At Coatesville, shock, resolve to move on

"I was kind of mad, kind of upset," said Coatesville alumnus Ed Clark of the texting furor.
"I was kind of mad, kind of upset," said Coatesville alumnus Ed Clark of the texting furor. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff)
Posted: September 27, 2013

On a sun-soaked afternoon, it appeared to be business as usual on the playing fields at Coatesville Area High School. Going through their paces were the school's soccer, field hockey, and football teams.

The night before, in an emotionally charged gathering of hundreds, parents, students, and community members vented their anger to the Coatesville Area school board over the dozens of racist and sexist texts exchanged between former administrators Richard Como and James Donato.

That made this Wednesday different than the others.

"It's tough, because it's something that's not normal," head football coach Matt Ortega said while taking a brief break from directing practice. "We're trying to treat this as just another day, but it's tough."

Soccer players and an assistant boys' varsity soccer coach declined to talk about the scandal, as did most of the parents waiting in the parking lot to take their children home following practice.

While making his rounds in a school district vehicle, a security officer shouted to a reporter standing outside the area where the freshman football squad was practicing, "We're good people," he said. "Leave us alone. Let us heal."

Several football players, however, addressed the impact of the scandal.

Senior running back and defensive back Daquan Worley said it has had no impact on the team.

"We're just persevering," he said. "We're brothers. We've got all different races on this team."

Senior linebacker Tyler Burke also said the team remained united.

"We know what we have here," he said. "We just come out here and let all the outside stuff happen. We're just a team."

Mike Boykin, a senior football lineman and one of the area's top wrestlers, said he was focused only on football.

"I think it made us stronger as a family," he said of the scandal. "We don't worry about that stuff.

"At first, I did [get upset]. But it was like, I can't lose sleep over it."

Doreen Taylor, the junior varsity field hockey coach, would not discuss the texts but said they had not been an issue for her players.

"They just keep going," she said.

Colby Perry, a redshirt freshman football player at Temple University who played at Coatesville, said he was surprised by the hateful messages.

"I know it's unfortunate," Perry said. "I wish the best for the district."

Ed Clark, 41, who played football and basketball at Coatesville High in the late 1980s, watched as his son, a quarterback for the freshman squad, practiced.

"I was kind of mad, kind of upset when I heard about all this," said Clark, a truck driver. "I knew Como. He was a nice guy and everything, and then this came out. I guess it was kind of a front."

Clark also has a daughter at the high school. A junior, she formerly participated in track and field.

Of the school district, Clark, a 1990 graduate of Coatesville, said, "I thought it was getting better and better over the last 10 years. I still think it's one of the best school districts around."

Lynn Hefferan, 46, was also waiting to drive her son, a middle linebacker on the freshman team, home from practice.

"In today's day and age, it's unbelievable that something like this would happen," she said. "You're in a position of authority. How dare you?"

Asked if she was having second thoughts about sending her son to Coatesville, Hefferan said:

"Even with this, things have been good so far. I don't have any complaints, and he doesn't have any complaints."

Clark said he hoped his son will one day play for Ortega's varsity squad, which last year reached the PIAA Class AAAA state championship game.

Ortega "had a few good meetings with me," Clark said. "He seems to be a straight shooter. That's all you can ask of someone."


Inquirer staff writer John N. Mitchell contributed to this article.

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