Undersized Matta plays big part in Downingtown East defense


DOWNINGTOWN — For much of his childhood, Pat Matta spent days on the sidelines with his father Mike Matta, the head football coach at Downingtown East.

Pat dreamt of the days he’d be one those players out on the field, and though he never grew into the prototypical frames East has always has on the lines, Pat has become a big piece in a very good Cougars’ defense.

Listed at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Pat often stands out next to a defensive line that averages 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. But Pat has managed to start two seasons at defensive end, doing so for one of the most-demanding coaches in the area, who also carries high expectations for his son.

“I want my son to do well, but I also want the team to do well,” Mike said. “It’s a double-edged sword. In his junior year I wasn’t quite sure, but he kept coming on and became who he is now.”

“His best attribute is his max effort. He’s extremely tough and makes plays all over the field.”

The East defense had a dominant regular season, surrendering just 10 offensive touchdowns, three of which came in seven Ches-Mont League games.

The defensive line set the tone, as opponents rushed for only 63 yards per game on average. A secondary led by Jeremy Jennings (seven interceptions) was able to play more man coverage than in years past, allowing East to use seven and sometimes eight in the box.

“Our goal is to pitch shutouts and play our football, Downingtown football,” Will Kiely said.

Things nearly went awry in the first round of the playoffs last week as No. 16 Plymouth Whitmarsh ran for 233 yards and scored a season-high 28 points against the top-seeded Cougars.

Now, No. 9 North Penn comes back to town, seeking to avenge a 28-24 loss to East in week three. The Knights are big, physical and have a pair of backs that run hard and downhill. As Mike alerted his son, Pat will likely be tested once again to see if he can withstand the physical mismatch.

“It helps me work more to get better and show everyone that even though I’m 5’9” I can still play at anyone’s level,” Pat said. “I have a lot of pride and I look at all the players who played here before me and I want to be remembered like them.”

Mike’s oldest son, Eddie, played tight end for East eight years ago and Mike said the things he learned coaching Eddie has benefited Pat, whether he knows it or not. But Pat doesn’t start because he’s the coach’s son. He starts because, as East offensive coordinator Tom Wolf said, “he has one speed.”

Anyone who knows Mike, understands where that full-bore ahead attitude came from, but Pat has found a way to contribute despite being undersized.

“The thing about (Pat) is he was the same size in seventh grade and he played running back and dominated,” Mike said. “He never really got any bigger, but instead of pouting he changed his attitude and his position and plays with a ton of effort. He’s been dragged to so many sporting events all his life that he’s definitely enjoying his time now.”

Shane Hogarth leads the team with 11.5 sacks, Kiely has 4.5 and Chris Harootunian is an imposing force at 6-foot-5, 270 pounds. Carter Regitz is the future as a sophomore contributor, and East can add even more size by bringing in 6-foot-7 Cary Angeline in as a situational defensive end.

“We are really good up front,” Mike said. “They have a good combo of being physical and aggressive, but also having good size and they’re able to move around real well.”

Brody Wilson leads the linebacking corps along with Matt Boorman and Seth Davis. East is 6-6 against Suburban One League teams in the postseason, but 0-2 against North Penn.

The Knights have more times than not ruined the postseason dreams of Ches-Mont teams. If the Cougars are to change the trend they must find the shut-down defense they had during the league season.

Wherever the ride ends, Pat has realized his youthful hopes and made the most out of the unique experience of playing for his father.

“It feels great,” Pat said. “I stood by his side for many years and watched my older brother play. I just love it.”

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