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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Upper Perkiomen spread all over Top 10 stories of the past decade

There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to talk about when wrestling – area wrestling, that is – entered the new millennium.

Spring-Ford had won or shared eight of the previous 10 Pioneer Athletic Conference titles; Methacton had won six of the previous 10 Suburban One Freedom Division titles and was right near the top in the other four; and The Hill School was beating up nearly everyone except for Blair. And just three lightweights – Hill’s David Hoffman, Upper Perkiomen’s Brad Rozanski and Methacton’s Dan Covatta – managed to pin down a gold medal in March.

In other words, there wasn’t all that much drama or that many notable individual achievements in and around the area’s wrestling neighborhoods … just not a lot to hoot and holler about.

But that all changed, and changed in a hurry, too.

So much so that today – or three days before the clock runs out on the first decade of the new century – is as good a time as any to look back at some of the most memorable moments, or the big stories, of the past 10 years.

No program was as successful – or jeered – as Upper Perkiomen’s, of course. The Indians, except for their annual scraps with Spring-Ford and the more recent brawls with Boyertown, were rarely ever challenged. They swept their first 60 league matches and the first seven PAC-10 championships of the decade. It would’ve been 68 in a row and an eighth straight league title, but months after the 2007 season had been completed Upper Perkiomen officials revealed a wrestler had resided illegally in the school district. The Indians forfeited all but two of their PAC-10 wins, and relinquished what would have been a record fourth straight (and sixth overall) District 1-AAA Team Duals title.

Despite the controversy, there was no overlooking Upper Perkiomen’s run. Head coach Tom Hontz produced 16 Southeast Regional champions – which we prefer to call genuine District 1 champions (not those North, Central or South champions) – four state champions, and 19 state medalists overall during the decade. The 16 regional champions are more than twice the total of their nearest rival (Boyertown); only one other team – (Boyertown) had a state champion; and the 19 state medalists are just one shy of doubling the total of, you guessed it, Boyertown.

But the Bears have had the upper hand the past three years. And, if not for coming up short against Spring-Ford – who they shared the 2008 title with – the Bears would have owned a spotless league mark the last three seasons.

Upper Perkiomen’s and Boyertown’s respective runs aside, here’s just one opinion of the decade’s Top 10 area wrestling stories:

1. Upper Perkiomen wins duals title: Upper Perkiomen won the 2006 PIAA-Class AAA Team Duals title by defeating Easton, 46-19, at the Giant Center in Hershey. Despite splitting the first 10 individual bouts, the Indians owned a 27-19 lead on the strength of four pins. They put the match out of reach when Shane Smith and Chris Sheetz recorded back-to-back pins at 112 and 119 pounds, respectively. The Indians also set a district record for total wins in a season after finishing 29-1 overall.

2. Spaid pins way to state title: Mike Spaid became Boyertown’s first state champion and the first District 1 wrestler to record a pin in every one of his postseason bouts en route to the PIAA-Class AAA gold medal in 2004. The 285-pound Spaid had two falls and a medical forfeit at the Section Four Tournament; three each at the District 1-South and Southeast Regional tournaments, and four more at the PIAA championships.

3. Kemmerer’s perfect season: Upper Perkiomen junior Zack Kemmerer set the standard for excellence in 2005-06. He won gold medals at both the nationally recognized Ironman and Beast of the East tournaments, the first District 1 wrestler to achieve the double; won the first of his two PIAA-Class AAA state titles; and set both Mercury area and district records for the most wins without a loss in a season (54). Kemmerer added his second state title the following year and graduated with the area, district and state records for career wins (199).

4. Jeff Green dies: Pottstown graduate Jeff Green, an outstanding wrestler at Pottstown and Morgan State University – and hailed as a “real American hero” during the 2003 Summit Awards – died three months after receiving his Career Achievement Award at the age of 41. Green was a two-time state runner-up at heavyweight for the Trojans; a two-time NCAA qualifier for Morgan State University; and a member of the U.S. World and Olympic teams, earning a berth on the U.S. Greco-Roman squad as an alternate for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Green was a captain in the Army and fought on the front lines in Kuwait and Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991. John Armato, his former coach at Pottstown: “Jeff Green was an excellent example of what you hope your son grows up to be. He was a good student, a good athlete, a true gentleman and a good citizen. If Pottstown is ever looking for someone from the community to be proud of, then Jeff Green will be the one we should always hold up to our young people as an example of what you can become and what you can do in your life.”

5. Smith sets pin record: Upper Perkiomen senior and three-time state medalist Mark Smith closes out the 2002 season with a District 1 and Pennsylvania career record 124 pins. Smith, one of the state’s most popular wrestlers for his endless energy on the mats, also broke former teammate Derek Zinck’s district record for career wins (161).

6. Hoffman wins national prep title: The Hill School’s David Hoffman decisioned Blair Academy’s Mark Perry, 10-5, in the 130-pound final of the 2001 National Prep Championships at Lehigh University. It was Hoffman’s second national title and the fifth time he finished among the top eight for All-American prep honors. Hoffman also set school and Mercury-area records for career wins (195), the latter of which would be broken six years later by Zack Kemmerer.

7. Upper Perkiomen stripped of titles: In 2006-07, Upper Perkiomen ran the table in the PAC-10 and in the District 1-Class AAA Team Duals. However, soon after the conclusion of the season, school officials revealed a wrestler had resided illegally in the district. The Indians were forced to forfeit all matches he had participated in and surrendered all team championships.

8. Meister a four-time All-American: Baptist Bible College senior Jason Meister, a two-time state medalist before graduating from Phoenixville, became The Mercury area’s first four-time college All-American after capturing the 133-pound title during the 2003 National Collegiate Wrestling Association Championships at Lafayette College. Meister, who won his first national title as a freshman and was third as both a sophomore and junior, rolled up a 17-7 major decision over defending national champion Camilo Gonzales of Nevada-Reno to close out his senior year at 32-0.

9. Perkiomen Valley stuns Spring-Ford: In 2008, a win by injury default helped Perkiomen Valley defeat Spring-Ford, 30-26 – the first time the Vikings had ever defeated their neighboring rivals. The Rams later made up for the loss with a narrow decision of Boyertown, which left both teams tied for the PAC-10 title.

10. Racich reaches milestone: Ursinus head coach Bill Racich, a graduate of Plymouth-Whitemarsh and longtime teacher in the Spring-Ford School District, went over the 400 career win mark a couple of years ago and ranks among the Top 10 of winningest coaches in all of college wrestling. Racich guided the Bears to a record four straight Centennial Conference championships from 2003 through 2006.


Falling into the honorable mention category would be Upper Perkiomen’s Derek Zinck, the area’s first four-time sectional champion who would finish second in the state and own a District 1-record 158 career wins before graduating in 2001; the addition of a 14th weight class (215 pounds) in 2003; Zack Kemmerer and Brent Fiorito becoming the first teammates from an area team to win state titles in the same year when both were golden in 2006; Hontz being named the Pennsylvania Class AAA Coach of the Year in 2006; and Racich and Pottstown’s Jim Tsakonas (2003), Phoenixville’s Lonny Moore (2005) and Boyertown’s Bruce Hallman (2006) being inducted.into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

* * *

Did someone mention an All-Decade Team? Despite the recent holiday frenzy and not a whole lot of time to research the who’s who of the soon-to-be past decade, I’ll take these 14 fellas (and will gladly accept any constructive criticism, too):

103: Seth Ecker (Pottstown) – three-time state medalist and 1321 career wins; 112: Aaron Brown (Owen J. Roberts) – state medalist and 134 career wins; 119: Chris Sheetz (Upper Perkiomen) – state champion, four-time state medalist and 189 career wins; 125: Matt Moley (Spring-Ford) – two-time state runner-up, three-time state medalist and 131 career wins; 130: David Hoffman (Hill School) – two-time national prep champion, five-time national prep medalist and 195 career wins; 135: Mark Smith (Upper Perkiomen) – three-time state medalist, 124 career pins and 161 career wins; 140: Zack Kemmerer (Upper Perkiomen) – two-time state champion, four-time state medalist and 199 career wins; 145: Derek Zinck (Upper Perkiomen) – three-time state medalist and 159 career wins; 152: Brent Fiorito (Upper Perkiomen) – state champion, two-time state medalist and 176 career wins; 160: Zach Doll (Hill School) – three-time national prep medalist and 142 career wins; 171: Jason Shivak (Spring-Ford) – state runner-up and 134 career wins; 189: Orion Doll (Hill School) – two-time national prep medalist and 130 career wins; 215: Josh White (Boyertown) – state runner-up and 112 career wins; 285: Mike Spaid (Boyertown) – state champion, two-time state medalist and 116 career wins.

Backups? The welcome mat is out for Boyertown’s Fred Rodgers, Jesse DeWan, Alex Pellicciotti (who is still on the mats for the Bears) and 2009 graduate Ryan Kemmerer; Methacton’s Brad Clark; Owen J. Roberts’ Nick Fuschino and Scott Syrek (just a junior this year); Spring-Ford’s Mike Moley; and Upper Perkiomen’s Darren Kern and Derek Bennett.

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Usual suspects lead PAC-10 wrestling

Two full weeks into another wrestling season and, well, it doesn’t appear as though much may change locally – in the Pioneer Athletic Conference, that is – or throughout District 1 this winter.

Hopefully it will, because no one would enjoy being wrong more than you know who.

But for now, after a slew of individual and team tournaments, even a handful of dual meets here and there, the cast of contenders seems to be the same ol’ gang.

In the PAC-10, there’s no doubt Boyertown, Spring-Ford and Upper Perkiomen – three teams that have won or shared the last 15 titles, and 19 of the league’s 23 championships overall – are the frontrunners once again. If Methacton and Owen J. Roberts can fill some holes in their respective lineups before the ball drops in Times Square, they could create some congestion among the contenders when they all start wrestling for real, or against one another, in January.

And in District 1, despite the noticeable rise (or actual resurrection) of a few programs in the early going, there doesn’t seem to be anyone other than Boyertown or

Council Rock North ready to present a legitimate challenge to Council Rock South or Quakertown – who have accounted for the last three AAA team duals titles. Council Rock South, without Josh Dziewa on the mat, performed rather admirably at the Ironman and King of the Mountain tournaments, unquestionably two of the top high school features in the entire country, and beat Council Rock North in last week’s Suburban One National showdown. A move here or a move there was all that separated Boyertown and Council Rock North during the season-opening Brian Bealer Memorial Bear Duals two weeks ago, and there was little that separated those two and Quakertown during this past weekend’s Beast of the East. It’s hard to imagine anyone in the district faring any better at the Ironman, King of the Mountain, or Beast of the East.

