You can underestimate the 2020 Coatesville football squad, but take note: you do so at your own peril.
Yes, for the first time in four years the Red Raiders won’t have star quarterback Ricky Ortega and explosive wideout Dapree Bryant terrorizing defenses. The duo — who have moved on to Villanova — helped Coatesville capture four straight Ches-Mont titles, two District 1 crowns and a stellar record of 47-8 since 2016.
“Those two guys accounted for over 200 touchdowns, so they will not be replaced right away,” said head coach Matt Ortega.
“Our guys are hearing (that the program is down) from some of their friends or from people on the outside. But they are taking on the underdog role.”
The Raiders have a solid group of returnees, especially at the skill positions and at linebacker, and a bunch of promising youngsters who are poised to make the most of their time to shine.
Linebacker Frank Johnson, speedster Abdul Stewart and runners Demetrious McClain-Jackson and Ashon Wesley are all proven players. So it two-way lineman Quadir Jacobs.
“Other than those guys, for the most part it’s a whole new team,” Ortega acknowledged. “But we have a lot of guys who have been waiting their turn.”
The strength of the defense is at linebacker, with Johnson headlining the group also including Nolan O’Hara, R.J. Rickenbaugh and Adam McCafferty. Stewart was a first-team all-conference safety from 2019, and Prophet Shockley joins him in the defensive backfield. But Jacobs is the lone returning starter at defensive lineman.
“Our linebackers are going to be strong,” Ortega said.
The offense is now in the hands of first year coordinator Dan Ellis, who starred at Downingtown High School in the 90s and is the former head coach at Great Valley and West Chester East.
“Dan’s philosophies are similar to what we’ve been doing, but he will add some pieces,” Ortega said.
McClain-Jackson and Wesley are, according to Ortega, bigger and stronger and could be the best two-back duo in the league. The offensive line features Jacobs (6-foot-2, 275) as well as Jake Walton and Ian London, who also have playing experience.
Stewart and Damonte Reason will start, but there is a deep group at wide receiver.
“We have some good young wideouts,” Ortega said. “It’s definitely a deep crew and we will play six to eight of them.”
The biggest question mark is at quarterback. Ricky Ortega left Coatesville with 10,200 career passing and 129 aerial touchdowns in his career – which are among the top three in state history. His backup last season, sophomore Harrison Susi, is battling for the starting job along with junior Rhyel Miles-Eubanks.
“We need to get all of new these kids experience,” Ortega said. “We just have to realize that it’s going to be a little sloppy just because everybody hasn’t had much practice time. My biggest worry is the injury piece.
“But a lot of these guys know what it’s like to play in big games late in the season, even if it was on special teams.”