Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A voice for all time

The sideline swagger never changed, nor did the bark.

Before and after every play, from the opening kickoff until the final snap, throughout every win and loss during his 40 years with the Owen J. Roberts’ football program, Joe Edwards’ intensity never wavered. He’d bend over, a hand on each knee and both eyes focused on the stance of the unsung grunts – the linemen – as well as the stance and positioning of all those linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties behind them … his defense.

From the moment a play unfolded until the whistle blew to end it, Edwards had the knack – or what many felt was a gift – of detecting all who executed and who didn’t. And his growl, that hooting and hollering, separated those who did and those who didn’t, too.

Edwards wasn’t the perfectionist, just a coach with an unselfish objective to make each and every of his players a little bit better than they were, or a little bit better than they themselves thought they could be.

He was no different, though a bit quieter, in his social studies classroom at the high school.

So it was no surprise that Edwards’ energy, his undeniable love for the game of football and those who played it, and his passion to teach, are what so many coaches as well as former players and students alike remembered most about him after learning of his death Thursday morning.

“Mr. Edwards was like 5-foot-6 or so … a man of small stature, but a man with such large presence,” said Rudy Glocker, a former linebacker-tight end during the Wildcats’ incredible run in the 1980s who later played at Penn State. “The one thing about Mr. Edwards was how great he was to kids, kids on the football field and in the classroom.

“He always expected you to do better. He didn’t let you settle for a good job because he wanted you to do a great job. He wanted you to do better than even you thought you could do. He didn’t let you perform down. He wanted your best, and he was the same in that regard in football and in class.”

Tom Barr is one of the very few who played under as well as coached under and alongside Edwards at Owen J. Roberts.

A standout running back with the Wildcats from 1976-78 and later at Penn State, Barr served as OJR’s ninth grade coach when Edwards became the head coach in 1991. He later became one of Edwards’ assistants for three seasons. Then, when Barr was named the head coach in 1997, Edwards remained on the staff as a volunteer assistant for three seasons.

“Joe’s insight and guidance made my transition (to head coach) a lot easier,” Barr said. “He really helped me when it came to learning more about opponents, when it came to relating to players as a head coach, and when it came to delegating responsibilities to assistant

coaches. He always wanted to help in some way.

“But the big thing about Joe was how hard he worked to get a player, every player, to reach their potential. He cared about you, about everyone … and that’s why he wanted you to become the best player and the best student you could. He worked hard at that because it was important to him.”

* * *

Joe Edwards knew a thing or two about hard work, about commitment.

Despite the contention he was too short and too light to play football, he became a standout two-way starter for three seasons (1950-52) at the former Spring City High School. Through the years, former teammates often recalled his intensity, and how his aggressiveness more often than not leveled the playing field against much taller and much heavier opponents.

“Joe was scrappy as nails,” said Bob Stipa, two years behind Edwards at Spring City. “He was a good, good football player.”

Edwards brought that vim-and-vigor approach with him to his first year of teaching in the Warwick School, which was part of the new Owen J. Roberts jointure, and with him to the football field, where he became a volunteer assistant to Lou Buckwalter.

A few years later, Edwards and the rest of the faculty moved into OJR’s new school on Route 23. And when Henry “Hank” Bernat was named the new football coach for the 1960 season, Edwards moved onto the Wildcats’ staff.

“When I was named the head coach, believe it or not, Joe was the first person I told,” recalled Henry “Hank” Bernat. “I wanted him as an assistant.”

Bernat got him and, along with Al Alutius, the three were literally inseparable for the next 31 years, or until Bernat stepped down following the 1990 season.

“We were more than just coaches,” Bernat said. “I saw Joe’s kids grow up and he saw my kids grown up. We were more than coaches, more than friends … we were more like brothers.”

“I still remember our first day of practice, walking down the hill to the (practice) field,” Alutius added. “It was just Henry and I because Joe was taking (graduate) classes and couldn’t be there. But we met a couple of days later, and ever since did practically everything together, the whole bit.

“We all got along well. It was more than a good friendship, too, because we never ever seemed to have bothered each other at all.”

It would be hard to imagine the three not getting a long. For many years, even last fall, they shared a seat next to one another at most of Owen J. Roberts’ home games.

“We still enjoyed being together, sitting there watching the games,” Alutius said.

The outgoing and oh-so-personable Edwards may have provided the glue that helped keep the friendship intact, too.