That’s for now.

Things can change, and change in a hurry … and, if only for the sake of firing up the competitive juices and creating a bit more drama, here’s hoping they do.


Individual match-ups, which don’t really carry any substantial weight until the postseason, nonetheless could be quite entertaining over the next month and a half.

For starters, there isn’t a weight class anywhere – perhaps in any district in Pennsylvania – near as loaded as the 189 bracket. Go pound-for-pound, up and down the docket, and none packs a punch like Council Rock North’s Jamie Callender, Springfield-Delco’s Andre Petroski, Oxford’s Nick Ruggear and Council Rock South’s Bobby Lavelle. Callender, Petroski and Ruggear were second, third and fifth, respectively, at the Beast, and Lavelle collected two medals at the Ironman and King of the Mountain.

The district should also get a boost from a solid group of freshmen. Plymouth-Whitemarsh may have the best in Justin Staudenmayer. Among the many others to keep an eye on throughout the regular season are Norristown’s Brett Harner, Downingtown East’s Alex Wait, Quakertown’s Tyler Seislove, and Upper Perkiomen’s Wolfgang McStravick.


Boyertown had just one medalist – 135-pound senior Alex Pellicciotti (fourth) – at the Beast. Both of Pellicciotti’s setbacks – 5-3 in the quarterfinals and 11-2 in the third-place final – were to No. 5 seed Scott Festejo of Long Branch (N.J.). Matt Malfaro (119) and Zach Heffner (189) both came within a win of the medal rounds for the Bears, who were 30-26 overall in individual bouts. If it’s any consolation to head coach Pete Ventresca, 18 of those 26 losses were to seeded opponents. … The Hill School had three entries – Colin Saunders (2-2 at 135), Karl Wiszumerski (1-2 at 140) and Jay Knighton (3-2 at 285) – who combined for a 6-6 mark.


District 1 had nine medalists overall at the Beast, led by the aforementioned threesome at 189. District rivals went up against each other in the seventh-place final at both 125 and 145.


Blair Academy won its 11th straight Beast of the East team title on Sunday. The Bucs had five individual champions. Blair’s Chris Villalonga (140) and Central Dauphin’s Marshall Peppelman (160), both of whom have already committed to Cornell, won their third straight gold medals at the Beast. … Wyoming Seminary heavyweight Mike McMullan was named the Outstanding Wrestler, an honor that could’ve (if not should’ve) easily gone to Garnet Valley’s 215-pound Matt Idelson. McMullan was seeded second, so his effort wasn’t all that surprising. Idelson, on the other hand, wasn’t seeded. But the junior put up three pins and a pair of shutout decisions to get to his final, where he knocked off No. 1 seed and nationally ranked Nate Gaffney of Connellsville, 6-4.


The Daniel Boone-Conrad Weiser match has decided the Berks Conference Section Two title the last two years. Their match on Jan. 23 is expected to decide this year’s championship, even though the Blazers may have the upper-hand for now considering they crushed the Scouts, 69-9, at the Ephrata Duals two weeks ago.

This past weekend, Daniel Boone was sixth among 17 teams at the Thundering Herd Tournament in Carlisle. Colin Martucci (145), son of former St. Pius X head coach John Martucci, was second, while Sam Batchelor (215) was third. Eddie Lockowitz (103), Liam Gibbons (119) and Nick McGlauflin (171) were all fifth, and Zach Mitchell (125) contributed a sixth for rookie head coach Matt Shutt.


Andy Kaul, a 1951 graduate of The Hill School and one of its most successful wrestlers, watched the Blues during the Mercersburg Duals two weeks ago. A three-time national prep champion while at the Hill, Kaul went on to Michigan and led the Wolverines to two Big 10 Conference championships and a 29-6-1 overall record in his four seasons in the program. He was a two-time NCAA All-American, placing four at 137 pounds in 1954 and second at the same weight in 1955.


The thrill is gone, but Pottsgrove exceeded expectations

Forty-eight hours after it was all over, head coach Rick Pennypacker was still having a difficult time digesting the end of Pottsgrove’s football season.

He didn’t feel any better Sunday night than he did Friday night, when the Falcons failed to come up with another one of their customary stops on defense or breathtaking big plays on offense in the waning moments of their PIAA-Class AAA showdown with Archbishop Wood and lost, 30-28.

“It’s going to take a while to get over it,” Pennypacker admitted. “I know there are people out there saying we had a great season, and it was. But it’s going to take a little time for me to get past this (loss) and look at (the season) like everyone else is right now.”

Time will eventually ease the pain.

Time will, as they say, heal all wounds.

What time will never erase, though, is the way the Falcons responded to all those late-summer expectations by staying focused from week to week, by executing on both sides of the ball. And despite giving up a few inches and a lot of pounds nearly every Friday night or Saturday afternoon, they exploited opponents with their quickness, their speed, and their knack of always seeming to be at the right place at the right time.

They had that resourcefulness on defense and that flair on offense. It was an unbeatable combination for 14 straight games – including three straight, come-from-behind postseason victories that led to the program’s first District 1 championship and first appearance in the state playoffs.

Everyone, including their throng of fans – which may have reached 2,000-plus last Friday night – sure wouldn’t have minded more than the cameo appearance, sure wouldn’t have minded another trek to who-knows-where this Friday or, for that matter, a trek out to Hershey for the state final in two weeks.

But getting as far as they did, winning 14 games, wasn’t too bad at all.

“Did I expect us to get this far … I don’t know,” Pennypacker said. “I know the biggest thing in the beginning of the year was hoping to play Rustin again. All we heard was how (Rustin) had everyone back from the team that beat us last year, from the team that won districts.

“So it’s a credit to the kids how they played this season. When they got the opportunity they seized it.”

The Falcons withstood challenges from their Pioneer Athletic Conference rivals – and won their second straight outright league championship – to finish first in the postseason points standings. They came from behind to beat Upper Moreland; regrouped and came from behind again to beat Rustin – which few in their right football mind thought they could do; then came from behind yet again to outlast Interboro in an overtime thriller for the district title.

That resiliency, that confidence, is what brought them back to even terms with Archbishop Wood last Friday night, and not just once but twice. It’s what brought them back a third time, which gave them a 28-24 lead with just over three minutes remaining, too.

But this time, the Falcons couldn’t hold the lead.

“These kids worked hard, they wanted to get to states,” Pennypacker said. “They wanted to win districts and get to states. When we beat Upper Moreland I was afraid of a letdown, but it didn’t happen. When we beat Rustin I was afraid of a letdown, but it didn’t happen. When we beat Interboro I was afraid of a letdown, but it didn’t happen.

“Each one of those games were big wins for us, and I was worried the kids would come out flat the next week. But that never happened. They came from behind in every playoff game except (Friday night’s) game. We just couldn’t seal the deal.”

And it wasn’t until Pennypacker was finished his postgame chat with the Falcons that he realized just how exhausted everyone was.

Adrenaline carries coaches and players alike through practices, through the routine of dressing up and firing up for Friday nights. But a loss, especially one that ends a very successful 15-week season, depletes entirely that energy.

“We were at it since August,” Pennypacker explained. “It really takes a toll on you and your coaches, so imagine how the kids feel.”

Pennypacker got a firsthand look at how the Falcons felt when the final seconds ticked off the clock last Friday night.

“I really felt bad for our seniors,” he said. “One of my coaches told me that we were 36-6 in the three years those (seniors) were with us. They just weren’t used to losing. And it was kind of strange after the game Friday night because (losing) isn’t something you prepare for. Most years you know your last game is on Thanksgiving morning, you know it’s over after that game. But this time … it was just a weird atmosphere.

“But I can’t say enough about our kids, every one of them. I can’t say enough about what they accomplished this year. Right now, like me, they’re hurting. But if you don’t hurt when you lose you’ll never win, and we’ve told them that.”

The Falcons were hurting late Friday night, throughout the weekend, too.

They’ll remember the pain for some time, especially when it comes time to gear up again next summer with most of this season’s cast intact for another PAC-10 and postseason show.

“Oh, this is going to motivate them for next season,” Pennypacker said. “They got a taste of what it’s like now. They saw how the school and the community supported them. They’re going to want to do this again next year. I can tell you now they can’t wait to get back out there next year.

“Every year is different, and we’re going to have to replace some very good football players. But as soon as their bodies heal up a little bit, they’re going to be back in the weight room and ready to get after it. They’re an incredible group of kids.”


Pennypacker didn’t want to talk about the issue of Archbishop Wood having a full week off prior to Friday night’s opening round of the state tournament. A number of other coaches haven’t been tight-lipped about it, though.

“Whoever heard of a bye week in the middle of the playoffs?” one coach asked. “That’s ridiculous. It’s something the PIAA should address, too.”


There has been a big difference in the playoffs since Philadelphia Catholic League schools joined the PIAA last year, teaming up with Philadelphia Public League rivals (members since 2004) in District 12.

Going into this weekend – with LaSalle (Class AAAA), Archbishop Wood (AAA) and West Catholic (AA) in their respective bracket’s state semifinals – the Catholic league is 8-3 overall against teams from opposing districts. Both Archbishop Wood and West Catholic were state runners-up a year ago.

The city’s public league schools, meanwhile, haven’t fared anywhere near as well against opponents from other districts. The PCL is 0-5 in AAAA; 0-4 in AAA; 1-0 in AA (lone win against Lower Moreland); and 2-1 in A (wins over Bristol and Jenkintown).

None of the aforementioned records include results of games between Philadelphia’s Catholic League and Public League schools because they’re all part of District 12.


Pottsgrove not only set an area record for wins in a season, but also for points scored in a season. The Falcons put up 497 points to erase the mark of 446 set eight years earlier by Pottsgrove. … Perkiomen Valley still owns the single-season record for average points per game (38.7), set two years ago. … Only 11 area teams have scored 400 or more points in a season.


Falcons had fans on the edge of their seats

This column originally ran in the Dec. 4, 2009 edition of The Mercury.

PHILADELPHIA — There was little if any excitement in the first 10 weeks of Pottsgrove’s football season. Shutting out three opponents and limiting five others to just one touchdown, not to mention never trailing once at the halfway mark of any of those games, doesn’t exactly coerce coaches to pace crazily up and down the sidelines or force the fans behind them to fidget in their seats.

The last three weeks…

Well, neither head coach Rick Pennypacker nor any of his assistants have stood still for long (if at all), and their fans have been kind of sitting on pins and needles.

Talk about making up for lost time.

