The York-Adams League has never produced a state championship football team.

In fact, in the 25-year history of the state football playoffs, no York-Adams team has even advanced to the PIAA finals.

In 2012, however, a former York-Adams coach is just one win away from earning the most-coveted trophy in Pennsylvania high school football -- the Class AAAA crown.

His name is Matt Ortega.

Folks who follow York-Adams sports know that name well. He didn't spend much time in York County, but he made a serious impact during his short stay here.

Ortega led the York High football program from 2004 through 2008, compiling a 37-18 record, including 10-2 marks in his final two seasons. In the five seasons before Ortega arrived, York High was 8-42. In the four years since he left, the Bearcats are 16-26. That speaks volumes.

Former York High Bearcats football coach Matt Ortega, now the head coach at Coatesville, will lead his Red Raiders against District 7 champ North Allegheny
Former York High Bearcats football coach Matt Ortega, now the head coach at Coatesville, will lead his Red Raiders against District 7 champ North Allegheny at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. (File photo)

In 2009, the Steelton native made one of the toughest decisions of his young life -- he left York High at age 34 to take over the Coatesville High program in Chester County.

"I went back and forth, and I pulled out (decided not to go) one time," Ortega told the York Dispatch in 2009 when he made the decision. "But my decision had to put my family first."

When he left, Ortega had nothing but praise for York High, its administration and the community, calling it an "awesome" place. In fact, he said if the Coatesville job didn't come along, "I would be (at York High) for 10 more years."

But the Coatesville pull was too strong. He said it reminded him of his old high school, Steel-High, a place that is legendary in Pennsylvania high school athletics.

"Coatesville is a big Steel-High," he said at the time.

The Coatesville job was not a rebuilding project. In the five years before his arrival, the Red Raiders had gone 36-17. But Ortega has taken the program to new heights -- namely the AAAA state title game.

The Raiders will take on District 7 champion North Allegheny at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

North Allegheny was supposed to get to Hershey. The unbeaten Tigers (15-0) have been ranked in the top five in the state in Class AAAA all season by the (Harrisburg) Patriot-News, and they've been entrenched at No. 1 since mid-October. The Pittsburgh-area power lost in the state finals in 2011 and won the state championship in 2010.

Coatesville ... well that's another story.

The Raiders started the season unranked, and that seemed completely justified after they started the season 2-2. One of those two wins came over Ortega's old school, York High, in the season opener, 41-0.

Still, after the slow start, Ortega made a bold move. In midseason, he decided to completely change his team's offensive philosophy, abandoning a power running game in favor of a spread offense to take advantage of his players' speed.

The results have been nothing short of staggering. Since the change, Coatesville has stormed to 11 straight victories, averaging 44.1 points per game.

Still, the pundits around the state didn't really take notice of the Raiders until the District 1 playoffs started. Coatesville entered district play as the No. 9 seed and proceeded to dominate the opposition in shockingly easy fashion, winning four games by an average of nearly 28 points. The Raiders' closest win came by 17 points. Coatesville earned its first District 1 title since 1992.

Then, in the state semifinals last week, Coatesville outlasted La Salle College, 42-35. That's the same La Salle team that had won a state crown as recently as 2009 and had been ranked No. 1 in the state in AAAA for much of 2012.

Now just one victory separates Ortega and Coatesville from its first-ever state football title. That looked like a pipe dream in late September when they stood at 2-2.

The Raiders will be considered underdogs across most of the state on Saturday night. North Allegheny is considered an elite power in Pennsylvania prep football, while Coatesville is in uncharted territory. After getting upset in last year's state final by Central Dauphin, the Tigers will be looking for redemption.

Of course, Ortega's bunch is used to getting overlooked. Saturday night will be no different. In fact, they should feel right at home.

The fact that the game will be in Hershey could help Coatesville, which is located just 55 miles from the Sweetest Place on Earth. North Allegheny, meanwhile, faces a 225-mile journey.

The Hershey venue should also allow more than a few York-area football fans to make the 35-mile trip on Saturday night. After all, they can root on a man who used to be one of their own. And they can't use weather as an excuse for not making the trip. At game time, the temperatures should be in the low 40s, with only a slight chance of rain and light winds. For mid-December in Pennsylvania, that's about as good as it gets.

So, if you don't have any plans Saturday night and you enjoy high school football, hop in the car, drive to Hershey and cheer on Ortega and the Raiders.

If you can't get to the game, you can still catch the live telecast on PCN.

It may not be quite the same as watching a York-Adams team in the state finals, but it may be the next best thing.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dis patch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdis patch.com.