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 22, 2009

Perk Valley finding its identity

Scott Reed may have been thinking about getting photo identification cards to pin on every one of his players’ jerseys when Perkiomen Valley’s camp opened four weeks ago.

Graduation took all but one of his starters on offense and seven of his starters on defense. There were twentysome seniors back, mind you, but most spent last season standing on the sidelines as backups and fulfilling their football needs in the junior varsity games. And adding to the who’s who dilemma even more were all the sophomores, enough of them to give Reed an unheard of – or school record – 82 aspiring players on the roster.

“We never ever had that many kids, so we were really surprised,” Reed said. “During our off-season workouts we had maybe 30-35 kids in the weight room, so when we saw how many came out (on the opening day of practice) it did surprise us. We just didn’t know most of them, and knew we had to try and figure out what they could do.”

Three weeks into the season, and coming off what many considered an upset of Upper Perkiomen last Friday night, it appears the Vikings have stepped forward to show their coach who they are … and the entire coaching staff is figuring it all out pretty well.

“We have a lot of seniors who never played before, like 20 or so who didn’t crack the lineup as underclassmen,” Reed explained. “They were undefeated on the freshmen and jayvee teams, but they hadn’t played much with us because we had those good junior and senior classes the last two years.

“I can’t say we were really young, but we certainly were very inexperienced. We had a lot of evaluating to do.”

A lot of evaluations and assessments, actually, because of replacing 17 starters and baptizing the entire gang in an entirely new 3-5-3 defense, which doesn’t even come close to resembling Perkiomen Valley’s traditional 5-2 alignment.

“It’s certainly been a challenge for the whole coaching staff,” Reed added. “We have dedicated kids who play to the system well. But we had to figure out where everyone was going. We have a lot of personnel, but finding out who would fit in where was a huge challenge for us. A lot of kids were challenging each other, and we had to find kids willing to step up.”

Reed is discovering a lot have, at least through three games – wins over Upper Dublin and Upper Perkiomen sandwiched around a turnover-filled setback to Coatesville.

The offense has been “learning under fire,” as Reed said last week. Wideout Ben Carbutt was the only Viking to get any quality time a year ago. But Pat Catagnus has held his own at quarterback, and Steve Murrow and John Schmidt have found room to run behind a fast-learning and fast-improving front line. And everyone could be doing a lot better without the 15 turnovers.

“We’re not where we need to be offensively,” Reed said. “We have to stop the turnovers. We have to learn how to close out games better. We’re making mistakes we have to clean up.”

If there’s been a surprise – beyond the record turnout, that is – it’s been the defense. Up in Red Hill last Friday night, the Vikings allowed only 14 yards rushing.

Ends Sean Conners – who recovered a fumble and picked off an Upper Perkiomen pass, both in the final quarter – and Matt Kline; tackle Chris Stewart; linebacker Brendan Murray; and safety Kyle Williams are back from last season. They, along with Kayo Bakere – who transferred back to Perkiomen Valley this year – have adjusted well to the new defense. The rotation of Matt Kline and Justin Morgan at the other outside linebacker spot has improved, and the inside-linebacker threesome of Murray, Joe Scenna and Bobby Strickland – who had three sacks last weekend – are playing extremely well. And the secondary, which features Carbutt, Gio and Joe Waters and Wayne Smith are holding their collective own, too.

“We wanted to be more of an attack-style defense this year,” Reed said. “After looking at all the kids we had, we felt instead of finding five linemen we could find more who would fit into those five (linebacker) positions. Plus, it’s good to try something new at times.

“We’re happy so far. We’re still giving up big plays, and everyone knows we can’t do that. We just have to play four quarters of solid defense.”

Especially this Friday, when unbeaten defending PAC-10 champion and state-ranked Pottsgrove visits.


The Hill School joined Phoenixville as the only area programs with 500 wins by opening its season with a 32-12 thumping at Germantown Academy last Friday afternoon … and everyone kept the milestone victory in perspective.

“It’s amazing … an incredible feeling,” said senior Andrew Donald, a resident of Kimberton who will certainly remember the game after catching six passes and picking off two on defense. “We’ll celebrate this tonight, then set our target on No. 501.”

“This was a good goal for today,” added head coach Marty Vollmuth, in his seventh year guiding the Rams. “We wanted to get off to a good start. (The win) makes me feel proud, having been here 24 years and to have two former players on the staff. It’s a real accomplishment.”

The Rams travel to Episcopal Academy this Saturday, then return home the following two weeks to first entertain Chestnut Hill and then open their Mid-Atlantic Prep League against Peddie.


Daniel Boone opens its I-C League Division One season Friday at Twin Valley. Head coach Dave Bodolus expects a considerably tougher challenge this week than his Blazers got in the first three weeks – three wins in which they piled up a 1,243-225 yard advantage on offense and outscored their opponents 137-13. Twin Valley is also 3-0 for the first time in its 12-year football history.

Perkiomen School opened its Tri-State League season with a bang last Friday afternoon and ended a two-year skid to Tower Hill (Del.) with a 37-0 romp.


Boyertown head coach Mark Scisly has to be scratching his head. The Bears threw up 41 points in their season-opener, scored once in the first quarter of Game Two with Governor Mifflin … and have since gone into hibernation (offensively, that is).

Turnovers and penalties have helped take the energy out of the offense. The Bears are minus-five in takeaways, and have been whistled nine times for 92 yards in penalties the last two games. All of that has overshadowed an otherwise strong defensive effort.

Up front, Scisly has gotten strong play from Wilmer Barndt, Chris Muller and Tyler Bogert, and more of the same behind those three from Kyle Fultz, Jared Giles, Zach Heffner, Tyler Mauger, Jon Neiman, Dalton Schaeffer and Tyler Shaw.

Scisly and the Bears hope to get the offense on the same page Friday night against visiting St. Pius X.


Speaking of St. Pius X … in case you didn’t catch their streak-ending win last Saturday.

The Lions defeated Phoenixville for the first time a 28-0 shutout in 2002; won their first PAC-10 opener since a 25-12 decision of Spring-Ford in 2003; scored their most points in a PAC-10 since a 52-28 loss to Owen J. Roberts in 2005 – which was 32 games ago; and ended a 23-game PAC-10 losing streak that dates back to Week Four of the 2006 season.

Pius, which is 3-0 for the first time in eight years, needs one more win to match its combined win total of the last three years and three more wins to match the combined win total of the last five years.


The area’s injury list worsened last week, and before round three even kicked off.

Pottstown has reportedly lost running back David Tyler for the season with a leg injury. A senior, Tyler ran for just over 2,000 yards at Spring-Ford as a sophomore and junior before transferring to Pottstown this year. … Phoenixville quarterback Tom Romano suffered an arm injury during practice last week, which kept him out of the Phantoms’ game with Pius. He, as well as two-way starter Vince Ciaverelli, who also missed Saturday’s game, are both questionable this week. … Pottsgrove all-state linebacker Preston Hamlette, sidelined with an ankle injury, is still doubtful this week.


OJR’s Ryan Brumfield last Friday night moved up to No. 10 on the area’s career rushing chart with 3,564 yards, scooting past Upper Perkiomen’s Luke Scherer and Methacton’s Jason Adamek. Up next? His own head coach, Tom Barr, who had 3,633 carrying the ball for the Wildcats. … Daniel Boone quarterback Jon Monteiro is within 72 yards of passing St. Pius X graduate Matt Troutman for the eighth spot in career passing yards.