The Falcons have had to come from behind in all three of their playoff games – first against Upper Moreland and then against unbeaten Bayard Rustin for a pair of 21-14 thrillers, and again last week against unbeaten Interboro in a 28-21 overtime gripper.

“That was tense, and I mean tense,” Pennypacker said last Saturday night, moments after the Falcons whipped up some momentum late in the third quarter, held it through the fourth quarter, then carried it into overtime to outlast Interboro for the program’s first District 1-AAA title.

Pennypacker and his entire staff have indeed had a bit of an anxious look and an uneasy bounce in their collective step since the postseason kicked off back on the second weekend of last month.

Don’t expect it to be any different tonight, either, when they make their debut in the PIAA playoffs against Archbishop Wood in a Class AAA quarterfinal showdown here at Northeast High School’s Charles Martin Memorial Stadium.

“It has gotten tougher and tougher each week, and we know it’s going to be even tougher (tonight),” Pennypacker said. “You may be able to make a mistake here and there (during the regular season) and have it not hurt you. But once you get into the playoffs, one mistake can cost you … cost you the game, end your season.”

During the regular season, the Falcons more than made up for any occasional blunder. They opened with two very convincing non-league wins over Pennridge and Wissahickon, then ran the table on their Pioneer Athletic Conference rivals. The spotless 10-0 record earned them a second straight PAC-10 championship and the top-billing for the District 1-AAA playoffs.

But that’s all their impressive play earned them.

Upper Moreland put them in a 14-7 hole at the break, but the Falcons took advantage of some of the Golden Bears’ mistakes to pull out the win. Rustin – the defending district champions who dizzied every one of their opponents before visiting Pottsgrove – had them trailing 14-13 at the break, but the Falcons stepped up when the Knights lost a fumble and then their poise to pull out the win.

Last week, Interboro capitalized on a couple of breakdowns, mistakes if you will, to take a 21-14 lead at the break. But if there was ever a defining defensive play and defining drive to characterize the Falcons’ fight this postseason, it came by way of linebacker Preston Hamlette and their persistent offense. Hamlette sacked Interboro’s quarterback on fourth down to end the Bucs’ one last attempt to regain the lead. The Falcons took possession with 10:31 left and, despite not finding their way into the end zone, they ate up all but the final three seconds of regulation.

Into overtime they went … with momentum, and a whole heck of a lot of confidence.

It took just two snaps for Maika Polamalu to skirt the right side for the go-ahead touchdown, and four stops on defense – the last being Angelo Berry’s knockdown of a pass just inside the end zone – to finally end it.

Ironically, tonight’s scrap with Archbishop Wood could likely unfold like the previous three games, even end in similar fashion.

“It should be a pretty exciting game,” Pennypacker said.

Yep … the postseason may get a little repetitive in December, but never boring.

* * *

If the Falcons are looking for any additional motivation – or bulletin board material, as they call it – all they have to do is read a couple of the comments about their win over Interboro on which, forgive us, we’ve cleaned up a bit (spelling and punctuation).

Bob said: “(Archbishop) Wood is going to destroy this Pottsgrove team. Pottsgrove is not good at all, they got lucky. And Terrell Chestnut is overrated.”

And FootballFan responded: “It should be Rustin vs. (Archbishop) Wood. That would have been a great game Bob.”

Let’s see now – Pottsgrove isn’t “good at all” and Chestnut is “overrated.” Hmmm… Pottsgrove beats Rustin, then beats Interboro. Two straight wins over undefeated teams is lucky? Maybe, then again how often have you heard coaches – in all sports – say they’d rather be lucky than good? And, for the record, Chestnut is either being recruited or looked at by 30-40 Division I-A schools. Could JoePa and some of the best minds in college football all be wrong?

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Matters of Heart

There isn’t a soul on the Pottsgrove football team who’ll likely forget last week for a long, long time.

No one.

It was emotional chaos … a convoluted mix of joy and sadness, linked by two heartwarming wins on the field and two heartbreaking losses off the field.

It was a week when football, the game the Falcons play with such conviction and with such passion, and life itself, which every teenager way too often takes for granted, were twisted so perversely by an automobile accident that claimed the lives of two Pottsgrove student-athletes.

Coming to school for practice on Monday, despite a few leftover aches and pains from that grueling game with Rustin less than 72 hours earlier, was easy.

Coming to school for practice on Tuesday wasn’t.

Instead of looking for all those X’s and O’s and the plan of attack for their next game just 48 hours ahead of them, the Falcons were looking for one another … for a shoulder to cry on, for a hug of assurance, for hope. Many hadn’t slept the previous night, not after hearing about the accident, especially after learning classmates Mike Cantamaglia and Andrew Case had died in the crash.

Cantamaglia and Case were 16 and 17 years old, respectively, like many of them. They were juniors, like many of them.

They played soccer and lacrosse … athletes, like them.

And above all, they were friends.

“(Tuesday) was a very, very difficult day,” Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker said. “We told all of our kids if they couldn’t come to practice we’d understand. I think they were all there to start, but it was hard.

“Some broke down during warm-ups, some started crying in the huddles. Some eventually asked to leave, and we had no problem with that. I’ve been in football most of my life, but I have never experienced anything like that.”

By Thursday, the Falcons regrouped.

Whether it was while suiting up in their locker room, on the brief ride to St. Pius X High School, or during the game itself no one knows, but they had developed an indissoluble bond. And it was reinforced the moment the Thanksgiving game kicked off with the stars of Pottsgrove’s unbeaten season on the sidelines (because of an agreement by both schools to play only non-varsity starters due to playoff games just two days later).

It was a role reversal of sorts. But the Falcons responded with a collective roar or two when their unsung teammates were on the field, and with words of encouragement when they came off of it.

Pennypacker called the 42-0 win – which gave Pottsgrove its second straight outright Pioneer Athletic Conference championship – “a real team effort.” Considering the strength it took for the Falcons to take the field let alone line up and play that morning, few could argue.

The following day, many of the Falcons attended funeral services for Case … regrouped emotionally, then practiced. Early Saturday, many of the Falcons attended funeral services for Cantamaglia … regrouped emotionally, then rode off to Coatesville for the District 1-Class AAA championship showdown with Interboro.

Maika Polamalu’s 62-yard run on the second play of the night and Kayvon Greene’s 95-yard dash later in the first quarter helped the Falcons focus on the task at hand – beating yet another very physical opponent and winning the district title for the very first time.

However, a wave of adversity – as if the swell that hit them earlier in the week wasn’t enough – struck again. First, it was a fumble. Then a few missed assignments, a couple of mental mistakes, a blocked punt… All of a sudden, the Falcons trailing 21-14 and had a listless look to them.

“We were still confident we could come back, though,” said senior linebacker Preston Hamlette, who knows a little more about comebacks than most 17-year-olds.

Hamlette suffered what appeared to be a season-ending ankle injury during the second game of the season. Coupled with the strain of helping his mother through her battle with cancer, few expected him back.

He returned just over a month ago, albeit just on defense.

And Saturday night, few had more oomph in that decisive second half – or more of an increasingly confident strut in their step – than Hamlette.

Moments after the Falcons evened it up at 21-21, Hamlette cut short Interboro’s attempt to go back in front when he sacked quarterback Brett Creighton for a six-yard loss on fourth down that ended a Bucs’ drive that reached Pottsgrove’s 20-yard line with 10:31 left. Exactly five minutes later, he strolled onto the field to take a handoff and convert a fourth-and-one. That helped the Falcons run out all but the final three seconds of regulation, force overtime, and survive yet another trying ordeal.

“This win was for (Cantamaglia and Case), this was a win in memory of them,” Hamlette said.

No one, perhaps, played with as much emotion – or with as heavy a heart – as Polamalu.

The junior running back went to school with Case at St. Aloysius. Later, they were teammates in the Pottstown PAL youth football program.

“(Case) was one of my best friends,” Polamalu said. “It was hard not thinking about him and (Cantamaglia), hard concentrating on football this week. But we dedicated tonight’s game to them, in their honor. I wanted to do everything I could for (Case), wanted to represent him as best I could.

“It’s been a tough week, a tough week for all of us. What has happened has made us all fight even harder, and I think it’s helped make us a better football team.”

“These kids are unbelievable, and what they did (last) week was unbelievable,” Pennypacker said. “We couldn’t be more proud of them.”

* * *

Pottsgrove advances into the first round of the PIAA-Class AAA playoffs, taking on Archbishop Wood this Friday (7 p.m.) at Northeast High School in Philadelphia.


It was also a week to remember for St. Pius X football, which hosted its final game at Mich Stadium on Thanksgiving, then played its final game up in Williamstown on Saturday night.

St. Pius will team up with Kennedy-Kenrick next year at the new Pope John Paul II High School in Upper Providence Township.

“It was difficult knowing (Thursday) was the last time we’ll be playing here,” former Lions head coach Jim Mich – who the field was named after back in 1976 – said late Thursday night.

They had one of the largest crowds ever at Pius last week, and many of those in attendance were there for one reason only.

“For many of us it was our way of saying ‘Thank you, coach Mich,’ “ said Tom Reed, who played for Mich in the early 70s. “Even though the school is closing, I think most of us, whenever we think of St. Pius, will always think of Jim Mich.”

Mich also made the long trek up to Williams Valley High School for Pius’ state playoff game against Tri-Valley on Saturday night. Despite having almost as many coaching changes as wins in the six years leading up to this season, Mich was one of the biggest supporters of current head coach George Parkinson and never wavered in his support of the kids who played for him.

“What has helped get some of us through (the closing of the school) is the great job coach Parkinson and his kids have done this year,” Mich said. “They won a district championship … they brought some pride back to the program.”


It’s a shame Thanksgiving Day football isn’t quite what is used to be … at least in this area.

Locally, the tradition began back in the 1920s, and even though the smaller schools’ rivalries disappeared by way of jointures, there were usually a handful of games to choose from before sitting down with the family to gobble up the turkey, take a short nap, then wake up to watch an NFL game or two on the tube.

It’s still easy to remember those 10,000-plus fans who sat in on the Phoenixville-Great Valley game back in 1966; the 10,000-plus who watched Pottstown and Owen J. Roberts epic in 1970; and the 12,000-plus who squeezed into Coach McNelly Stadium to watch the showdown between unbeatens Phoenixville and Spring-Ford back in 1994.

With Pius closing it doors at the end of the current school year, the current Thanksgiving Day card of four games will be reduced to three, and that’s only if the remaining three – Boyertown and Upper Perkiomen, Owen J. Roberts and Pottstown, and Phoenixville and Spring-Ford – continue the commitment to their respective holiday series.

