DOWNINGTOWN — Despite a clean record of 9-1 in the regular season, Downingtown West had been through enough to understand not all wins are pretty.
At times, Friday at Kottmeyer Stadium, the No. 4 Whippets looked poised to sprint easily into the second round of the District 1-6A playoffs. Other times, almost simultaneously when the rains got a little harder, West had to dig in and hold on.
Thirteenth-seed Upper Darby was up for the fight, but the Whippets scored the final 14 points in the second and fourth quarters to claim a 42-20 in the opening round of the district playoffs.
It was the Whippets’ (10-1) first postseason victory since 2009, and they will stay at home next Friday when No. 5 Harry S. Truman (10-1) comes to town.
“We’ve been through some stuff,” West coach Mike Milano said. “From where we were at halftime against Coatesville (in week seven), feeling hurt and beat and having lost our guy (quarterback Will Howard), I couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”
Ryan Wetzel continued his strong play filling in for Howard, completing six of eight passes for 166 yards. His lone touchdown pass was a 62-yarder to Dan Byrnes in the second quarter, and he ran in another, as well.
“Ryan Wetzel is a warrior,” Milano said. “He made the plays.”
Tyriq Lewis opened the scoring for West with a 21-yard run on the opening drive and West looked like it would get the ball back quickly, but a roughing the kicker gave the Royals (7-4) second life.
Upper Darby capitalized with a 15-play, 73-yard drive, capped by Kareem McAdams’ nine-yard score.
After Wetzel’s TD run gave West another lead, McAdams struck right back with a 13-yard TD run. McAdams finished the night with 190 yards and three scores and the Royals ran for 271 yards against a West defense that gave up just 95.5 rush yards per game on average.
“People will look and see it was a blowout, but we went down 28-13 in the first half and we came out in the second half and played a heck of a football game,” Upper Darby coach Rich Gentile said. “(West) is a good football team over there and I don’t want to take anything away from them but our kids played their (butts) off in the second half and didn’t quit.”
The Royals moved into West territory its first two drives of the third quarter but turned it over on downs both times. They stopped the Whippets as well, and with just over 10 minutes to go in the fourth, McAdams found pay dirt again to make it a one-score game.
West responded its next drive, moving the chains twice on fourth downs and scoring when Lewis recovered a fumble in the end zone after Tyler Alston was stripped at the one.
Byrnes had a huge catch on a third-and-six on the drive, stealing the ball from the defender, and on the Royals’ first play their next drive, he picked off McAdams’ halfback pass attempt.
“I love to make plays and help my team get the win,” Byrnes said. “There are a lot of people who doubt us, but we came through and beat Upper Darby.”
Alston punched one in on West’s last drive to push the margin to 22. His backmate, Lewis, cracked the 1,000 yard mark for the season with 147 on the ground and he is up to 27 touchdowns on the season.
West will try end another drought as it looks to reach the district semis for the first time since 2008.
“No one wants to turn their gear in,” Milano said. “We want to keep going. We keep adjusting our goals and the kids are working hard to achieve them.”
Upper Darby will turn its focus to the Thanksgiving morning matchup against Haverford.