Season preview: D-Town East opens with win, new hope

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Cougars look to return to playoff form

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

downingtown_eastDOWNINGTOWN — The phrases “Downingtown East football” and “District 1 Class AAAA playoffs” go together like “ham and eggs” or “peanut butter and jelly.” It’s an anomaly when they are separated — like they were last year.

If Friday’s night’s contest against Frankford was any indication, the Cougars’ return to form might just be well on its way. East rolled up an easy 45-6 — it led 45-0 at the half — cruising to the win.

But last year was anything but easy, as the Cougars finished with a 4-6 record and were reduced to the role of spectators when the 2013 post-season began. For them, it was an unfamiliar — and uncomfortable — position to be in when November arrived.

“Missing the playoffs last year is definitely a motivator for our players this season,” said East coach Mike Matta. “So is the fact that we had a losing season. Our kids are definitely motivated. They’ve been working really hard.”

Downingtown East’s team has a lot going for it this season. One is Cary Angeline, a 6-foot, 7-inch junior tight end who has already attracted attention from BCS programs. According to Matta, Angeline could be one of the league’s all-time premier players.

There was an old TV commercial that asked “Where’s the beef?” This year, the answer could be “on Downingtown East’s line.”

“Our offensive line is one of our strong points,” said Matta. “Mike Clark is 6-8, 260 and Mike Rachlin is 6-3, 260. With returning starters, Tyler Zuraski is 6-2, 240 and Bill McGinley is 6-0, 220. And, we have Jay Ingram, who is 6-2, 235, and Omar Mottaleb, who is 6-0, 240.

“Our quarterback Andrew Hudson started last year and had a good off-season. We run a no-huddle offense and he does a good job with it. We run a Multiple-I and try to establish a ground game. We have three fullback/halfbacks who are very good — Jack Kincade, Nik Abando and Keith Connor.

“We think we can run the ball but we also should have a good run-pass ratio. Our top receiver is Danny Chisena. He’s really fast. He’s a senior who was the champion in the 200-meter dash at last year’s Ches-Mont Championships.”

The Cougars’ defense has a very strong linebacker corps with Tyler Buban, Adam Stata, Brody Wilson along with six returning starters in the front seven and two starting safeties returning. Key veterans are defensive back Justin Cohen and linemen Thad Stevenson, Pat Matte, Caleb Fell and Chris Hartoonian.

“We’re going to be aggressive — pin our ears back and go after people,” said Matta. “We’re trying to re-establish what we had 10 years ago. We play a 4-3 defense — an aggressive bend-don’t-break defense.”

The Cougars have a trio of tough non-league games at the start of the season to help prepare them for Ches-Mont League National Division competition — games against top teams from the Philadelphia Public League, the Philadelphia Catholic League and the Inter-Ac.

“Our first three games are a real challenge,” said Matta. “We start with Frankford High, which lost by 10 to St. Joe’s Prep in the District 12 championship game. Then, we play Roman Catholic — a team from the Philadelphia Catholic League that is always tough. And then there’s Haverford School, which should be one of the top teams in the Inter-Ac this season.

“I’m optimistic. I’m always optimistic. We’re doing O.K. We have a lot of guys back but we’re still a young team. Everyone is working hard and we’re coming along.”

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