The NorChester Red Knights youth football and cheerleading organization will hold its second annual “Fill The Bus” food pantry donation day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Red Knights Field House, located just south of the intersection of Routes 100 and 23.

Donations needed all can goods and non-perishable items, such as personal care products, and paper goods like napkins, tissues, toilet paper and paper towels.

The event benefits the North Coventry Food Panty, which offers supplies and staples to needy members of the Northern Chester County community. More information is available or by calling 610-469-1816.

After two weeks of waiting, this year’s battle

All summer long, a handful of teams – Boyertown, Owen J. Roberts, Phoenixville, Pottsgrove and Upper Perkiomen (listed alphabetically to hush all the nitpickers) – were mentioned over and over again as the favorites, frontrunners and forces-to-be-reckoned-with in the Pioneer Athletic Conference this season.

After the two-week preseason grind, which revealed a thriller here and there but mostly more mismatches than anything else, those five teams are still being mentioned over and over again as the favorites, etc., etc., etc.

Well, the PAC-10 kicks off its 24th season tonight, and there just so happens to be five other teams – Methacton, Perkiomen Valley, Pottstown, Spring-Ford and St. Pius X – that would like nothing more than to get a share of the early season spotlight.

Most will get that opportunity.

The big one, or the game that will attract a lot of fans tonight (and readers in Saturday’s newspapers and on their various websites) is Boyertown’s visit to Pottsgrove. Then there’s Owen J. Roberts entertaining Spring-Ford, and Perkiomen Valley visiting Upper Perkiomen. Finishing up Saturday is Pottstown’s game at Methacton, and Phoenixville’s visit to St. Pius X.

Mind you, it’s only Week One in the Pioneer Athletic Conference. Everyone has eight more games on their respective schedules. Statements can and will be made tonight and Saturday afternoon.

But don’t forget that no one has ever lost its first PAC-10 game and won an outright league championship, and only once has a team lost its PAC-10 opener and managed to finish with a share of the league championship.

“The first game of the season is always a big game,” said Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker. “But your first league game, your first PAC-10 game, is even bigger because your first goal is to win your league championship. You want to get off to a good start.”

No one has gotten off to a better start, perhaps, than the defending champion Falcons. They defeated Pennridge (34-21) and Wissahickon (45-0), but will open their first PAC-10 season in three years without all-state linebacker Preston Hamlette, who went down with an ankle injury on the sixth play of last Friday evening’s game and is unlikely to be uniform tonight.

“And on top of that Boyertown is a very good football team,” Pennypacker added.

The Bears are big up front. Make that very, very big up front. They also have a new quarterback in Dylan Pasik who, given time and space, can throw the ball, as well as a few fellas who can get to the end zone in a hurry, especially Ryan Schwager. But it’s an offense that, thanks in part to turnovers and penalties, left them stuttering and stumbling after Schwager’s 78-yard touchdown dash in the first quarter last week. Tonight, they’ll have to deal with a defense that may prove it gets to the football north and south as well as east and west better than any PAC-10 team – past or present.

Owen J. Roberts had an equally impressive preseason with wins over Conestoga (13-3) and West Chester East (31-6), and head coach Tom Barr’s defense may not be getting the attention – or props – it’s earned thus far. That’s not easy to get when you have Ryan Brumfield piling up the yardage and touchdowns on the other side of the ball. But Barr will be focused on shutting down Spring-Ford, which has helped make this one of the area’s most unpredictable series over the past two decades. The Rams have had to deal with way too many off-field distractions – from transfers and disgruntled fans who only build the dissention and tear down the rebuilding hopes.

Upper Perkiomen proved it earned a contender tag, too, with preseason wins over Muhlenberg (20-13) and Upper Dubin (34-0). The Indians have some size, a lot of aggressive individuals on both sides of the line, and a couple of motivating factors like ending back-to-back losing seasons in the PAC-10 (their first since 2000-01) and rebounding from their first losing season overall in nine years. And don’t think they’re not aware of how Perkiomen Valley opened with a win over that same Upper Dublin team and how it went toe-to-toe with heavily favored Coatesville before six turnovers tripped them up.

But if there is one of those preseason favorites (as well as a none-favorite) lining up on a mission, or looking to send a message, it’s Phoenixville and St. Pius X – and they’re getting together Saturday to kick off the final PAC-10 season at Mich Stadium. The Phantoms are 0-2 for the first time head coach Bill Furlong’s seven years guiding the program, and that has a lot of people – including Furlong himself – scratching his head. Meanwhile, the Lions are 2-0 for the first time in six years and rather determined to double, triple or more their total of league wins (two) over the past five seasons.

And don’t think anyone is overlooking Saturday’s other matinee – Pottstown and Methacton down in Fairview Village. Yes, both are 0-2. But, as more than a few coaches around the PAC-10 have said, both have the size and speed to get the best of anyone of any given weekend. No one, perhaps, has pulled off as many legitimate PAC-10 upsets through the years as Pottstown. Methacton, a bit more comfortable now in its new surroundings, would also like to avoid an 0-3 start and put together the program’s first winning season in nine years.

* * *

The only time a PAC-10 team lost its opener and won or shared the league championship was in 2007. Perkiomen Valley dropped its opener to Lansdale Catholic, 41-20, before running off eight straight wins. Lansdale Catholic was forced to share the title because in Week Five, with a then spotless 4-0 (5-0 overall) record, was stunned 28-27 in overtime at Pottstown. … The only time a team has had more than one loss and still won a PAC-10 championship was in 1991, when Owen J. Roberts and Pottsgrove finished alongside one another at 7-2.


The Hill School kicks off its 133rd season of football this afternoon at Germantown Academy … and kicks it off looking for the 500th win in the history of its storied program. Hill won the inaugural meeting between the two schools, 26-0 in 1945, but didn’t see Germantown Academy again until 1970, when the two schools became annual rivals through 1994. There was one more game – Germantown Academy’s 56-0 rout in 1999 – between the two before the series resumed last year (Hill’s 32-8 romp).

Hill School, which leads the overall series, 18-10, is attempting to join Phoenixville as the only area programs with 500 or more wins.

Head coach Marty Vollmuth and the Rams are on the road again next week (at Episcopal Academy) before their home-opener Saturday, Oct. 3 against Chestnut Hill Academy. They begin their Mid-Atlantic Prep League schedule the following Saturday against visiting Peddie School.


Brumfield moved up to 12th place on The Mercury’s career rushing chart last week. The OJR junior has 3,366 yards, needing just 143 more yards to get into the Top 10 and 268 more yards to run by head coach Tom Barr, who had 3,633 yards carrying the football for Henry Bernat at Owen J. Roberts. … Daniel Boone’s Jon Monteiro, only the ninth area quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 career yards, needs 290 to move into eighth place. Teammate Kelly Saylor – like Monteiro with only one season behind him – needs 38 catches and 207 yards to become just the fifth area receiver with 100 receptions and 1,000 yards.


Rain, rain and a lot of fumbles

Mother Nature was whimpering a bit last weekend. Rain, rain, rain … along with an occasional puff of wind, a little mud, even a puddle here and there.

Five schools decided to play Friday night (hip-hip-hooray), another three opted to postpone until Saturday (boo-hiss), when the conditions (sadly, football has weather conditions now, too) weren’t all that much better.

