HERSHEY, Pa. – Coatesville coach Matt Ortega tried in vain to console his dejected and shocked players in a rainy postgame huddle.
The Red Raiders went into Saturday afternoon’s PIAA Class 6A state semifinal against Harrisburg as a considerable favorite. One of their many lopsided victories was a 37-6 romp over the host Cougars on Aug. 24.
But District 3’s Harrisburg, showing vast improvement since that lopsided season opener, upended previously undefeated Coatesville, 27-24, at HersheyPark Stadium.
“They got better as a team. They took an early lead, and that gave them momentum for the rest of the game,” said Ortega, who squad was penalized 16 times for 101 yards.
Harrisburg (13-1) will take on St. Joseph’s Prep (12-0) for statewide glory at 6 p.m. Saturday back in Hershey. The Prep blasted District 7’s Pine-Richland, 37-0, in Saturday’s other semifinal in Altoona.
The Cougars offense was sparked by dual-threat quarterback Kane Everson and running back Jahmir Plant.
Everson completed 7-of-13 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown and carried 18 times for 71 yards and another score. Plant carried 20 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were extremely confident,” Harrisburg coach Calvin Everett said. “We had a lot of guys that didn’t play the first time we played them, and they beat us on trick plays.”
The Cougars struck first on Everson’s 30-yard pass to wideout Donte Kent in the second quarter.
After Coatesville’s Than Hylen drilled a 33-yard field goal, Plant began the ensuing series with a 57-yard jaunt. Three plays later, he scored on a 3-yard dart to make it 15-3.
The Red Raiders (14-1) responded with an 11-play, 84-yard drive that was capped by Dapree Bryant’s 10-yard run on a reverse and cut the gap to 15-10.
Everson’s 7-yard burst around left end just before intermission gave Harrisburg an 11-point lead. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior’s 36-yard pass to Rynell Gantt paved the way for the tally.
Plant’s 3-yard run in the fourth quarter gave the Cougars, who were penalized 11 times for 99 yards, a 27-17 advantage. The Red Raiders answered with Aaron Young’s 2-yard touchdown plunge with just under five minutes to go.
Coatesville’s last possession began with 25 seconds remaining. On the final play, from the Harrisburg 43, quarterback Ricky Ortega was dumped for a 7-yard loss.
Ortega, a junior and the coach’s son, completed 13-of -9 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown. The junior was sacked seven times for a loss of 39 yards.
Young, a senior halfback and Michigan State recruit, was held to 69 yards on 15 attempts.
Coatesville 0 10 7 7 - 24
Harrisburg 0 21 0 6 - 27
H: Donte Kent 30 pass from Kane Everson (John McNeil kick)
C: FG Than Hylen 33
H: Jahmir Plant 3 run (Kent run)
C: Dapree Bryant 10 run (Hylen kick)
H: Everson 7 run (kick failed)
C: Dymere Miller 16 pass from Ricky Ortega (Hylen kick)
H: Plant 3 run (kick failed)
C: Aaron Young 2 run (Hylen kick)