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Red Raiders Sports

A season to Remember

Posted Thursday, December 02, 2010 by Daily local.com
Now what are we going to do Friday nights?

It's time to put the bleacher pads and blankets away and hibernate for the next eight-and-a-half months until two-a-days start again.

Football in Chester County is officially over.

But hey, at least all those Two-Minute Drill segments are archived!

We move on to the winter sports season, but not after an action-packed fall. For those of you who had West Chester Rustin (without basically any returning skill kids) playing longer than any other team, well you can take my spot on that very Two-Minute Drill.

Not many saw that coming, most likely not even in Westtown. Thank a new batch of talented athletes and a beefy line for the regeneration. The rest of the American Division in the Ches-Mont League really had no chance, either.

As for the National Division, well, that was a little closer.

Thanks to West Chester Henderson's upset of Downingtown East in the season's final week, Coatesville celebrated what it thought was a co-championship, only to find out later that the Ches-Mont principals had voted during the offseason to nix co-championships and use head-to-head wins as a tiebreaker.

East was the squad all season, using a dominant offense to carry the Cougars to their third straight league title (the first two were shared). That juggernaut of North Penn was there in the end once again to ruin another Downingtown postseason, but not before the Cougars entertained offensive fans for the 11 weeks prior.

Henderson's late-season surge was the most dramatic. Sitting at 5-3 after winning their first five games, the Warriors rattled off wins in the final two weeks of the regular season to sneak into the playoffs as the 16th seed. Continuing what may be a new Chester County tradition, Henderson one-upped Unionville's upset of No. 2 Pennsbury as a 15th seed by knocking off undefeated No. 1 Ridley in the first round.

Henderson's magic came on the heels of Strafford Foster's insertion to the quarterback slot. The sophomore ran the option well and will be a force in years to come, much like junior linebacker T.J. White, who spearheaded one of the top defenses in the area as arguably the best backer around.

Let's not forget about two other surprises, to some extent, in the National: Coatesville and Bishop Shanahan.

While improvement for the Red Raiders was not a shock, the rate at which it came was faster than some expected. Coatesville boasted one of the best defenses in the area, playing against the best offenses in the county. Offensively, quarterback Manny Stocker, running back Dae-Hon Cheung and wide receiver Kyle Kerrick were as good of a trio as Vince Guaraldi's this time of year.

Shanahan, meanwhile stretched defenses with its spread offense, as well as the stat sheet. Ryan Egolf established himself as one of the elite quarterbacks in the area and his performance against Springfield (Delco) in the first round of the playoffs was something special. That game also happened to be the Eagles' first postseason appearance ever.

Egolf is one of many talented offensive stars returning next season in what should be a very intriguing league. While it's way too early to say how it will all shake out, it does appear that the quest for a championship will be very tight. Coatesville's aforementioned trio all returns, and will put the Red Raiders at the front of the conversation, but Drew Harris is back for East, Downingtown West returns Kenny Fuhrman and Donte Harrell and Henderson will remain skilled.

On the American side, it will be Rustin's to lose at this point, though Unionville returns a lot defensively, and if Richie Sampson comes back healthy, he may be the breakout player to watch next fall. It may not be a two-horse race as it has been of late. Great Valley, Kennett and Oxford all had first-year coaches this season, and year two typically shows how much progress has occurred.

Both Kennett's Scott Green and Oxford's Mike Pietlock saw their young teams grow some. The Blue Demons were as close as they've been in getting past Unionville this season, and it appears both Green and his option offense have been a good fit. Pietlock's task is just as tough, turning around an Oxford program which hasn't won much lately, but there was improvement shown.

It will also been interesting to see how Octorara comes along after the Braves used a solid offense to rack up some wins in their second season of varsity football.

Conestoga missed the playoffs this fall, but it wasn't for a lack of offense. Blair Brooks, much like Avon Grove's Brandon Monk, almost single-handedly kept his team in games at points, and Dexter Bridge was the top receiver in the county this season. Losing both to graduation will be tough on the Pioneers, but John Vogan always seems to find players to fill the gaps and keep 'Stoga in the playoff hunt.

It's tough to beat those Friday night lights, but I suppose fluorescent lighting will have to do in the meantime. Cue the NFL Films music and picture me walking in slow motion off a barren football field, notebook in hand, pointer finger wagging in the air with the other. I'll see you on the mats.

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