Almost as a reminder, Ricky Ortega threw an 81-yard touchdown pass to pad Coatesville’s lead in the second half against Central Bucks West.
Sure, the Red Raiders still are an explosive passing team.
But the two-time defending District 1 Class 6A champions marched into the semifinals on the ground.
Ortega and Dapree Bryant, a pair of Villanova recruits who have formed one of the state’s most productive pass-catch combinations in the course of their four-year careers, made big plays in the running game in Coatesville’s 41-24 victory over Central Bucks West on a cold Friday night at War Memorial Field.
“It’s almost like the last three weeks, teams have been daring us to run the ball,” said Coatesville coach Matt Ortega, Ricky’s father. “This time of the year, we know we have to run the ball.”
With the victory, seventh-seeded Coatesville (9-2) advanced to face third-seeded Garnet Valley (11-1) in next Friday’s district semifinals.
Garnet Valley beat Plymouth-Whitemarsh 56-21 in another quarterfinal.
Senior Jack Fallon carried 23 times for 178 yards and senior Jack Neri ran for a pair of touchdowns in their final game for third-seeded Central Bucks West (10-2).
“Just an incredible run,” C.B. West coach Rob Rowan said. “The last couple weeks, we’ve been dressing 33 players for practice.
“These seniors, they set a standard.”
Coatesville rallied from a 17-13 halftime deficit, scoring 28 straight points to take a 41-17 lead before C.B. West tacked on a touchdown with 0:32 on the clock.
“These kids, they know how to play this time of the year,” Matt Ortega said. “They know this is the playoffs now.”
The Red Raiders tightened down on defense in the second half and moved the football on the ground, with one notable exception.
That was Ricky Ortega’s 122d career touchdown pass, a deep throw to senior Artie Burgess, who caught the football around the 50-yard line and raced down the left sideline and into the end zone.
"Coach was yelling, ‘Ricky, Ricky,’ ” Ortega said of the moments before the play. “I called it (an audible to a deep pass) and it was just go.”
Burgess’ touchdown gave Coatesville a 34-17 lead with six minutes, 59 seconds to play.
Excluding sacks and a kneel-down at the end of the game, Ortega ran 19 times for 133 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on runs of five, 28 and 14 yards, showing some of the burst and change of direction that was missing earlier this season due to a foot injury.
“No 1 hurt us with his legs,” Rowan said of Ortega.
Matt Ortega said his son still isn’t 100 percent.
“He’s getting better,” Matt Ortega said. “He’s getting that spring in his step.”
Ricky Ortega said the Red Raiders were determined to feature a more balanced offensive attack, especially on a cold November night.
“The past three weeks, I think we passed over 300 yards,” Ricky Ortega said. “We have to show teams we can run, too.”
The dynamic Bryant is known as a pass-catcher and return man. But he was a big part of the ground game on Friday night, taking direct snaps in the Wildcats formation and also carrying the football on jet sweeps and as a traditional running back.
Bryant broke the game open with a 69-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation, giving Coatesville a 27-17 lead with three minutes, 37 second remaining in the third quarter. He finished with 153 rushing yards.
“We’ve had that in,” Matt Ortega said of Bryant in the Wildcat. “We haven’t used it much. But this time of the year, you have to get the ball in the hands of your top players and that’s No. 1 (Ortega) and No. 2 (Bryant).”
Coatesville 0 13 14 14 – 41
Central Bucks West 7 10 0 7 – 24
CBW: Josh Johnson 3 run (Bailey Moyer kick)
C: Ricky Ortega 5 run (Pierce Hadzor kick)
CBW: Moyer 26 FG
C: Ortega 28 run (kick fail)
CBW: Jack Neri 1 run (Moyer kick)
C: Ortega 14 run (Hadzor kick)
C: Dapree Bryant 69 run (Hadzor kick)
C: Artie Burgess 81 pass from Ortega (Hadzor kick)
C: John Ruttman 22 run (Hadzor kick)
CBW: Neri 2 run (Moyer kick)