The battle behind Coatesville could go in any direction
Coatesville’s steady climb as a perennial state power, as well as the sustained strength of the two Downingtown schools caused a realignment in the Ches-Mont League over the offseason.
This year, West Chester East and West Chester Henderson make their debuts in the American Division after being regulars in the old Ches-Mont and National Division, more recently.
The move helps the smaller 5A schools, and each American Division team will play each other, as well as two crossover games against one of the five — Avon Grove, Bishop Shanahan, Coatesville, Downingtown East, Downingtown West — remaining National Division foes.
There are a lot of new faces in the huddles at Coatesville this season. That should give Ches-Mont and District 1 teams some hope.
There are also two very familiar faces — quarterback Ricky Ortega and receiver Dapree Bryant — that still remain and that alone is enough to disintegrate that hope.
Coatesville has won 38 games since Ortega took his first snap under center as a freshman and the senior has put up over 10,000 yards of offense and 130 touchdowns.
He, along with Bryant, are committed to playing college ball at Villanova, and will help ease the transition of a lot of new faces.
For starters, superstar running back Aaron Young is now playing at Rutgers, so the Red Raiders will try to fill that massive void with Shamaur Hall and Demetrius McLain Jackson. Most of the offensive line graduated, as well as a good chunk of the defense.
Due to the realignment, Coatesville was unable to find a 10th game, but the Red Raiders have won 26 straight games against Ches-Mont foes and 22 straight against District 1 teams, so until someone proves they can hang with them, they have to be considered the favorites.
Downingtown West believes it to be that top challenger. The Whippets have a case, too. It starts with Kansas State-bound QB, Will Howard, who returns after a season-ending injury in week seven last fall.
Running back Tyriq Lewis, who scored 28 touchdowns as a junior, is back, as well. Defensively, the Whippets have a formidable line with Georgia Southern recruit, Sean Pelkisson, and Max Hale bookending the defensive line and fellow senior, Pat Cusack, in the middle. Alex Rosano is a three-year starter at safety.
Before the season even started, the Whippets lost a key piece with Jackson Luneburg undergoing offseason surgery, but last year’s playoff run without Howard gave them a hard lesson in resilience. West plays a very demanding non-league schedule with Garnet Valley, Perkiomen Valley and Neshaminy on the slate, but make no mistake, Coatesville is the main target.
Since the Whippets’ last win over the Red Raiders in 2015, Coatesville has outscored West 131-29 in three meetings.
For as much as things change, they really end up staying the same, and Downingtown East will be big and physical once again, led by junior guard Caelan Krasley. Senior Drew Person is the Cougars’ second straight first-year starter at QB and he will have Connor Noble as his top weapon.
Noble, who has played mostly tight end his first two years as a starter, will likely move into a more prominent pass-catching role, a la Tyler Kroft and Cary Angeline. Another senior, Spencer Uggla, is back at the linebacker spot and will also shoulder a bulk of the carries at running back.
Avon Grove, the fourth 6A school in the Ches-Mont, was two spots out of a playoff spot last year and return some key parts. JT McDonald will be back to sling it around at QB, and Colby Riddell, Sean Glatts and Wyatt Kirby are veteran ball carriers.
A big non-league game against Perkiomen Valley in week one could be a tone-setter for the Red Devils, who have dreams of reaching the postseason.
Ches-Mont Returning Passing Leaders (Career Stats)
|Will Howard||Downingtown West||3,177||23||6|
|JT McDonald||Avon Grove||987||6||8|
On the 5A scene, West Chester East hopes to make some noise. The Vikings return some solid skill players, namely running backs Kyle Cichanowsky and Joey Wileczek, and receiver John Wileczek.
That trio will bring the speed and playmaking, and Hugh Lemmon-Kishi adds size and experience as a three-year starter on the offensive line. Defensively, Tim Clifford and Joe Carozza always seem to be around the ball.
The Vikings open the season with Council Rock North, again, and the remaining nine games are against Ches-Mont teams. The first of which is a an early-season American Division battle against Unionville, a district semifinalist from last year.
Unionville has one of two returning starters in the American Division at QB, with Blake Charlton. Backfield mate Connor Schilling gives the Indians some breakaway ability after running for 936 yards and 10 scores as a junior.
Austin Weeber and Declan Boyle add size to Unionville’s typical style of tough, discipline football.
The Indians’ three-year reign at the top of the America was ended last year by Rustin, but the two, as well as West Chester East, seem to be favorites, as per usual.
Ches-Mont Returning Rushing Leaders (Career Stats)
|Tyriq Lewis||Downingtown West||1,160||26|
|Kyle Cichanowsky||West Chester East||1,103||10|
The Golden Knights had a diverse attack last season, and while they still will with the wing-T offense, running back Nick Madonna is clearly the go-to weapon heading into the season. He will have the benefit of having some big boys in front of him, including Matt Montgomery and Gabe Walsh.
Montgomery will step into more of a leadership role on the defensive side, as well, along with linebacker Luke Stout and Tom Dougherty.
Kennett would love to be a team that climbs the mountain in the American, and after going 4-1 in the second half last season, losing to Unionville, 10-7, there is reason for hope. The Blue Demons return junior QB Sam Forte and senior running back Garrett Cox, who put up over 1,100 total yards and 11 TDs a year ago.
Coach Lance Frazier led Kennett to the playoffs in his first year, but his squad won’t catch anyone by surprise in year two.
Oxford has been at that threshold for a couple years under Mike Means, but the Hornets will deal with a bit of a rebuild this season after their top playmakers graduated. Their best returning option, Tim Faber, won’t be a part of the team this fall.
Tom Repetz filled in at times at QB last year and will inherit the starting role as a senior. Jay Morton leads the defense from the end position, and Justin Neskie is a three-year starter and will play safety and receiver.
Ches-Mont Returning Receiving Leaders (Career Stats)
|Jackson Luneburg||Downingtown West||706||3|
|John Wileczek||West Chester East||536||5|
|Connor Noble||Downingtown East||332||3|
Bishop Shanahan, the lone 4A school in the area, lost its starting QB, Charlie Maddocks to transfer, so the Eagles will reload with what they have. Senior Garrett Glendenning provides stability as a ball carrier and a defensive back.
Up front, Lenny Kresefski will depended upon to hold the line, defensively. The Eagles use strength in numbers, but will need to cash in on wins in their non-league schedule with the big boys of the National on their schedule.
The Warriors are coming off a winless 2018 campaign, and despite a coaching change in July, there is hope for improvement. Henderson has its strength on the defensive line, with senior Quinn Keegan and junior Jordan Laudato at the defensive ends and junior Alex Bilotti is a solid piece on the interior of the offensive and defensive line.
Great Valley may deal with some rebuilding pains, but Jake Ruppert and Graham Muscella anchor a good linebacking corps. The Patriots will get a trial by fire with Rustin and Unionville in weeks two and three, respectively.
Sun Valley is revamping its lineup after graduating some of the most exciting skill players in recent Vanguard history. Julz Kelly, the dynamic offensive threat, is the key departure and junior Tazuan Thomas will get his chance to fill those big shoes.
The Vanguards return some pieces on the offensive line, including big tackle, Jake Crowder, as well as the defensive front seven, led by linebacker Ty McLaughlin.
By Nate Heckenberger; firstname.lastname@example.org