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, October 24, 2008

Blazers look to end string of 18 straight losses to Muhls

LAURELDALE – Since Dave Bodolus took over the Daniel Boone football program back in 2003, the Blazers have beaten all but one Berks County rival at least once.

All but one. … Muhlenberg.

“We’ve played them tough and lost some close ones,” Bodolus said earlier this week. “We’ve just come up a little short.”

If it’s any consolation, for Bodolus that is, a couple of coaches before him couldn’t get the best of Muhlenberg, either. As a matter of fact, Daniel Boone hasn’t beaten Muhlenberg since 1989.

If you’re counting, that’s 18 straight losses.

Both Bodolus and the Blazers hope to end the frustration tonight when they visit the Muhls in a game that will have an impact on both the Inter-County League Division One race as well as both of District 3’s Class AAA and AAAA playoff points standings.

The Blazers (4-1, 6-2 overall) enter this evening’s game tied with Governor Mifflin and Conrad Weiser for the division lead. Because both Governor Mifflin (at home against Pottsville) and Conrad Weiser (at home against Exeter) are heavily favored tonight, the Blazers must win to keep pace. Muhlenberg (3-2, 6-2), which saw a perfect five-game start go to waste after an uncharacteristic two-game slide, needs a win – and some help from others – if it hopes to grab a share of the lead.

And that’s only half of what’s on the line between the two teams, who met every year from 1959 through 1974, then resumed the series again in 1981.

Daniel Boone, situated in the eighth spot in the District 3-AAA points standings, needs a win tonight and another next week against winless Exeter to assure itself a home game in the opening round of the playoffs. Muhlenberg, situated in the seventh spot in the District 3-AAAA points standings, needs a win tonight and next week against Governor Mifflin to clinch a home game in the opening round of the playoffs.

So, yes, calling it a big game – for both the Blazers and the Muhls – would be a blatant understatement.

“I think our guys will be going in with a bit of an attitude,” Bodolus said.

They’ll also be going in with an offense unlike any the Muhls have seen this season. The Blazers, behind quarterback Jon Monteiro, are averaging just over 438 yards a game – about 75 more than their nearest rival in the 18-team Berks County lineup. But, at least in Bodolus’ mind, they’ll have to continue to generate those kind of numbers (as well as their 34.5 points per game) if they’re to stay ahead of the Muhls and their big-play offense.

“(Muhlenberg) has a lot of good players, and they have that big-play ability,” Bodolus explained. “So the big thing for us is negating those big plays. And we certainly can’t turn the ball over.”

The Muhls have a pretty darn good quarterback themselves in Nate Daniels, an All-Berks selection a year ago. Daniels, intercepted just twice this season, has completed 58 percent of his attempts (95 of 165) for 1,415 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has a pair of very reliable – not to mention dangerous – receivers in Brett Fox and Tyrell Ellison, who have a combined 74 catches for 1,158 yards and 13 scores. The run game has been shared by Taj Logan (293 yards), Eric Thomas (258), Daniels (229) and Trevor Lenart (191).

“We have to try and take away what they do well, which is the big play,” Bodolus said. “But there’s nothing more frustrating for a team than when another team drives the ball down the field on you with one of those 8-10 minute drives. The bottom line is that we have to play good defense.”

The Blazers’ defense, which has forced an area-high 21 turnovers, is led up by Nick Ciatto, Tim Evans, Mitchell Stead and Kyle Yarmush up front and by Zach Keeley in the secondary. Ciatto and Stead are the team’s leading tacklers; Evans, Stead and Yarmush have combined for 10 sacks; and Keeley, an all-state selection a year ago, has six interceptions.

The Muhls’ defense, usually a 4-3 set, will have an even bigger challenge in trying to quiet the Blazers’ offense.

Monteiro, who missed one game with an injury and played just over half of another in blowout, has broken a slew of area records – among them completions (29) and yards passing in a game (475) – and is oh so close to breaking the Berks mark for yards passing in a season. The 6-foot, 190-pound junior is 128 of 200 for 2,049 yards with 22 touchdowns.

A lot of Monteiro’s success can be attributed to the time he’s had to throw. Center Nick Ciatto, guards Michael Guarino and Mohammed Eid, and tackles Cody Albright and Tim Evans have seen to that. And when Monteiro throws there aren’t many that get dropped. Keeley (55 receptions, 792 yards), Kelly Saylor (38-459), Yarmush (20-418), along with deep threat Josh Ortiz, are as reliable a gang of receivers as any in Berks and beyond.

But the Blazers, or Monteiro to be specific, definitely need more production from the run game, which averaged 186 yards through six games but has manufactured just 103 total in the last two outings. Nate Greene, who ran for better than 1,000 yards last season but has only 584 this fall, is expected back after sitting out the second half last week with a leg injury.

“We’re certainly more of a passing team,” Bodolus said. “Still, we’d like to run the ball better than we have lately.

“(Muhlenberg) has a solid defense. They’re very good. But what we’ll do (offensively) … you just don’t know how our defense will play, or how the game unfolds.”

Hopefully, Bodolus admits, a little differently than the last 18.

“I don’t think that (losing streak) means a whole lot,” he said. “Every year is a new year. I’m sure our kids are aware of it, and I’m sure they’d like to end it. But if the shoe was on the other foot, if we had the 18-year winning streak, I don’t feel anyone would be thinking all they had to do was show up to win again, either.”


Both teams have excellent kickers, who could be the difference in a close game. Daniel Boone’s Bernie Roell leads the area in kick scoring with 32 placements and four field goals. Muhlenberg’s Matt Herbein has 22 placements and four field goals. … Four of Bodolus’ five losses to the Muhls have been by seven points or less. His first game against veteran head coach John Yocum and the Muhls in 2003 was a 41-34 double-overtime setback. … Muhlenberg also has the distinction of scoring the most points (58) against a Daniel Boone team in the 50-year history of the Blazers’ football program. The high-mark was reached in back-to-back games – 58-7 in 1999 and 58-19 in 2000.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

A lot of mixed signals for area’s top QB

From the Oct. 21 edition of The Mercury.