Playoffs, of course, have led to the demise of Thanksgiving Day football. And even though statewide playoffs began back in 1988 (thanks to the constant whining of the WPIAL), it took a while – actually increased fields (that’s more postseason qualifiers) and additional revenue (that’s more money in the PIAA’s pockets), to impact Thanksgiving Day football.

For someone who has watched at least one Thanksgiving Day football game every year except for one since 1956, it’s still a very special treat, a day to look forward to every season. And the playoffs, well, when nearly everyone is on the edge of their seat for nearly every play, that’s a pretty special treat as well.

It’s a shame Pennsylvania can’t maintain – or protect – the tradition like New Jersey does. Believe it or not, 78 games are played on Thanksgiving Day in New Jersey, where no playoff games are scheduled the entire holiday week.


Thanksgiving will never be the same

This column was originally published in the Nov. 26 edition of The Mercury.

This is, as it’s been for longer than anyone can remember, and for longer than anyone has been around, one of the really big weeks for high school football in the area.

But the clock may be running down on Thanksgiving football, or close to running out, as many old-school fans or purists fear. The day that year after year has re-energized generations of players and coaches and enthralled their devoted followings, will never be the same after today … never be the same because Pottsgrove and St. Pius X will end their long and storied rivalry this morning.

St. Pius X will be closing its doors next spring and – along with Kennedy-Kenrick – moving into Pope John Paul II High School in Upper Providence Township.

And even though Pope John Paul II will be a member of the Pioneer Athletic Conference and play Pottsgrove, it will be in September — not November, and not on Thanksgiving anymore — according to several sources.

“I don’t even like to think about (today) being the last game,” said Jim Mich, who was just out of college, just 21 years of age, when he took over the one-year-old program in 1959. “I have a lot of emotions running through me over this, and it’s going to be a very emotional day watching the last game.

“A lot of things close nowadays. But this, for me, is different. I’m having a very difficult time with it. I just can’t explain it, really.”

And it’s easy to understand why.

Jim Mich was, still is and will be forever remembered as the heart and soul of St. Pius X football – if not the entire school.

His love of the game, and his passion for those who played it, was unwavering. He was as committed to teaching and coaching the 5-foot-5, 150-pound jayvee as he was the 6-foot-2, 220-pound all-state starting linebacker; as faithful to the five teams that didn’t win many games as he was to the 19 others that won a whole lot of games and some championships; and he’s been supportive of each and every one of the six head coaches who have followed him at Pius.

No one, absolutely no one, has been more loyal to Lions football than Jim Mich.

So today will certainly tug at his heartstrings.

Mich will be more than just a little emotional this morning when a lot of former Pius players – many from his 60s, 70s and 80s teams – sit down to break bread together, or share breakfast, in Father Doyne Hall prior to the game. He’ll fidget in his seat, get up on occasion for a panicky pace, maybe even hoot and holler a bit during the game.

And when it’s over and done with, when the crowd disappears and the gates surrounding Mich Stadium – justly named in his honor 33 years ago – are closed for good?

“I can’t even imagine how I’ll feel at that moment,” Mich admitted. “I know I’m going to hate seeing the series (with Pottsgrove) end. I can remember how hard (former Pottsgrove athletic director) Francis Winterbottom and (former Pottsgrove head coach) Ken Harclerode worked with us to start up the Thanksgiving game back in 1965, too, so it’s going to be very hard seeing the Thanksgiving rivalry end, too.

“It’s just going to be a difficult day. There were so many people who helped us get the football program started; so many people who took it upon themselves to build our stadium at a time when the archdiocese didn’t allow you to build anything on school property; so many great coaches who made me look good at times; so many good kids.”

Today will be the 50th and final game between the Lions and Falcons, who have already clinched no worse than a tie for the title but need a victory for their second straight outright championship. And even though the Falcons have dominated of late, winning nine in a row and 17 of the last 19 (with one tie in between) for a commanding 28-18-3 lead in the series, their recent run won’t diminish the hopes of the Lions or their loyal fans.

Not today.

Not even with the trip up to Williams Valley High School in Tower City to take on Tri-Valley in the opening round of the PIAA-Class A playoffs just two days away.

“The one saving grace about all of this is that coach (George) Parkinson has stuck by the kids and the program,” Mich explained. “They’ve won the two playoff games. They’ve won eight games. They got the program back on its feet.

“Hey, we’ve gone through some difficult times here in recent years with all the coaching changes, the 1-10 seasons, and the news of the school closing. I’ve had my moments thinking about today, too. And as difficult as it will be seeing it all end, it’ll help knowing the last season was a pretty good one.”


St. Pius and Pottsgrove played against one another as non-league opponents (1960-1977) and as members of the Ches-Mont League (1978-1985) and Pioneer Athletic Conference (1986-present). … Their Thanksgiving series didn’t begin until 1965, which Pottsgrove won 21-7. The following year, the Lions owned an unbeaten 8-0 mark and the Falcons were just 5-4, but Pius needed Darryl Stigura’s late touchdown pass to Bob Fisher to salvage a 13-13 tie. … The only game not played at St. Pius or Pottsgrove was in 1974, when they met at Pottstown High School. That day the Falcons, who had already finished its Ches-Mont season and shared the title with Great Valley, trailed 10-0 before rallying for a 26-10 win over the underdog Lions. … Mich retired with a 159-89-11 career mark at Pius, which goes into today’s game with an overall won-loss record of 265-264-12.


You'd Better Believe It

This column was originally published in the Nov. 24 edition of The Mercury.

This week has always been regarded as the final week of the high school football season. Except for a few teams and their seemingly endless schedules that ran into December back in the 1920s and 1930s; the St. Pius X and Pottsgrove playoff runs in 2001 and 2007, respectively; and a handful or so weather-related postponements, no area teams have played beyond Thanksgiving.

Well, this season sure is different.

Pottsgrove and St. Pius X made it a little different, or officially extended it beyond this Thursday’s holiday football feast, last weekend. Pottsgrove did it by beating the odds (and everyone’s predictions but their own) with a win over Bayard Rustin to move into Saturday night’s District 1-Class AAA championship down at Coatesville. St. Pius X did it by beating the odds (and all but erasing for good the horrors of its recent past) with a win over Calvary Christian to move into Saturday night’s opening round of the PIAA-Class A playoffs way up at Williams Valley.

Imagine that…

The program with the best won-loss record this decade (Pottsgrove) and the program with the worst win-loss record this decade (St. Pius X) both playing football three days before we flip the calendar over to the month that portly ol’ fella up at the North Pole thinks is all about him.

And if not for a mistake here and there – the mental and physical gaffes that may have been uncharacteristic of their play this season but are nonetheless part of every game played – Daniel Boone and Owen J. Roberts would have teamed up with Pottsgrove and St. Pius X to make it a foursome this weekend.

But not enough can be said for what the Falcons and Lions accomplished last Friday night.

Yes, Pottsgrove has frequented the postseason in recent years, six times now since 2000. But the Falcons’ first three treks were brief with hideous endings, or lopsided losses down at Strath Haven. Three years ago, they were on a two-game run before another setback to Garnet Valley. And last year, they came up short again to eventual district champion Rustin.

This season, when they opened practice back in August, the Falcons may have kept everything in focus, in perspective for three months … but they also dared to look ahead, to peek into a rematch, as they say, with Rustin. They got it, of course, and despite hearing and reading how there was simply no way they could get the best of a team that was virtually intact and a whole lot better than the team that beat them a year ago, the Falcons pounced on the pessimism, never once allowing it in their huddle.

Pottsgrove won a lot of big games under former head coach Ken Harclerode, and it’s won its share of big games the past 20 years under Rick Pennypacker. But it never played a bigger game than last Friday night, never played better on any previous Friday night or Saturday afternoon … never won a bigger game.

And while most may be tired of hearing how the heart and soul of a team can sometimes outweigh the mass and outperform the talent of another, or just refuse to believe it… Well, there was never a better see-it-to-believe-it than Pottsgrove’s 21-14 win. Rustin was much, much bigger than the Falcons, and had just as many if not more play-makers and game-breakers as the Falcons. But no yardstick or first-down chain can measure motivation, or the passion to rise up and overcome. Yes, the Falcons have Terrell Chestnut, Preston Hamlette, Maika Polamalu and Kayvon Greene, the play-makers and game-breakers. But they also have a lot of movers and shakers, an anonymous bunch – energized best perhaps by T.J. Demetrio, the munchkin in the middle of their defense – that has pushed them to step up and above everyone else thus far.

Believing, and not looking back, is what carried St. Pius X to the District 1/12-Class A title last Friday night and into the state playoffs this Saturday night.

It’s been a long, long seven seasons since the Lions won an actual handful of games between August and November let alone appeared in the postseason. Actually eight years if you go back to 2001, when they swept the Pioneer Athletic Conference title, the then mythical District 1-Class AA championship, and played all the way through to the PIAA Eastern Final.

But since that long postseason run, the program had gone through three coaches and a pair of interim coaches before George Parkinson anchored his football feet on the Pius sideline in 2006. Parkinson didn’t quit, didn’t run off, when the losses continued to mount. Neither did a small group of unknown and untested freshmen, still a small group but now skilled seniors who have carried Pius – one of the area’s most successful programs for more than 30 years – back to respectability.

Except for the players, Parkinson and their devout but depleted following, no one thought this season would be much different than the previous five or six. Few are likely to forget it, whenever it ends, even after they shut down Mich Stadium for good on Thursday, and close the doors to the school for good next spring.


Pottsgrove will play at St. Pius X on Thursday morning as scheduled in their PAC-10 finale, completing the card that also features Owen J. Roberts at Pottstown, Spring-Ford at Phoenixville, and Upper Perkiomen at Boyertown. Pottsgrove, of course, needs a win for its second straight outright league championship.

Interboro, which will meet the Falcons in the District 1-Class AAA final, has cancelled its Thanksgiving game with Ridley, which is entertaining Downingtown East on Friday night in a District 1-Class AAAA semifinal.


When Pottsgrove answered Rustin’s long touchdown run with a well-executed touchdown drive of its own – and scoring the first points of the season against Rustin’s first-team defense – flags began flying … most in Rustin’s direction.

The undefeated, unchallenged and state-ranked Golden Knights were hit with three unsportsmanlike penalties in the first half and three more in the second half – including back-to-back 15-yarders (actually one was only eight yards because of being half the distance to the goal line) when the Falcons were taking a knee in the final minute of the game. The Falcons got caught up in it, too … just once. After their one unsportsmanlike and an illegal block before the break, though, they were hit with just one motion penalty the entire second half.

* * *

There was a very controversial ending to Downingtown East’s 49-48 thriller over Penncrest in last weekend’s District 1-Class AAAA quarterfinal.

