With target on its back, Coatesville ready to ride high
CALN >> Since Ricky Ortega, Dapree Bryant and Shamaur Hall began playing high school football back in 2016, Coatesville’s amassed a 38-5 overall record and a perfect 18-0 mark against Ches-Mont National foes. You can also add in a couple District 1 crowns and back-to-back appearances in the PIAA semifinals.
The trio is back for one final season together. And to the surprise of absolutely no one, the 2019 Red Raiders are the local team to beat once again, in addition to being a major state title contender.
“We talked about it the first day of camp,” said head coach Matt Ortega. “We have great tradition and everybody is gunning for us. Our expectations are always going to be high.
“We are the bar right now. So we have to come out and bring our ‘A’ game. Our kids know that and they really embrace that mentality.”
His son, Ricky, is a returning first team All-State quarterback, and Bryant — also on the all-state team – is arguably the most explosive receiver in the state. That is a lot of star power, but Coatesville has some potential areas of concern, including experience along the offensive line and depth in the secondary.
“Ricky, Dapree and Shamaur have all been with us for four years,” Matt Ortega said. “They have to be the rocks of our team right now. We are expecting their leadership roles to increase and bring these young guys along.”
Some see 2019 as Coatesville’s last chance to bring home an elusive state football crown, especially with this core of seniors. Matt Ortega isn’t so sure.
“We don’t have a lot of depth up front, but we have a ton of depth at the skill positions and at linebacker, which is something we’ve never had,” he said. “We are young but we are actually very talented.
“The crazy part about it is that I don’t think our run is going to be over with 2019. As long as our kids keep believing, I don’t think we are going anywhere.”
The Red Raiders (14-1 overall) learned a tough lesson a year ago, losing in the semis to the same Harrisburg team they beat by 31 points in the season opener. And, as luck would have it, Coatesville opens 2019 season with Harrisburg once again.
“We should have won that game, so this one means a lot,” Bryant said.
“We learned not to overlook opponents,” Hall added. “We were kind of looking past (Harrisburg) and thinking about St. Joe’s Prep. We have to keep our eyes on the prize, which is one game at a time.”
Bryant and Ricky Ortega accounted for 18 and 49 touchdowns, respectively, in 2018, and the Raider averaged 44.6 points per contest. In seven games against C-M National foes, Coatesville was plus-263 on the scoreboard, which means that frequently the starters were pulled early in the second half.
“One of the positives of blowing teams out is that we played a lot of guys last season,” Matt Ortega said. “That will really help with depth.”
To start, the Raiders will be rotating in three players at running back: Hall and youngsters Daryl Perry and Demetrious McClain-Jackson, with the hope of finding a featured back by week three or four.
“I would love to be the every down back,” Hall said. “I’d like to be like (former star) Aaron (Young).”
There are some new names at the receiving corps, but Ortega calls it “a nice group.” The top wideouts are juniors Abdul Sabur Stewart and Damonte Reason, and tight end Jordan Engler is a promising tight end candidate.
“Defenses have to put two guys on Dapree to really stop him,” Matt Ortega said. “So that allows other guys to get one-on-ones and it also opens up our running game.
“Plus Dapree is going to be moved around, everywhere from the outside, inside and running back. (Bryant) carried the ball a little bit last season. We are going to have to do what we have to do to win games. Ricky might be carrying the ball more this year too. He’s a senior. He’s ready for it.”
A revamped offensive line has good size but has almost no starting experience. However, Matt Ortega said that senior tackle Richard Santiago (6-3, 250) “is going to be one of the best linemen in the league.”
Returning starters Derek Seagreaves (6-1, 205) and John Ruttman III (5-11, 215) will anchor the linebackers, with Connor Barthmaier and Frank Johnson shouldering more playing time.
“This group could be really good,” Matt Ortega said. “We feel like this is the best group we’ve ever had at linebacker.”
Senior Jon Meeks will anchor the D-line, along with Engler, Lamar Brown and Alique Buchanon. The secondary is a little thin because all four projected starters – Bryant, Hall, Reason and Sabur Stewart – are also offensive stalwarts. Hall picked off three passes a year ago and is back at safety.
RAIDERS EXPECTING A CHALLENGE
In all, Coatesville’s won 21 league contests in a row dating back to 2015. But the Raiders are expecting a big challenge from both Downingtown West and Downingtown East.
“(Downingtown) West is loaded and (Downingtown) East is East,” Matt Ortega said. “It’s going to be more competitive.
“I really feel like with us and the two Downingtowns we’ve kind of taken over District 1. Hats off to my coaching staff and the staffs at West and East. It’s kind of like we are setting the bar in District 1 along with Garnet Valley.
“All three of the programs feed off each other and have made each other better. That’s what’s made the Ches-Mont special the last 10 years.”
BEST QB IN THE STATE?
Ricky Ortega is coming off a junior season where he completed more than 61 percent of his throws for 2,507 yards and a ridiculous TD-to-interception ratio of 36-to-5.
“He is great getting me the ball,” Bryant said. “We don’t even have to speak. We can just look at each other and he knows that I have a one-on-one matchup and we are going to win it.”
Four-year starting quarterbacks are very rare in high school. At this point, Ricky Ortega is as seasoned as a high school player can be, and he has the complete confidence of his teammates and the coaching staff.
“He’s a great leader. We have complete trust in him. He’s the best in the state,” Hall said.
“You know it’s been fun and we’ve had success because it’s flown by,” added Matt Ortega, when asked about the final year coaching his son. “It’s definitely something special. I am going to cherish this last year with him.”
Coatesville 2019 Schedule
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Dapree Bryant >> Wide Receiver
The senior Bryant is one of the most explosive offensive weapons in the state. He snagged 51 catches a year ago and average 19.4 yards per reception.
Shamaur Hall >> Safety
Hall is just 5-foot-6, but he is a ball-hawking safety on defense and a versatile back that will be featured more on offense.
By Neil Geoghegan; firstname.lastname@example.org