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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The PAC-10 is doing just fine

This column was originally published in the Nov. 11 edition of The Mercury.

One doesn’t have to stroll too far outside the Pioneer Athletic Conference football neighborhood to hear the bashing, which over the years has been as loud and clear as Chuck’s whack-and-wallop of Gifford nearly two generations ago.

From the time five schools withdrew from the Ches-Mont League, another two did the same over in the former Bux-Mont League, and Lansdale Catholic teamed up with the gang of seven to kick off the new league back in 1986, the Pioneer Athletic Conference has been tagged, among a few unprintable names, the Whimp-Mont League. Oh, it was an alignment with similar enrollments and favorable geographics, mind you, just as administrators from the eight schools had sought. But it was also an alignment, others snarled, that was just as undermanned and undersized — “feeble,” as one critic called it — when it came to their collective football program.

At one time, you had to be hard of hearing in one ear and deaf in the other not to hear the knocks. Nowadays, unless you don’t have access to a computer, it isn’t at all difficult to read the invectives on this and that Web site.

More than a few people are a bit irked by the rap the Pioneer Athletic Conference gets, and the waves of insults were at high tide a number of times this season, too.

One, Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker, is tired of hearing them. And while some may claim he’s obviously biased in his assessment of the PAC-10, they may have forgotten that long before Pennypacker took over the Falcons’ program in 1989 — a year after the league expanded to its current membership of 10 schools — he was a three-time, first-team All Ches-Mont standout at Spring-Ford, so he has vivid memories of what, at the time, was one of the best leagues in the entire state. Others may have forgotten that he invested a number of years as a coach in Virginia and West Virginia before returning to the area, and that he’s been on coaching staffs for countless Montgomery County All-Star and Big 33 games.

In other words, he’s been around, seen a bit more football than most (including the whispering wonder-minds and nameless wanna-be-writers).

And Pennypacker, like Pioneer Athletic Conference coaches past and present, doesn’t feel what he hears or reads is — for the lack of a better or printable word — fair.

“When you go to the district (playoffs) meeting and see three coaches from our league, when you realize three out of our five AAA schools are in the playoffs, to me that says a lot about our league,” Pennypacker said. “Three teams from our little area? We’ve done this before in the past, too, and yet we never seem to get much respect.

“Just look at last weekend. Phoenixville played Upper Moreland, the top-seed, and was beating them almost the entire game and should’ve beaten them; Owen J. Roberts beat Great Valley, which had another great year in the Ches-Mont; and we beat Interboro, one of those tough, tough Delaware County teams that was also one of the district’s best quad-A teams the previous two years. I for one am very proud of this league.”

Critics were getting a little hoarse this season, though, pointing out the PAC-10 didn’t really fare well at all in the preseason. Actually, it didn’t, going an overall 6-13 against opponents around and outside District 1.

But of those 19 opponents, 11 were lined up last week for playoffs in three different districts. Oh yeah, those 19 opponents had a combined 97-78 record going into last weekend, too.

And as far as the postseason, the PAC-10 is 28-29 overall in district and state playoff games … not quite “pathetic” — a few critics’ favorite word when it comes to berating the league.

In other words, PAC-10 schools aren’t exactly picking up or picking on patsies.

“We don’t have a lot of quad (A) schools like Suburban One Conference and the Ches-Mont does, so when we do go out of our league for a lot of those preseason games, we don’t necessarily do too well when it comes to wins and losses,” Pennypacker said. “That’s when we hear, ‘You guys aren’t that good.’

“But year in and year out, we have good teams in our league. A lot of people outside our league, outside our area, don’t realize that, though. We don’t get much attention from the media beyond our area, so most people don’t know much about us, about our kids, about our teams. We’re far enough from (Philadelphia) that we don’t get much press from the big-city papers … and I think that’s one reason why we don’t get the respect we deserve.”

What may get overlooked the most, Pennypacker said, is the league’s individual talent.

“I’ve coached in a lot of all-star games, especially the (Montgomery County game),” he explained. “Kids from our league excel in that game every year. They’re as dedicated and as hard-working as any, believe me, and they play exceptionally well.”

Pennypacker felt there was another unsung group — which also draws the wrath of its own fans at times — that doesn’t get nearly the respect it deserves, either.

