DLN ALL-AREA: Coatesville’s Ortega easy choice for Coach of the Year

The 2016 edition of the Coatesville Red Raiders featured a lineup many freshman and sophomores playing prominent roles. Coatesville had a freshman in the most important position — quarterback Ricky Ortega — and a sophomore in the most productive role — running back Aaron Young. The talent was there, but expectations were tempered by the relative inexperience of the roster.

And after the Red Raiders lost their second game of the season, 42-24, to Cumberland Valley, no one really knew where the Coatesville season was headed.

Well, it headed to a Ches-Mont National Division title, an 11-2 overall record and a spot in the District 1 Class 6A semifinals against North Penn. It takes a true teacher, leader and motivator to bring a young team, to nurture them to these heights.

And that is why Matt Ortega is the 2016 Daily Local News All-Area Football Coach of the Year.

Since coming to Coatesville in 2008, Ortega has taken the Red Raider program to a PIAA final, won a District 1 title and put two Ches-Mont National titles in the books. But, this season may have been his best job to date.

After the humbling loss to Cumberland Valley, the Red Raiders hit their stride and averaged more than 40 points per game the rest of the season with a defense that limited opponents to fewer than 11 points per game.

“It seems like a switch went off after the Cumberland Valley game,” Ortega said. “This team had so much chemistry and that is what made them special. They went out and played for each other and they did not care who got the touchdowns or the most playing time. It was a really young group but the seniors we had were real leaders and they enjoyed not only playing the games but they loved to come to practice and work. They really trusted in the process.”

Ortega had lost both his defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator along with his offensive line coach in the last two years, but the talented head coach brought in replacements who fit his and Coatesville’s style. Quarterback guru Jim Catafio was brought in to bring along Ricky Ortega, and Matt Ortega was quick to point out how much his staff contributed to the team’s success.

“We lost Nick Flus and Tom Nichols and (Steve) Lucci,” Ortega said. “But bringing Jim in was great for us. he really helped bring Ricky along at the quarterback position. And EJ Moyer is just a grinder and Pete Susi and Damien Henry have been here since the beginning. Steve Brazzle and Tim Bonner did a great job with out lines up front. All the coaches made this a special season and I can’t tell you how much work they put into this. I am very grateful to them.”

Ortega knows the run to the District 1 semifinals will help his team going into next season, but he also knows the Red Raiders are not going to be sneaking up on anyone in 2017.

“We really battled up North Penn,” Ortega said. “It wasn’t like our first rip to the playoffs where we were still building a program and did not play well. We were not outclassed by North Penn. We just made some young mistakes. Avery Young, Aaron young and Ricky really grew up in the same development and they have been playing sports with each other since they were little kids, and that has made this team so close. They all have bought into what the program’s all about, and like I said, the team chemistry is off the charts. But, the kids know they will have a bullseye on their backs coming into next season because of the success we had this year.”

In nine years at Coatesville, Matt Ortega has made the Red Raider program one that other teams in the district and state have to worry about. The head coach brought a team to the district semifinals a year before anyone thought this young group could achieve that feat.

The future is bright for Coatesville, as long as Matt Ortega is patrolling the Red Raider sideline.

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