Thank goodness there weren’t any coaches – of even players, for that matter – whimpering or whining about the wet fields, though.

They could have.

Really, they could have. In the area’s 12 games last weekend, the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and kick-returners fumbled 51 times – and lost 27 – and who’s to say the writers and statisticians overlooked another one or two along the way on their scoring sheets.

“There’s no excuse, either,” said one area coach, who pleaded to remain anonymous for fear of being critical of other teams’ players. “Don’t blame the weather. It’s carelessness … not being focused.”

Whatever it was, you can bank on tucking in the ol’ ball will be part of this week’s practices and preparations for almost everyone. Especially for those fellas at Owen J. Roberts and Perkiomen Valley, not to mention Boyertown and Pottstown.

The Wildcats fumbled a school-record 12 times and lost half of them. Fortunately, the usually dependable Ryan Brumfield – who had four himself – more than made up for it with 259 yards and all four of his team’s touchdowns in the rout of West Chester East.

“It was a little frustrating,” Brumfield said. “But after fumbling, you have to have a quick memory – forget about it and go on to the next play.”

Fortunately, Brumfield and the Wildcats did.

Perkiomen Valley, Boyertown and Pottstown weren’t as fortunate. Turnovers either turned their respective games around or over – none in a favorable way, either. The Vikings bobbled the football six times and lost all six in an otherwise strong showing at Coatesville, which had head coach Scott Reed uttering what you may have heard or read from a few others – “No excuse for that.” Up in Boyertown, the Bears’ seven fumbles – four of which were lost – cost them excellent field position and continually sacked any continuity, let alone momentum, and overshadowed a very commendable defensive effort in a 9-7 setback to Governor Mifflin.

And say what you will, but Pottstown’s five fumbles – four of which were handed over to Upper Moreland – didn’t help head coach Brett Myers in his dogged drive to turn the Trojans’ fortunes around.

If you happened to be counting up those otherwise forgettable figures, you got four teams – Owen J. Roberts, Perkiomen Valley, Boyertown and Pottstown – fumbling 30 times and losing 20 of them. The other eight area teams combined only bobbled the ball 21 times and lost seven.

And, believe it or not, there were only three teams – Daniel Boone, Methacton and Upper Perkiomen – that didn’t fumble the ball over to the opposition at all. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Daniel Boone and Upper Perkiomen had no problems winning and remaining unbeaten (Methacton, on the other hand, is in an offensive funk without a touchdown in two games).

And don’t think everyone was beaming after weekend wins if their turnover column was on the light side, either.

“I was happy with the way we played,” said Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker, whose Falcons overcame a pair of fumbles of their own by getting six Wissahickon turnovers – five fumbles and an interception – in a 45-0 romp. “I can still find some things we did wrong … things we need to work on.”

Pennypacker won’t be alone on that work detail this week.


Area fans may have been spoiled the last three years by Boyertown’s David Crognale, Perkiomen Valley’s Zack Zulli and Spring-Ford’s Trevor Sasek. After all, the three did graduate last spring with over 10,000 combined passing yards.

But two weeks into this season, with the exception of Daniel Boone’s Jon Monteiro, passing the football is, well, almost being passed over for nearly everyone else.

Monteiro is 27 of 49 (55 percent) for 383 yards and four touchdowns. Other quarterbacks for the 11 area teams who have played at least once so far, are a combined 73 of 190 (38 percent) for 911 yards – with twice as many interceptions (16) as touchdowns (eight). Monteiro’s quarterback rating is 139.5. The rest of the gang is a combined 63.2.


One thing that isn’t being overlooked in the early going is the kicking game. Punting averages are up considerably, and Daniel Boone’s Bernie Roell, Phoenixville’s John McInally, Methacton’s Nick LaPerche and Owen J. Roberts’ Zach Lepore, to name a few,

Roell, the area’s leading kick scorer last year, is 11 of 13 on point-afters and has a field goal. McInally is 3-for-3 on point-afters with three field goals, and LePerche has boomed two field goals. McInally and LePerche accounted for their team’s only points last weekend. And Lepore is 4-for-6 on placements with one field goal.

Perkiomen Valley’s Justin Morgan, who could set PAC-10 career marks in kicking by season’s end, is 4-for-4 following Viking touchdowns.

Boyertown’s Aaron Sassaman (who missed last Saturday night’s game with a reported injury), Pottsgrove’s Zach Robinson, Pottstown’s Kyle Dentler, St. Pius’ John Cherneskie and Upper Perkiomen’s Matt Kirkpatrick are also off to good starts this season.


After just two weeks, Brumfield and Daniel Boone’s Brian Evans lead the area in scoring with six touchdowns and 36 points each. Upper Perkiomen’s Shawn Wenhold is next with four scores and 24 points. … Roell (14 points) and McInally (12) lead in kick scoring. … Brumfield (340), Pottsgrove quarterback Terrell Chestnut (229) and Pottstown’s David Tyler (208) are the only backs with over 200 yards. … Daniel Boone teammates Kelly Saylor (10 catches) and Tommy Bodolus (nine) top the receiving chart.


St. Pius X is off to a 2-0 start for the first time in six years. The Lions, who have edged Simon Gratz and jolted Jenkintown so far, matched their program’s best start since 2003.

That’s when quarterback Chad DiFebbo, fullback Zach McCann and running back Josh Lauer helped the Lions hold off East Stroudsburg North in a 16-14 thriller and sack Spring-Ford by a 25-12 spread in head coach Ed McCann’s first season.


The new Twin Borough Sports Heritage Association last Friday opened its exhibit in the Spring-Ford Historical Society building on Main Street in Royersford.

The exhibit features uniforms, trophies, photographs and other memorabilia dating back to the early 1900s of sports teams from the former Royersford and Spring City high schools as well as from Spring-Ford High School.

Claire Hunter, the mover and shaker behind the project, added the highlight of the exhibit is the Twin Borough Wall of Fame, which honors outstanding student-athletes who graduated from the three schools.

The TBSHA’s exhibit is open from11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and also at the same times on the first and third Sundays of each month.

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Pottstown greats headline Tri-County class

Call it an even split.

That’s what the final ballot revealed for this year’s Tri-County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame, with three of Pottstown High School’s former standouts and three coaches (two of whom weren’t bad athletes in their day, either) picking up enough votes to make up the 32nd class of inductees.

Scott Glenn, Paul Green and Michael Perate, who excelled on Pottstown football, basketball, wrestling, track and field, and baseball teams during their careers, along with coaches James Goodhart, Bruce Hallman and Tom McGee, will be honored at the annual induction dinner Saturday, Oct. 17 at The Elks.

“We’re very proud of our newest class of inductees,” said Elmer “Chump” Pollock, president of the organization and chairman of the Hall of Fame program.

Glenn was a three-sport standout at Pottstown before graduating in 1984. He was the captain of the football team, earning All Ches-Mont League honors as a running back in his junior and senior seasons. He also served as the captain for the basketball and track teams. In track, he was a district and state qualifier in three events – the 100 and 200 meters as well as the long jump.

Glenn’s football career continued at West Virginia Tech, where he starred as a running back, setting the school’s career rushing mark – which still stands – and earning honorable mention All-American honors. Glenn has since coached football at Unionville High School and returned to his alma mater as an assistant for two seasons.

