DOWNINGTOWN >> It would be hard to call a playoff game a trap, but if ever there was one, Downingtown West pulled it off Friday.
After a thrilling Week 10 win against cross-town rival Downingtown East and a potential rivalry game in Week Two of the playoffs, the No. 4 Whippets had to find a way to take care of business against No. 13 Conestoga.
There was nothing remarkable about it, but West did just what it needed to do to hold off the Pioneers, 35-13, at Kottmeyer Stadium in the first round of the District 1-6A playoffs.
The win sets up a second-round rematch against the East, marking the first time the two Downingtown schools have met in the playoffs, in their 20th season since the split.
“We’ve talked about how hard it is every week,” West coach Mike Milano said. “You don’t have much time to feel good about yourself. We have to get back to work.”
In an effort to inject energy into his team, Milan started West (9-1) in a no-huddle offense on its first drive. It worked to perfection, with Quinn Henicle completing all three of his passes for 56 yards and John Mulville capping the 62-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown.
Conestoga (6-5) played hard in the first half, but on West’s third possession, Jake Kucera returned it 14 yards for the score.
The Pioneers got on the board when Pete Costigan found Brody Eaton for an 18-yard TD reception, cutting the Whippets’ lead to seven heading into the break.
“We had a fun week without (Dean) Hangi and a couple of kids being sick, and we got in the way a little bit in the first half,” Milano said. “Give (Conestoga) credit. Matt (Diamond) is doing a great job and they beat us in the first 24 minutes.”
The Whippets returned to the rushing attack to start the third quarter and again moved down the field to set up a one-yard TD run by Mulville. The senior running back led the Whippets with 77 rushing yards and scored his third TD on their next drive.
West put the game out of reach on the first play of the fourth quarter when Kameryn Alex broke free for a 14-yard TD run. With Hangey ineligible for the playoffs due to his transfer from Malvern Prep, others like Alex (six carries, 36 yards) will be called upon to step up.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone,” Alex said. “It feels good to win. We work hard, day and night.”
Stoga got his second TD on a 17-yard pass from Costigan to Jeremy Friend. Jon Quici led the Pioneers with 57 yards on the ground.
“The message to the guys was just to keep your heads up,” Conestoga coach Matt Diamond said. “I’m extremely proud of them. This senior class has led us to back-to-back district playoff qualifiers, and that’s something that hasn’t been done in several years. They set a great standard for how it’s done.”
The last time Stoga reached the playoffs in recent years was 2008 and 2009, when the Pioneers were defeated by West both times.
The Whippets will now turn their attention to East, who they defeated 31-28 in the regular season finale. This time it will be without Hangey, who scored the game-winning TD in the final five minutes.
“Playing people twice is always tough,” Milano said. “There is really good football and the District 1 playoffs are a grind. It doesn’t get any easier week by week.”
Downingtown West 35, Conestoga 13
Conestoga 0 7 0 6-13
Downingtown West 7 7 14 7 – 35
DW- Mulville 4 run (Mehan kick)
DW- Kucera 14 run (Mehan kick)
C- Eaton 18 pass from P. Costigan (white kick)
DW- Mulville 1 Run (Mech Strike)
DW- Mulville 3 run (Mehan kick)
DW- Alex 14 Run (Mech Strike)
C- Friend 17 pass by P. Costigan (kick failed)
° С DW
First downs 10 19
Rushing yards 33-145 36-162
Passing yards 44,127
Total yards 189,289
Passing 4-11-0 10-19-0
Fumbles-Loss 1-0 0-0
points-avg. 3-32 2-42.5
Penalties – 4-40 yards 3-40
Rushing: Downingtown West – Mulville 19-77, 3 TDs; Alex 6-36, TD; Hayford 5-36; Kuchera 3-19, TD; Hennickel 4-8; Day 2-(-4); Garrity 1-(-2). Conestoga—Quici 12-57; Newhall 8-34; Kent 1-22; Cook 3-17; P. Costigan 9-15
Passing: Downingtown West — Henicle 10-19, 127 yards. Conestoga — P. Costigan 4-11, 44 yards, 2 TDs
Receiving: Downingtown West — Kucera 4-41; Hayford 1-33; Barry 2-26; Campbell 1-19; Alex 1-9; Mulville 1-5. Conestoga – Eaton 2-22, TD; Friend 1-17, TD; Newhall 1-5.