“Our coaches,” he said. “Our league has great coaches, coaches who make you work hard every week, make you prepare every week, because if you don’t, you’re going to get beat. We have great coaches and great staffs, and I can’t say enough about all of them.”

All of which Pennypacker says easily adds up to a very competitive league.

“When you put things in perspective, we’re going out and playing good teams from around and outside our district and doing pretty well,” Pennypacker said. “That’s why all of us in (the PAC-10) want to see our teams play well, be competitive, win … we all want that badly. The league is the most important thing, and I for one think we’re doing just fine.”

Daniel Boone gave the area an added boost of respectability with another win in the District 3-AAA playoffs last Friday night. The Blazers (8-3) put an asterisk next to this, their 50th season of football, with the 42-24 win over Northern York.

Head coach Dave Bodolus, who has taken six straight teams into the postseason and is now 4-3 in districts (and 0-2 in the Eastern Conference playoffs), earned a spot in this weekend’s quarterfinals at top-seeded and unbeaten Mechanicsburg (11-0). Last year, the Blazers stunned top-seeded and unbeaten Northern York, 17-14, before falling in the semifinals the following week.

Quarterback Jon Monteiro, meanwhile, continued his record-shattering season throwing the football. The junior quarterback, five completions behind Perkiomen Valley standout Zach Zulli’s single-season mark (181), already owns the area single-season records for most games passing for 200-or-more yards (8), most games passing for 300-or-more yards (4), total yards passing (2,853), and touchdown passes (33) going into the showdown with Mechanicsburg.

Zach Keeley also continued his record-breaking season, too. With at least one game remaining, the senior wideout already owns the area single-season records for receptions (79) and yards (1,175) as well as the area career records for receptions (128) and yards (1,871).


Player of the Week honors go to Perkiomen School’s Abdul Smith, who ran for 204 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 128 yards and another score in the Indians’ season-ending 33-16 romp of Pennington Prep, N.J.

Coach of the Week honors go to Owen J. Roberts’ Tom Barr, who guided the Wildcats to the 30-29 double-overtime win over Great Valley in the program’s first postseason appearance.


One of the most prolific passing careers came to a close last Saturday when Perkiomen Valley’s Zach Zulli led the Vikings past Methacton in both teams’ final game.

Zulli, the PAC-10 and The Mercury’s Player of the Year last season, almost rewrote the entire league and area record book, owning or sharing nine passing marks. This fall, he set PAC-10 single-season records for completions (146), yards (2,096), and total offense (3,215), and tied former Pottstown standout Terrence Shawell’s record for touchdown passes (24). He also owns the league’s career marks for completions (288), yards (4,470), and touchdowns (54).

Zulli, who became a starter midway through his sophomore season, also established area career records for completions (374), yards (5,884), and touchdowns (67). He finished up with 6,577 yards of total offense, second only to St. Pius X graduate Zack Pierce’s 6,722.


Ryan Brumfield last week became just the fourth back in Owen J. Roberts’ history to reach the 2,000-yard, single-season mark. Just a sophomore, Brumfield now has 2,003 yards. With at least two games remaining on his schedule, Brumfield is within a carry, two or three of scooting by Dennis Laws (2006 in 1970), current OJR head coach Tom Barr (2,029 in 1978), and Matt Lucas (2,046 in 1998).


The Hill School didn’t just beat Lawrenceville, it put a 26-0 thumping on the Big Red to close out its first winning season in three years. Head coach Marty Vollmuth led the Rams to a pair of big back-to-back victories to finish up at 5-4. Hill will kick off next season needing just one win to join Phoenixville as the only area programs with 500 or more wins.

And up at Perkiomen School, head coach Kevin Manferdini and athletic director Ken Baker — who have taught and coached two generations of student-athletes — bid farewell to arguably the best football player in the history of the Indians’ program on Saturday. Abdul Smith, who has accepted a full scholarship from Division I-A Rutgers, finished his career with 332 carries for 2,510 yards and 33 touchdowns; 17 receptions for 181 yards and five touchdowns; and threw for 1,378 yards and 12 touchdowns. Smith also scored seven other times on defense and special teams. He was, without question, one very, very big reason why Perkiomen has strung together three straight winning seasons.

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