Two months from now, give or take a few days here and there, most of the all-league and all-area teams will be announced. And except for those unsung brutes up front on the offensive and defensive lines and a handful or two of the linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties, the premier skill position players have pretty much already made a name for themselves, or established who’s who among running backs and receivers.

But when the Pioneer Athletic Conference coaches sit down to vote on their all-league teams (not to mention The Mercury sports staff when it sits down to vote on the All-Area teams), they may face their most difficult call of the entire season when selecting a quarterback … just one for the first team and one for the second team, that is.

Easy? Well, how about a yuk-yuk-yuk, Curly?

In the PAC-10, with two full weeks of games (potential playoff contests) and the traditional Thanksgiving Day card remaining, Boyertown’s David Crognale, Perkiomen Valley’s Zach Zulli, Pottsgrove’s Terrell Chestnut, and even Spring-Ford’s Trevor Sasek are legitimate candidates on the QB ballot.

Hold on, there’s more.

On the All-Area ballot, Daniel Boone’s Jon Monteiro and Perkiomen School’s Abdul Smith are more than just pacifying write-ins, too.

Their statistics, which would sway a lot of fans, range from pretty darn good to absolutely ridiculous. Whether they step over the line of scrimmage to play defense and contribute to the special teams as well, definitely warrants consideration for four of the six aforementioned individuals. And their leadership, what they bring to the field every practice and every weekend — an intangible few recognize let alone understand — carries considerable weight on the voting scale.

Think all that criteria separates the six? How about another yuk-yuk-yuk, Curly?

Crognale, who last week broke Pete Madeja’s school-record of 27 career touchdown passes — a mark that held up for 33 years — and became the area’s first quarterback to run for more than 2,000 career yards, has been as valuable the last two seasons as he was during the Bears’ run to the PAC-10 title back in 2006.

Zulli, perhaps the purest passer the PAC-10 has had, displays the poise and patience to find his second, third, and fourth receivers on any given play. This season, with what amounts to an entirely new receiver corps and an almost-new offensive line in front of him, he’s on pace to break last year’s record-setting 2,156-yard, 26-touchdown effort. Already at 1,934 yards with 20 touchdown tosses, Zulli has added the run to his game and stepped out 452 yards this season, giving him an area-best 2,386 yards of overall offense. He has also had a hand in an area-high 29 touchdowns.

Chestnut is taking snaps for the first time. Yes, he was an all-state defensive back a year ago, but has he ever made the transition to offense. He’s run for 913 yards — putting him on a pace to join Crognale with 2,000 yards before he’s done — and responded with 530 yards in the Falcons’ limited passing game. He’s arguably one of the area’s best defensive backs, and he’s scored twice on special teams. Just a sophomore, Chestnut may be the PAC-10’s — if not the area’s — most complete player.

Sasek, like Zulli in that he’s working with almost an entirely new cast around him, has still thrown for 1,171 yards for the young Rams.

Smith, often criticized for playing a questionable schedule, has already accepted a full ride from Division I-A Rutgers — which more than confirms the talent the Perkiomen senior displays. In only five games, he has run for 673 yards and nine touchdowns, thrown for 459 yards and six more scores despite averaging considerably less attempts than other area quarterbacks, and he’s scored three other times on defense and special teams. There isn’t anyone anywhere in this neighborhood, either, as valuable to his team as Smith is to the Indians.

And Monteiro, despite losing his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, has come back and broken a slew of records – among them most yards passing in a game (475), completions in a game (29). Monteiro has played what amounted to 6-1/2 games this season, and he’s already over 2,000 yards on the season and, regardless of Daniel Boone’s postseason run, is likely to break school, Berks County, and Mercury area records for completions, yards, and touchdowns in a season. Oh yeah, he has next year to look forward to as well, which means a slew of area career marks will be in jeopardy.

Take your pick if you’d like … and think of the coaches (and us poor souls in the sports department) when it’s our time to do the same.


Player of the Week honors go evenly to an elite foursome, namely Boyertown’s David Crognale, who ran for 217 yards and a touchdown and threw for two more scores in the Bears’ 34-7 romp over Perkiomen Valley; Daniel Boone’s Jon Monteiro, who threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns in the Blazers’ 36-26 win over Pottsville; Perkiomen School’s Abdul Smith, who ran for three touchdowns, passed for two more, and returned a kickoff for yet another touchdown in the Indians’ 47-18 trouncing of Princeton Day School; and Pottsgrove’s Terrell Chestnut, who ran for three touchdowns and returned a punt for another in the Falcons’ 39-0 shutout of Methacton.

Coach of the Week honors go to Owen J. Roberts’ Tom Barr, who guided the Wildcats to a 27-7 win over Phoenixville to remain one game back of unbeaten Pottsgrove in the PAC-10 and retain its No. 8 position in the District 1-Class AAA playoff points standings.


Daniel Boone wideout Zach Keeley has been getting a lot of help this season from first-year assistant LeRyan Dallas, who had an outstanding career as a receiver at St. Pius X and East Stroudsburg. Now Keeley is passing by Dallas on the area’s career receiving charts.

Keeley, who broke former teammate Mark Justice’s school record for career receptions two weeks ago, moved in front of Dallas and into second place on The Mercury’s all-time leaderboard last weekend when he pushed his total to 104. Keeley also moved in front of Dallas and into third place on The Mercury’s career receiving yardage leaderboard by pushing his total to 1,488 yards. Dallas had 102 catches for 1,462 yards before graduating from St. Pius X.


Perkiomen School’s 47-18 rout of Princeton Day School last Saturday represented the most points scored by any Indians team since a 52-21 romp over Wyoming Seminary eight years ago. It was also the program’s third-highest point production in the last 30 years.


Two weeks ago, Phoenixville forced Boyertown into six turnovers and won. Last week, Phoenixville turned it over six times and lost to Owen J. Roberts. The Phantoms had just seven turnovers in their first seven games before the debacle with the Wildcats. … Pottsgrove, which has won an area-best six games in a row, may be the PAC-10’s lone unbeaten because of turning over the football a league-low five times.