East, which fell behind 48-41 with just 37 seconds remaining, drove 56 yards for a touchdown and decisive two-point conversion with no time left. But what had a lot of fans fired up – Penncrest fans, that is – was East quarterback Trey Lauletta’s pass with nine seconds remaining. Facing a third-and-three on the 37-yard line, Lauletta appeared to have been sacked as he threw the ball away. Officials ruled it an incomplete pass, not a sack which would’ve allowed the clock to run out. So Lauletta responded with a short toss for a first down, then a 30-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft as time ran out. Drew Harris then ran in the two-point conversion for the win.

Blown call or not, fans – or whoever the nameless critics are on the web – were absolutely pathetic … none worse than a woman who wrote she had been following her sons and grandsons through every level of football for 30 years. Her response? “Like I said to my grandson, ‘You can beat a team but you can’t beat the refs.’” Let’s hope her grandson didn’t take those words of idiocy to heart.

A man, who claimed to be a referee himself, said it was the “worst display of refereeing I (had) ever seen” and asked others to call the PIAA. A referee calling out other referees publicly? Doubt it, unless he’s one of those fellas who never dared to take the PIAA officials test (or did and failed it), and never blew his whistle in anything but a youth football game.

Shame we’re not all perfect, eh?


Daniel Boone quarterback Jon Monteiro and wideout Kelly Saylor closed out their spectacular high school football careers last Friday night following their 24-20 loss to unbeaten and state-ranked Manheim Central in the District 3-Class AAA playoffs.

Monteiro, who was 20 of 43 for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the setback, didn’t even play two full seasons after missing his entire sophomore year due to an injury and a couple of games the last two years with injuries. But he still finished with a slew of records and among the Top Five in a number of area career passing categories.

He set area records for consecutive games of 100 or more yards passing (17) and consecutive games of at least one touchdown pass (19); most games with three or more touchdown passes (12); and most games with at least four touchdown passes (four). He owns the record for most yards passing in a game (475). On the area’s career passing charts, Monteiro finishes third in completions (345), fifth in attempts (597), third in yardage (5,098), and third in touchdowns (62).

Saylor, who didn’t catch a pass as a sophomore, closes third in career receptions (105) and fourth in career receiving yardage (1,441). Former St. Pius X standout LeRyan Dallas – who is now fourth in catches (102) and remains third in yardage (1,462) – was Saylor’s receivers coach the past two seasons at Daniel Boone.

* * *

The Blazers made their fourth straight appearance in the District 3-AAA playoffs this year and finished 9-3, their sixth straight season of eight or more wins and seventh straight winning season – one shy of the school record set from 1964 through 1971. Head coach Dave Bodolus, who has orchestrated the turnaround, is now 58-24 guiding the Blazers’ program in 2003.

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Postseason a long and winding road

This column was originally published in the Nov. 17 edition of The Mercury.

There are no maps or global positioning systems – heck, not even the most detailed printout from MapQuest – that can show a football team how to get to or through the playoffs.

Winning games will.

It actually takes a lot of wins, in the heat and humidity of early September, through the mud and muck of October and into the chill of early November, just to find a spot in the playoffs. A loss here and there can (and will) lead a team to a dead end, and those weekly playoff points standings sure remind everyone who’s headed in the right direction and who’s not.

And for those fortunate to reach that desired destination – the postseason – it can be an ever so brief stay.

The road, as they say, gets awfully treacherous at this juncture.

Just ask anyone from Daniel Boone, Owen J. Roberts, Pottsgrove, St. Pius X and Upper Perkiomen, all of whom made the successful trek into the postseason, all of whom found out just how difficult it can be getting some traction in their respective openers last weekend.

Upper Perkiomen couldn’t rev up its offense or defense against unbeaten defending District 1-Class AAA champion Bayard Rustin. Call it a quick trip, and not a happy one for the Red Hill entourage.

The Indians had been averaging close to 300 yards a game, but stalled with just 44 against the Golden Knights. Their defense, which had only been run over twice this season – and in both instances by two other district entries (Pottsgrove and Owen J. Roberts) – was mangled by the Golden Knights. So, as head coach Keith Leamer said following the 46-0 setback, the Indians will need a tune up for their Thanksgiving finale against Boyertown.

And even though the other four area teams won last weekend to extend their postseason journeys, every one of them will be in the shop – on the practice field, that is – to tune up their own games again.

Pottsgrove sure will. On cruise control through their first nine appearances the season, the Falcons barely got by Pioneer Athletic Conference rival Phoenixville (10-6) two weeks ago and needed a late turnover to stop upset-minded Upper Moreland (21-14) in last Friday night’s district opener. As head coach Rick Pennypacker, his staff and every one of the Falcons know, their entire game – offense, defense and special teams – needs a tweaking if they hope to keep up Rustin this Friday night.

Both the Falcons and Golden Knights have been running alongside one another for two years now. Last year, Rustin finished off Pottsgrove at this very same stop in the postseason – the district semifinals – and went on to win the Class AAA championship the following week. Ever since, depending on what chart you look at, they’ve rarely been separated by more than one spot in the Top 10 of any of the state rankings.

Don’t think Daniel Boone, Owen J. Roberts or St. Pius X are the least bit comfortable with their rides yet, either. Yes, all won last weekend, but there were a few challenging turns to be made to continue their postseason drives.

Daniel Boone, remember, had to travel all the way out to Greencastle-Antrim. The Blazers didn’t cramp up during the nearly three-hour bus trip, which some remembered from back in 2007. And they obviously didn’t lose their swagger along the way, as evidenced by their 35-7 romp. But all that first-round win earned them was another long ride this Friday – to undefeated and state-ranked Manheim Central, the top-seed and favorite in the District 3-Class AAA playoffs (and the team that ended what looked to be a promising postseason drive three years ago, in overtime, no less).

Owen J. Roberts didn’t have to leave Bucktown in its District 1-Class AAA opener last week. And even though the 34-7 win over Marple-Newtown looked easy enough, it actually wasn’t when considering the Wildcats were only a touchdown in front at the break. And, like PAC-10 rival Pottsgrove, every aspect of their game will need to be fiddled with this week to prepare for a visit down to undefeated Interboro – arguably the least talked about unbeaten team in the district, if not the entire state.

And then there is St. Pius X.

The Lions looked like a VW Bug sitting alongside a Ford 4-by-4 when they lined up against Delaware Valley Charter last Saturday afternoon in their first postseason appearance in seven years. But the Lions did the motoring, and did it with their offensive and scoring leader on the sidelines for the entire second half. This week they must refuel and do a little body repair work – just to be the underdog for the umpteenth time this season – in Friday night’s Class A regional final with Calvary Christian.

So hook up the seat belts. The (hopefully) long and winding road through the postseason continues in three days.


Pottsgrove and St. Pius X, win or lose Friday night, intend to play their Thanksgiving Day game as scheduled. If either or both would win, school officials would petition the PIAA to play their next playoff game on Saturday, Nov. 28, according to Pottsgrove athletic director Gary DeRenzo.

One of the reasons behind the move is because the Thanksgiving game would be Pius’ last at Mich Stadium – because of teaming up next year with Kennedy-Kenrick at Pope John Paul II High School – and the St. Pius X Alumni Association has planned a variety of events to celebrate the finale.


Perkiomen Valley, which just missed getting into the district’s Class AAAA playoffs, closed out what was unquestionably the most surprising run of any area team with a 41-0 shutout of Methacton last Friday night.

“I’m proud of the kids, of this team,” said head coach Scott Reed, who had every reason to be after welcoming back just one letterman on offense and four on defense from last year’s team.

If not for a slew of turnovers – an area-high 34, to be exact – the Vikings may have finished just a little better than they did in the PAC-10 (6-3) and overall (7-4) in their bid for a postseason berth. But not a bad season, not a bad one at all.

* * *

Methacton head coach Bob McNally wouldn’t mind a rerun of 2009. The Warriors lost three – that’s right – three quarterbacks and 16 other players to injury this season. Running back Drew Nicholson, who had never taken a snap in his career, was under center for the season finale in Graterford.

“I feel bad for the kids because this is certainly not what any of them expected out of our season,” McNally said after the loss. “I’ll say one thing – they hung together really well. They played hard right to the end.”

The long list of injuries really hurt the Warriors on defense, where they allowed a school-record 399 points – breaking the mark of 381 set four years ago.


Boyertown broke its school record for points scored in a game during last Friday night’s 62-26 non-league victory at Great Valley. The previous mark was 54, set in a 54-7 rout of St. Pius X two years ago – which erased the old, old mark of 51 set against Schwenksville (51-0) in 1946 and tied against Garden Spot (51-13) in 1989.

* * *

Only four area teams – Daniel Boone, Methacton, Owen J. Roberts and Spring-Ford – have failed to go over the 60-point mark in a game. … The area’s all-time record for points in a game is 77, when Phoenixville humbled Perkiomen School by a 77-0 spread back in 1915.

* * *

Pottsgrove and Owen J. Roberts have at least two games remaining on their respective schedules and are within 22 and 61 points, respectively, of becoming just the 10th and 11th teams in area football history to score more than 400 in a season.


Owen J. Roberts running back Ryan Brumfield’s third straight 200-plus game (and record sixth overall of the year) pushed his season total to 2,276 and career total to 5,302. He needs just 32 yards Friday night to move up to No. 2 on The Mercury’s all-time single-season chart, but would need two if not three big games to erase St. Pius graduate Zack Pierce’s area record of 2,828 yards. … Brumfield needs just seven points to break the The Mercury’s all-time single-season scoring record of 224 points, set by Spring-Ford’s Ralph O’Neil in 1992.

Daniel Boone senior Jon Monteiro, despite missing his entire sophomore year, a game last year and parts of two games this season, is within 96 yards of becoming just the third area quarterback to pass for more than 5,000 career yards.

And Daniel Boone senior Kelly Saylor needs five catches to become just the fifth area receiver to pull in 100 career receptions. Saylor, already just one of five to accumulate more than 1,000 yards receiving, is No. 4 (1,353 yards) going into Friday night’s game. He trails No. 3 LeRyan Dallas – a St. Pius X graduate and his current receivers coach at Daniel Boone – by 109 yards.


New chapter in old rivalry with league title on the line

This column was originally published in the Nov. 13 edition of The Mercury.

When it comes to football, The Hill School has always had a lot to shout about. When you’ve been playing the game for 122 years, nearly twice as long as most schools, you should. But other than an occasional hip-hip-hooray in recent years, it’s been relatively quiet.

But expect a resounding roar sometime late Saturday, especially if the Rams defeat Lawrenceville in the two schools’ traditional season-ending scrap down in New Jersey.