Much like his knowledge of the game and his ability to relate to and teach the youngsters who played it helped the Wildcats to so many wins and so many Ches-Mont League championships under Bernat … not to mention the two Pioneer Athletic Conference titles of his own in 1991 and 1993.

“I’ve told people for years that if you look up the definition of a coach in the dictionary you’ll find Joe Edwards,” said Rick Pennypacker, who played against Edwards as a standout lineman at Spring-Ford and coached against him as the head coach at Pottsgrove. “In all the years I knew Joe, almost 40 years, I never once heard a person say one bad thing about him.

“Joe epitomized what a coach is, or should be. He was tough, hard-nosed, dedicated. And the most important thing about him was that he was loyal to his coaches and to his school. That was his trademark.”

Pennypacker remembered how he first met Edwards, albeit informally. It happened in his sophomore season during the Rams’ game against the Wildcats, when Edwards and Stipa – then an assistant at Spring-Ford – exchanged a few words.

“I think back to that now and realize how amazing it is because both of them are two of the five coaches I’ve known in my life who I grew to love and respect more than any other,” Pennypacker said.

Pennypacker, as well as coaches throughout the Ches-Mont and PAC-10, never had a negative word to say about Edwards. For years, they applauded his work ethic and his devotion to the athletes and game … and his knowledge of defense.

“Joe put his time in, and it was all because of his love for the game and all those kids out there,” said Bernat.

“And, yes, defense was his forte. He worked at it. He read books, went to clinics, came up with some ideas of his own. He incorporated all of that, and that’s why we did as well as we did at times on defense.”

Pennypacker recognized that first as a player, then as a coach. Either way, he never found an easy matchup.

“When you played or coached against Joe you knew you didn’t have to worry about anything fancy,” Pennypacker explained. “But you knew you were going to get hit, and get hit hard from beginning to end. He always had his kids prepared to play.”

“I remember telling some of my teammates at Penn State one year that there was only one coach who yelled and screamed more than Joe (Paterno), that he was one of my high school coaches – Mr. Edwards,” Glocker said. “They were shocked, but Mr. Edwards did it to motivate you, to make you a better football player. There was never any vindictiveness … only that desire to make you better.”

“I always said, and will continue to say, that if there was any coach I would have wanted my kids to play for it would have been Joe Edwards,” added Pennypacker. “Believe me, he was the coach every father would have wanted their kids to play for, too.”

* * *

After retiring from teaching and coaching, Edwards took over as president of the PAC-10 Football Coaches Association and served as the master of ceremonies of the organization’s annual awards banquet until becoming ill last winter.

“Joe just wanted to stay involved with football and with the kids,” Pennyypacker said. “He volunteered for everything, did everything, and did everything well. He had a heart of gold. He was a class man, a man we all respected immensely. He touched a lot of lives, and we’re all going to miss him.”

“Joe was sick, and (his passing) was inevitable,” Bernat added. “But it still hurts … really hurts.”

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 2, 2008

Local clubs on path of success

The RiverCrest Golf Club and Preserve just opened the doors to its stately clubhouse and paved the cart paths that wind through and around its demanding layout a few years ago … and there’s no shortage of good players among its membership.

At least not when it comes to teeing it up in the Golf Association of Philadelphia Team Matches.

RiverCrest has three entries in the annual competition, which features 81 four-team sections bracketed in seven divisions. All three are unbeaten through the first two rounds and all three will attempt to capture their respective section titles this Sunday. And another winning swing would earn each of them a spot in next weekend’s playoff or challenge matches.

RC’s first team, 2-0 in Division A-Section Six, is coming off a 39.75-34.5 win over Heidelberg and holds a slim lead over second-place Rolling Green (1-1). Big points on Sunday, and a win of course, over Woodbury could move RC into a position to challenge for a spot in next year’s top Division AA bracket. The first team’s big scorers thus far have been Tucker Koch, Andy Achenbach and Joe, Daniel and Charles Bernard. Also contributing have been Matt German, Paul Stewart, Tom Grady, Craig Labarbera. Robert De Rojas, Kurt Meyers and Tim Westfall.