Pottstown has played very well through the first three quarters of its last two games against Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford. But the young and ailing Trojans surrendered 35 unanswered fourth-quarter points to erase leads against both rivals and lead to a pair of losses. … Marc Smith has run up 480 yards in his five PAC-10 games. … Three-year starter Ken Baker made a surprise return to the lineup Saturday at Spring-Ford and responded with 74 yards on 10 carries. Baker, who had missed two games after underdoing minor knee surgery, has 2,667 career yards rushing.


The long-running Monday Morning Quarterback, featuring host Dave Reidenouer and former longtime St. Pius X head coach Jim Mich, will have a special broadcast next Monday (5:30-7 p.m., PCTV Channel 22).


Saturday, October 18, 2008

District hopes hinge on Wildcats-Phantoms game

All eyes, or at least most area football fans’ eyes, will be on two games this evening — Pottsville at Daniel Boone in an Inter-County League Division One feature and, of course, Methacton’s first meeting with Pottsgrove in a Pioneer Athletic Conference showdown.

Not to get the lids blinking, but tonight’s Owen J. Roberts and Phoenixville affair at Washington Field may be the game to keep one eye (or both) on.

There’s no title on the line, mind you. However, both the Wildcats and Phantoms are 4-1 (as well as 5-2 overall) and, realistically, the only two teams capable of catching or catching up to Pottsgrove in the event the Falcons stumble down the stretch.

What is on the line this evening, at least for the Wildcats and Phantoms, is the opportunity to keep those District 1-Class AAA playoff hopes alive.

Owen J. Roberts is currently eighth in the district’s points standings (610 points and power rating of 87.143), while Phoenixville is ninth (530, 75.714).

Tonight’s winner will pick up 150 points — 100 for the win, 10 points each for their opponent’s five previous wins — the loser gets zero.

Remember now, only eight teams qualify for the postseason.

The three teams ahead of them — No. 7 Strath Haven, No. 6 Upper Merion, and No. 5 Rustin — are all heavily favored to win this weekend, so there won’t be much (if any) room to move up. Of more concern, though, is that the three teams below them — No. 10 Interboro, No. 11 Academy Park, and No. 12 Bishop Shanahan — are also heavily favored to win this weekend, and with two of them going against AAAA rivals, the bonus points could conceivably push both past OJR and Phoenixville, regardless of who wins, out of the Top Eight.

Pottsgrove and Upper Moreland (6-1) lead the District 1-AAA points standings. But the Falcons, with a win over AAAA Methacton tonight, will break that tie with the idle Golden Bears. … Former PAC-10 member Great Valley and Henderson are tied for the third spot. … Out in District 3-AAA, Daniel Boone is eighth.


Phoenixville’s Bill Furlong, Spring-Ford’s Gary Rhodenbaugh, and Upper Perkiomen’s Keith Leamer all coached their 50th Pioneer Athletic Conference games last week.

Lansdale Catholic’s Jim Algeo holds the PAC-10 record (129). Pottsgrove’s Rick Pennypacker, who is second, lines up for his 115th league game tonight.


Pottstown and St. Pius X will both play their 200th Pioneer Athletic Conference games on Saturday. The Trojans and Lions are the only teams that avoided the two teachers’ strikes at Spring-Ford (1988) and Phoenixville (1989) and have played all their scheduled league games.

Perkiomen Valley, Pottsgrove, and Upper Perkiomen will hit the 200-game mark next weekend.


There shouldn’t be any big surprises, although the Ches-Mont League has a pair of headliners. One is in Downingtown, where East (4-3) meets West (6-1), while the other features Coatesville (5-2) at Henderson (5-2). … Unbeaten North Penn (7-0), No. 1 in the district and No. 2 in the state, visits Souderton (4-3) on Saturday. … Chester, which is still in the AAAA playoff hunt, last week blanked Penn Wood, 44-0, for the 500th win in the history of its program.


At least four teams in Pennsylvania will be losing their first game this weekend … and likely leaving the Top 10 rankings in their respective brackets. In Class AA, No. 6 Mount Carmel (7-0) hosts Lewisburg (7-0) in a District 4 feature, and No. 7 Karns City (7-0) hosts Moniteau (7-0) in a District 9 showdown. In a cross-bracket and cross-district brawl, District 6-A Portage (7-0), ranked No. 9 in the state, travels to District 5-AA defending champion North Star (7-0), which is unranked. … Out in District 7, unranked Keystone Oaks (7-0) visits unranked Sto-Rox (7-0) in a WPIAL feature between Class AA rivals. … Beaver Falls (7-0), on top in Class AA, has a test at Center (6-1), while Steelton-Highspire (7-0), on top in Class A, should get a test as well at Trinity (6-1).


York’s William Penn (56.6) and Portage (51.0) are the only two teams in the state averaging more than 50 points a game. … Perkiomen Valley is No. 1 in District 1 and No. 47 in the state (35.4). The Vikings (3-4) are the only team with a losing record among the state’s 113 schools averaging more than 30 points.

Ten teams, led by Rochester (2.4) and Clairton (2.9), are allowing less than a touchdown a game. Neshaminy is ninth in defense, permitting just 5.9 points a game.


While Perkiomen Valley senior Zach Zulli and Daniel Boone junior Jon Monteiro are threatening to erase most of the area’s passing records before they’re through their careers, Brockway’s Derek Buganza is doing the same out in District 9. Just a sophomore, Buganza unofficially leads the state with 1,999 yards going into this weekend. The next closest passer happens to be another District 9 quarterback, Richland Township junior Giovanni Ramires, who has thrown for 1,917 yards.


Defending Maryland 2A champ River Hill, led by Wake Forest-bound running back Mike Campanaro, has defeated opponents by a combined 319-22 this fall and an amazing 870-43 combined margin during its 20-game winning streak the last two seasons. … Down in Kentucky, two state records fell last Friday night. Manchester senior quarterback Zach Lewis broke the state’s career passing yardage record previously held by former NFL No. 1 draft pick Tim Couch. Lewis threw for 391 yards to push his career total to 12,490 yards. Russell senior placekicker Jason Dolly booted his state-record 75th consecutive extra point in a blowout of Vanceburg. … Further south in Florida, Sheridan Hills’ Frainy Alfrena took 15 handoffs for 405 yards (27 yards per carry) and five touchdowns in last week’s 41-13 win over Highlands Christian. … In Minnesota, Elliott Mathieu hit on 26 of 41 passes for 452 yards and eight touchdowns, breaking the state record that was shared by six others, among them Minnesota Twins all-star catcher Joe Mauer. … And out in Wyoming, a major snowstorm couldn’t slow down Natrona County’s Tom Early, who ran for 327 yards and four first-half touchdowns — all 30 or more yards — in a rout of Riverton.