Beating the Larries is one thing.

Beating the Larries to finish a perfect run through the Mid-Atlantic Prep League for the outright championship — which no Hill team has done before — is another thing.

And considering the Rams have an opportunity to close out a season they kicked off with a 32-12 rout of Germantown Academy for the program’s milestone 500th win, well, that is something.

To say the Rams and their following on the Hill School campus are rocking would be an understatement.

“A win (Saturday) will complete our major goals for the season,“ head coach Marty Vollmuth said earlier this week.

It’s hard to imagine anything upstaging the rivalry. Hill and Lawrenceville meet this weekend for the 107th time. For the record, that’s one of the longest scholastic football series in all of America. One could be winless, but a victory in this game salvages their entire season. Get the idea how big it is?

But it gets bigger when considering the Rams have never won a league championship since the Mid-Atlantic League was formed in 1998. They’ve come close, finishing second in 2005 and again last year. They’ve already clinched that elusive first title this season because they’re 4-0 and, except for Hun School (already finished at 4-1) — who lost to the Rams in Pottstown last week — everyone else has two losses. Even a loss to the Larries won’t deny them the title because league rules state that in the event of a two-way tie, the team that won the head-to-head meeting is the champion. Just don’t think anyone, the Rams nor Vollmuth and his staff, are going to be the least bit satisfied with a loss, though.

There’s something about finishing a championship season with a loss that just doesn’t seem to sound right.


Listen for that roar.

* * *

Hill football fans have had plenty to cheer about in the past. The program owns nine undefeated seasons and 21 unbeaten (with ties) seasons. … Hill has had three teams that weren’t scored on for an entire season (1900, 1909 and 1922). That’s only been achieved by one other area school, Phoenixville (1905). … A win Saturday will also give the Rams their winningest season since going 9-0 back in 1987.


Methacton visits Perkiomen Valley tonight in a game that marks the end of their respective Pioneer Athletic Conference seasons. It’s been a particularly frustrating season for Bob McNally and the Warriors, who have been riddled with injuries and illness. For Scott Reed and the Vikings, it’s been quite the opposite. Despite having just one returning lettermen on offense and four on defense, they have the chance to finish up with a 7-4 overall mark, well beyond what most projected back in August.


Think Hill and Lawrenceville have been at it a long time? Radnor and Lower Merion go at it for the 113th time on Saturday. Radnor, which is coming off an upset Marple-Newtown – who is at Owen J. Roberts for tonight’s District 1-Class AAA playoff game – can finish above the .500 mark for the first time in seven years and close with just its third winning season since 1985.


ZIPPING ALONG: Simon Gratz, under head coach Erik Zipay – a Pottstown High School graduate – takes on Murrell Robbins on Saturday for the Philadelphia Public League Class AAA championship. The Bulldogs, who opened the season with a 21-20 loss at St. Pius X, have lost two games by a total of just three points, are 6-4 overall. Dobbins is 7-2.

FINAL SHOW: Phoenixville will be at Kennedy-Kenrick on Saturday, helping close out their hosts’ 17th and final season of football. Kennedy-Kenrick kicked off its first season in 1993 with the jointure of Archbishop Kennedy and Bishop Kenrick, and go into the finale with a 63-112-1 overall record.


PASSING THROUGH: Richardson Pearce (Tex.) junior quarterback Mac Morse got his first start last weekend, and did he ever take advantage of the opportunity by completing 42 of 68 passes for a state-record 634 yards. Receiver Blake Jumonville caught 19 of those tosses for a state-record 386 yards. And the 94 snaps Morse took also set a state record for most offensive plays in a game. … Camarillo (Calif.) quarterback Jeff Mathews passed for 588 yards and six touchdowns in a 69-20 rout of Hueneme. The 6-foot-4, 231-pound Matthews, who had 495 of those yards at halftime, completed 33 of 48 attempts – all in three quarters of work. … Golden (Colo.) quarterback Ryan Stokes passed for seven touchdowns during a 64-6 rout of Denver West. … Arundel (Md.) quarterback Billy Cosh passed for 380 yards and six touchdowns in a 69-28 victory over Southern to set the state record for career passing yardage (6,878).

DOUBLE DUTY: Tivy (Tex.) quarterback Johnny Manziel can throw the football, but he ran for all eight of his team’s touchdowns in a 56-35 win over Clemens.

DOUBLE PLAY: Oscar Smith (Va.) senior quarterback Phillip Sims upped his state career touchdown pass record to 113 and teammate Ryan Trotman stretched his state career extra-point record to 179 in last week’s 47-17 rout of Great Bridge.

TRIPLE THREAT: Trinity Catholic (Fla.) senior Kadron Boone scored on kick-off returns of 83 and 78 yards and on a 72-yard punt return in a 66-21 mauling of Mount Dora.

CATCH THIS: Columbia (Fla.) receiver Jamaal Montague caught four touchdown passes covering 40, 78, 38 and 57 yards – on the very first play of four consecutive first-quarter possessions to ignite a 49-14 victory over Wolfson.

LITTLE BIG MAN: Cocoa (Fla.) junior Cody Bell kicked a 54-yard field goal last week in a 52-0 laugher over crosstown rival Cocoa Beach. Bell has converted 3 of 4 field goals and 46 of 47 extra-points this season (17 of 26 three-pointers and 168 or 171 point-afters in his career). Last season, his 52-yarder helped the Tigers to a 20-17 win in the state semifinals. So Bell certainly can ring up the long ones … and to think he’s just 5-foot-8, 125 pounds.


It’s no time to think Thanksgiving

This column was originally published in the Nov. 10 edition of The Mercury.

Tell maw and grandmaw (and pop and grandpop who like to think they’re Emeril Lagasse in the kitchen) to hold off exchanging recipes and planning out the Thanksgiving meal. We’ll even hold off with our annual sermon about the long and storied Thanksgiving Day football rivalries.

For now that is.

In case you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of appetizers as well as main courses on the football menu this weekend.

Appetizers like Boyertown renewing an old Ches-Mont League rivalry down at Great Valley; Methacton taking a ride up Germantown Pike to visit Pioneer Athletic Conference neighbor Perkiomen Valley in a game that ends both of those teams’ seasons; Spring-Ford entertaining Upper Darby for the first time in 16 years; and Phoenixville heading down to Kennedy-Kenrick to help close the door on the Wolverines’ final season before teaming up with St. Pius X next year at Pope John Paul II High School.

And for the main course?

Friday night’s carte du jour…

District 3-AAA playoffs, with Daniel Boone is heading out to Greencastle-Antrim. It’s a long, long, long bus ride, but head coach Dave Bodolus sure knows the way and hopes to head home with the same smile he had two years ago after the Blazers upset the Blue Devils, 17-10.

District 1-AAA playoffs, with Upper Moreland visiting Pottsgrove and looking for that elusive first win over the Falcons after losing both previous postseason meetings back in 2001 and 2003; and Marple-Newtown, with head coach Ray Gionta — who knows his way around the area rather well after a few years at Boyertown and St. Pius X — visiting Owen J. Roberts.

Now, if needed, take an Alka Seltzer (or a chill pill), and check out Saturday’s brunch specials…

More District 1-AAA playoffs, with Upper Perkiomen traveling to Bayard Rustin, which has gone from a new school with a 3-8 record in its first year (2006) of football, to district champion in 2008, to undefeated and unchallenged defending champion this season.

District 1/12-Class A Sub-Regional playoffs, with Del Val Center coming up from Old York Road in Philadelphia to visit St. Pius X in a match-up of schools that, according to the PIAA, have identical male enrollments (194). For the Lions, it’s their first appearance in the postseason in seven years and – win or lose – it’s going to be the next-to-last-game at Mich Stadium before the grand finale on Thanksgiving.

Mid-Atlantic Prep League championship, with The Hill School motoring down to New Jersey for its annual brawl with Lawrenceville. The game itself brings out the best in both the Rams and Larries, as most of the previous 106 meetings have (that’s right, they’ve lined up against one another 106 times already). But this one has some added significance because Hill can win the MAPL title outright with a victory.

Who said high school football gets a little boring this time of the year?

Eat it up … but save a little room for next week, and the week after that. There’s always that turkey and filling on Thanksgiving anyway.


Forgive Scott Reed if he doesn’t care to take his Perkiomen Valley football team over to Bucktown anytime soon. Last year, the Vikings nearly pulled off one of the season’s big upsets, coming up a yard short of the end zone with second remaining in a 27-26 loss. Last Friday night, the Vikings nearly pulled off one of this season’s big upsets, coming up just two points short of the Wildcats in a 14-12 setback.

The latest loss, of course, hurt even more because it cost the Vikings a spot in the District 1-Class AAAA playoffs’ 16-team field. They dropped from a tie for the 15th spot down to 18th. Had they won they would’ve moved all the way up to 13th and an opening-round game at Downingtown West this Friday.

Not bad, though, not bad at all for a team that lost its entire offensive line from a year ago to graduation and had just one letterman back on offense, and on the other side of the ball returned only four lettermen who were moved around to fit into Reed’s new 3-5 scheme.


Perkiomen School closed with a 24-22 thriller over St. Andrew’s – its seventh straight win after a season-opening 19-18 setback to Academy of the New Church. It was the Indians’ winningest season in 31 years, or since they went 8-1 in 1978. And that one-point loss to ANC denied them matching the school’s only undefeated season of 7-0-1 back in 1946.

After going winless from 1986 through 1989 – losing 33 in a row during that stretch – and mustering only four wins in 27 games the next three years, Perkiomen administrators dropped football following the 1992 season. Seven years later, the program was renewed, and thanks to former head coach Bob Wagner’s four straight winning seasons (2000-2003) and current head coach Kevin Manferdini’s four (2006-2009), the Indians are over the .500 mark since bringing the game back to Pennsburg.


Boyertown has played turnover-free football three times this season and won all three of those games. It’s a trend the Bears wouldn’t mind matching in their final two games against Great Valley and Upper Perkiomen, which would give them a 7-5 overall record. … Daniel Boone has the area’s top two receivers in Kelly Saylor (38 catches, 681 yards) and Tommy Bodolus (33-310), who combined have more yards than any area team and more receptions than all but one area team’s entire receiving corps. … Methacton has been hit with as many serious injuries as anyone this year, the bottom line in what has denied the Warriors from putting up their first winning season since going 8-3 in 2000. … Pottstown has the week off, but will host Octorara on Friday, Nov. 20 as a tune-up for its Thanksgiving day finale with OJR.


