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, November 7, 2008

Finding their way to the playoffs

Pottsgrove and Owen J. Roberts kind of took the direct route to get into the District 1- AAA playoffs — they kept winning. Ditto for Daniel Boone in its run to the District 3-AAA playoffs.

Phoenixville? Well, neither head coach Bill Furlong nor the Phantoms themselves needed a GPS, mind you, but talk about traversing the ol’ Long and Winding Road (with apologies to Paul and those three other cereal bowl-haircut boys’ own rendition a generation ago).

With a lot of underclassmen and even more new names on the sidelines, the Phantoms were virtually invisible on the football radar screens most of the season, especially in the beginning when they dropped two of their first three games. Four straight wins may have created a blip or two, but when they turned over everything but their uniforms in a 27-7 setback to Owen J. Roberts three weeks ago, a late drive for a Pioneer Athletic Conference title stalled … for good.

The loss also dropped the Phantoms well outside the Top Eight in the district’s playoff points standings. So it seemed there was little hope recharging the batteries and revving up the offensive and defensive motors would get them anywhere near the postseason starting line.

Or so it seemed.

Phoenixville bounced back with wins the last two weeks, while a few teams ahead of them in the playoff race lost. So don’t say Furlong’s crew didn’t know how to maneuver around some bumps in the road … and find the way to the playoffs.

“That loss to Owen J. was certainly pivotal,” Furlong explained. “We were hoping if we won (out), we’d still have a chance to get into the playoffs. We knew we needed some help from other people, too.

“But the important part was that I didn’t see any letdown (after the loss to OJR). I think maybe I put too much emphasis on that game. Not to take anything away from Owen J., but we just didn’t play our best game. But afterward, we put the loss to rest and probably played one of our best games (against Upper Perkiomen). The kids have been executing well, offensively, defensively, and on special teams, since.”

Well enough to improve to 7-3 and earn a first-round game at No. 1 seeded Upper Moreland (8-1) on Friday night.

“Before the season started, I wasn’t really thinking about the playoffs,” Furlong said. “I certainly wasn’t expecting to get in, mainly because we graduated 10 seniors who all played so much for us last season.”

Furlong did have Anthony Nattle, who had started one place or another since he was a freshman, and the durable Abdul Kelly, a two-way lineman who would move back to carry the ball this season. But two players, as good as Nattle and Kelly are, a team doesn’t make.

But a lot of fresh faces have brought smiles to Furlong and his staff’s faces. Call it a maturation process, or simply unproven talent stepping up to another level of play. Either would suffice as far as Furlong is concerned.

Offensively, the line honors belong to center Steve Carter, guards Ken Cenci and Matt Viscuso, tackles Kevin Bohl and Mike Cress (the lone senior among the group), and tight end Vince Ciaverelli. They’ve made it a lot easier for sophomore quarterback Tom Romano, who has shown considerably more poise and confidence handing off the ball to Kelly, Nattle, and Rich Yenchick and throwing it to Will Kileen, Sam McQuiston, and others the past month.

Defensively, well, the Phantoms have molded themselves into one of the area’s toughest groups to score against (allowing just 14.3 points a game — or a mere half-point more than PAC-10 leader Pottsgrove).

“Our defense has put us in every single game this season,” Furlong said. “We lost our opener by one point (to Great Valley), missed three tackles against Pottsgrove that turned into three long touchdown runs, and played well against Owen J. despite not establishing into any rhythm offensively.

“But we have some kids on defense who have been absolutely incredible this season. The defense has been steady.”

Kelly, at nose guard, and Nattle, at one of the corners, certainly aren’t surprises after solid seasons a year ago. But ends Dave Eggeling and Greg Porter and Kress — perhaps one of the best inside linemen in the PAC-10 — have more than held their own. The entire new set of linebackers, namely Ciaverelli, McQuiston, Derek Ryan, and Yenchick, with backup support from A.J. Ryan and Viscuso, have played beyond expectations. And Killeen’s knack for picking off passes alongside Nattle, Kahlil Ervin, and recent transfer Zack Gorczynski has created a very respectable secondary.

Now, though, a new challenge awaits them.