Two readers’ emails asked if last weekend’s high-scoring fiascos across the nation set any records. Well, not really. The National High School Sports Record Book lists scoring records as follows: Most points in a quarter — 66, by Prescott (Ariz.) against Kingman in 1925; Most points in a half — 86, by Lincoln Prep (Mo.) against Northeast in 1985; Most points in a game — 256, by Haven (Kans.) against Sylvia in 1927; and Most points in a season — 903, by Albermarle (N.C.) over 16 games in 2001.

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Daniel Boone, Falcons can’t afford to let up

Just when you thought Daniel Boone was going to run the Inter-County League Division One table … Just when you thought all Pottsgrove would have to do was strap on the gear and go through the motions to tackle another Pioneer Athletic Conference title … Just when you thought there just weren’t any real meaningful games remaining on the regular season schedule …

Just when …

Stop right there. You thought wrong.

Daniel Boone got knocked off cruise control last Friday night with a 19-7 loss to Governor Mifflin and went from the division’s lone unbeaten to one of three teams parked alongside one another atop the standings. So the Blazers best warm up — or rev up, if you prefer — their offensive motor in a hurry. Unpredictable Pottsville will be in Birdsboro this Friday night, then next week, there’s the trip up to Muhlenberg, which must be feeling like it’s driving in circles after opening with five wins only to lose its last two.

The Blazers better not run out of gas for their finale with visiting Exeter, either. Yes, the Eagles have lost 18 in a row and 24 of their last 26 games dating back to 2006. But don’t forget, while they were going nowhere the last two seasons at the same time the Blazers were going to the District 3-AAA playoffs, it was Daniel Boone that needed some late scores to hold off their neighboring rivals 17-7 and 20-19 in those two meetings. And their next get-together, in the event you haven’t glanced at the calendar, happens to be on Halloween Night.

That’s kind of scary, especially when thinking two losses could conceivably sack the Blazers’ bid for a third straight appearance in the postseason.

In the PAC-10, Pottsgrove has left the league’s upper echelon scratching its collective helmet with five straight wins. And for a while there, the Falcons didn’t appear to have much of a challenge ahead of them, either. But all of a sudden, there is one — Friday night with visiting Methacton.

The Warriors, whose inconsistencies on both sides of the ball early on left them adrift in mediocrity, are sailing now with three straight wins. They have enough size and mobility up front to create some havoc; a quarterback who may have matured — or improved — as much as anyone over the last month; and a young fella by the name of Tim Smith, who is already on (or will be on) most of the coaches’ Player of the Year ballots before the season winds down.

The PAC-10 has another biggie on the weekend card, too. This one, a Saturday matinee, features Owen J. Roberts at Phoenixville — the only teams with just one loss in the league. You can bet your chin strap both will be hooting and hollering for Methacton on Friday night, but less than 24 hours later they’ll be going after one another for the obvious reason. A spot in the District 1-AAA playoffs may very well be on the line, too, especially when considering they’re currently eighth and ninth in the points standings (and only eight teams qualify).

Should be an interesting weekend after all.

Yep, the high school football season has officially reached crunch time.

Pottsgrove moved on top of the District 1-AAA playoff points standings this week, while Upper Moreland was second. Former PAC-10 member Great Valley and Henderson are tied for third. Rustin, which surprised Henderson last weekend and dropped the Warriors out of the No. 1 position, was fifth. Upper Merion and Strath Haven were next, with Owen J. Roberts holding a slight edge on Phoenixville for the eighth spot.


Player of the Week honors go to Pottsgrove’s Bill Sheppard, who ran for one touchdown, caught a pass for another score, and returned two punts for touchdowns to help the Falcons defeat Upper Perkiomen, 41-14.

Coach of the Week honors go to Phoenixville’s Bill Furlong, who guided the Phantoms over Boyertown, 21-18, and into a tie for second place in the PAC-10 standings.


The Hill School’s 14-6 thriller over Mercersburg last Saturday kept the Rams unbeaten in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (2-0, 3-2 overall) and left them halfway to the six victories they need to become just the second area program to reach 500 wins. The Rams have four games remaining, with trips to Wyoming Seminary (3-2) and Blair (4-0) the next two weeks before closing at home against Hun (3-2) and Lawrenceville (3-2).

Perkiomen School is all even (2-2) at the halfway mark of its season. The Indians host Princeton Day School this week, then hit the road to visit Elkton Christian School in Maryland and St. Andrew’s in Delaware before closing at home against Pennington Prep.


Boyertown had just six turnovers through its first six games before doubling that figure with its six-turnover nightmare last Friday evening against Phoenixville. Quarterback David Crognale has moved up to No. 6 on the area’s all-time career total offense chart with 5,255 yards. … Daniel Boone not only lost (19-7) to Governor Mifflin, but was held under 10 points for only the sixth time in 65 games since head coach Dave Bodolus took over the program. Wideout Zach Keeley pulled in six more passes last Saturday to become the school’s all-time leader with 93 career receptions. Keeley broke Mark Justice’s record of 88. Keeley also has 1,330 career receiving yards, second only to Justice’s total of 1,578. … Methacton is plus-four in takeaways in its current three-game winning streak. Tim Smith has scored seven touchdowns in the same span — two on runs, four on pass receptions, and three on defense or special teams. … Owen J. Roberts has the area’s leading scorer and rusher in Ryan Brumfield, who is on pace to become just the fourth OJR back to run for 2,000 or more yards in a season. Teammate Kohl Batdorf’s string of successive touchdown catches ended at three last week in the win over St. Pius X.