OJR junior Ryan Brumfield has become the first area running back to go over 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. Brumfield also became just the second area back to go over the 5,000-yard mark in his career and is within reach of St. Pius X graduate Zack Pierce’s all-time record. … Daniel Boone senior Jon Monteiro is fourth on The Mercury’s career passing chart with 4,718 career passing yards. He only needs three yards to pass Spring-Ford graduate Trevor Sasek, but would need at least two big outings to get by former Daniel Boone standout Chris Bokosky (5,297), and a deep run into the postseason to close in on the area record of 5,844 yards, held by Perkiomen Valley graduate Zach Zulli.


Vikings’ mission: Stop Brumfield

This column was originally published in the Nov. 6 edition of The Mercury.

BUCKTOWN – Tonight is Perkiomen Valley’s turn to try and stop Ryan Brumfield. Then again, just slowing down the young fella, as well as the rest of the Owen J. Roberts offense, may not be all that bad, either.

The Vikings, arguably the surprise team in the Pioneer Athletic Conference this fall – thanks in part to being the most improved team since the season kicked off two months ago – visit the Wildcats this evening with a lot on the line.

Like a berth in the District 1-Class AAAA playoffs.

To get an invite into the postseason, though, the Vikings (5-2, 6-3 overall) will have to find a way – albeit over, under, around and through a very good offensive line – to get after Brumfield before Brumfield gets going. The junior tailback has averaged 228 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ six league wins, but managed just 113 yards and two scores in the lone loss (to unbeaten Pottsgrove).

Mind you, the Wildcats have some additional offensive weaponry, namely quarterback Nate Walters and wing Sam Funk, who has a thing for big plays himself. But so far it’s almost been as Brumfield goes so goes OJR.

And with that impressive 6-1 record (8-1 overall) and a spot in the District 1-Class AAA playoffs already secured, who’s to argue.

“This game is definitely one of the biggest tests of the year for us,” said PV head coach Scott Reed. “We are playing a top-ranked, playoff-caliber team.

“I don’t know if there is any way to shut down Brumfield, so we’re going to have to make him earn his way down the field. We’ll be in trouble if we give him those long touchdown runs.”

Brumfield has dialed up a good number of his 30 touchdowns – one on a pass reception – via long distance. And when opponents have ganged up and gotten a little rambunctious up front, Walters has flipped 10 passes over them to Funk, who has taken the tosses 412 yards and into the end zone four times.

But one thing the Wildcats haven’t seen is the 3-5 defense Reed installed this season. Lou Fioravanti sits in the middle at nose guard with Chris Stewart and Kayo Bakare in the tackle slots. Bobby Strickland is the middle linebacker in between Brendan Murray and Joe Scenna, and Sean Conners and Justin Morgan are on the outside. The secondary features Jo and Gio Waters on the corners and Kyle Williams at safety. It isn’t a generous group, either. The PV defense is allowing an average of only 105 yards a game on the ground 177 yards overall.

“We know (the Vikings) like to put eight guys in the box and have seven or eight of them hitting the gaps,” said OJR head coach Tom Barr. “Our offensive line has to improve on picking up the blitzing linebackers, and improve on blocking those linebackers.”

Those blocking responsibilities will fall on center Mike Nowak, guards Jesse Dugan and Sean Moloney, tackles Andrew Garson and Kyle Moore, and tight end Mike Moran. Funk, as well as fullback Rich Zazo, will need to throw their weight around some more, too. All of them have for the most part, and an area-high average of 349 yards a game is evidence of the collective effort.

But one way of slowing down Brumfield and everyone else is to limit their touches and possessions.

“We definitely have to take care of the football when we have possession,” Reed said. “There’s no way we can afford to just keep giving the football to (OJR).”

The Vikings have been quite productive except in their three losses. Six fumbles, actually nine turnovers overall, cost them a 32-7 confrontation with Coatesville; the inability to close out drives left them on the short end of a 28-7 meeting with Pottsgrove; and five turnovers helped keep them off the board in a disappointing 6-0 loss to Phoenixville.

“But they can explode anytime with that ‘pistol offense’ they’re running now,” Barr said. “We haven’t seen an offense like that all season. So, yes, we’re concerned.”

The Vikings have just one lettermen – wideout Ben Carbutt – from last year’s team. But Kevin Krasley (center), Ryan Krasley and Scenna (guards), Fioravanti and Stewart (tackles), and Murray (tight end) have almost made Reed forget the Vikings graduated their entire offensive line of a year ago. Quarterback Pat Catagnus has benefited from their labor up front, throwing for 723 yards. And the running tandem of fullback John Schmidt and tailback Steve Morrow – with help from Conners and Matt Kline in certain formations – have accumulated most of the team’s 1,439 yards on the ground.

“Perkiomen Valley can move the ball,” Barr said. “We know we have to play well defensively.”

The Wildcats have, and their defensive numbers are very close to the Vikings. That’s because of Kyle Moore and Steve Lawless, their sack leader, on the ends; Nowak and Moloney at the tackles; Zazo at middle linebacker, in between Funk and Moran; and corners Brendon Shoemaker and Sean Yeager, with three picks, teaming up with safeties Francis Polignano and Brumfield in the secondary.

“Perkiomen Valley has always played us tough, and this game will be especially tough for us because they’re trying to get into the playoffs,” Barr said, fully aware that last year’s game wasn’t decided until the Vikings were stopped a yard short of the goal line with one second remaining in the 27-26 thriller.

“Both teams have a lot on the line,” Reed added. “This is going to be another hard-fought, physical football game.”

* * *

Owen J. Roberts leads both the PAC-10 and overall series, 12-9. … Perkiomen Valley won three in a row over OJR before the Wildcats hung on in last year’s meeting. … Three of the last six games have been decided by a touchdown or less. … If there is one glaring difference between the two teams it’s turnovers. The Wildcats are plus-11 in takeaways, while the Vikings are minus-11. … Two teams that can pass Perkiomen Valley and get the 16th and final spot in the AAAA bracket with wins are Conestoga (6-3), which hosts Haverford (3-5), and Unionville (6-3), which entertains winless Sun Valley (0-8). … Morrow needs 90 yards to join Brumfield and Hill School post-grad Dante Astheimer in this season’s 1,000-yard rushing club.


Pottsgrove and Owen J. Roberts are already in the District 1-AAA playoffs. Unofficially, Upper Perkiomen should hold onto its spot, too, win or lose tonight’s game with St. Pius X tonight. A loss, though, could drop the Indians down as far as No. 8, and a rematch with Pottsgove in the opening round. … St. Pius X is also in the Class A Sub-Regional and could very well host a first-round game. … Daniel Boone is in the District 3-AAA postseason, and a win tonight at Exeter, combined with other favorable results around the district, could improve the Blazers’ standings enough to earn a first-round home game.

* * *

Something to think about: The postseason kicks off tonight out in District 7 (WPIAL), and the 16-team brackets in all four classifications mean that 52 percent – or 64 of the 123 teams in the district – get an opportunity to participate in at least one playoff game. Considering 11 of the teams lining up tonight have losing records (a lot of 2-7 and 3-6 records, that is), one-and-done is the likely scenario for most if not all. … District 3 has 96 schools, and exactly 50 percent, or 48 of them, qualify for playoffs – including half of the AAAA schools and eight of the dozen Class A schools. … In District 1, only 36 percent, or 26 of its 72 schools are assured playoff berths.


Two area teams can clinch no worse than ties for league titles today.

This afternoon, Hill School (3-0, 6-1) entertains Hun School (4-0, 4-3) needing a win to take sole possession of first place in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League. Hun closes it season today, so if the Rams do win they can capture the title outright with a victory at Lawrenceville next weekend.

Tonight, Pottsgrove (7-0, 9-0) can clinch no worse than a tie for its second straight PAC-10 title with a win at Phoenixville. The Falcons still have a Thanksgiving date with St. Pius X.

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Earning their wings

This column was originally published in the Nov. 3 edition of the Mercury.

LOWER POTTSGROVE — When George Parkinson stepped on the sidelines as the head coach at St. Pius X three years ago, he inherited a program that was drowning in one off-field storm after another. The disturbance included two head coaches and two interim head coaches in the previous three seasons, irregularity that led to unpredictability, or four Pioneer Athletic Conference victories and just six wins overall in that short but unsettling stretch.

But neither the persistent Parkinson nor the persevering group of freshmen he first teamed up with back in 2006 subscribed to or surrendered to the commotion, not even through three more overcast seasons that produced just four wins.

And last Saturday afternoon, despite overcast skies and an annoying drizzle here and there, Parkinson and the Lions brought some of that longed-for sunshine to the program with a 47-7 rout of visiting Methacton.

It was the Lions’ fourth win in the PAC-10, doubling the program’s total from the previous five seasons; their sixth win overall, equaling the program’s total from the previous five seasons; assured them of no worse than a .500 season for the first time in seven years; and clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time in seven years.

So yes, Parkinson and the mud-caked Lions had every reason to smile, and every right to hoot and holler with their devoted fans in the puddles that bordered the home-side of Mich Stadium.

“You know, I always thought we could win even when we were losing all those games,” Parkinson said. “I guess that’s just my nature.”

Unquestionably the character, or the spirit, of the Lions themselves, too.

“Some guys left (the program), but the guys who stayed with us believed in the team, believed in our program,” Parkinson explained. “They never quit. It shows that if you keep believing and keep working hard good things happen. I feel we’ve been blessed.”

A lot of players did depart after Parkinson’s arrival, perhaps because of the instability, because of the mounting losses.

But a determined dozen opted to stay. They were Mike Furey, Matt Kendra, George Lockbaum, Mike

Matthews, Matt Mehallick, Rich Molinaro, Cole Parkinson, Kevin Pence, Tyler Pollick, Matt Raymond, Josh Rogers and Martin Shields … all of whom aren’t just closing out their careers, but closing out the long and storied football history at Pius, which is closing its doors for good in the spring and joining Kennedy-Kenrick at Pope John Paul II High School next September.

“I’m not too surprised by what’s happening,” coach Parkinson said. “A lot of (the seniors) played as freshmen, started since they were sophomores, and were able to get a lot of experience. They’ve worked hard, become bigger and faster, and that certainly goes a long way.

“The last few years have been tough for them, but they’ve kept banging every week. They’ve seen what they can do. I’ve seen a lot of frowns turn into smiles … and that’s awesome.”

The Lions had a collective grin after opening up with three straight wins, the last in that streak coming against Phoenixville. Losses to Boyertown and Perkiomen Valley the following two weeks didn’t stall their drive, either, and that was evident when they came from well back late in their game with Pottstown to pull out a 34-28 win over Pottstown.

