Burke’s game-ending pick seals 14-7 victory for Coatesville

Coatesville, Downingtown East renew rivalry with another Ches-Mont classic

By Kyle Carrozza, Staff Writer, The Times

Tyler Burke celebrates his last second interception as his teammates rush the field.

Tyler Burke celebrates his last second interception as his teammates rush the field.

CALN – In rivalry games, records, rankings, statistics—all the measurables of high school football can be thrown out the window, and mental toughness can decide the outcome of a match.

Such was the case Friday night at Coatesville. In the Ches-Mont National Division’s best rivalry game, a 2-3 Downingtown East team went toe-to-toe with the undefeated home side. A game-ending interception in the endzone was all that preserved the lead and the 14-7 win for Coatesville.

Coatesville, at 5-0, looked like heavy favorites coming in, but they knew that predictions did not matter for this game.

“A lot of people outside of our team, they just thought we were going to walk in and just win,” said senior linebacker Tyler Burke. “But it’s Downingtown East, they’re our big rivals. They always give us a good game.”

Ortega said that for extra motivation, the team watched film from last year’s heartbreaker, where a game-ending touchdown pass grabbed a 35-34 victory for the Cougars.

But unlike last year’s shootout, Friday night saw two stifling defenses making sure that every yard had to be earned.

The defenses started strong and never backed off, forcing punts from both offenses. Both teams had dominating performances from their front sevens, with lineman swarming the ball and linebackers plugging the running lanes.

“We were conservative; I think that, by our formation, they knew that we were going to run the ball, so they did some slanting and some blitzing,” said Ortega.

The night turned into a game of field positioning. Though Coatesville was unable to get out of its own half on the first drive, the yards the offense did get combined with the stifling defense to allow Coatesville to start its second drive from near midfield.

While the home team had limited success moving the ball through the air, a 37-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Jordan Young to junior wide receiver Keenan Coleman put the ball at East’s 12. Small gains from senior running backs Isaiah Flamer and Daquan Worley set up Young’s 1-yard touchdown sneak to put Coatesville up 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.

East looked to answer with its own inside running game, but a strong pushes from the defensive line forced another three-and-out.

Three straight first downs on Coatesville’s next drive were followed by a 51-yard off tackle run from Worley. Coatesville looked like it found its form near the beginning of the second quarter, but East’s defense held them scoreless for the rest of the game.

“I expected a tough, hard game, and that’s what we got,” said Ortega.

With small but consistent gains through the air and ground, the Cougars’ offense started to come to life on the following drive. Though junior quarterback Ryan Rumer had pressure in his face all night, his athletic ability allowed him to roll out of the pocket and find his receivers.

Stringing together a 41-yard, nearly five minute drive, East looked like it would bring the game back within one touchdown. Instead, on a long pass from Coatesville’s 29, junior cornerback Evans Ahkeema undercut the receiver down the sideline and got up to grab the pick.

Not to be outdone, East took the ball back. After Coatesville gained some yards on the ground, a Young pass down the sideline was tipped and snatched by the defense with two minutes left in the half.

Both defenses once again made stops, and the run of play looked much closer than the 14-0 halftime score.

Forcing Coatesville into a three-and-out to start the second half, East once again put together a solid drive, this one lasting 10 plays, but it stalled in Coatesville territory.

Even more than the first half, the second half became a game of field positioning, with East able to gain good chunks of yardage while Coatesville looked content to run down the clock.

“To that point, we were playing good defense. It was 14-0, so we felt like we were in control, so we just kept it on the ground,” said Ortega.

The fourth quarter finally saw East’s steady approach pay off.

Unfazed by previous drives coming up short, the Cougars marched down the field four yards at a time. Though the offensive line could not open up the big holes to bust the game open, a strong push allowed senior running back Ryan Angeline to bruise his way down the field. The six minute, 14-play drive was finished with a 10-yard pass from Rumer to sophomore wide receiver Cary Angeline in the middle of the endzone.

“When they got that touchdown, it kind of changed things, but still, we didn’t want to go over the top, we wanted to put our defense on the field to win the game,” said Ortega.

With just over five minutes left, the home team looked content with the score. After Worley went off injured, Coatesville put the ball in the hands of Flamer. East eventually managed three straight tackles to force a punt, but only 1:29 remained.

The Cougars took to the air and the sideline. Short passes to the outside allowed receivers to get out of bounds and stop the clock. A sack from Coatesville’s senior defensive lineman Richard Titus forced a fourth and nine, but a 20-yard throw earned the first down and put the ball at Coatesville’s 25. A spike and a deflected pass from Coatesville’s Akheema set up the last play of the game with seven seconds left.

Dropping back, Rumer looked to the endzone. Perhaps trying to replicate his earlier throw, the quarterback threw over the middle. But his slight underthrow gave Burke the advantage, and with his skills, a slight advantage often means an interception. Falling into the endzone, Burke came down with the ball to seal the victory for Coatesville.

“I was going to get it; that’s all I was thinking,” Burke said of the final play of the game.

Afterwards, Ortega praised his linebacker.

“He’s such an intelligent football player. He’s a three-year starter. He watches film, he does all the right things. He’s a coach on the field, and that’s why he’s always in the right spot,” said Ortega.

The Coatesville coach also said that the night was a good win and the first step in winning a Ches-Mont National Division Championship, the team’s goal for the year.

“Coming off of that state championship run last year and making it into the finals, we still said, ‘We haven’t won a Ches-Mont.’ And that’s our number one goal right now. We haven’t talked about anything other than that, and tonight’s our first step toward that,” he said.

Though the two teams have very different expectations for the rest of the year, Friday night produced another Coatesville-Downingtown East classic, a game that both teams can be proud of as the season progresses. Coatesville plays at home against Kennett next week, while East will be at home against Avon Grove.

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