RC’s second team, 2-0 in Division C-Section 14, won a narrow 35.25-32.75 meeting with Cavaliers last week and has a formidable challenger on Sunday in Hartefeld National, which has amassed a section-high point total despite splitting its first two matches. Headlining the second team’s hopes will be Rich Moyer, Charles Meadows, Michael Beran, Johan Scholdstrom, and Peter Mark. Teammates Rich Bass, Vic Worry, Brandon Famous, Roger Bomgardner, Andy Keys, Bill Green, Michael McGarry, Terry Fair, Rob O’Brien and Glen Dotterer have also added depth to the second team’s lineup.
RC’s third team, 2-0 in Division E-Section Seven, had an easy time in a 48.25-17.75 rout of Sandy Run last week and could wrap up an unbeaten spring season on Sunday against winless Meadowlands (0-2). Leading the way for RC will be Ron Monson, Daryl Sonnichsen, James Malloy, Carter Devol, Mark Mazzie and Tim Kearns, its top point-producers thus far.

The only other area club attempting to cap an unbeaten season on Sunday will be Brookside C.C.’s first team, which is 2-0 in Division A-Section Six. Brookside is coming off a 37-75-25.25 win over Little Mill and go against Blue Bell (0-2) this weekend.
Brookside’s leaders thus far have been Rob Francis, A.J. DeNicco, Alex Maguire Sr., Scott Orr, Joe Major, Mark Szilagyi, Alex Maguire Jr., Hudson Green, Bo Maguire and Pat Romano. Also contributing have been Pressley Day, Bill Norris, Eric Householder and David Beasten.

Records of other area club’s entries as they head into Sunday’s final round of the GAP Team Matches are as follows:
Bellewood’s two teams are both 1-1; Brookside’s second through fourth teams are all 0-2; French Creek’s first team is 1-1 and second team is 0-2; Phoenixville’s two teams are both 0-2; Raven’s Claw lone entry is 1-1; Spring-Ford’s four teams are all 0-2; and Stonewall’s first team is 0-2 and second team is 1-1.

In the only match of the season featuring two area clubs, Raven’s Claw got into the win column last weekend with a 46.25-29 win over Phoenixville No. 2 in a Division E-Section 16 showdown. Raven’s Claw was led by Tom Cherry, Brian Cortright, Bruce Jackson, Al Kane, Dave McFetridge and Joe McKenna, while Phoenixville’s effort was led by Joe DiMartini, Charles Hiestand and George Kawchak Jr.


Brookside Country Club opened the Women’s Golf Association Team Matches season on Tuesday with an impressive 6-1 win over Phil-Mont in a 13th Cup matchup.

Providing the points in the lopsided affair were Beth Allain, Tammy Sucoloski, Barbara DeAngelis, Diane Maniscalco, Sue Suzenski and Linda Lucci. Suzenski coasted 8-and-6, while both Allain and Sucoloski had similar 7-and-5 romps. Lucci survived her thriller that went 19 holes.

Rivercrest G.C. and Preserve’s Jamie Komancheck teamed up with Kurt Meyers, Mike McGarry and Vic Worry to finish in a tie for fourth place during last week’s Philadelphia PGA Section’s Jack Jolly & Son Stableford Team Championship at Atlantic City C.C.
The foursome closed with a 139, five shots off the pace set by Little Mill’s George Frake and his three teammates.

Spring-Ford’s Rich Steinmetz teamed up with Rick Custer, Dennis Perna and Frank Kunze for a 142 and tie for 10th place. Stonewall’s Eric McNamee, Jerry Cashman, Tom Valyo and Rich Franklin combined for a 144 and tied for 15th.

The Philadelphia PGA Section Junior Program opened its spring run last Saturday at Center Square Golf Club and featured six area golfers.
Collegeville’s Brandon Nguyen tied for fourth and Royersford’s Alex Caracappa tied for 14th in the Boys 13-15 Division, and Chester Springs’ Kyle Donovan tied for ninth and Audubon’s Hans Gureck was 19th in the Boys 16-18 Division. In the 9-Hole Division for younger entries, Kimberton’s Madeline and Collin Sager were eighth and ninth, respectively.

There are still openings in the sixth annual Carl Burns Memorial Golf Tournament, set for Saturday, July 12 at Blackwood G.C. All proceeds from the outing go to the Carl Burns Memorial Fund, which benefits a Pottsgrove High School senior student-athlete who possesses outstanding character traits on and off the athletic field.

The tournament is played in honor of Carl Burns Jr., an outstanding student-athlete at Pottsgrove and later a scratch golfer who lost a courageous battle with cancer seven years ago.
To play or offer a sponsorship, call 610-326-6376 or 610-705-5559.

Labels: , , , , ,