Perkiomen Valley may be 3-4, but before last week’s come-from-behind win over Pottstown the Vikings were actually the highest-scoring team in District 1. The Vikings lead the area in total offense (2,971 yards) — just 12 yards better than Daniel Boone. Senior Zach Zulli last week became just the second area quarterback to go over the 5,000-yard career passing mark. Zulli has thrown for 5,069 yards and needs just 229 more to break the area record set by Daniel Boone’s Chris Bokosky. … Phoenixville has recovered six fumbles and picked off six passes in its last two games, which has helped the Phantoms take over the area lead in takeaways with a plus-14 mark. Quarterback Tom Romano was 10 of 30 for 158 yards with one touchdown in his first four games, but is 22 of 38 for 452 yards with five touchdowns in his last three games. … Pottsgrove fumbled away a possession last week at Upper Perkiomen, the team’s first lost-fumble in five games. Bill Sheppard has scored six touchdowns the last two weeks — two on runs, two on passes, and two on punt returns.

Pottstown, which played so well for three quarters last week, is likely to be without running back Kenny Baker for at least another week. Baker, recovering from minor knee surgery, has 2,593 career yards and is trying to join Tyrone Dalton (3,324) and Christian Allen (3,705) as the only Trojans with more than 3,000 career rushing yards. … Spring-Ford quarterback Trevor Sasek broke Lance Viola’s school record for career passing yards last week. Sasek’s total is currently at 4,043, and he may be forced to go up top a lot more this weekend if running back David Tyler isn’t back from an injury he suffered against Methacton last Saturday. … St. Pius X is expected to be back to full strength for the first time this weekend when they Lions line up in search of that elusive first PAC-10 win. … Upper Perkiomen was averaging 301 yards offensively through its first six games but managed to produce just 91 last Friday night against Pottsgrove.

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Now is the time for top teams to step forward

This column originally ran in the Oct. 3 edition of The Mercury

Time isn’t running out on anyone quite yet. Please, it’s only Week Six of the high school season for goodness sakes. But you could easily say this weekend, or the outcome of one game tonight and another Saturday afternoon, will get a few of the football clocks ticking.

This evening, Owen J. Roberts and Pottsgrove — the lone remaining unbeatens (3-0) in the Pioneer Athletic Conference with identical 4-1 overall records – get together. And in a Saturday matinee, Conrad Weiser and Daniel Boone — two of three unbeaten teams (2-0) atop the Inter-County League’s Division One standings with identical 4-1 overall records – get together.

Neither the Wildcats nor the Falcons are going to run off with the PAC-10 title with a win tonight, mind you, although there’s no question as to who has the considerably tougher month of October ahead of them, or who can ill-afford a loss more than the other in this one. Neither the Scouts nor the Blazers are going to run off with the I-C Division One title Saturday afternoon, either, not with unbeaten Muhlenberg (and a few other ruthless rivals) remaining on both of their schedules.

But who survives and who doesn’t, on the scoreboard that is, will definitely impact both of the league’s stretch runs … and it’ll be the perfect time to establish who’s who in all four of the teams’ chase for postseason playoff berths.

Owen J. Roberts is tied for fourth and Pottsgrove is tied for second in the District 1-AAA points standings, where very, very little separates the top seven teams (and only eight qualify, remember).

Conrad Weiser is tied for fourth and Daniel Boone is 10th in the District 3-AAA points standings, where there may not be as much concern about finishing among the top 16 as there is about positioning.

But aside of the records, points standings and anything else the football mind can conjure up, both games are likely to be as good if not better than any other this season.

Owen J. Roberts may have, at least through the first five weeks, the most improved offensive line in the area (not to mention a lot of depth at the unsung fullback position). Together, they’ve made it considerably easier for Ryan Brumfield and Dan Miller.

Brumfield has gotten better, or shall we say a wee bit bigger and a lot more savvy, since stepping into the lineup as a freshmen a year ago. He’s already run for 1,011 yards, putting him on a pace to step past three former Wildcats – Dennis Laws (2,006), current head coach Tom Barr (2,029) and Matt Lucas (2,046) – and set a new school record for yards rushing in a season. Miller is the little fella with the ability to scramble out of trouble, go up top for some big yards, or keep it and go head-to-head with defenders twice his size.

Pottsgrove has a roster full of those unknowns, along with headliners like Terrell Chestnut, Maika Polamalu and Preston Hamlette, who have simply got the job done week after week after week. The Falcons have given up a lot of yards and a lot of points. They also generate their share of yards and points … and they win. Forget that margin of victory – an average of just seven points a game against Phoenixville, Perkiomen Valley and Boyertown – because all that matters in the end is how many notches are in the left column of that won-loss ledger.

Daniel Boone, meanwhile, may be lining up with the best team of any in the area this season, at least up to this juncture. And, for the record, if the Blazers continue their prolific ways Saturday, through the remainder of the month and into the playoffs, they’re likely to erase virtually every offensive mark scribbled in the area’s record book. Quarterback Jon Monteiro has completed on nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,360 yards and 16 touchdowns – in what amounts to less than four games (he missed one with an injury and played only minutes into the third quarter in another). Monteiro is very good, no doubt about that. And he’s had the opportunity to showcase his talent because of the protection and time he gets from the fellas up front, because of the threat of Nate Greene and others to run the football, and because of band of receivers – led by Zach Keeley, Kelly Saylor, Kyle Yarmush, to name a few – who run their patterns, catch passes and, most important, know what to do with it after they pull them in.

So, yes, there is a sense of urgency in tonight’s game at Pottsgrove and in Saturday’s game at Daniel Boone. But don’t think the pressure, or the stress, will lighten up all that much over the next month, either.

* * *

Perkiomen Valley and Phoenixville – both 2-1 in the PAC-10 – get together Saturday as Washington Field in Phoenixville with a lot on the line. Neither the Vikings nor the Phantoms can afford another loss at this point, not if they expect to remain in the championship chase. And Phoenixville is still well within reach of moving up among the top eight in the District 1-Class AAA playoff points standings.

PV quarterback Zach Zulli, who is threatening to erase most of the PAC-10 passing records (and a few of the area’s all-time records, too), needs 147 yards of offense to go over the 5,000-yard career total offense mark, something only five other area players have done. He’ll be going for the milestone against the area’s top-rated defense, though.


The first official District 1 and 3 playoff points standings were released earlier this week.