Green was a standout in football and wrestling at Pottstown before graduating in 1984. Coaches and fans first learned of Green when he posted an undefeated (93-0) record as a junior high school wrestler. After moving up to the high school team, he went on to win two section, three district and two regional championships, capping his career with the PIAA-Class AA state title and an 80-8 career record.

The younger brother of the late Jeff Green – who was previously inducted into the Tri-County Chapter’s Hall of Fame – Green’s wrestling career continued at Morgan State University. He was selected to the Freshman All-American team, won four Mid-Eastern Conference titles, and finished up with a 147-24-4 career mark. Green later served as an assistant wrestling coach at Morgan State and Coppin State University, and is currently the head coach at Falls Church High School in Va.

Perate had outstanding basketball and baseball careers at Pottstown before graduating in 1994. A three-year starter for the Trojans’ basketball team, he was a three-time All-Pioneer Athletic Conference and Mercury All-Area selection, and finished with 1,315 career points. He also earned All PAC-10 and Mercury All-Area honors in baseball for his efforts as a first baseman-pitcher – hitting over .400 and compiling a 5-1 mark on the mound as a senior.

Perate accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Villanova University. He played four seasons for the Wildcats, serving as the team captain his senior year.

Goodhart was an outstanding baseball player at Pottstown, where he had been a very successful manager for the Steelers’ American Legion team before expanding opportunities for Pottstown-area youngsters by starting up, supervising and coaching the Pottstown Police Athletic League program.

A 1968 graduate of Pottstown, Goodhart was an All Ches-Mont League selection and the Steelers’ team MVP in 1967 and again in 1969. He attended Moravian College, where he was a two-time All-Middle Atlantic Conference second baseman and later named Moravian’s Athlete of the Year in 1972. He served as the Steelers’ manager for four summers, then was instrumental in starting up the PAL Spartans’ ballclub. Goodhart’s success – more than 300 wins as a coach – and his dedication to baseball has enabled the PAL program to expand to three additional teams.

Hallman was a wrestler and member of the track and field team at Boyertown High School before graduating in 1971. He once owned both the school and league pole vault records, and excelled in the event at Shippensburg University.

After returning to his alma mater, Hallman served as an assistant wrestling coach for the Bears before taking over the program in 1981. Before he stepped down from the position after 24 years, his teams won section titles in the Berks Conference, Pioneer Athletic Conference championships as well as section and district titles in District 1. A recipient of a Summit Award three years ago, Hallman – who compiled a 303-140 career record at Boyertown – has been inducted into the District 1 Wrestling Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

McGee, a native of the Norristown area, graduated from Hofstra University in 1971. His basketball coaching career began at Norristown’s Rittenhouse and Eisenhower junior high schools, where he had a combined 94-12 career record.

After taking over the St. Pius X boys program in 1978, McGee led the Lions to a pair of District 1 titles, the PIAA-Class A state championship in 1979 and an overall mark of 187-143 in 13 seasons. He returned to coaching in 1993 at Norristown High School, and in seven seasons helped the Eagles to four Suburban One League titles and four appearances in the state playoffs before finishing with a 145-48 overall mark. McGee, who was recognized six seasons as the Coach of the Year by The Mercury and Times Herald during his career, was a Summit Award recipient two years ago.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Still a long way to go for most of the area’s teams

Don’t get the measuring sticks out yet … not after just one week of football, not after the one week that usually features more nerves, miscommunication and mental mistakes – not to mention more mismatches – than any others over the next three months.

There aren’t too many coaches who will put much if any emphasis on a season-opening win or loss (sorry, ties are a thing of the past). They’re very few who will put their feet up on the desk and sit back with a smile and that first victory already neatly tucked into their pocket (at least not for long). There are even fewer who will play hide and seek over the weekend and then whine for a couple more days after defeat.

Monday was indeed Labor Day, a holiday for most. But you can bet coaches here, there and everywhere else were hard at work – watching film, rearranging some X’s and O’s, and devising a game plan for Week Two.

Week One is only the starting point. Week Two often reveals exactly what direction a team is taking into the regular season, when every snap, every run, every pass and every tackle can and usually will dictate who continues to play every weekend for a league championship, and who just may be playing beyond the first weekend of November.

That’s why so many coaches and players – even their fans – were dealing out as many positives as negatives after kicking off their respective seasons last Friday and Saturday.

Boyertown is a team that some feel can compete for a Pioneer Athletic Conference title this season (and will get an opportunity to make as big a statement as you can when opening the league schedule at Pottsgrove on Sept. 18). The Bears debuted last Friday without David Crognale calling the signals for the first time in four years and a few question marks up front, and had little trouble with William Allen up in Allentown. It was the program’s first win over a non-league opponent in nearly five years, or since a 22-13 decision of Abington two weeks before Thanksgiving back in 2004. But it was also a win over a team that lost for the 21st consecutive time and is an awful 1-30 since its season-opener in 2006. This week, against visiting Governor Mifflin, which has bumped off Boyertown in 20 of 29 meetings (with two ties), will be a tougher test.

Daniel Boone dumped on Donegal for the fourth straight year, has outscored its rivals 82-6 the last two seasons and 115-27 in the four-game series. But those 433 yards and 42 points – with a lot of new contributors – are in line with last year’s Blazers team that led the area in total offense (420) and points per game (33). Those numbers could swell even more this week with Susquehannock, which lost 58-0 to Disrtict 3 power Manheim Central — coming to Birdsboro.

Owen J. Roberts, like Boyertown a legitimate threat in the PAC-10 again this year, ended a string of woeful season-openers with a 13-3 win over Conestoga, which is considered a Central League contender. The Pioneers were quick and aggressive, but head coach Tom Barr has to be concerned with the Wildcats’ inconsistency on offense, or the breakdowns and bottlenecks that limited Ryan Brumfield to just 81 yards (more than half of which came on five carries) and enabled quarterback Nate Walters to complete just 2 of 6 passes for 25 yards.

If anyone had the right to break into a smile and at least grin through the weekend, it was Perkiomen Valley. With less than a handful of starters back and an almost entirely new party of people in the skill positions, the Vikings got a big play from its defense to take the lead and a lot of hard running from unsung Steve Morrow to hold it in a win over Upper Dublin. But head coach Scott Reed and the crew entertain Ches-Mont League giant Coatesville next.

Pottsgrove, with all the preseason hype and hip-hip-hooray, didn’t have any problems with a good Pennridge team, and only a pair of late scores make the final score respectable. However, you can bet your cleats, shoulder pads and helmet that 10 penalties and the ballyhooed Falcons defense giving up 147 yards through the air had head coach Rick Pennypacker a bit, well, let’s just say upset. The Falcons will find out this week preapring for a very, very good Wissahickon (which topped Pottsgrove, 31-22, in Week Two a year ago).

St. Pius X couldn’t move the chains and failed to take advantage of a slew of opportunities in the first half against Simon Gratz on Saturday. But the Lions came alive on both sides of the ball in the second half, recovering from a 6-0 deficit with three unanswered scores and using a determined defense to stuff Gratz’s two-point conversion attempt at the win with 16 seconds remaining. No one in the area needed a win on opening day more than the Lions … and they got it.

