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Ches-Mont League became the standard in 2010s

One of the best decades in the history of Ches-Mont League football just came to a conclusion.

After a decade and a half of straining and striving to reach the top of District 1, only to wind up as the Suburban One’s proverbial little brother, the Ches-Mont enters the 2020s as the league to beat.

From 1992 to 1996, Coatesville won a district title, while Downingtown won a pair, the latter resulting in Chester County’s lone state championship.

From there, the big schools of the Suburban One took over, with Central Bucks West and North Penn dominating the end of the 90s and early 2000s. 

Downingtown lost to CB West in the district final in 2000, and after the split, Downingtown East and Pat Devlin fell victim to North Penn in the 2005 final. Johnny O’Donnell led West Chester Henderson to the 2007 final, but fell victim to Ridley. 

Everything changed in 2012, when Coatesville finally broke through, rolling through District 1 on its way to the state championship game. The Red Raiders reached the district final two years later, losing to Pennsbury, before winning back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018. 

Coatesville’s Chris Jones in 2012. (Tom Kelly IV)

Downingtown West capped the decade with a resounding district title over Coatesville in the first all-Ches-Mont championship game.

The League won four district titles in the largest PIAA classification in eight years after winning four the previous 23 years.

The smaller schools found more success, too. Following West Chester Rustin’s District 1-3A crown in 2008, and Henderson’s appearance in the 2012 3A final, Great Valley claimed the championship in 2014 on the heels of Nasir Adderley and Ryan Buchholz. 

After the PIAA expanded the classifications from four to six in 2016, Unionville capitalized with a 5A title in 2017.

The added classifications have made the Ches-Mont American Division a major threat in District 1. For years, Rustin and Unionville would enter the 4A brackets with strong teams and hefty records, only to go up against programs with twice as many kids at their high schools.

Unionville’s Joe Zubillaga (NATE HECKENBERGER)

Since 2016, eight teams from the Ches-Mont have reached the 5A district semifinals, with Rustin and Unionville advancing to the final.

Bishop Shanahan also benefitted from the spreading out of classes, winning its first district title in Class 4A this fall.

Outside of the Ches-Mont, this decade will be remembered for dominance of the prep schools. Since 2013, prep schools have won six of seven state titles in the largest class, five from District 12.

Nine out of 10 champs in the second-biggest class have been won by prep schools, seven from District 12.

These prep schools in or around Philadelphia have been bringing in some of the top talent from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, making a state title merely a pipe dream for many of top public school teams, confined to its boundaries, and, heaven forbid, state lines.

With teams like La Salle College and Archbishop Wood becoming powers in Montgomery County, after District 12 became part of the PIAA, the Suburban One has certainly felt the affects, with talent leaving surrounding schools for greener pastures.

That could be one reason for the Ches-Mont’s surge to the top, but the talent around Chester County has been undeniable. 

Downingtown East’s Kyle Lauletta (Nate Heckenberger)

Downingtown East grads Tyler Kroft and Kyle Lauletta are in the NFL, as well as Adderley and West’s Elijah Wilkinson. 

More may one day join them, with Coatesville’s Avery and Aaron Young playing at Rutgers, Downingtown East’s Cary Angeline at North Carolina State and Shanahan’s Doug Costin at Miami of Ohio. And how about a little love for one of the nation’s best collegiate punters, Bucknell’s Alex Pechin, a Unionville grad.

This decade will be hard to follow. Coatesville, with it’s record-breaking trio of Ricky Ortega, Aaron Young and Dapree Bryant, took offensive football to a level never seen before in these parts. 

The bar has been raised, and Coatesville, Downingtown East and Downingtown West don’t seem to be the types to accept regression willingly. With West Chester East and West Chester Henderson moving to the American Division this year, that side of the league gets more competitive.

The list of names that have graduated this decade (or next spring) are astounding, but the league is in good hands. And when a new decade kicks off next August, the 2010s will be but a distant memory.

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