In Class AAA, nine teams are currently squeezed into the Top Eight. Henderson is first; Pottsgrove is tied with Upper Merion in that second spot; Owen J. Roberts shares the fourth spot with Upper Moreland; Bayard Rustin is sixth; Great Valley is seventh; and Bishop Shanahan and Strath Haven are tied for eighth. Every one of the teams are 4-1 with the exception of Bishop Shanahan and Strath Haven, who are both 3-2.

The four remaining unbeatens in the AAAA bracket – North Penn, Downingtown West, Ridley, Garnet Valley – are first through fourth, respectively. Council Rock South, Pennsbury, Neshaminy, Quakertown, Glen Mills, Abington, Penncrest, Upper Dublin and Upper Darby – all with identical 4-1 records – occupy the next nine spots. Souderton is 14th, while C.B. South, Norristown and Unionville are tied for 15th.

Eight teams qualify for the AAA playoffs, while 16 move into the postseason in AAAA.

Out in District 3-AAA, unbeatens Mechanicsburg and Greencastle are one-two, respectively; West York (4-1) is third; Conrad Weiser shares that fourth spot with Garden Spot and Lebanon; Northern Lebanon is seventh; Cocalico and Northern share ninth; and then it’s Daniel Boone at No. 10. The top 16 qualify for the playoffs. It is very possible a .500 record will be good enough to get into the District 3-AAA postseason show.


Tonight, among the big games whose outcome will have a significant impact on those aforementioned playoff points standings are Abington at Council Rock South and C.B. South at Quakertown in AAAA. In a couple of key bracket crossover games, Henderson could really pad its lead in AAA with a win at unbeaten AAAA Downingtown West, as could AAA Great Valley with a win against visiting AAAA Unionville.

* * *

Around the state, there are six games featuring 5-0 teams going up against one another. In District 3, Middletown visits Steelton-Highspire, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class A; in District 7, Beaver Area (No. 8) travels across town to take on Beaver Falls, ranked No. 1 in Class AA, and Clairton (No. 5) travels to Chartiers-Houston in Class A; in District 9, Redbank Valley visits Karns City (No. 6 in AA) in a bracket crossover showdown; and in District 10, Sharon heads over to Wilmington (No. 5) in Class AA.


The state rankings, compiled by the Harrisburg Patriot News, looked almost like a reprint from a week ago. With few if any upsets to note, it’s understandable, too.

The AAAA and AA brackets remained unchanged. In AAA, Berwick (4-1) dropped from No. 5 to No. 10 following its 28-3 loss to Selinsgrove (4-1), which moved up to No. 9. And in Class A, the only change was Bellwood-Antis (4-1) moving into the No. 10 spot.

North Penn – situated at No. 2 behind District 7’s Gateway in AAAA – is the only District 1 team ranked in the four brackets.


Down in Tampa last weekend, Plant senior Aaron Murray, who has committed to Georgia, only played the first half in his team’s 63-6 rout of Riverview. But in that first half, Murray threw for 385 yards and eight touchdowns. … Jordan Roberts of Christian High set a new Illinois mark last week when four more touchdown passes pushed his career total to a state-record 98. … Dylan Favre, a 5-foot-10 junior at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, Miss., threw for six touchdowns last Friday in a 56-20 rout of Long Beach. Two days later, his uncle Brett Favre, the Jets’ quarterback, matched the mark with six TDs in a 56-35 over Arizona. … Tyler Jones of Cherokee Washington (Iowa) threw for 351 yards and five touchdowns to push his career passing total to 8,290 yards, a state record.

Out in Kansas, Derby used four turnovers to upset Hutchinson, 30-27, dealing the three-time defending state champion its first loss to an in-state opponent in 38 games. … North Shore (Tex.), which hasn’t played in three weeks because of last month’s hurricane, will line up tonight at Lufkin and go for a state-record 73rd straight regular-season win. … Prosser (Wash.) put 42 points on the scoreboard in the first quarter, before relaxing a bit and settling for a 68-0 blitz of East Valley.


Area’s elite still have a lot of football left

This column was first published in the Sept. 30 edition of The Mercury

Daniel Boone, along with Owen J. Roberts and Pottsgrove, are in first place in their respective leagues. Daniel Boone currently shares the top spot in Section One of the Inter-County League with Conrad Weiser and Muhlenberg, while Owen J. Roberts and Pottsgrove are situated next to each other as the lone unbeatens in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.

But no one best be pointing that index finger skyward.

No, no, no…

Not yet.

You see, neither Daniel Boone, Owen J. Roberts nor Pottsgrove have reached the halfway mark of their respective league schedules. In other words, there is a lot of football to be played. Make that a whole heck of a lot of football to be played.

And even though there isn’t that strength-of-schedule argument in high school like there is in college, Daniel Boone and Owen J. Roberts have a considerably more challenging month ahead of them than Pottsgrove (and, no, we’re not overlooking the fact three other PAC-10 teams have just one loss right now, either).

First, Daniel Boone. The Blazers (2-0, 4-1) host Conrad Weiser (2-0, 4-1) this Saturday, travel to Governor Mifflin (1-1, 3-2) next week, then come back home to entertain Pottsville (2-1, 2-3), go off to visit Muhlenberg (2-0, 5-0), and close at home against Exeter (0-2, 0-5).

For head coach Dave Bodolus and the Blazers, that’s a grind … a big-time grind.

Weiser, in case you didn’t know, has won four in a row. Mifflin has done quite well with Vince Garipoli calling the signals since the highly touted Casey Hughes broke his arm in the preseason. Hughes, who had three interceptions on defense last week, may be ready to step back in under center at any time for the defending section champions. A very young Pottsville ran off back-to-back wins before last weekend’s narrow 25-20 setback to Weiser. Muhlenberg, thanks in part to quarterback Nate Daniels — whose numbers (61 percent completion rate, 999 yards, just one interception and 12 touchdowns) are almost as ridiculous as Jon Monteiro’s of the Blazers — hasn’t lost to anyone yet. And Exeter, on a 16-game losing streak, nevertheless is still the pesky rival who was winless a year ago when they came up one point shy of the heavily favored Blazers.

There’s just as much drama building in the PAC-10, too.

