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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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