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Red Raiders Sports

Reversing course?

Posted Friday, October 01, 2010 by correspondent Nate Heckenberger, Daily Local News


Staff photo by Tom Kelly IV Coatesville running back Dae-hon Cheung speeds toward a touchdown versus Downingtown East last Friday.

In their short partnership Coatesville coach Matt Ortega and his Red Raider football team have been here before.

Here, as a matter of fact, is a 2-2 record after four games with tough losses to Ridley and Downingtown East and a date with Unionville ahead.

It happened a year ago and it is happening once again, but this year both Ortega and his Red Raider football believe the parallels will stop.

Last fall Ortega says his team played its "worst half of football all year" against the visiting Indians in a 42-20 loss. It was the second straight loss at the hands of Unionville, both following losses to the Cougars the week prior.

If there is to be a resurgence by Coatesville, and by the look of things the first four weeks it seems that's the direction it's heading, this Saturday's test with fellow 2-2 foe, Unionville, will be a vital one. One thing Ortega surmises of his team is a stronger attitude in the face of adversity.

"I think we have a good mindset," Ortega said. "We play with confidence, but we haven't really hit on all cylinders on offense. This middle part of the year we're hoping to put it all together and play well on both sides. We

still haven't played our best game, and we know if we put it all together we will be very competitive."

Defensively the Red Raiders have been stingy. Of the 50 points surrendered in four games, 42 have come against Ridley and East. Points aren't coming easy, which is a sure sign the coaching is getting through and the system is being absorbed. While some see the 2-2 record as a .500 football team, those within the program view it more optimistically.

"In the previous years we haven't been able to compete with the top teams in state," Coatesville linebacker Kevin Berry said. "Ridley and East are top-10 in the state and I think it shows how far we came and that we can play with anyone in state of Pennsylania. ... We just need one big win and we're ready."

That is the tricky part. Any moral victories the past couple seasons have not converted into a playoff appearance. This year, progress is being made.

"We've got a new program and it's not going to happen over night," Ortega said. "We still aren't where we need to be, but the kids are responding well and we have high numbers and little disciplinary problems this year, which has been great. The kids are buying into our program and I think they're starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel."

Junior wide receiver Kyle Kerrick says the ties within the team are stronger this year.

"The team wants to win as bad as the coaches want to win," Kerrick said. "There's something right about the coaches, like you can't go wrong with them. We're just more of a team this year."

Kerrick has been a bright spot in an offense that hasn't found its complete offensive rhythm. Reconnecting with quarterback Manny Stocker -- the two played together for the Downingtown Young Whippets as kids -- Kerrick has hauled in 10 passes, five ending in the end zone.

Stocker has completed 50 percent of his passes and has five touchdowns to two interceptions, while offensive teammates are still in the process of establishing a power running game -- something Ortega put high on his priority list.

"The biggest thing I learned in my first year was a little bit about District 1 football and Ches-Mont football and the level of play here," Ortega said. "The offensive line and defensive line play and the linebacker and fullback play is at a whole nother level. It's a more physical game and that's something we addressed in the offseason. ... The kids did a great job preparing in the weight room and with speed training and I think it's paying off. They believe in it and they know that is what will close the gap."

So while Saturday's game may appear as a nonleague game with just playoff points hinging on it, there is a bit more riding on it up in Caln Township. Coatesville is on the rise but it won't be fully back without a key win under its belt.

"This is a big week for both teams," Kerrick said. "We're both 2-2, and both teams got their backs against ropes. Whoever loses will be 2-3, so it's gonna be a good one."

To contact correspondent Nate Heckenberger, e-mail hecky54@yahoo.com.

Staff photo by Tom Kelly IV Coatesville quarterback Manny Stocker runs with the ball during last week's game against Downingtown East. The Red Raiders travel to Unionville for a huge nonleague game with the Indians on Saturday.

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