Drew Person picks his spots for Downingtown East football team
In a run-heavy offense, the senior quarterback doesn't throw many passes. But he made the most of two completions in a huge victory over Coatesville that earned his team a share of the Ches-Mont National title.
Drew Person never saw the result of perhaps the most important pass of his career.
He heard all about it.
On his back after taking a thunderous hit just as he was releasing the football, the Downingtown East quarterback learned the good news from the sound of the Cougars’ sideline.
“I let it go, I got hit, and all I heard was our side going wild,” Person said of his 77-yard touchdown pass to Nick Lovenguth in the second quarter of Downingtown East’s landmark 28-24 victory over Coatesville last Friday night in Kottmeyer Stadium.
Downingtown East relied on some sensational two-way work by junior Stanley Bryant, hard running by senior Spencer Uggla and heavy lifting by the offensive line to hand Coatesville its first Ches-Mont League loss since 2015 and earn a share of the National Division title.
The victory also earned Downingtown East (9-1) the No. 4 seed in the District 1 Class 6A tournament. The Cougars will open the playoffs at home Saturday night vs. No. 13 seed Perkiomen Valley.
“It means everything to everybody,” Person said after the game. “We’ve been grinding since Jan. 2, and it all paid off. It’s a great feeling, beyond words.”
By his own admission, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Person is more of a game manager than big-play maker for an offense that prefers the run to the pass by a large margin.
“I’m just here for the ride,” Person said. “Once I make that handoff, I turn and watch my boys go to work.”
Downingtown East coach Mike Matta said Person’s steady improvement has been one of the keys to the Cougars’ season.
After missing his sophomore year with a broken collarbone, Person was a backup quarterback as a junior. He is a senior but lacks significant game experience.
“I wish we could have started him last year,” Matta said. “He’s getting better as the season goes along. He’s really coming into his own at the right time.”
The victory over Coatesville came on Senior Night for Downingtown East. The pregame ceremony held special meaning for Person, whose mother had died when he was four years old. He walked on the field with his father, Andy, the oldest of four brothers from Havertown who were standout players for the Naval Academy.
“It was so special, walking out with my dad, being about to hug him,” Person said. “We were talking about it when we were [waiting to be announced] in the end zone, how special it was, how we will never get this moment again.”
Person completed just three passes, but two of them were vital to the Cougars’ victory.
Facing a fourth-and-6 from the Coatesville 26 midway through the fourth quarter, Person dropped back, stood his ground and delivered a strike to Matt Glazer on a delayed crossing route for a 17-yard gain.
On the next play, Bryant scored on a 9-yard run for the eventual winning points.
“I told him after the game, ‘You’ll remember that play for the rest of your life,’ ” Matta said of Glazer.
Person’s other key completion was the touchdown pass to Lovenguth, who slipped behind the secondary. Once again, Person displayed patience in the pocket, faking a handoff and waiting for the Cougars’ tight end to sneak into the open.
Person paid the price, taking a heavy hit just as he released the football.
“I’ll tell you one thing: That man is not afraid,” Matta said of Person.
Given his relative inexperience, Person believes his best days as a quarterback are ahead of him. He hopes to play in college, but might attend prep school for another year of seasoning.
For now, Person and the Downingtown East seniors are determined to extend their final season as long as possible with a deep playoff run.
"There’s nothing like it,” Person said of the excitement of this time of the season. “It’s exhilarating. Going into the playoffs, it’s do or die now.”