Owen J. Roberts travels to Pottsgrove on Friday night. It will be the first “big test” for the Wildcats, and the third straight “big game” for the Falcons. After next week’s game at home with St. Pius X, the Wildcats have a grind themselves — at Phoenixville, at home against Perkiomen Valley, and at Boyertown. Even though the Wildcats have dominated Pius (winning 17 of their last 20 meetings), they won’t overlook the Lions. Phoenixville has another quality team that gets better each week and slips under everyone’s radar while doing it. Perkiomen Valley has an offense capable of piling up big yards and putting up big points. And Boyertown, remember, came within six inches of putting Pottsgrove in a hole with less than two minutes left last weekend.

Wildcats head coach Tom Barr may want to give Bodolus a call to find out what prescription he gets to settle the stomach.

Pottsgrove, which also outlasted Perkiomen Valley two weeks ago, has a bit more of a football-friendly schedule (just don’t let head coach Rick Pennypacker hear that). The Falcons visit Upper Perkiomen, which has split its last six meetings with Pottsgrove; host Methacton, which found its offense last week to get into the win column and pick up some much-needed confidence; travel to Spring-Ford, which is going to break out, offensively and defensively, one of these weeks; and entertain Pottstown, which has the speed to go step-for-step with the Falcons.

And if the battle for an I-C League or PAC-10 title isn’t enough to motivate the troops, Daniel Boone, Owen J. Roberts, and Pottsgrove are all trying to keep pace in the playoff chase, too.

Though official standings aren’t expected to be released until later this week, Daniel Boone is among the leaders in the District 3-AAA bracket. But another 3-2 run down the stretch like last year’s finish against the same five opponents could conceivably keep the Blazers out of the postseason. OJR and Pottsgrove are among the leaders in the District 1-AAA bracket, but a loss here and there could sack their playoff hopes as well.


Player of the Week honors … more on that in a moment.

Coach of the Week honors go to Methacton’s Bob McNally, who guided the Warriors to their first Pioneer Athletic Conference win, 36-13, at Upper Perkiomen last Friday night.

Now, Player of the Week? Forget it. Time to pluralize.

In other words, take your pick from the following fellas who just went bonkers in the mud and rain last Friday night:

Boyertown quarterback David Crognale, who ran for 249 yards — a PAC-10 record for yards rushing in a game by a quarterback — and two touchdowns; Daniel Boone quarterback Jon Monteiro, who threw for 475 yards — which shattered the Mercury area’s all-time record — and four touchdowns; Daniel Boone receiver Zach Keeley, who had 13 receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns; Methacton quarterback Jim McHugh, who threw for 271 yards and four touchdowns; Owen J. Roberts’ Ryan Brumfield, who ran for 250 yards, had 317 yards of total offense, and scored three times; Perkiomen School quarterback Abdul Smith, who ran and threw for a combined 275 yards and four touchdowns; Perkiomen Valley quarterback Zach Zulli, who threw for a school-record 307 yards and two scores; Perkiomen Valley running back Lynwood Snowden, who scored four times himself; Perkiomen Valley receiver Sean Conners, who caught eight passes for 150 yards and a touchdown; and Pottsgrove quarterback Terrell Chesnut, who carried just 13 times for 245 yards (a PAC-10 record until Crognale passed him on the Bears’ final drive) and three touchdowns.


The Hill School opens its Mid-Atlantic Prep League schedule this Friday (3:30 p.m.) at the Peddie School. The Rams, 1-2 after three non-league games, and host Falcons will be meeting for the 69th time.

In three games, Perkiomen School’s Abdul Smith has had his hand in 99 offensive plays (51 carries, 48 passes), which have led to 842 yards and nine touchdowns. In other words, Smith is averaging 8.5 yards every time he touches the ball, and one out of every 11 touches results in a touchdown. He’s also returned a kickoff for a touchdown, too.


Keeley became the third Daniel Boone receiver to go over the 1,000-yard career mark two weeks ago and is now second (1,239 yards) on the short list. He passed Dexter Russell (1,197) last Friday night and could pass Mark Justice (1,578) by season’s end. St. Pius X graduate Mike Todd is the Mercury area’s all-time leading receiver with 1,919 career yards.

Zulli’s two touchdown passes against St. Pius X were the 49th and 50th of his career. The Viking senior lifted his career passing yardage to 4,505 and needs 792 more yards to equal the Mercury area record held by Daniel Boone graduate Chris Bokosky. … Crognale’s 277 yards (rushing and passing) last Friday night pushed his career total offense to 5,083. He is just the fifth area player to go over the 5,000-yard mark. Next up on the list are Pottsgrove’s Brent Steinmetz (5,277) and Bokosky (5,297). Zulli (4,853) could join the select list this weekend. … Monteiro’s effort against Blue Mountain — which, incidentally, had been allowing opponents just 43 yards passing a game — broke the area record of 394 yards set by Phoenixville’s Steve Rife in 1984. The PAC-10 record is also held by a former Phoenixville quarterback, Steve Ferko, who threw for 387 yards as a freshman against Great Valley in 1996.


Thirty years ago, or 1978 to be exact, the area scoring leader at the end of the season was Owen J. Roberts tailback Tom Barr — yep, the same Tom Barr who is now the Wildcats’ head coach.

Twenty years ago, or 1988 to be exact, Phoenixville and Upper Perkiomen put on quite an offensive show with the Phantoms winning, 63-35. The game set an area record for the most points scored in a game, breaking the mark of 96 set way back in 1914 when Reading ripped Pottstown, 96-0. The Reading-Pottstown mismatch dropped to the No. 3 spot on the list two years ago after Upper Perkiomen and Lansdale Catholic combined for 97 points (the Indians won, 55-42).

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Bears face first big test in PAC-10

This column first appeared in the Sept. 26 edition of The Mercury.

Mark Scisly sure has enjoyed the last two weekends. First, he helped end Boyertown’s football woes, namely an eight-game losing streak that stretched all the way back to last season, and got his first win along with it. Then he started another streak, going the other way that is, by winning again.

All of a sudden, Scisly — Boyertown’s rookie head coach — finds himself in a very big game that, unlike the previous two, may reveal just how good the Bears are as well as dictate their stance for the remainder of the Pioneer Athletic Conference season.