Upper Perkiomen is yet another potential PAC-10 contender, and at times during last Friday night’s 20-13 win over Muhlenberg looked every bit of one. But the Indians needed a pair of second-half touchdowns to get by their hosts, who may be at best a middle-of-the-pack entry in the Inter-County League for the first time in recent memory. And head coach Keith Leamer is fully aware of the need for improvement this week against a team (Upper Dublin) that is noticeably weaker than Muhlenberg.

All was not lost in the four losses last weekend, either.

Methacton ran smack into one of the best in all of District 1. The Warriors fell into an immediate hole when Division I-A recruit Tony Latronica returned the opening kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown, and it only got worse after that against a team some feel could give almighty North Penn a run in the race for an AAAA district title. Head coach Bob McNally should get a better feel as to who’s who this week at Kennedy-Kenrick.

Phoenixville played like head coach Bill Furlong anticipated – or at least for a series or two into the second half at Great Valley. And despite coming up with six turnovers and helping to trigger their rivals to get hit with nine penalties on the night, it was a forgettable quarter and a half down the stretch that left them on the short side of a 27-21 loss. The Phantoms will focus on finishing this week and, perhaps, a little revenge considering they host Unionville, which got the best of them in the opening round of last year’s District 1-AAA playoffs.

Pottstown showed considerable poise and the ability to come back in a 34-22 loss to Blue Mountain, which is among the Inter-County League Division 1 favorites this season. The Trojans led 10-0, fell behind 14-10 only to take a 16-10 lead, then fell behind again 27-16 only to get within five, before the hosts put it away with a late score. Transfer David Tyler gives head coach Brett Myers a big-play threat, as he proved in returning a kickoff 85 yards for one touchdown and carrying 19 times for 178 yards and another score.

And Spring-Ford, which has had to endure more bail-outs (call them transfers if you like) than the generous administration down in Washington, D.C., happened to run into one of the best teams in District 1 (and possibly around the state in the AAA bracket) in Bayard Rustin. The Golden Knights have a good portion of its lineup back from a year ago, when they won the district title and lost in the eastern final to eventual state runner-up Archbishop Wood. The Rams will get a better feel as to where they are and where they’re headed this week when Sussex Tech (Del.) visits Coach McNelly Stadium.


Pottsgrove Payback

LOWER POTTSGROVE – Bus rides can be long and, well, rather boring.

After last year’s 31-22 loss at Wissahickon during Week Two of the football season, Pottsgrove realized just how long and absolutely how depressing those trips can be, too.

“It was one of the worst rides home I ever had … I’d rank it right up there among the top three,” head coach Rick Pennypacker recalled. “(The coaches) weren’t the only ones upset, either, because the kids were, too.

“We didn’t block, we didn’t tackle, and we gave up 17 points on special teams. It was one of the worst games for us that I can remember.”

The Falcons sure would like to give Wissahickon a ticket to ride – similar to their own a year ago – after the two get done tonight (7:00) in the rubber match of two very, very good teams who have split their first two meetings the last two seasons.

Pottsgrove opened last week with a 34-21 win at Pennridge, while Wissahickon debuted with a 35-14 rout of William Tennent. Both, of course, would like to close out the long summer grind and preseason at 2-0 before kicking off their respective league schedules next weekend.

But it won’t be easy, for either one of them.

Wissahickon has some size, a little bit of speed, a whole heck of a lot of talent back from last year’s up-and-down team that finished 5-5 overall. That was evident in the rout of Tennent, when quarterback Brandon Gunn ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns and was 3-for-4 throwing it for another 58 yards and an additional score. And all Vanderbilt-bound running back Myron Ross did was run up an additional 125 yards.

Pottsgrove has even more size, a lot of team speed and, yes, a roster full of talent, too.

There are some holes to fill up front, but the growing and grooming process still has the gifted Terrell Chestnut, Preston Hamlette and Maika Polamalu behind it. Chestnut and Polamalu are coming off 1,000-yard seasons, and Hamlette – an all-state linebacker a year ago – is just as valuable blocking or carrying the football out of the fullback spot.

“Wissahickon is big, physical and strong,” Pennypacker said. “They match up with us size-wise, and they have some very fast kids. They try to pound the ball on you. So it’s going to be a challenge.”

Especially so, Pennypacker added, in light of last Friday’s disappointing debut over at Pennridge.

“We didn’t play well,” he explained. “I mean we played all right, but our offensive line has to get better. We start two sophomores and a freshman up there, and I think they may have been a little overwhelmed. We feel they’ll pick it up, but fundamentally we need tremendous improvement on the line.”

The Falcons actually need that fundamental improvement across the board tonight. Last week, despite the win, they were hit with 10 penalties – about seven more than they’ve averaged in Pennypacker’s previous 21 seasons guiding the program.

Mistakes, which undermined the effort against the Trojans last year, are what Pennypacker and the Falcons could do without this evening.

“Wissahickon got after us last year, and our kids remember that,” he said. “It was definitely one of our worst games, and our kids don’t want that to happen again. This is a big game of us. The kids know it, and they’re excited about it. It’s going to be a challenge, but a challenge we hope our kids are up for.”

* * *

Pottsgrove’s win last Friday was its 81st this decade, far and above more than any other area team. The Falcons’ closest rivals on the win chart since 2000 are Owen J. Roberts (60), Upper Perkiomen (59), Boyertown (58) and Daniel Boone (57).


Today marks the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and another plane that crashed in western Pennsylvania. Pottsgrove High School, in honor of the victims, will have Wissahickon track and field coach Don Betterly take part in the coin flip prior to the game. Betterly’s brother, Tim Betterly – the starting quarterback for Wissahickon before graduating in 1975 – was killed in the attacks.


Perkiomen School opens its season Saturday afternoon at the Academy of the New Church over in Bryn Athyn. ... The Hill School, the area’s oldest program, kicks off its 123rd season of football next Friday afternoon (3 p.m.) at Germantown Academy. Head coach Marty Vollmuth and the Rams need one win to join Phoenixville as the only area program’s with 500 or more wins.


Daniel Boone’s Jon Monteiro became the ninth area quarterback to go over the 3,000-yard career passing mark last week. Up next for Monteiro (3,227 yards) is former St. Pius X standout Matt Troutman (3,671). … Owen J. Roberts’ Ryan Brumfield moved up from No. 25 to No. 22 on The Mercury’s career rushing chart when he ran for 81 yards in the win over Conestoga. Brumfield now has 3,107 and needs 36 more yards to scoot into the Top 20.


The coaching carousel is closed

For the first time since 1996, the ol’ gang is all here … the Pioneer Athletic Conference football coaches, that is.

All 10 of the league’s head coaches from a year ago will be on the sidelines when the high school season officially kicks off tonight, and because of firings and hirings, resignations and reservations – whatever politically correct rationale one chooses – that hasn’t happened in 13 years.

So when Dave Albright, secretary of the PAC-10 Football Coaches Association, and the fellas sat down last month to make sure everything was in order for the league’s 24th season, no formal introductions were required.

The Pioneer Athletic Conference has had one new coach in each of the last three seasons – Mark Scisly at Boyertown a year ago; Brett Myers at Pottstown two years ago; and George Parkinson at St. Pius X three years ago. And few will forget the merry-go-round show at Pius in 2004 and 2005. That’s when Ed McCann, Madison Morton, Bob Wagner and Jim Mich took turns calling the signals as a result of, well … let’s just say the principal (correct spelling in this instance) reason is long gone.

