Early in the fourth quarter, Ricky Ortega faked a handoff, tucked the football and broke into the clear.
Nothing was in front of the Coatesville quarterback except open field.
“If I’m 100 percent, I score,” Ortega said.
Ortega at less than full strength was still good enough to power visiting Coatesville to a 29-21 victory over Downingtown West on Friday night in a Ches-Mont League National Division clash of Top-4 teams.
Ortega was caught from behind after gaining 53 yards, but the game’s second-longest play from scrimmage set up an insurance field goal by Pierce Hadzor that gave the Red Raiders an eight-point cushion.
Ortega, a Villanova recruit who has been hampered through much of the season by an injured foot, made plays with his legs and his arms as Coatesville, the No. 4 team in the Inquirer Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10, won its seventh game in a row to improve to 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the Ches-Mont National.
With a victory next Friday over No. 8 Downingtown East, Coatesville will clinch its fourth straight Ches-Mont National title.
A Downingtown East victory would create a three-way tie for the division title, assuming Downingtown West defeats Avon Grove.
“We regroup and go from here,” Downingtown West coach Mike Milano said after his second-ranked team dropped to 8-1 overall and 2-1 in the division. “We had too many missed opportunities. We had it down there a few times and we didn’t score.
“That was the difference in the game.”
Downingtown West’s last chance came on a fourth-and-12 from the Coatesville 13. But Whippets quarterback Will Howard was tackled for a 2-yard loss, with Coatesville senior Shamaur Hall leading the defensive charge.
“That was a huge stop,” Coatesville senior wide receiver/defensive back Dapree Bryant said.
Coatesville is the three-time defending division champion and two-time District 1 Class 6A champion. But the Red Raiders took the field with a “chip on our shoulder,” because Downingtown West had spent more time in the spotlight this season, according to coach Matt Ortega.
“Our guys loved being the underdogs,” said Matt Ortega, Ricky’s father. “They cherished it.”
Said the younger Ortega: “We’re used to having the target on our backs. I like the underdog role.”
Excluding sacks and kneel-downs at the end of the game, Ortega carried the football 20 times for 96 yards and three touchdowns.
His 1-yard burrow into the line and across the goal line gave Coatesville a 26-21 lead with 2 minutes, 27 seconds left in the third quarter.
“He’s not there yet, but he’s getting better and better,” Matt Ortega said of his son. “He played his butt off tonight.”
The game was a fierce, physical battle between old rivals. There were several personal-foul penalties on both sides as emotions ran high on a cool, clear night before a huge crowd in Kottmeyer Stadium.
“I was telling the kids all week, it would come down to who was more physical and who wanted it more,” Matt Ortega said. “Tonight, that was us.”
Howard, a Kansas State recruit, led Downingtown West’s rally from a 20-7 halftime deficit with a pair of third-quarter touchdown runs.
Coatesville got big games from Byrant, also a Villanova recruit, and junior Abdul-Sabur Stewart. Bryant caught eight passes for 139 yards and a touchdown and also had punt returns of 23 and 44 yards. Stewart caught eight passes for 113 yards.
Ortega was 22-for-33 passing for 325 yards. His best throw of the night was a 27-yard completion up the seam to Damonte Reason on a fourth-and-12 to set up Hadzor’s field goal.
That came three plays after his 53-yard run that showed his vision, ballhandling, and burst, but also the nagging effect of his injury.
“He looks 100 percent to me,” Bryant said.
Coatesville 7 13 6 3 – 29
Downingtown West 7 0 14 0 – 21
C: Ricky Ortega 2 run (Pierce Hadzor kick)
D: Max Hale 2 run (Spencer Mochulski kick)
C: Ortega 1 run (kick fail)
C: Dapree Bryant 17 pass from Ortega (Hadzor kick)
D: Will Howard 1 run (Mochulski kick)
D: Howard 2 run (Mochulski kick)
C: Ortega 1 run (run fail)