By Joseph Santoliquito
HERSHEY, Pa. (CBS)–It was a little hard to accept, though no one, possibly not even themselves expected to be playing in December. That didn’t curtail the hurt any less.
Coatesville’s football team did many good things this season, many for the first time, like reaching the PIAA Class AAAA state championship. But a dream season came to an abrupt end against powerful North Allegheny Saturday night, 63-28, at Hersheypark Stadium before 6,047.
The Red Raiders turned the ball over four times—three leading to North Allegheny touchdowns. Coatesville ended a very successful season 13-3 and won the District 1 Class AAAA championship for the first time since 1992. Coatesville won 11 of its last 12 games, including a 10-game winning streak in which the Red Raiders mercy ruled every team except one.
“These kids have a lot to be proud of,” said Coatesville coach Matt Ortega, whose idea to revamp the offense from a power running game to a spread, passing offense early in the season led to the state-title game run. “They did things no one expected them to do this year, and we got this far. We just hurt ourselves with mistakes. You can’t have two fumbles returned for touchdowns against a team like that and expect to win.”
North Allegheny led throughout, taking early advantage of two fumble recoveries returned for touchdowns. The Tigers went into halftime leading 35-14, fueled by an 80-yard fumble return by Brendan Coniker and a 52-yard fumble recovery by Kevin Edwards.
With 3:56 left in the first quarter, North Allegheny had forged a 21-0 lead. Coatesville, however, wouldn’t go away that easily. The Red Raiders mounted a drive that resulted in a Emmett Hunt one-yard touchdown. Later in the second quarter, Daquan Worley bolted 89 yards for another score. The Worley run was the longest in PIAA state Class AAAA championship game history.
Worley, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior, finished with a game-high 160 yards on 17 carries.
But the Red Raiders couldn’t stop North Allegheny’s offense.
“They did everything we expected them to do, and we worked hard, we just couldn’t get it done,” said Coatesville 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior defensive end Tyler Burke, who had an outstanding game and gained the attention of the Penn State coaches who were there watching. “We can keep our heads held high. It was a great experience getting here. We learned not to give up. But their offensive line was pretty good, probably the best we went up against this year.”
Each time it seemed Coatesville was clawing closer, North Allegheny would strike back. The Tigers never let Coatesville get within two scores. North Allegheny pounded Coatesville for 456 yards of total offense to 283 in closing its season 16-0. The Tigers’ 63 points is an all-time Pennsylvania state record for points scored in a state title game, snapping the previous mark of Dunmore’s 57-point outburst in the 1989 Class A championship over Keystone.
“Coatesville’s the most athletic team we played all year,” said North Allegheny’s Pat Kugler, one of the best offensive lineman in the country, heading to Michigan on a football scholarship and son of new UTEP coach Sean Kugler, currently the offensive line coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. “Their offense is great, but we found some holes in their defense, gratefully. They were a great team and I have to give a lot of credit to them and their coaches.”