Ironically, the year before all the chaos began to unfold at Pius, or 2004 to be exact, half of the PAC-10 coaching lineup changed. That was when Bill Furlong strolled into Phoenixville, Rick Daniels took over at Pottstown, Gary Rhodenbaugh stepped in at Spring-Ford, McCann started at St. Pius, and Keith Leamer became the new man at Upper Perkiomen.

* * *

One very familiar face on the sidelines this season will be Steve Moyer, the former head coach at Upper Perkiomen who has returned to serve as the offensive coordinator under Leamer. Moyer, a 1968 graduate of Upper Perkiomen, guided the program into the PAC-10 in 1986 and through 1997 – the year the Indians shared the league title with Lansdale Catholic – and compiled a 49-54-1 league record.

* * *

Unofficially, there have been just four reported coaching changes in District 1 this season. The newcomers are Brian Hensel at Central Bucks West; Matt Ortega at Coatesville – who brings his Red Raiders to Perkiomen Valley next Friday night; John Iannucci at Harry S Truman; and Dennis Decker at Ridley.


Who has had the most success in the Pioneer Athletic Conference is an often asked question. Who has collected the most championships would be the easy answer, as would adding up the overall won-loss records in the first 23 seasons.

Well, Spring-Ford was the dominant program in the first two seasons; Owen J. Roberts and Pottsgrove took control for a few years after that; Spring-Ford was back on top throughout the early 90s; Lansdale Catholic got on a roll in the late 90s; and Pottsgrove has been pretty much setting the pace since 2000.

But Lansdale Catholic, which left the PAC-10 last year for the Philadelphia Catholic League, still owns the best winning percentage (.658), and it’s considerably higher than Boyertown (.619) and Pottsgrove (.614). The only other programs with better than .500 marks in league play are Owen J. Roberts (.561), Spring-Ford (.558), and Phoenixville (.517).


Pottsgrove will be shooting for its seventh straight winning season in the PAC-10. The record for consecutive winning seasons in league play is eight, held by Owen J. Roberts (1997-2004). Spring-Ford shares the second-longest mark of seven (1990-96) with Lansdale Catholic (2001-07). Boyertown, Phoenixville and Upper Perkiomen each have strung together five straight winning seasons.


Among PAC-10 teams, Owen J. Roberts

has finished with the most 10-win (overall) seasons. The Wildcats’ program has produced double-digit wins eight times, including back-to-back on two occasions (1983 and 1984 and again in 1986 and 1987).

Spring-Ford is next with seven seasons of 10 wins or more. The Rams, like OJR, have also done it twice (1986 and 1987 and again in 1994 and 1995). Pottsgrove is third on the chart with six seasons of double digits in the win column. The Falcons went back-to-back in 2000 and 2001, and have matched that the past two seasons. They could become the first area team to make it three in a row this year.


The record for the most overall wins in a season by a PAC-10 team is 12, a mark shared by OJR (1984 and 1986) and Phoenixville (1978).


Marty Moore, who was the head coach at Phoenixville while competing in the Ches-Mont League and later the head coach at Spring-Ford for 15 years (1988-2002), is still the only area coach to own unbeaten and untied seasons at two different schools. Moore guided the Phantoms to a 12-0 record in 1978, and then the Rams to 11-0 records in both 1992 and 1994 and a perfect 10-0 record in 1995.


Seven of the league’s 12 past and current teams have scored more than 300 points in a season. Lansdale Catholic did it four times and set the league record (367) in its final run two years ago. Spring-Ford is next with three, while both Perkiomen Valley and Pottsgrove have reached the mark two times each. Phoenixville, Pottstown and Upper Perkiomen are the others to amass 300 or more points in a PAC-10 season.

And after 23 seasons of play, Lansdale Catholic still remains No. 1 in scoring differential. Head coach Jim Algeo’s teams outscored their opponents by an average of 9.1 points per game. Pottsgrove is second (8.0), followed by Boyertown (5.8), Spring-Ford (2.8), and Owen J. Roberts (1.8). The only other programs on the plus-side of that ledger are Phoenixville (1.0) and Methacton (0.9).


There are a number of milestone games on this season’s schedule, topped by the Thanksgiving Day feature between Pottsgrove and St. Pius X. It will mark the 50th time the neighboring rivals have met, and it will be the final game played at Mich Stadium.

Two series – Boyertown and Phoenixville, and Perkiomen Valley and Phoenixville – will each be meeting one another for the 25th time; Pottstown and St. Pius X meet for the 35th time; Phoenixville and Pottsgrove, as well as Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove, will be going up against one another for the 45th time; and the Thanksgiving renewal between Spring-Ford and Phoenixville will mark the 50th time the Rams and Phantoms have met.

The oldest active rivalry among area schools is between Phoenixville and Pottstown. The teams will line up against one another this season for the 97th time, with the Phantoms holding a 51-37-8 lead in the series.


Actually it’s four, but don’t be surprised to hear a “Fore” or two to alert everyone that Owen J. Roberts’ Ryan Brumfield, Pottsgrove teammates Terrell Chestnut and Maika Polamalu, and Pottstown’s David Tyler are heading their way.

Brumfield and Chestnut shared the PAC-10 scoring title last season with 108 points apiece, Polamalu was third (96) and Tyler – who transferred from Spring-Ford earlier this year – was fourth (84). And if all that isn’t enough to keep an eye on these fellas, they occupied four of the top five spots in rushing last season. Brumfield (1,762 yards) literally ran away with the title, while Polamalu was second (1,240), Chestnut was fourth (897) and Tyler was fifth (861). The only separation there was Boyertown quarterback David Crognale (917), who graduated in June.

Ironically, the top four kick-scorers are back, too. Perkiomen Valley’s Justin Morgan (39 points) led the way a year ago, followed by Owen J. Roberts’ Zach Lepore (33) and Phoenixville’s John McInally (33). Boyertown’s Aaron Sassaman, who was fourth with 30 points, converted a league-high three field goals.


There have been 14 individuals who have run for more than 300 yards in a PAC-10 game, with only the late Kyheim Tripp of Upper Perkiomen and David Frame of Owen J. Roberts accomplishing the feat twice. Perkiomen Valley’s Grant Wiley holds the league’s single-game record (398 yards). … Running backs, and a few quarterbacks as well, have run for more than 200 yards in a PAC-10 game 151 times. St. Pius X graduate Zack Pierce has done it the most (eight games). Former Pottsgrove teammates Brent Carter and Brent Steinmetz, and Lansdale Catholic’s R.C. Lagomarsino all did it in six games each; with Frame, Spring-Ford’s Joe Haley and Mike Bach, and Upper Perkiomen’s Craig Austin hitting the mark five times apiece. … Pottsgrove has had the most players with 200-plus games with 27, followed by Spring-Ford and Upper Perkiomen with 21 each, and Owen J. Roberts with 20. ... The very first year of the Pioneer Athletic Conference – 1986 – is the only time no back ran for more than 1,000 yards in the regular season. The following year, the last before expansion pushed the league’s membership from eight to 10 teams and the schedule from seven to nine games, Spring-Ford’s Scott Davidheiser ran for 1,041 in the Rams’ seven outings. In the first year of expansion (1988), four backs went over 1,000 yards, which has only been matched in two seasons since – 1998 and 2000.