“I’m certainly glad to be where we are,” Furlong said. “And I say that for two reasons. First, the three teams that beat us this year are ahead of us (in the playoff seedings). Second, we now have a shot at redemption … we’re in a position to avenge those three (losses).”


Player of the Week honors go to Daniel Boone’s Nate Greene, who came back from a leg injury and carried 17 times for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the Blazers’ 48-33 win over Exeter.

Coach of the Week honors go to Hill School’s Marty Vollmuth, who took the Rams across the state line into New Jersey and defeated favored Hun School, 19-16, to get his team back to .500 (4-4) and in line for its first winning season in three years.


Say what you want about this or that game during the season, but Saturday afternoon’s feature between Lawrenceville and The Hill School in Pottstown is The Game. One of the longest-running series in the entire nation, the Larries (3-5) and Rams (4-4) meet this weekend for the 112th time. Hill will be looking to cut into their guests’ 59-42-10 advantage in the series, not to mention finish up on the winning side of the won-loss ledger for the first time in three seasons.


Perkiomen School (4-3) also needs a victory Saturday in its finale with visiting Pennington for another winning season. The game also marks the end of quarterback-defensive back Abdul Smith’s career, one of the area’s most outstanding individual talents for four seasons.

Despite a limited number of games and often playing out of position, the Rutgers-bound Smith has put up some eye-opening numbers going into his last game this weekend. He wasn’t full-time offensively as a freshman or sophomore, and he’s taken snaps as the quarterback the last two years. Nonetheless, he has carried 311 times for 2,306 yards and 29 touchdowns; caught 17 passes for 181 yards and five touchdowns; and completed 100 of 178 attempts for 1,250 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also found the end zone seven times on the back end of interceptions and kick returns, all of which adds up to having a hand in 52 of the Indians’ scores.

More important, Smith is one very big reason Perkiomen lines up Saturday with a shot at its third straight winning season.


Perkiomen Valley head coach Scott Reed may invest in some invisible glue this week. The Vikings turned the ball over a PAC-10 record nine times last week during their overtime loss to Upper Perkiomen. The Vikings have turned it over just 10 times in eight games this season. But in two losses to Phoenixville and Upper Perkiomen, they’ve given it away 15 times, leaving them minus-13 in takeaways.

Boyertown was a plus-six in takeaways in its 3-1 start in the PAC-10. In the last four games, though, the Bears are 1-3 and minus-11 in takeaways. … Owen J. Roberts turned it over 12 times and was minus-1 in its first four games, but in its last six outings have given the ball up just five times and is plus-13. … Phoenixville has had just eight turnovers in nine games. The other, against OJR, featured those six turnovers.


Daniel Boone wideout Zach Keeley, already the school’s career leader in receptions and yards, became the first area player to go over the 1,000-yard mark in a season. Keeley’s 76 catches this season have stretched out to 1,133 yards — breaking the area record of 991 set by St. Pius X graduate Mike Todd back in 1998.


Three players, including two quarterbacks, went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark last week to join overall leader Ryan Brumfield of Owen J. Roberts on the grand list. Pottsgrove’s Terrell Chestnut (1,038) and Boyertown’s David Crognale (1,007) hit the mark, as did Pottstown running back Kenny Baker (1,000) for the second straight season.


Both Daniel Boone junior Jon Monteiro and Perkiomen Valley senior Zach Zulli have at least one more game on their respective cards, or one more game to add to the slew of records they’re penciling in for themselves.

Monteiro and Zulli are one-two, one way or the other, in every category this fall and have set area season records for completions, yards, touchdown passes, completion percentage and yards-per-game. Monteiro is 162 of 263 (61.6 percent) for 2,564 yards and 28 TDs, while Zulli is 169 of 282 (59.9 percent) for 2,386 yards and 26 TDs.


Pottsgrove tied its PAC-10 record for most consecutive league games without being shut out. The Falcons, whose original mark (57 straight) was set between 1988 and 1994, can break the record on Thanksgiving against St. Pius X. After Saturday’s win at St. Pius X, Spring-Ford hasn’t been shut out in 54 games, which broke their previous-best mark.



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