St. Joe’s Prep rallies and holds on to defeat Coatesville, advance to Hershey
Two of the best teams in the entire state of Pennsylvania clashed at Downingtown West’s Kottmeyer Stadium Friday night and neither team fell short of exciting their respective home crowds.
Only one team could win, however, and the Hawks of St. Joseph’s Prep emerged victorious, 53-49, over District 1 champion Coatesville Red Raiders in what was a high-scoring, mood-swinging classic. The win moves the Prep’s winning streak to 27 consecutive games.
With its back against the wall heading into the locker room and coming out of it, “The Prep” never gave up and fought back to take a lead that they would never lose. In the end, it was the Red Raiders who almost completed a miraculous comeback, but fell just short of reaching Hershey for the first time since 2012.
Things started off slow for both teams in the first quarter; the only scoring in the frame came from a 22-yard field goal by Prep’s kicker Anthony Tigano.
The second quarter began with three straight Coatesville scores. Sophomore quarterback Ricky Ortega opened the scoring for the Red Raiders with a 9-yard pass to tight end Nik Thompson. Junior running back Aaron Young followed shortly after with a 4-yard plunge and then Ortega hit his favorite receiver, sophomore Dapree Bryant, with a 44-yard toss with about two minutes remaining.
That was more than enough time for St. Joe’s Prep to cut into the Red Raiders’ lead, and they were able to do so when senior quarterback Marquez McCray found his junior running back Marques Mason for a 24-yard touchdown strike. The Prep would cut Coatesville’s lead to 21-10 heading into halftime.
Coatesville came out of the locker room strong and kept their offense on fire fast when Ortega found Aaron Young for a 23-yard toss. The drive took only five plays and the Red Raiders extended their lead to 28-10 early in the third quarter.
Again, St. Joe’s Prep answered back with McCray running in his first of four touchdown scampers in the game. A successful 2-point conversion attempt brought the Hawks’ deficit down to 10 points, and Coatesville trailed 28-18. After an interception and a 72-yard return from defensive back Dawson DeIuliis, McCray found wideout James Cherry in the end zone from 18 yards out. And just like that, it was a 28-25 ball game midway through the third quarter.
Coatesville would not disappear, as it only took three plays before Ortega threw a 76-yard bomb to Dapree Bryant, his second touchdown reception on the night. Coatesville extended their lead to a 35-25 advantage.
On Coatesville’s ensuing possession, Ortega tried throwing a screen pass to Bryant, but the throw was short and considered a lateral when it bounced away from Bryant and into the hands of the dangerous Prep offense deep in Coatesville’s territory. McCray plunged in from a yard out and brought the Hawks back to within three points, making it 35-32.
The major turning point came on the next couple of possessions for the Red Raiders. It started when Bryant snuck behind the Prep defense and got wide open, but dropped what would have been his fourth pay dirt reception on the night. Then on 4th-and-long, Coatesville botched a fake punt play and gave the Hawks the ball deep into their own territory. Prep would score four plays later on McCray’s second straight 1-yard plunge, giving prep its first lead 39-35. The Hawks would never trail again.
Marquez McCray would rush in his third consecutive touchdown with yet another 1-yard plunge, upping the Prep’s lead to 43-35 early in the fourth quarter. Another interception, this time from junior defensive back Zach Bougess, set up a 44-yard touchdown scamper from sophomore running back Kolbe Burrell. The run gave the Hawks some cushion with a 53-35 lead with about five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Red Raiders of Coatesville never gave up, as Ortega connected with Dapree Bryant for his third touchdown reception of the night with a 42-yard pass. Coatesville decided to go for two and it was successful after Ortega found Avery Young. This brought the Red Raiders to a 53-43 deficit.
Coatesville would get the ensuing onside kick, and a few plays later, Ortega connected with receiver Kahtero Summers from nine yards out. The extra point attempt failed, giving Coatesville only a 53-49 lead with just 90 seconds remaining. The Red Raiders were unable to get the next onside kick and McCray rushed for a first down on 3rd-and-1 to seal the victory for the Hawks.
The Prep will return to Hershey next week and aim for their fourth state championship in five years. It will be no easy task, however, as they will have to face likewise undefeated Pine Richland, who took down Manheim Township in the other class 6A semifinal.
“This feels so amazing,” said Prep quarterback Marquez McCray. “Our game with North Penn last year was exactly like this, back and forth until the very last play. I give Coatesville tons of credit, shout-out to them.”
Coatesville finished their season at 13-2. Sophomore quarterback Ricky Ortega finished the game hitting on 25 of 40 throws for 435 yards and six touchdown passes. Dapree Bryant exploded with nine catches for 270 yards and three touchdown receptions. Aaron Young also contributed heavily on offense with 65 rushing yards and a touchdown, as well as 28 receiving yards and another touchdown through the air. All three will be returning next year.
The Red Raiders will miss the play of players like senior cornerback Avery Young (Aaron’s older brother) and senior receivers Mekhi Alexander and Kahtero Summers.
For the Hawks, Marquez McCray had four rushing touchdowns and completed 16 of 25 passes for 185 yards and two scores. Junior running back Marques Mason carried the ball 18 times for 68 yards and caught a 25-yard touchdown pass. Sophomore running back Kolbe Burrell ran nine times for 122 yards, including the cushioning 44-yard scamper that padded the Hawks’ late lead.