The PAC-10 has had at least one quarterback throw for more than 1,000 yards seven straight seasons and 15 of the last 16 overall that dates back to 1993. The first two who threw for a grand or more in league games prior to 1993 were Pottstown’s Brent Voynar (1,051) and Phoenixville’s Dave Rocco (1,017), both in 1988. … The record for the most quarterbacks with 1,000 or more yards passing in a season is four, set in 1994 and matched two years later and again in 2007 by Perkiomen Valley’s Zach Zulli, Lansdale Catholic’s Shane Pinzka, Spring-Ford’s Trevor Sasek, and Boyertown’s David Crognale – all underclassmen that season with the exception of Pinzka.


Remembering solid gold Saturdays

Jim Mich had a lot to think about when he sat behind the wheel of the family car and took off from his parents’ home in Easton for the long drive to Pottstown, a town he had never been to before, and over to St. Pius X, a high school he had never heard of before.

It was a rollercoaster-like ride of emotions that morning back in June of 1959.

It wasn’t easy balancing the pain of his father’s recent death with the joy of graduating on time from then East Stroudsburg State Teachers College just a few weeks earlier. It wasn’t any easier suppressing the excitement and settling the nerves on the way to his first job interview, either.

So imagine, if at all possible, how Mich reacted when the priest told him he was Pius’ new football coach after he had thought he was only applying for a spot on the staff as an assistant. Or what may have been racing through the 21-year-old’s mind after strolling out of the principal’s office and seeing a group of men building a football stadium adjacent to the school – a particular project the Archdiocese of Philadelphia did not permit.

“What a day that was,” Mich recalled.

It was a day very few of the St. Pius X faithful are likely to forget.

The Lions kicked off their program a year earlier under Marion Zarenkiewicz, but most graduates – especially those who put on the pads and cleats – feel 1959, with Jim Mich and that brand new stadium, was the birth of Pius football.

Sadly, this season – which marks the 50th anniversary of Mich’s arrival and the Lions’ first roar in that new stadium – will be its last.

Next year, St. Pius will team up with Kennedy-Kenrick and move into the new Pope John Paul II High School in Upper Providence Township.

The Lions will play their final game on the field – fittingly known as Mich Stadium since being renamed in his honor in 1976 – on Thanksgiving morning against longtime rival Pottsgrove.

* * *

When summer practices began in 1959, it was a toss-up as to who was louder – the energized Mich hooting and hollering at his players during practices in the high school parking lot, or the men hammering away while putting the finishing touches on the nearby football stadium.

“I just remember feeling great that we were going to have our own place to play,” Mich said. “Having our own field meant something to us. We were going to have our own locker rooms, our own showers, our own coaches room.

“Back then the Archdiocese (of Philadelphia) didn’t allow stadiums to be built on school property. But our athletic association financed the whole thing, and they didn’t care what the archdiocese allowed or didn’t allow. They were amazing.”

The Pius A.A. didn’t just find the money, but the manpower, too. Some of the movers and shakers in the organization were Bob “Chuz” Calvario and Elmer “Chump” Pollock, and a handful of others – Des Coffey, Joe Psota, Harry Schaeffer, Jim Smale and Tony Veach – all of whom have since passed but have never been forgotten.

Calvario, a trainer for the Lions from the beginning and a local businessman, was very instrumental in fundraising for all of Pius’ athletic programs and arguably one of the school’s most vocal supporters before, during and after his sons were standout athletes. And much the same could be said for Pollock, who was the public address announcer for Pottstown High School football games for more than 50 years – and for Pius’ first season of home games when they were played on the Trojans’ field.

But the athletic association was quite proud of their new stadium, which sat up to 1,400 fans on the concrete and steel home-side stands built high enough at its lowest point to provide a clear view of the playing field.

“I think we were all proud of what we had there,” Mich said.

Especially after winning their home debut – 6-0 over the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf – on Saturday, Oct. 3, 1959.

Located in Germantown, PSD was the third oldest school in the U.S. and well known for its football program for more than three decades at the time.

After a scoreless first half, the Lions got excellent field position when co-captain Mickey Sombers returned a PSD punt 24 yards to PSD’s 32-yard line. Art Hatmaker ran for 10 yards on first down, Skip Peterman took another handoff for six yards and, following an incomplete pass, Hatmaker bolted around the left side to the five-yard line. Peterman sneaked to the one, and that’s when co-captain David “Horse” Lees took it into the end zone for the game’s lone score.

The Pius defense that blanked PSD that afternoon featured Paul Bobinsky, Ed Chieffo, Dennis Dzuryachko, Tom Lapinski, Lees, Phil Maddaliano, Joe Narieka, Ted Pawlowski, Tom Rapchinski, Sombers and Joe Wambach. Lapinski went on to become the captain at the University of Delaware and was the head coach at Swarthmore College; Maddaliano played at Temple; Pawlowski played at South Carolina; Rapchinski would captain his team at Millersville; and Wambach became a radio personality in Cincinnati.

The Lions would finish their first season under Mich and in their new stadium with a 5-4 record.

“We really liked having that new stadium,” Mich said. “As a coach, you always wanted your own field, but not everyone had that back then. That was the way football was in those days.”

Knowing exactly “where” to play on it was important, too, as Mich explained.

“You always wanted a good playing surface, but I don’t think we ever had that,” he said before adding a laugh. “There was a lot of shale in the ground on our field, but again that was football in the day. I can always remember never wanting to run to the left side, because that’s where the field was always wet. We always ran right because it was like a rock on that side with all the shale in it.

“Sure, we got some complaints once in a while because the field wasn’t necessarily in as good as shape as lot of the other public school fields. But that’s what we had … and we were proud of what we had.”

* * *

On April 24, 1976, Msgr. Joseph Murray – the principal at Pius – renamed the field Mich Stadium in honor of the young fella who was now 39 years old with a whole lot of wins under his belt … and an immeasurable amount of respect from Pius players and fans as well as coaches from around the Philadelphia Suburban Catholic and Ches-Mont leagues.

“I was embarrassed to some degree,” Mich admitted. “It was a nice honor, a wonderful honor, especially for someone my age. I had just hoped I was deserving of such an honor.”

Mich would continue plotting Pius’ game plans and strolling the sidelines through 1984. He won or shared three Philadelphia Suburban Catholic League championships; guided the Lions to a very impressive 72-32-1 record in 11 seasons as an independent; and was very instrumental in helping his school – despite two prior rejections – get into the Ches-Mont League in 1978. When he bid farewell to the program, and to Mich Stadium, he owned a 159-89-11 career mark.

Mich would later serve as an assistant coach for 10 years at Kutztown University.

But rarely – and usually when his schedule didn’t allow it – did he ever miss a St. Pius X football game on the home turf.

And there were plenty of memorable games, for Mich as well as for the coaches who have followed him – namely Bill Rogers, Dave Bodolus, Ray Gionta, Ed McCann, Madison Morton, Bob Wagner and, now going into his fourth and final season at Pius, George Parkinson.

“That was our field, and we took a lot of pride in playing and playing well on that field every time we went out there,” said Bodolus, a standout himself at Pius and now the head coach at Daniel Boone.

* * *

Mich Stadium underwent renovations in 2005, thanks in part to Johnny Jones, part of the football program in the early 1980s, and Dave Psota, a longtime assistant under Mich. Among the improvements were new fencing, new seating, a new press box and a total reseeding of the playing surface.

