Rick O'Brien: Coatesville gladly returns to field and romps

Posted: October 01, 2013

After a turbulent week that included considerable media scrutiny as a result of the alleged texting improprieties of two former administrators, Matt Ortega and his Coatesville players returned to the business of playing football Saturday afternoon.

Weathering the storm and showing their collective mettle, the visiting Red Raiders, with a potent rushing attack that netted 306 yards, handled Bishop Shanahan, 37-13, in a Ches-Mont League National Conference matchup at Jack Mancini Field in Downingtown.

"It's probably the most excited I've been going into a football game," said Ortega, in his fifth year at the helm. "I had a lot of emotion, a lot of high energy, and I knew it would spread to our kids."

It was recently discovered that Richard Como, the former superintendent, and Jim Donato, the ex-athletic director, exchanged hundreds of racist, sexist, and lewd texts via school-issued cellphones. The pair resigned during the first week of the school year.

The texts included several racial slurs. The Coatesville Area School District is one of the most ethnically diverse in all of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

"Our kids really don't see color," said Ortega, whose mother is of Irish-German descent and whose father is Mexican. "In the school and in the locker room during the week, everything was pretty normal. It was a bigger deal outside of the school."

Against the host Eagles, senior tailback Isaiah Flamer, subbing for the injured Daquan Worley, carried 28 times for 193 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on first-half bursts of 50, 2, and 5 yards.

"We're not worried about all the stuff that's going on off the field," Flamer said afterward. "We just come out and play football. As a team, we've all come together even more because of this."

As a middle linebacker, senior Tyler Burke, who has orally committed to play at Maryland, registered three tackles, including a 5-yard sack of Shanahan quarterback Dan Murphy in the opening quarter.

"There's been so much negative press going on," said Burke, who also played tight end and caught a 13-yard pass. "But we're a family. We were determined to stick together, and we did. We came out and played Coatesville football."

In building a 27-6 lead in the first half, the Red Raiders (5-0, 2-0 Ches-Mont National) netted 186 yards on the ground and 133 through the air. Excluding Jordan Jackson's 64-yard TD jaunt, Shanahan (3-1, 1-1) was held to 47 yards rushing and 9 passing.

Said Ortega: "We wanted to come out with a sense of urgency after being a little flat last week [in a 42-13 conference win over Avon Grove]. We drove the field when we had to, and defended the field when we had to."

Coatesville's Jordan Young converted 8 of 15 passes for 146 yards. In the final seconds of the first half, on a fly route along the visiting sideline, the sophomore hit junior wideout Jay Stocker (five catches for 115 yards) for a 41-yard TD.

"We just wanted to come out and show everybody what we could do as a team," said Flamer, who doubles as a defensive back.

In addition to Burke, the Red Raiders' defense was keyed by nose guard Mike Boykin, linebackers Steve Pawling (six tackles) and Terrence Wright, and safety Ricky Southcott (five stops). Shanahan was held to 112 yards rushing and 46 passing.

At Coatesville's emotional school board meeting Tuesday night, president J. Neil Campbell confirmed the existence of a criminal investigation related to the financing of high school football camps.

The investigation is said to center on a June trip to West Virginia University that included 50-plus Coatesville players.

When asked if there was any wrongdoing in relation to the financing of that trip or possible "kickbacks," Ortega said Saturday: "It's absolutely zero. Our booster club president [Bob Raysor] cleared everything up at the school board meeting on Tuesday."

"West Virginia is a major university," the coach added. "They've got compliance officers. They're not going to do anything to put themselves in danger."

Ortega then turned to his top-ranked squad's most recent triumph on the gridiron.

"It was great to win the game, and be able to celebrate with my players, my coaches, Mr. Fisher [Robert, Coatesville's principal], and Mr. Krakower [Dave, Coatesville's director of high school and curriculum instruction]," he said.

Rick O'Brien: The Inquirer TOP 25


Last week's rankings in parentheses.

1. Coatesville (1) 5-0

Isaiah Flamer rushed for 193 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-13 win over Bishop Shanahan. Next: Friday vs. Downingtown East.

2. Imhotep Chart. (2) 4-0

The well-rested Panthers hammered High School of the Future, 83-6. Next: Saturday at Del-Val Charter.

3. Arch. Wood (3) 5-0

The red-hot Vikings opened Catholic League AAA play Saunday with a victory against Cardinal O'Hara. Next: Saturday vs. No. 5 St. Joseph's Prep.

4. Neshaminy (4) 5-0

Luke Carrezola posted six solo tackles, including two sacks, in a 35-7 romp over Harry S Truman. Next: Friday at Council Rock North.

5. St. Joe's Prep (5) 3-1

In a 42-7 win over Roman Catholic, Chris Martin passed for 182 yards and two scores. Next: Saturday at No. 3 Archbishop Wood.

6. La Salle (6) 4-1

With handyman Jimmy Herron scoring twice, the Explorers downed Archbishop Ryan, 28-14. Next: Saturday vs. Father Judge.

7. Pennsbury (7) 4-1

Charles Snorweah scored four times in a 42-6 blitzing of Council Rock South. Next: Friday at No. 13 Abington.

8. Garnet Valley (9) 5-0

Christian Portale threw for four scores as the Jaguars rocked Marple Newtown, 48-13. Next: Friday vs. No. 23 Penncrest.

9. Arch. Ryan (8) 4-1

In a losing cause against La Salle, Connor Golden had a pair of scoring receptions. Next: Saturday at Roman Catholic.

10. Pottsgrove (11) 5-0

Michael Fowler's 6-yard TD catch was the difference in a 14-7 win at Spring-Ford. Next: Friday vs. Owen J. Roberts.

11. Malvern Prep (12) 2-1

12. Episcopal Ac. (13) 5-0

13. Abington (14) 5-0

14. C.B. West (NR) 4-1

15. Pennridge (10) 4-1

16. Academy Park (16) 3-1

17. W.C. Rustin (18) 5-0

18. Spring-Ford (15) 3-2

19. Perk. Valley (17) 4-1

20. Father Judge (19) 4-1

21. C.B. South (21) 4-1

22. West Catholic (22) 4-1

23. Penncrest (23) 5-0

24. Lans. Catholic (24) 5-0

25. Unionville (25) 4-1

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Bishop Shanahan (3-1), Conestoga (4-1), Great Valley (4-1), Ridley (3-2), Upper Dublin (5-0).

- Rick O'Brien