With so many stars on the football field at Coatesville, one may think it would very hard for a particular athlete to stand out. With Division I-level talent all over the place in Avery Young, Aaron Young and Dapree Bryant, the Coatesville attack was the most potent offense in the state, averaging more than 46 points per game on its way to a District 1 title and the PIAA Class 6A semifinal.
But, it takes someone to lead this elite group. Someone to direct the activities on the playing field into a cohesive unit, so that not only does it score points and keep the opposing defenses guessing, but is able to adjust on the fly. The Coatesville offense was one that was feared by most, if not all, of the Red Raiders’ opponents.
Sophomore quarterback Ricky Ortega was singular force that allowed Coatesville to stand head and shoulders above the rest of District 1, and for that reason, he is the 2017 Daily Local News All-Area Football Player of the Year.
The Red Raiders’ signal-caller was a two-way threat, leading Coatesville to its first district title since 2012.
In 2017, Ortega threw for 42 touchdowns and 3,270 yards on 192 of 304 on passing with only four interceptions, and just two during the regular season. Ortega also rushed for 823 yards and consistently left opposing defenses bewildered as to what the Coatesville offense would do.
“Ricky really came on over the summer with all his hard work and working with coach (Jim) Cantifano,” said Coatesville head coach Matt Ortega. “He is starting to really understand the game and he is also becoming one of the leaders on the team.”
The Red Raider sophomore was like a coach on the field, constantly looking for any edge he could garner to exploit opposing teams’ defenses. In the Red Raiders’ quarterfinal round playoff win over Pennsbury, Ortega noticed a switch in the Falcons’ defense and started to run the football up the middle of the Pennsbury defense. Ortega ended that game with more than 150 yards rushing and he talked about the move after the game.
“I noticed they moved their linebackers and the safety to the outside to try to take away our receivers so I saw an opening up the middle and that is where I tried to go,” Ortega said. “We always look for an edge and our coaches put us in great spots to succeed. They do a great job for me.”
One of Ortega’s greatest showings came in the PIAA semifinal, a game where the Red Raiders were eliminated by nationally ranked St. Joseph’s Prep and its stingy defense. The Hawks had only given up 92 points the entire season, but Ortega led the way with an incredible six touchdown passes, and the Red Raiders lost a tight one, 53-49, ending their marvelous season.
But Ortega caught the eye of Hawks head coach Gabe Infante, who said after the game, “He is a quality quarterback who does a lot of things right and he can do things on the run,” Infante said.
Ches-Mont League foes will have to deal with the Red Raider signal caller for two more years, as Ortega belies his grade level and plays more like a seasoned senior. After throwing four touchdown passes in a playoff win over Ches-Mont rival Downingtown East, Cougars head coach Mike Matta raved about the silky smooth sophomore.
“They have a lot of great skill players but make no mistake, Number 1 (Ortega), is the one that makes that team go.”
With over 3,000 passing yards and 42 touchdown passes as a sophomore, Ortega is already on the radar of Division I college coaches, and the Red Raider quarterback has already picked up an offer from Morgan State University, with plenty more to come in the next year. Ortega’s offensive coordinator and highly respected quarterback guru Cantifano has taken Ortega under his wing and imparted his many years of knowledge to the young Red Raider.
“This kid is something else,” Cantifano said after the playoff win over Pennsbury. “He is definitely a Division I quarterback and he will be able to pick what college he is going to attend. He is smart, disciplined and he picks up things very quickly.”
With Coatesville being one of the favorites to win District 1 going into the season and with much hype around the team, it might figure that a young quarterback would take things for granted and develop a big sense of purpose around him.
Not Ortega. When asked about the team’s chances this season, the sophomore responded like an old pro.
“We are just taking one game at a time and blocking out a lot of what people are saying. We know no one is going to give anything to us and we have to be humble and work hard.”
Work hard and do your homework, that is what opposing defenses are going to have to do for the next two seasons when they face a star as bright as Coatesville’s Ricky Ortega.