“I guess we really needed some of those things for a long time,” Mich said. “But it was a football stadium, our football stadium … and we proud of it from the very beginning. It’s kind of sad right now, knowing the field and the school won’t be there when we move (to Pope John Paul II).

“It’s going to be tough for me, too, because all three of my children went there, and my one granddaughter will be graduating with the last class next spring. Heck, my whole adult life has been spent at Pius, and around that football field. I don’t think we’re ever going to have the same feeling for that new school like we did for Pius.”

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High hopes for the new football season

Published in the Sept. 3 edition of The Mercury.

Here we go again … another new high school football season, the area’s 123rd, believe it or not, when remembering The Hill School kicked it all off first in this area way, way back in 1887.

Things have certainly changed since then – like the actual size and look of the football (it’s no longer the bladder); the equipment (helmets have replaced the shaggy haircuts and cleats are certainly safer than nails nowadays); scoring (touchdowns have gone from four to six points); and umpteen rules (like no forearms to the face, thank you).

Yes, a new season.

Get ready for a whole bunch of new names, a handful or two of familiar stars to go along with a slew of new stars, all determined to produce some new records.

There’s energy.

“You go through two weeks of practices, most in all that heat and humidity, and two scrimmages,” said OJR head coach Tom Barr. “The kids want to get out there and play for real now.”

There’s excitement.

“This is our best opportunity to compete in the (Pioneer Athletic Conference) in some time,” said St. Pius X head coach George Parkinson.

And there are those high expectations.

“We’re aware that a lot of people think we’re going to be a very good football team this year,” said Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker. “But we’ve reminded our kids going into (tonight’s game) we haven’t won anything yet.”

After the opening-night jitters subside, the butterflies that flutter through the first couple of series are gone, and the

obvious miscommunications and misunderstandings are out of the way – and the adrenalin subsides just a wee bit – coaches will get a more realistic feel, or an up-close look at what needs to tweaked before Week Two, and what needs to be twisted or turned completely around before heading into the league portion of their regular-season schedules.

There will be no shortage of stars likely shining this weekend.

Daniel Boone quarterback Jon Monteiro, who kept a nagging leg injury all to himself last season and broke virtually every Berks County and Mercury-area passing record, is back. So are Methacton’s James McHugh and Phoenixville’s Tom Romano, both of whom debuted by throwing for over 1,000 yards a year ago. And some newcomers – like Boyertown’s Dylan Pasik, Owen J. Roberts’ Nate Walters and Upper Perkiomen’s Casey Perlstein, to name a few – could be throwing for a grand or more in their first full-season debuts this fall.

Then there’s Pottsgrove’s Terrell Chestnut – The Mercury’s Player of the Year and unquestionably one of the most talented two-way players in the entire state – who could go over that 1,000-yard mark throwing the football as well as carrying it. And who knows, St. Pius’ very athletic Cole Parkinson, given the time to throw and the room to run, could very well duplicate those rare numbers.

Don’t think there’s any shortage of good running backs returning for the show this season, either. Boyertown has Logan Herb and Ryan Schwager; Owen J. Roberts has junior Ryan Brumfield, who piled up over 2,000 yards last season and could very well scoot past every rushing and total offense record there is by the time he’s done; Pottsgrove has Maika Polamalu and his 1,000-yards back; and Pottstown has transfer David Tyler and his 2,000-plus yards in the backfield.

If you’re looking for those spectacular catches (or just the routine receptions on a consistent basis), keep an eye on, among others, Daniel Boone’s Kelly Saylor, Methacton’s Patrick McMichael, OJR’s Kohl Batdorf, Perkiomen Valley’s Ben Carbutt, Spring-Ford’s Andy Ellison, and Upper Perkiomen’s Ronnie Gillespie.

And if it’s the beef you like, there’s plenty of it. Boyertown, Daniel Boone, Owen J. Roberts, Phoenixville, Pottstown and Upper Perkiomen could easily break the offensive and defensive line scales … and there are some very big fellas on the other area teams.

For those who dare carry the football, the big guys can squash them, and those hard-hitting linebackers – lik

Boyertown’s Jared Giles, Methacton’s Michael He, Owen J. Roberts’ Sam Funk and Rich Zazo, Pottsgrove’s Preston Hamlette, Pottstown’s Tommy Santos, Spring-Ford’s James Hoff, and Upper Perkiomen’s Fleming – who can thump them. And don’t think those corners and safeties are any lightweights, either, at least not Daniel Boone’s Saylor, Perkiomen Valley’s Carbutt, Pottsgrove’s Chestnut, Pius’ Parkinson, or Upper Perkiomen’s Andrew Orlick and Shawn Wenhold.

Come to think of it, five of the area’s best kickers from a year ago – Daniel Boone’s Bernie Roell, Perkiomen Valley’s Justin Morgan, OJR’s Zach Lepore, Phoenixville’s John McInally and Boyertown’s Aaron Sassaman – are back to foot their share of the bill, too.

Not enough? Add in all those quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, linemen, linebackers, corners and safeties who most of us never heard of going into tonight’s openers, but who will be quite familiar to all of us in a week or two, and definitely by the end of the season.

Let the games begin.


Boyertown travels to Allentown Allen tonight, and don’t think head coach Mark Scisley hasn’t reminded the Bears of one very strange (and perhaps embarrassing) statistic.

No Boyertown team has beaten a non-league opponent in five years, or since a 22-13 decision of Abington two weeks before Thanksgiving in 2004. Since then, the Bears have lost 11 straight – four games to Muhlenberg; two to Downingtown West; and one each to Abington, Governor Mifflin, Great Valley, Hatboro-Horsham, Middletown,

Needless to say, Scisly has a little motivational tool for tonight’s game against the Canaries – who, incidentally, haven’t won a game since their season finale in 2006 and were just 1-29 the last three years.


Of the area’s 11 schools kicking off the season this weekend, only Daniel Boone and St. Pius X will be facing non-league opponents who have a combined losing record from a year ago. The Blazers’ three opponents (Donegal, Susquehannock and Columbia) were a combined 7-24 last year, while the Lions’ three (Simon Gratz, Jenkintown and Kennedy-Kenrick) were 16-17.

Based on last year’s records, Upper Perkiomen has the most difficult schedule this time around facing opponents with a combined 25-9 mark. Others worth mentioning are Perkiomen Valley (15-5), Spring-Ford (16-8), and Phoenixville (14-8).


Pottsgrove has an opportunity to do something this year no area program has achieved before – post its third straight season of 10 or more wins. Four schools have won 10 or more in successive years a combined six times before, but never three years in a row.

Pottstown was the first to do it (1970-71), then Owen J. Roberts matched it (1983-84). Spring-Ford managed to string together back-to-back, 10-plus wins seasons twice

(1986-87 and 1994-95), as has Pottsgrove (2000-01 and 2007-08).


St. Pius X, which is playing at Mich Stadium for the final time this season, will be wearing gold jerseys and blue pants for all varsity and junior varsity games this fall. And, as they have for more eight years now, the Lions will slip into their gold jerseys and gold pants one last time on Thanksgiving in honor of the late Ron Reed – a former standout at Pius, All-American at Kutztown, and assistant coach as well as supporter of all Pius activities before his death. His son, Scott Reed, is the head coach at Perkiomen Valley.

Don Seeley's high school football column appears Tuesdays and Fridays in the print edition of The Mercury throughout Thanksgiving.