Pottsgrove sure has a history of bringing that out in a team … especially now that the Falcons have played up to all the preseason hype and postured themselves as a legitimate frontrunner (or, if you prefer, contender).

The Falcons are 2-0 in the PAC-10, so that isn’t any surprise. But the Bears have matched that start, too, and because of the more than handful of new names situated in front of and around veteran quarterback David Crognale and a new coach coming in to sort out as well as coordinate the personnel, well, that is a bit of a surprise. And Owen J. Roberts, sitting alongside Pottsgrove and Boyertown with a 2-0 record despite reconstructed offensive and defensive lines, has opened more than a few fans’ eyes, too.

So, yes, tonight’s game in Boyertown is indeed a biggie.

“It’s just a great opportunity for us,” Scisly said. “I don’t know if everyone knows it, but there are only three undefeated teams (in the PAC-10), and we’re one of them. We’d like to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Mind you, it won’t be easy, though.

“You usually run into one good back, a quarterback or a running back, every week,” Scisly explained. “But Pottsgrove has three — a quarterback, a fullback, and a tailback. They don’t just give you one guy to worry about, they give you three.”

The Falcons’ quarterback is Terrell Chestnut, the fullback is Preston Hamlette, and the tailback is Maika Polamalu. And yes, all three are, for the lack of a better word, dangerous with a football in their hands.

They’re quick. They’re fast. They’re fancy free when given a little room to run. Together, the threesome have combined for all but one of the Falcons’ 13 touchdowns and for all but 12 of the Falcons’ 96 points thus far. They can, as they’ve already proven, turn any dilemma into a score, and from anywhere on the field.

But defense, which the Bears have played quite well the past two weeks, may not be as much a key as offense — Boyertown offense, that is. There’s nothing like a ball-control, clock-eating drive here and there to keep Chestnut, Hamlette, and Polamalu off the field.

“Our defense has been playing well,” Scisly said. “We got the shutout two weeks ago, then up until their final drive last week, kept Spring-Ford under control.

“But I think we have to come out and control the football. We have to do that, and we have to play defense.”

A lot of those responsibilities will fall heavily on Boyertown’s fast-improving front alignment of Wilmer Barndt, Ian Repko, Brandon Weller, Doug Muller, Ian Beidler, and tight end Ty Showers. Behind them is running back Logan Herb and quarterback David Crognale, who knows a little about big plays and big wins in his four years taking the snaps and practically rewriting the Bears’ passing record book.

“This is a huge game for us,” Scisly said. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

Boyertown will induct four men into its Football Hall of Fame during halftime tonight. They are Randy Boyer (1957 graduate); David “Daisy” Erb (1954), Don Grim (assistant and head coach from 1959-1987); and Bob Reinhart (1962).


Phoenixville visits Pottstown tonight, and it’ll be the 97th time the two schools have played one another. The two teams first met in 1905, although it was Phoenixville’s “second team” — known as the Colonials — that battled the Trojans to a 0-0 tie (one of eight in the series). Phoenixville’s varsity was 8-0 and unscored upon that year.

Pottstown picked up its first win, 9-5, the following year, and won 4-0 on Thankgiving Day in 1907. Phoenixville’s first official varsity victory over the Trojans occurred in 1908’s season finale, 11-0.


Unofficially, Owen J. Roberts — which hosts Spring-Ford tonight — and Pottsgrove are tied for third and seventh place, respectively in the District 1-Class AAA playoff points standings. The top eight qualify for the playoffs, which kick off the weekend of Nov. 7-8. Both teams can pick up big points this evening with wins over their Class AAAA opponents. … Boyertown, in a tie for 24th spot in AAAA, will need a solid run from here on out if it hopes to get into the Top 16.


In a AAAA showdown, Ridley (4-0) visits Upper Darby (4-0) in a game that is likely to go a long way in determining the Central League championship. Ridley has won the last two titles with spotless 9-0 runs. … Cheltenham (3-1) travels to AAA Upper Merion (3-1) in a big game; Garnet Valley (4-0) renews its long rivalry at Conestoga (2-2); Souderton (2-2) looks to halt its two-game slide against visiting Pennridge (3-1); and Springfield-Montco (3-1), coming off a stunning setback, looks to right the ship when it hosts unbeaten Class A entry Jenkintown (4-0).

Around the state, District 4’s big game is the AA showdown with six-time state champion Mount Carmel (4-0) visiting Central Columbia (3-1). … District 7 has a pair of unbeaten features with Fort Cherry (4-0) traveling to Clairton (4-0) in Class A and Seton LaSalle (4-0) entertaining Sto Rox (4-0) in Class AA. … Out in District 10, high-scoring Saegertown (4-0) — coming off a 78-6 romp — will finally be playing someone, namely host Iroquois (3-1). … Up in District 11, all eyes will be on Emmaus (4-0), which has given up just six points thus far, when the Hornets head up to take on the Konkrete Kids of Northampton (4-0). But the feature game in District 11 may be Class AA Panther Valley (4-0) and its defense, with two shutouts this season, trying to slow down record-breaking Zach Barket and Schuylkill Haven (4-0).


Gary Campbell, who followed the legendary George Curry up at Berwick, picked up his 100th career win last week when the Dawgs thumped none other than Curry and Wyoming Valley West, 34-7. … Jeannette has yet to be scored on. The Jayhawks have blanked East Allegheny (43-0), Brownsville (41-0), South Allegheny (45-0), and Waynesboro (49-0). The defending PIAA-Class AA state champions will look to keep the zeroes flowing tonight when they visit WPIAL Interstate Conference rival Charleroi (1-3). … William Penn out in York scored a season-low 48 points in last week’s rout of Red Lion, but is still averaging 53.8 points a game. That figure could go up even more this week when the Bearcats visit winless Dover, which is allowing 39-plus points a game. … Towanda’s Travis Chesla was credited with 38 tackles in the Knights’ 33-28 setback to unbeaten Canton up in District 4, and Waynesboro’s Dylan Spangler was credited with 25 tackles in the Indians’ 30-6 loss to unbeaten Middletown out in District 3. No one likes to question a devoted statistician’s work, but was anyone else playing defense for Towanda and Waynesboro last week?

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