With one man in his path to another long touchdown, Kyle Cichanowsky was looking at the two standard options for running backs in the open field.
He could try to run around the last defender.
Or he could try to run through him.
Cichanowsky, a senior at West Chester East, isn’t a typical running back. He had a third option. He could leap over the final obstacle.
“Just an instinct move,” Cichanowsky said of his hurdle of the last would-be tackler on his way to a 72-yard touchdown run Saturday night against Downingtown East. “When a guy is looking to chop my feet, I always have the instinct to jump.”
It was just one move in what has been a spectacular start to his final scholastic season. But it illustrated Cichanowsky’s athletic ability, his knack for turning routine runs into big plays and his confidence to try something different.
"He’s a very explosive runner,” Downingtown East coach Mike Matta said. ”If you give him a small crack, he can exploit it.”
Matta, whose team edged visiting West Chester East, 24-19, in a down-to-the-wire thriller, calls Cichanowsky “a home-run hitter.”
That might seem an apt description for a guy with scoring runs of 71, 59, 62, 72 and 82 yards through the first four games.
But with 808 yards on 72 carries (11.2-yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns, Cichanowsky has been a lot more than just a big-play man for West Chester East (3-1), which is emerging as a championship contender in the Ches-Mont American Division and District 1 Class 5A.
“It’s his work ethic and drive,” West Chester East coach Scott Stephen said. “He’s a football kid. If there’s something ‘football’ going on, he’s there.”
West Chester East hosts cross-town and Ches-Mont National Division rival West Chester Henderson Friday at 7 p.m.
Cichanowsky, a Bryant University recruit as a running back, is part of a senior class of athletes who took some lumps as sophomores and juniors but looks poised to make some serious noise in their final season.
Cichanowsky and many of his classmates were regulars when the Vikings went 2-8 in 2017 and 5-6 last season. They’re poised to push for conference and district honors this season. Witness their impressive performance on the road against a 6A power in Downingtown East.
“Our performance goes a long way,” Cichanowsky said. “It was anyone’s game.”
Cichanowsky said the last two seasons set the stage for 2019 for the Vikings.
“We’ve been together through the ups and downs, and that taught us a lot,” Cichanowsky said.
Cichanowsky went for 219 yards on 20 carries in the opener against Council Rock North then generated 282 yards, including a game-winning 72-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter of a 27-23 win over Unionville.
He picked up 108 yards and three touchdowns on just five carries in a quarter of work against Sun Valley but might have made his most emphatic statement with 199 yards and scoring runs of 71 and 59 yards in the loss to a Downingtown East team that is 4-0 and third in power points in Class 6A in the District 1 rankings.
“It definitely built my confidence,” Cichanowsky said of his play against Downingtown East. “It showed how much I’ve progressed over the years and how the training I put into it paid off.”
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Cichanowsky is a mix of speed and power. He’s a track standout with personal bests of 11.39 seconds in the 100 meters and 23.37 in the 200. He is also “pound-for-pound, the strongest player on our team,” according to Stephen.
Those qualities enable Cichanowsky to either run away from defenders or burst through them – as he did in the Downingtown East secondary on his way to his 59-yard touchdown.
But that leap, that was something else.