seals District 1 title for Coatesville

CONCORD >> Avery Young is the kind of player who holds himself accountable. His teammates say he will beat himself up after getting beaten in coverage.

That’s why the Coatesville senior wanted the ball thrown his way Friday night.

“I knew I had to make up for that one play,” he said.

Young intercepted Garnet Valley quarterback Cole Palis and returned it 72 yards for the winning touchdown in the final minute, helping Coatesville to a 35-28 victory and the school’s first district championship since 2012.

Fourth-seeded Coatesville (13-1) outlasted everyone in the District 1 Class 6A field. The Raiders advance to next weekend’s PIAA semifinals, where they will face either Parkland (13-0) or St. Joseph’s Prep (11-0).

Coatesville players hold the District 1 Class 6A trophy Friday night after defeating Garnet Valley, 35-28. (PEte Bannan/Digital First Media)

Only four plays before Young’s big play, Palis had beaten Young on a 45-yard connection with Jon Ricci that put Garnet Valley into Coatesville territory with less than one minute to play. In a tie game, and with a spot in the state tournament on the line, Young said he wanted an opportunity at redemption.

He got it.

On a fourth-and-1, Young jumped the route and beat Garnet Valley’s Kevin Doherty to the ball, and then Young outran the Jaguars’ offense en route to the end zone with 19 seconds remaining on the clock.

“I had to kick on the after-burners,” Young said, smiling. “I figured (the Jaguars) were confident because they had the big play on me the play before and I owed it to my team. I read my cue and I had to go get it. I had to make up for it.”

Even still, Garnet Valley (12-2) had a shot to tie the game in regulation. A 24-yard hook-and-lateral between three receivers got the Jaguars to the 19-yard line with 2.2 seconds left. Palis’ final pass ended in the hands of Young yet again. This time, Young did not sprint toward the end zone. Instead, he stepped off the goal line, took a knee at the 2, and the final whistle sounded.

“I saw they had two safeties high,” Palis said. “I tried to put it up and let our guy make a play and there was nothing there for us.”

Just like Young had been slow to let go of that one bad play — the one on which he had gotten burned — he wasn’t willing to let go of the ball, either. Young carried the ball he intercepted on the game’s final play, cradling it as he walked through the post-game handshake line and then during his team’s trophy ceremony.

“He’s the kind of kid who is hard on himself, but he’s going to play the next play,” Coatesville coach Matt Ortega said of Young, a Rutgers University commit. “His character is so high, he works so hard, and that’s why he made the play tonight.”

The teams went back and forth in the opening half, trading touchdowns with regularity and taking a 21-all deadlocked score into the locker rooms at halftime.

“We knew it was going to be a fistfight,” Young said.

Garnet Valley seemed to have found a solution to Coatesville’s high-powered offense, the one that fueled a Ches-Mont League National Division championship and a 44.6 points-per-game average throughout the season.

Garnet Valley running back Danny Guy, here trying to get around Coatesville’s Avery Young, ran for 201 yards and two touchdowns, but Young’s late pick six earned Coatesville a 35-28 win. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

The Jaguars’ defense forced two punts and kept Coatesville off the scoreboard in the third quarter, and helped Garnet Valley take a lead early in the fourth.

Danny Guy’s 13-yard touchdown in a fourth-and-inches scenario put the Jaguars in front, 28-21, with 10:14 remaining. Coatesville loaded up the box in anticipation of a dive between the tackles. Instead, Guy bounced to the left side and found daylight.

“I owe that to my linemen,” said Guy, who finished with 201 yards rushing on 30 carries.

Coatesville responded six plays later, with quarterback Ricky Ortega connecting with Dapree Bryant for a six-yard touchdown that would bring the score to 28-all. That touchdown set the table for the Jaguars, who had 8:04 with which to run their methodical, run-first offense.

That is, until Young’s big play ended Garnet Valley’s drive and gave Coatesville new life. It also extended the Raiders’ season by at least one more week.

“For how hard Avery works, he deserved that moment,” Ricky Ortega said.

And for Garnet Valley, it marked a second consecutive year in which the Jaguars’ season ended with a loss in the district championship game.

“It was a hell of a season, that was a hell of a high school football game, and we’re here because of the combined effort of those guys,” Garnet Valley coach Mike Ricci said, reflecting on his players. “We showed a lot of resiliency. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”

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