By BRAD SPAHR
DOWNINGTOWN - When Dan Ellis became head coach of the West Chester East High School football team in 2011, he inherited a program that had won a total of just five games combined the previous four years.
Now in his third year at the helm, Ellis's Vikings have improved leaps and bounds since then competitively. With that said, however, they didn't win a single game in the league last year and entered this season searching for that one signature victory that would show that all the hard work has paid off while at the same time giving a jolt to the program.
West Chester East got all of that and more on Friday night. The Vikings pulled off one of the bigger regular season upsets in recent Ches-Mont League memory, as they went into Kottmeyer Stadium and stunned host Downingtown East by a score of 28-27 in a thrilling National Division contest.
When the final buzzer sounded West Chester East's sideline exploded in celebration following their first and only victory over the Cougars since 2006.
"This is absolutely huge. There's no way to sugar coat this one,' said Ellis, a former star quarterback at Downingtown who helped lead them to the 1996 state title before going on to play at Virginia. "This is by far the biggest win for us in my three years here.
"I am so proud of our kids right now. They fought so hard. What an unbelievable victory for them.'
The ending of this one was as crazy as you'll see. There were 27 total points scored in the last three minutes, including 20 points in the span of 27 seconds.
Trailing 27-21 with 2:38 remaining, West Chester East (1-1 National, 3-2 overall) took over possession of the ball at their own 45-yard line.
They marched 55 yards in less than a minute for the eventual game-winning drive. The Vikings capped it off with a 7-yard touchdown pass by sophomore quarterback Jon Jon Roberts to running back Dan Genthert with 1:41 left to tie the game. Aaron Sulpizio drilled the critical extra point that followed to give West Chester East a 28-27 lead.
Roberts was outstanding all night. He completed 31-of-43 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for a team-high 54 yards.
After taking the lead, the Vikings defense had one final stop to make. Downingtown East (0-1, 2-3) was faced with a fourth-and-six at their own 42-yard line with 38 seconds to play, when they completed a pass just inches shy of the first down marker, and the celebration begin for the Vikings.
"Absolutely nobody thought we could win this game other than us,' said Roberts. "We were focused all night and things got real intense there at the end.
"This is the most fun I've ever had playing a football game. It's a huge win, especially for our confidence going forward. It's just a huge night for our program.'
The loss was the third in a row for the defending Ches-Mont League National Division champion Cougars. Going into the contest, they attempted to switch things up and snap out of their funk as standout Delaware-bound running back Ryley Angeline got the start at quarterback in place of Ryan Rumer, who had started the previous three games.
Angeline completed 1-of-4 passes for five yards on the night, along with an interception, but was extremely effective running the ball from under center. He had 182 yards rushing on 27 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Angeline's final score with 3:08 left on a 7-yard run gave Downingtown East a commanding 21-14 lead. The drive included a key 40-yard run by Keith Connor, who also had a big game with 123 yards on the ground.
The Cougars' lead, though, would be very short lived as the next few minutes spiraled out of control.
On the ensuing kickoff following Downingtown East's go-ahead touchdown, West Chester East's Alex Corialos electrified the visiting sidelines as he took the kickoff 88 yards to the house to tie the game back up, 21-21, with 2:55 to play.
If that wasn't crazy enough, on the ensuing kickoff following that score, Downingtown East's Brandon Feamster shook the stands at Kottmeyer Stadium as he returned the kick 97 yards for a touchdown. It gave the Cougars a 27-21 lead with 2:41 left. On the extra point that followed, Drew Brennan's kick was blocked and that turned out to be pivotal.
After the kickoff return explosion, Downingtown East went with a squib kick and West Chester East took over at its own 45-yard line, setting them up with good field position for their game-winning drive.
Downingtown East rushed for 308 yards, but turned the ball over twice and committed 12 penalties for 95 yards.
"This was a tough one,' said Downingtown East coach Mike Matta. "It was back-and-forth between two evenly matched teams. They played well. They made the plays when they had to, and I give them a lot of credit for that.
"Our guys really battled hard. We just made too many mistakes. You can't win when you rack up all those penalties like we did. We have got to cut down on those mistakes the rest of the way.'
West Chester East got a great game from receiver Pat Downey, who caught 10 passes for 86 yards. Alex Corialos had seven catches for 55 yards and a touchdown, Chris Sheehan finished with 67 receiving yards on five catches to go along with a touchdown, and Nick Corialos had four catches for 46 yards.
The Vikings put together some good scoring drives. Downingtown East went in front 7-0 with 2:20 left in the first quarter on a 1-yard run by Angeline. West Chester East tied it 7-7 midway through the second quarter after going 77 yards in 12 plays, a drive capped by Sheehan's 9-yard touchdown reception from Roberts.
Downingtown East led 14-7 at halftime after Angeline scored on a 10-yard run with 32 seconds left in the second quarter.
But again West Chester East battled back with a long and impressive drive, going 75 yards in 10 plays. They finished it off when Alex Corialos caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Roberts with 3:30 to go in the third to tie the game at 14-14.
There were numerous times West Chester East could've folded in this one, times where it appeared things had slipped away from them.
They did not.
"We faced some major adversity, and we really grew up tonight as a team,' said Ellis. "Persistence was the big key for us. We fought through walls.
"We're going to celebrate this one, and then get back to work because there's still a long way to go and a lot of important games. But man oh man, does this one feel good.'
W.C. East 28
Downingtown East 27
W.C. East 0 7 7 14 -- 28
Downingtown East 7 7 0 13 -- 27
DE-R. Angeline 1 run (Brennan kick)
WCE-Sheehan 9 pass from Roberts (Sulpizio kick)
DE-R. Angeline 10 run (Brennan kick)
WCE-A. Corialos 27 pass from Roberts (Sulpizio kick)
DE-R. Angeline 7 run (Brennan kick)
WCE-A. Corialos 88 kick return (Sulpizio kick)
DE-Feamster 97 kick return (Kick failed)
WCE-Genthert 7 pass from Roberts (Sulpizio kick)
WCE DEFirst downs 18 17
Yards rushing 71 308
Yards passing 307 23
Total yards 378 331
Passing 31-43-1 4-10-1
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties 7-55 12-95
Punts-Avg. 2-36.0 4-27.5
RUSHING - W.C. East: Roberts 13-54; Genthert 7-37; A. Corialos 1-0; Block 1-(-20). Downingtown East: R. Angeline 27-182, 3 TDs; Connor 19-123; Rumer 1-3; Mastrog 1-0.
PASSING - W.C. East: Roberts 31-43, 307 yds, 3 TDs, INT. Downingtown East: Rumer 3-6, 18 yds; R. Angeline 1-4, 5 yds, INT.
RECEIVING - W.C. East: Downey 10-86; A. Corialos 7-55, TD; Sheehan 5-67, TD; N. Corialos 4-46; Bond 3-35; Genthert 2-18, TD. Downingtown East: R. Angeline 2-14; C. Angeline 1-5; Connor 1-4.
SACKS - W.C. East: Flanagan. Downingtown East: DiStefano 1.5; Wilson, Stata, Fell 0.5.
INTERCEPTIONS - W.C. East: Anderson. Downingtown East: Cohen.