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QBs Ricky Ortega of Coatesville, Will Howard of Downingtown West set for showdown

Friday night's game between the No. 4 Red Raiders and the No. 2 Whippets could turn on the play of the teams' veteran leaders.

Quarterbacks (from left) Ricky Ortega of Coatesville and Will Howard of Downingtown West.
Quarterbacks (from left) Ricky Ortega of Coatesville and Will Howard of Downingtown West.Read moreFILE PHOTOS

Will Howard swears he will be happy if Downingtown West beats Coatesville by 10-7.

Ricky Ortega insists he will be thrilled if Coatesville beats Downingtown West by 14-10.

More than anything, each senior leader wants his team to win Friday night’s showdown between the host Whippets, the No. 2 team in The Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10, and the No. 4 Red Raiders at Kottmeyer Stadium.

But let’s keep this real: These guys are quarterbacks, gunslingers, big-play makers who thrive on the big stage.

Howard will take a 10-7 win.

But 35-32 would work, too.

Ortega will settle for a 14-10 victory.

But 45-41 would be more along his lines.

“We’ve been waiting for this game,” Ortega said. “This is the best West team we’ve faced since I’ve been here.

"We can’t wait.”

The Ches-Mont League National Division clash between the 8-0 Whippets and the 6-1 Red Raiders, who have won six in a row since a season-opening loss to 2018 Class 6A state finalist Harrisburg, matches two of the state’s most explosive offenses and two of its most dynamic quarterbacks.

Both are NCAA Division I recruits. Both can run and pass. And both have a little extra motivation.

For Ortega, a Villanova recruit and one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in state history, the game will offer the chance to show he’s back to top form after battling a nagging foot injury for most of the season.

He hurt his right foot Sept. 6 against Cumberland Valley, aggravated it Sept. 20 against Unionville, and sat out the Sept 27 game vs. Bayard Rustin.

But in last week’s 41-17 win over Bishop Shanahan, Ortega looked familiar to Coatesville fans, completing 19 of 29 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns, all to fellow Villanova recruit Dapree Bryant.

For the season, Ortega is 62-for-99 passing for 814 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has thrown for 8,582 yards and 115 touchdowns in his career, per research by sports historian Chuck Langerman.

“I’m feeling much better, like I’m 100%,” Ortega said.

Howard, a Kansas State recruit, has led Downingtown West through a season in which the team’s closest game was a 33-17 victory over Perkiomen Valley. Over the last four games, the Whippets are averaging 52.7 points.

“What’s exciting to me is that we haven’t played our best game yet,” Howard said. “We have the potential to play so much better.”

Howard said the same thing about himself, despite having completed 83 of 136 passes for 1,428 yards with 18 touchdowns. He also has run for seven scores.

“I know I can play better,” Howard said.

Howard would like nothing better than to play his best game against Coatesville, since his junior season ended with a broken wrist in a Week 7 game vs. the Red Raiders.

"This is a game we’ve had circled on our calendar,” Howard said.

Howard knows Ortega is likely to be at the top of his game.

“Ricky is a baller,” Howard said.

Ortega knows Howard is likely to bring his best stuff to Kottmeyer Stadium.

“He’s improved so much over the years,” Ortega said.

Both senior leaders have faith in their defenses.

Both will settle for a low-scoring win.

But these guys are big-name quarterbacks who have spent much of their lives preparing for these types of games. They haven’t been dreaming for years about winning low-scoring defensive battles. They will take the field accompanied by big-play teammates such as Coatesville’s Bryant and Downingtown West’s Tyriq Lewis, among many others on both sides.

They won’t say it, but nearly everyone else will: Take the over.