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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An 'old' rivalry plays out

The word old can get, well, old at times. Heck, most of us don’t even have a clue what old is. But we’ll use it, use it again and use it some more to emphasize something we say or underline something we write.

Youngsters think 20 is old. Teenagers think 30 is old. And no matter what age we are or get to, our parents will always be old.


You want old? Well, the Germantown Academy and The Hill School football programs sure are, and forget the clichés.

The oldest and one of the five second-oldest active programs in all of Pennsylvania will get together at noon today. And like those fellas who first lined up for their schools well over 100 years ago, the Patriots and Rams will be just as keyed up, fired up, and wound up for the matinee.

Germantown Academy — the nation’s oldest nonsectarian day school when it was founded as Germantown Union School back in 1759 — waited for 127 years to kick off its first football season. But when it did, in 1886 to be exact, the Patriots were literally ahead of their time. No others, at least organized programs, were known to have existed that fall.

The following year, though, that all changed. Hill, along with the Central High School Lancers in Philadelphia, and prep schools Episcopal Academy, Haverford School, and William Penn Charter, were playing with the pigskin. So were Harrisburg Central and Harrisburg Academy high schools in the state capital.

But Hill head coach Marty Vollmuth didn’t care at all about how old his or any other school is when he sat down Monday night to draw up a game plan for the Rams’ season debut today against the Patriots. Vollmuth’s mind was on the playbook — all those Xs and Os in his offensive and defensive schemes — not the history book.

“We’re going to have to play a good football game to beat (GA),” Vollmuth said matter-of-factly.

Vollmuth, in his sixth season as the Rams head coach, has eight starters back on offense and six on defense. He has a very good quarterback in Patrick Flanagan, who started the last three games a year ago. But Royce Brown has shown considerable promise in the preseason, or enough to leave Vollmuth undecided as to exactly who would be out there calling the signals today. Whoever takes the snaps will likely be handing off a lot to Eric Davidheiser or throwing to Brendan Kelly.

“We have to get the ball in their hands,” Vollmuth said of Davidheiser and Kelly. “We want that one-two punch.”

Where the Rams should get a solid punch is in front of them, with returning linemen Jay Knighton (6-2, 250) at center, George Cornelson (6-1, 210) at guard, and John Alexander (6-4, 255) at tackle. The defense, especially with Knighton and Alexander lined up around nose guard Chris Katerianskis (6-1, 295), has some experience delivering a punch, too. And post-grad Kees Nordin (6-4, 210), a Kentucky native, is a welcome addition at linebacker alongside Davidheiser.

Defense will be Vollmuth’s main concern, at least when Germantown Academy has the football.

The Patriots, under third-year head coach Luke Harris, have a pair of big boys themselves on the offensive front in co-captains Ian Hillman (6-5, 227) and Pete Weindorfer (6-2, 233). Behind them is an explosive tandem in quarterback Pete Haines (6-3, 195), who showed his ability to run as well as throw the ball throughout Monday’s game over Cardinal Dougherty, and running back Lamont Jackson, a swift afoot sophomore who piled up 137 yards and two touchdowns in the 22-7 rout.

“We’re going to have to play plenty of good defense to contain (Jackson),” Vollmuth said.

And if the Rams happen to come up with big stop after big stop, and big play after big play when they have the football in their hands, that won’t ever get old for Vollmuth.

Despite having two of the oldest football programs in the state and being situated within an hour’s drive of one another, the Rams and Patriots haven’t played one another in nine years. The two schools have met just 27 times, with Germantown Academy holding an 18-9 lead in the series. Hill won the first meeting, 26-0, in 1945, while GA won the last meeting, 56-0, in 1999. The other 25 games were played in successive seasons from 1970 through 1994. … Germantown Academy’s annual game with William Penn Charter is believed to be the state’s oldest continuous football rivalry, which this season celebrates its 122nd anniversary. … Hill’s season-ending meeting with Lawrenceville this season will mark its 112th anniversary. … Last season, GA running back Reed Marko broke the Philadelphia City record for yards rushing in a game when he carried 37 times for 453 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-26 romp over East Pennsboro of District 3. … Germantown Academy is part of the Inter-Ac League, the nation’s oldest interscholastic athletic conference. The school has won 17 league titles, the first in 1911 and the last in 2004.

Most area fans are aware of Hill’s long list of notable alumni — among them former Secretary of State James Baker, Kansas City Chiefs’ founder Lamar Hunt, Academy Award winning director Oliver Stone, Pan Am founder Juan Trippe, a couple of Olympic gold medalists (Sabin Carr and William Porter), and a handful of sons of famous fathers by the names of Firestone, Patton, and Trump. Germantown Academy long list includes a couple of former Olympians (Maddy Crippen and David Wharton) and former professional athletes (Mark Nori in the NFL, Mike Richter in the NHL, and Alvin Williams in the NBA), as well as former Phillies owner Connie Mack Jr., and controversial but Hall of Fame tennis star Bill Tilden.

But arguably the most familiar name on the GA graduate chart is Owen Josephus Roberts — Class of 1891 — who Owen J. Roberts High School is named after. Roberts was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Herbert Hoover in 1930 and served for 15 years, or until his retirement in 1945.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home