Coatesville had the momentum.
Downingtown West had the answer.
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Senior quarterback Will Howard directed scoring drives of 91 and 83 yards to re-take command and host Downingtown West seized the District 1 Class 6A title in emphatic fashion Friday night.
“It means the world,” Downingtown West senior two-way standout Alex Rosano said after the Whippets’ 48-36 victory over two-time District 1 champion Coatesville before a capacity-plus crowd at Kottmeyer Stadium.
Howard, the Kansas State recruit, was close to flawless in the second half, completing nine of 10 passes for 181 yards as Downingtown West (13-1) won its first District 1 title since 1996.
Rosano caught nine passes for 117 yards and returned an interception for a touchdown as Downingtown West advanced to face Central Dauphin in the state semifinals next weekend at Coatesville.
“It means so much,” Howard said. “We’ve been dreaming about this since we were freshmen. Coatesville has been the measuring stick for the last couple of years. Everything ran through Coatesville. But now it runs through Downingtown.”
The game marked the end of the illustrious careers of Coatesville seniors Ricky Ortega and Dapree Bryant, a pair of Villanova recruits.
Ortega, a quarterback, passed for three touchdowns and ran for one. He finished his career with 125 touchdowns.
Bryant, an all-purpose star, caught a pair of touchdown passes.
“Those guys are so good,” Downingtown West coach Mike Milano said. “That’s why this means so much, to beat them here on this field. They are such a tough team to beat.”
Said Howard: “That is a great football team. I have so much respect for those guys, especially Ricky and ‘Pre.’ They are great football players and that makes it extra special to beat them.”
A crowd estimated by Downingtown athletic director Corey Sigle to number around 8,000 saw two of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s top teams trade blows like heavyweight fighters in the middle of the ring in the championship bout.
Downingtown West got strong work from its defense, which generated a pair of touchdowns in Rosano’s pick-six and sophomore Will Mahmud’s 48-yard fumble return.
“That was gigantic,” Milano said. “They are so good on offense, to get 14 points when they have the ball was huge.”
Downingtown West took leads of 21-0 and 27-7, but Coatesville rallied with a series of big plays, the first an 80-yard touchdown pass from Ortega to junior Abdul Stewart with just 22 seconds remaining in the first half.
A pair of Ortega touchdown passes to Bryant, covering 70 and 59 yards, ignited the Coatesville cheering section and cut the Downingtown West lead to 34-28 with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter.
The next two Whippets’ series were crucial. Howard led the home team on a 91-yard march that ended with Tyriq Lewis’ 6-yard scoring run and on an 83-yard drive that ended with a 37-yard scoring strike to junior Julian Williams.
“That was our answer – that 91-yard drive,” Milano said.
Downingtown West added another score on a short drive after a defensive stop. Lewis’s second touchdown of the game, and 37th of the season, made it 48-28 with a minute left and started the celebration in the overflowing home stands.
“This is something we’ve talked about since sixth, seventh grade,” Rosano said. “It’s amazing. It’s electrifying.”
Coatesville 7 7 7 15 –36
Downingtown West 21 6 7 14—48
D: Will Mahmud 2 run (Spencer Mochulski kick)
D: Mahmud 48 fumble return (Mochulski kick)
D: Will Howard 1 run (Mochulski kick)
C: Ricky Ortega 24 run (Pierce Hadzor kick)
D: Alex Rosano 27 interception return (kick fail
C: Abdul Stewart 80 pass from Ortega (Hadzor kick)
C: Dapree Bryant 70 pass from Ortega (Hadzor kick)
D: Tyriq Lewis 5 run (Mochulski kick)
C: Bryant 59 pass from Ortega (Hadzor kick)
D: Julian Williams 37 pass from Howard (Mochulski kick)
D: Lewis 2 run (Mochulski kick)