For most of this football season, Coatesville's trademark has been its quick-strike offense.
Friday night, in an emotionally charged PIAA Class AAAA state semifinal against La Salle, it was the Red Raiders' overall toughness, along with a solid mix of passing and running, that paved the way for a trip to Hershey.
The Red Raiders, continuing their torrid run of late, held off a late surge by the injury-riddled Explorers and prevailed, 42-35, in front of about 7,500 at Downingtown West's Kottmeyer Stadium.
In the late going, with La Salle inside the red zone and driving toward a tying score, outside linebacker Devonte Suber secured the victory with an interception at the 12.
In next Saturday's final, set for 6 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium, Coatesville (13-2) will face the winner of Saturday's semifinal between District 3's Wilson-West Lawn (13-1) and District 7's North Allegheny (14-0).
Fans hurled Hershey's Kisses onto the turf after quarterback Emmett Hunt and the Red Raiders, with the Explorers out of timeouts, ran out the clock.
Because of injuries, the Explorers (12-2) played without three key players in the second half: multipurpose star Sean Coleman, two-way lineman Tom Spiteri, and captain Mike Eife, a fullback and linebacker.
Junior tailback Daquan Worley ignited the Red Raiders win by carrying 25 times for 164 yards and scoring three touchdowns; Hunt connected on 16 of 30 passes for 225 yards and three TDs.
Ahead by 28-21 at intermission, Coatesville, which overcame 14 penalties, opened the second half with a 13-play, 84-yard scoring drive. Hunt's 30-yard throw to Chris Jones increased the lead to 14.
Early in the fourth quarter, Worley's 5-yard burst made it 42-21. That finished a 12-play, 64-yard series that included two catches by Vinnie Williams.
Despite being shorthanded, La Salle didn't go away. The Explorers scored twice in the final frame, with Jordan Meachum's 3-yard dart trimming the gap to 42-35 with 4:38 to play.
After a three-and-out series by the Red Raiders, Meachum's 15-yard dash and his 10-yard catch put the ball at the Coatesville 19. That's when Suber stepped in and ended the drama.
Kane completed 18 of 41 passes for 223 yards. With 8:06 to go, he found Jimmy Herron for a 46-yard score that made it 42-28.
La Salle 7 14 0 14 – 35
Coatesville 7 21 7 7 – 42
L: Jimmy Herron 7 run (Ryan Winslow kick)
C: Daquan Worley 11 pass from Emmett Hunt (Jon Bollenbach kick)
C: Hunt 3 run (Bollenbach kick)
C: Worley 6 run (Bollenbach kick)
L: Chris Kane 3 run (Winslow kick)
L: Ryan Coonahan 27 interception return (Winslow kick)
C: Chris Jones 3 pass from Hunt (Bollenbach kick)
C: Jones 30 pass from Hunt (Bollenbach kick)
C: Worley 5 run (Bollenbach kick)
L: Herron 46 pass from Kane (Winslow kick)
L: Meachum 3 run (Winslow kick)