If Coatesville was to claim its first district football championship since 2012, most expected that it would be its explosive, quick-strike offense that would produce the clinching tally.
But it was Avery Young's interception and 72-yard return for a touchdown with 19 seconds remaining that gave the visiting Red Raiders a dramatic 35-28 victory over Garnet Valley in a District 1 Class 6A final Friday night in chilly Glen Mills.
The Jaguars were threatening to win in the final minute. But on fourth-and-2 from the Coatesville 35-yard-line, Young jumped a slant route, picked off the pass, and raced untouched to paydirt.
"As soon as the ball was up in the air, I knew it was mine," said Young, a senior cornerback who has committed to Rutgers. "Once I got it, I had to take it all the way back."
Following a penalty for excessive celebration and a 25-yard gain on a hook-and-lateral play, the Jaguars had the ball at the Coatesville 19 with 2.2 seconds to play. Young came up big again, this time picking off Cole Palis' pass over the middle in the end zone.
"It's so ironic," Red Raiders coach Matt Ortega said. "Our offense has been so great all year, but it was our defense that made the plays when it counted the most."
Coatesville (13-1) will take on the winner of Saturday afternoon's state quarterfinal between defending champion St. Joseph's Prep (11-0) and Parkland (13-0) next weekend at a site and time to be determined.
After a back-and-forth first half, Garnet Valley (12-2) went in front, 28-21, early in the fourth quarter on Danny Guy's 14-yard run.
The Red Raiders responded with a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive and evened things on Ricky Ortega's 5-yard pass to Dapree Bryant. Two plays earlier, Ortega connected with Young for a 28-yard gain to the 6.
Ortega, a sophomore and the coach's son, hit on 15 of 26 throws for 209 yards and two scores. His 44-yard pass to Bryant put the Ches-Mont League National Division champions in front, 21-14, midway through the second quarter.
The Jaguars' vaunted triple-option attack nearly paved the way for the program's first district crown since 2007.
Danny Guy had a terrific performance, carrying 30 times for 219 yards. Backfield partner Matt Lassik rushed 24 times for 110 yards. Overall, Garnet Valley netted 381 yards on the ground on 64 attempts.
"They did a great job of running the ball, especially in the first half," Matt Ortega said. "They were blowing us off the ball."
Coatesville 7 14 0 14-35
Garnet Valley 0 21 0 7-28
C: Avery Young 28 pass from Mekhi Alexander (Patrick Mihalak kick)
GV: Colin Robinson 3 pass from Cole Palis (Jason Rose)
C: Aaron Young 1 run (Mihalak kick)
GV: Danny Guy 12 run (Rose kick)
C: Dapree Bryant 44 pass from Ricky Ortega (Mihalak kick)
GV: Matt Lassik 10 run (Rose kick)
GV: Guy 14 run (Rose kick)
C: Bryant 5 pass from Ortega (Mihalak kick)