DOWNINGTOWN - The road to recovery was long for Downingtown East's Dylan Rittenhouse this season.
After being injured in the season opener with a torn hip flexor, Rittenhouse missed the next 17 games for the Cougars.
Tuesday night, in East's playoff opener, Rittenhouse finally returned to the lineup. More importantly, he took advantage of the opportunity.
Rittenhouse scored two goals to lead No. 16 Downingtown East in a 4-1 victory over No. 17 Hatboro-Horsham at DiSerafino Stadium in a District 1 first round game.
The win reserved the Cougars (10-9) a date with top-seeded Penncrest for a second-round match in Media on Thursday.
As for Rittenhouse, he was just excited for the opportunity to get back on the field and help his team with a win.
"We didn't want to go out on our home field in the first round,' Rittenhouse said. "With a way our man up was converting and how we were moving off ball, I earned some opportunities to shoot and put it in the back of the net.'
Rittenhouse provided the early offense for East, scoring the equalizer with 4:27 left in the second quarter to tie it 1-1. He later netted the go-ahead goal to put the Cougars up 2-1 with 9:28 remaining in the third.
The way Brody Wilson and the back four were playing; that was all East needed in this one. Head coach Todd Cliggett used a baseball analogy to describe it; a good performance on the mound.
"We're deep at defense and they stepped up,' Cliggett said. "They played a good, hard game and Brody (Wilson) made some big saves in net. We're a program and have a one goes down, next up type of attitude.'
That has been the case with the Cougars throughout the season as they have withstood multiple injuries to this point.
Fortunately, Wilson was not one of the causalities as he turned in his finest performance in goal this season with 14 saves on 15 attempts.
Simply put, Wilson was sensational.
"I was in the zone,' Wilson said. "I like our defense to give me an outside shot and that's what it came down to. I was able to do my job and capitalize on that. When the defense does their job, you see the result that was put up.'
Led by Kyle Tucker, the Cougars defense brought a physical attack that threw the Hatters off their game the majority of the evening. Hatboro-Horsham was starting to wear down in the second half due to the immense pressure.
"We were hungry to the ball and we're intimidating,' Tucker said. "All of us wanted the GB (ground ball). We were intense out there just with the smack talk. Everyone on our side just wanted it and they didn't.'
Downingtown East was able to capitalize off that tired Hartboro-Horsham defense in the fourth with a goal from Lucas Iacovino to make it 3-1.
Next, Will Umberger sealed the victory after receiving a pass through two defenders in the crease from Mike Risser to make it 4-1 with 2:49 to play.
Once Umberger's goal went in, Cliggett and the Cougars could breathe a sigh of relief. That won't last long as they play undefeated Penncrest for the second time in six days come Thursday. Downingtown East fell 13-9 in the first meeting.
"We're excited to earn another match with them,' Cliggett said. "I'm going to start thinking about it tonight.'
"We fought them hard the first time,' Tucker said. "They're a good team. We're looking forward to playing them.'
Downingtown East 4, Hatboro-Horsham 1
Hatboro-Horsham 0 1 0 0—1
Downingtown East 0 1 1 2—4
Hatboro-Horsham goals: Mulligan.
Downingtown East: Rittenhouse 2, Iacovino, Umberger.
Goalie saves: Poust (HH) 9; Wilson (DE) 14.