GLEN MILLS –
In Friday night’s thriller between the No. 3 Garnet Valley Jaguars and No. 4 Coatesville Red Raiders, there were only two turnovers throughout the entire game.
One decided the game. The other sealed it.
With about 30 seconds remaining in the final frame, Coatesville’s Avery Young picked off Garnet Valley quarterback Cole Palis’ pass and returned it 72 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Then, with just two ticks left, Garnet Valley had one last attempt at the end zone to send it into overtime. However, Avery Young made sure that didn’t happen and picked off Palis again to seal the game.
The two turnovers forced by Coatesville helped propel the Red Raiders to a 35-28 victory over Garnet Valley in the District 1 Class 6A final, setting up a tough matchup with nationally ranked St. Joseph's Prep next Friday. The Prep defeated Parkland 49-14 in another state quarterfinal game.
Coatesville opened up the scoring midway through the first quarter when quarterback Ricky Ortega tossed a lateral to receiver Mekhi Alexander, who then slung it to Young for the 28-yard touchdown connection. The halfback option play came on 4th-and-16 and gave the Red Raiders the early lead.
The Jaguars responded early in the second quarter when Palis and junior wide receiver Colin Robinson connected from three yards out, tying the game at seven apiece.
Coatesville used a 9-play, 57-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard touchdown plunge from Aaron Young to take a 14-7 lead. Ortega completed four passes for 48 of those yards during the drive.
Garnet Valley quickly responded as Danny Guy rushed in a 7-yard score and tied the game at 14, but Coatesville answered even faster with a 4-play drive ending with a 44-yard strike from Ortega to sophomore receiver Dapree Bryant. The Red Raiders would take a 21-14 lead midway through the first half.
One of Garnet Valley’s strategies coming into this game was to keep Coatesville’s high-flying offense off the field as much as possible. On the ensuing possession, the Jaguars would go on a four minute drive, resulting in a 10-yard touchdown run from Matt Lassik on 4th-and-2. The game was deadlocked at 21 all with two minutes remaining in the first half, and would stay that way heading into halftime.
The third quarter would be full of three-and-outs and incomplete passes from both sides, keeping the score at 21 heading into the fourth quarter.
With their bruising running game and massive offensive line, Garnet Valley went on a 14-play, 72-yard drive which capped off with a 14-yard scamper by Danny Guy. The Jaguars gained its first lead of the game, 28-21, with ten minutes showing on the scoreboard.
As it usually does, Coatesville’s offense responded quickly as Ricky Ortega sparked a two minute drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dapree Bryant, his second of the game. The Red Raiders tied the ballgame up at 28 all with eight minutes remaining.
Both teams would exchange three-and-outs, then Garnet Valley got the ball back with 3:30 left. On 3rd-and-3 from their own 12-yard line, Cole Palis hit his tight end Jon Ricci for a 45-yard gain and a humongous first down that would have went down as one of the key plays of the game had the Jaguars won.
Garnet Valley got as far as Coatesville’s 39-yard line, then Avery Young anticipated Palis’ pass to Colin Robinson and became the hero of the game.
A nice kick return and a hook-and-lateral play set up one final shot for Garnet Valley with 2.2 seconds on the clock. But Young stepped up once again and put it away for good.
“This is the greatest feeling ever,” Ricky Ortega expressed. “I honestly can’t believe it and I love my teammates so much.”
“Our defense stepped up,” the sophomore quarterback said. “They knew that they were just as good as our offense and [Garnet Valley] had a good game plan on defense, so they kind of sparked us.”
“It’s unbelievable the way our kids came out and played,” stated Coatesville head coach and Ricky Ortega’s dad, Matt Ortega. “We had our backs against the wall a little bit in the first half, but defensively we came out and made subtle adjustments in the second half. Our kids’ will was just so strong and they came out and made the plays they needed to make.”
“We knew we had to come out and get a stop on defense,” Ortega said. “Once we got that stop, it gave our kids confidence down the stretch.”
“We know we have a tough opponent coming up, but we’re going to enjoy and celebrate this one and get back to work on Monday,” Ricky Ortega said.
Ortega completed 15 of 26 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, and Dapree Bryant caught both of them.
For the Jaguars, Danny Guy carried the ball 30 times for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Lassik also added a touchdown run in what was the final high school game for the powerful senior duo.