“Phoenixville was our first real test,” Parkinson said. “That was a real big win for us. And even though we lost to Boyertown, who really out-sized us, I thought we played decent. But I think if there was a turning point it may have been coming back like we did to beat Pottstown. The kids showed a lot of character.”

The kind of character – the spirit – that may have been smothered, if not entirely concealed to most, throughout the previous three seasons.

“Our seniors have been a great example for our younger players,” Parkinson said. “They’ve hung in there, worked hard, believed in what we’ve been doing… It’s been a joy.”

* * *

Pius has clinched District 1’s second berth in the Class AA Sub-Regional playoffs, which kick off next weekend. Calvary Christian (7-1) locked up the top spot, with District 12’s Del Val Charter (7-2) and School of the Future (5-4) grabbing the remaining two in the four-team field.

According to a district official, neither Morrisville nor Bristol can make up the points difference in their games this weekend to pass Pius – regardless of how the Lions fare against Upper Perkiomen this Friday night. Morrisville (5-4) travels to winless Conrad Science (Del.), while Bristol (5-3) visits Lower Moreland (6-3).

In Class A, five District 1 teams compete with six District 12 teams for the four sub-regional playoff berths. The top point-producing team from each district receives an automatic berth, with the next two highest point-producing teams completing the bracket.


Think there’s a lot on the line this weekend? But aside of the playoff spots – and positioning – there are three great match-ups Friday night. Interboro’s unbeaten season is on the line against Glen Mills (6-3), who has lost to Downingtown West, Pennsbury and Dunbar (D.C.) – three rivals with identical 8-1 records. And two expected thrillers over in Suburban One feature Neshaminy (8-1) at Pennsbury and Council Rock South (7-2) visiting Council Rock South (6-3).


The Mid-Atlantic Prep League title will be on the line Friday afternoon when The Hill School hosts Hun School. Hill is 3-0 (6-1 overall), and still has its year-ending battle with Lawrenceville remaining, but Hun is 4-0 (4-3) and can clinch the championship with a win in its final outing of the season. … If Hill closes with two wins it would give head coach Marty Vollmuth and the Rams the program’s winningest season in 22 years, or since going unbeaten (9-0) in 1987.

Perkiomen School is also 6-1, and defeating visiting St. Andrew’s (Del.) on Friday would give head coach Kevin Manferdini and the Indians the program’s winningest season in 31 years, or since their 8-1 run back in 1978.


Pottsgrove’s 62-20 win over Upper Perkiomen last Friday night set a school record for points scored in a game, erasing the Falcons’ mark set in a 61-0 shutout of Great Valley back in 2001. The 82 points put up by both teams were the seventh-most scored in PAC-10 game. … Just three weeks earlier, Upper Perkiomen came up short in a 56-28 shootout with Owen J. Roberts in the fifth-highest scoring game in the league’s 24-year history. … St Pius’ 47 points Saturday were the most a Lions team had scored since putting up 49 against Spring-Ford back in 2002.


Owen J. Roberts junior Ryan Brumfield is approaching a few records with two PAC-10 games and a minimum of three games overall remaining on this season’s schedule.

In league play, Brumfield has 1,482 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing and 146 total points. Those numbers put him within reach of the rushing mark (1,876, by Spring-Ford’s Ralph O’Neil); the rushing touchdowns mark (29, by Spring-Ford’s Joe Haley); and the scoring mark (196 points, by Pottsgrove’s Brent Steinmetz).

Brumfield may need a few more big games to erase The Mercury area’s single-season rushing mark, though. He enters Friday’s game against Perkiomen Valley with 1,822 yards, or 1,006 behind the standard set by St. Pius’ Zack Pierce. He is, however, within reach of the single-season scoring record, needing 42 more to equal the mark of 224.points set by O’Neil.


Daniel Boone quarterback Jon Monteiro failed to throw a touchdown pass last Friday night, ending his Mercury-area record streak of 19 straight games with at least one scoring toss. … Pottsgrove quarterback Terrell Chestnut, who went over 3,000 yards in career total offense last week, needs 101 yards rushing to become just the second area quarterback to run for more than 2,000 career yards.


Upper Perk tries to solve Pottsgrove problem

This column originally was published in the Oct. 30 edition.

LOWER POTTSGROVE — Football coaches are a creative bunch with all their X’s and O’s, lines going this way and that way, and a note or two scribbled under all of them in their playbooks and up on the chalkboard.

A lot of the fellas in the Pioneer Athletic Conference have been doing their share of doodling the past year and a half, desperately seeking a design that will baffle and bamboozle – and beat, obviously – Pottsgrove.

But so far this year, or if you care to go back to the end of the 2007 season, the Falcons have been able to solve every one of them (even some ingenious ones). If you’re counting, their ability to read all those schemes, and read them extremely well, have already translated into one PAC-10 championship, and unless Upper Perkiomen’s Keith Leamer comes up with a successful sketch tonight (and Phoenixville’s Bill Furlong can duplicate it next week), the Falcons will be on their way to no worse than a tie for a second straight championship.

“(Pottsgrove) is just a tremendous football team,” Leamer said earlier this week. “Offensively, they have Division I talent all over the field. They can score at any time. Defensively, they’re awesome. They have that great speed that swarms to the football.”

Leamer isn’t putting the unbeaten Falcons up on the proverbial pedestal, hoping they’ll get caught up in all the flattering remarks and come out flatter than they have in a long, long time. Others before him have tried that. It doesn’t work.

Not with head coach Rick Pennypacker continually reminding his team they’re only as good as the next snap they take or the next tackle they make, and that everyone – including Upper Perkiomen – has just enough quality personnel of its own to create some chaos and the added incentive of taking the bark and bite out of the top dog when they line up against the Falcons.

“Last year was last year, and this year … we haven’t won anything yet,” Pennypacker said. “And we told the kids in the beginning of the season that they’d have that target on their backs (as defending champions).”

Zeroing in on that target hasn’t been easy, though. As Leamer said, the Falcons are loaded on both sides of the ball.

Terrell Chestnut has matured into a very intelligent quarterback. His knack to make the right reads – and hand off to Maika Polamalu, Kayvon Greene and Preston Hamlette – and his ability to go east and west as well as north and south himself can and has left opposing defenses dizzy. The foursome has found a lot of open spaces because of the work up front from center Dan Foust, guards Eric Bonenberger and Eric Moran, tackles Scott Bonenberger and Chris Nester, and tight end Scott Madl.

The Indians will counter with their 5-2 defense, featuring ends Nick Hale and Nate Pompei, tackles Dwyan Gillespie and Dan Wolfrom, and nose guard Colby Stichter up front; linebackers Chase Fleming and either Jody Peart or Dalton Fleming in the middle; and corners Mark Cole and Tyler Moser and safeties Andrew Orlick and Dan Rotenberger in the secondary.

It’s a defense that has permitted only two opponents more than two touchdowns in a game this season, but those are the two games the Indians came up short in.

“Defensively we have to play assignment football, and tackle, tackle, tackle,” Leamer said of tonight’s imposing challenge against a team that averages an area-high 35.6 points a game. “We also have to create turnovers. I definitely feel this game will come down to turnovers.”

The Indians not only have to play turnover-free football, but possession-football … string together time-consuming drives, and get into the end zone with them.

Those responsibilities lie heavily on the shoulders of Hale at tight end, Gillespie and Michael Paul at the tackle slots, Steve Grover and Alex Zukowski at the guard positions, and Jake Nyce at center. With time to throw, quarterback Casey Perlstein (739 yards and six touchdowns) can keep a defense very honest. And with room to run, backs Chase Fleming, Cole and Asomchim Akpunonu (a combined 1,200 yards and 20 touchdowns) can easily find the goal line.

“Gillespie, Perlstein and (Chase) Fleming are really tough match-ups, and Akpunonu is a big weapon for them, too,” Pennypacker said. “They’re very physical.”

So are the Falcons, who can huff, puff and blow away opponents’ run games. Ends Justin Oliveri and Polamalu, tackles Tyler Wysochanski and Green, and nose guard T.J. Demetrio, along with linebackers Brad Thornton and Hamlette, are surrendering an average of just over 110 yards a game on the ground. And the secondary, which features Angelo Berry, Chestnut, Madl and Isaiah Quick – arguably as good a foursome as any in the PAC-10 – can deflate an opponents’ passing hopes.

“Upper Perkiomen is a big challenge for us,” Pennypacker said. “They have a lot of weapons on both sides of the ball, and they’re well-coached. We’ll have to play our best game.”

So will the Indians.

“This is a great opportunity … playing a tremendous football team,” Leamer said. “We’ll have to play our best game.”

Neither was kidding.

* * *

Upper Perkiomen is 4-2 (6-2) after last week’s 21-12 decision of Phoenixville, while Pottsgrove is 6-0 (8-0) after its 41-6 rout of Methacton. … Pottsgrove, which has won the last two meetings, leads the PAC-10 and overall series, 14-9. … The winner in six of the last Indians-Falcons meetings have put up 40 or more points. … Leamer said Wolfrom may have to double on the offensive line if Grover hasn’t recovered from an injury. … The Falcons were hit with the flu bug earlier in the week and Madl was questionable as of Thursday. “We’re hoping our kids are healthy (by tonight), or we may have to go with a patch-work team.” … Polamalu needs 81 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season.


Owen J. Roberts (5-1, 7-1) visits Boyertown (3-3, 4-4) tonight in a game the Wildcats need to remain no worse than a game behind Pottsgrove in the PAC-10 standings and also to remain in the upper-half of the District 1-AAA playoff points standings. OJR’s Ryan Brumfield is the area’s runaway leader in rushing (1,529 yards) and scoring (158 points). … Phoenixville and Pottstown meet tonight for the 97th time, the area’s longest-running public school series. … And Perkiomen Valley hosts Spring-Ford, looking to even the overall series at 13-13. The Vikings once trailed the Rams, 10-2, with one of those victories a forfeit due to a teachers’ strike.


St. Pius X lines up against Methacton in its next-to-last game in Mich Stadium. The Lions are on the road for their next two games before closing the book on its storied program Thanksgiving morning against Pottsgrove. ... The Hill School was supposed to resume its Mid-Atlantic Prep League schedule Saturday against defending champion Blair Academy. However, Blair was forced to forfeit the game due to an alarming number of injuries that left the Bucs with very few varsity players. The forfeit improves the Rams’ record to 3-0 (5-1 overall), which they hope to improve on against Valley Forge Military, which will fill the scheduling void Saturday. Hill’s Dante Ashteimer (803 yards) is closing in on the 1,000-yard mark, and head coach Marty Vollmuth hopes to have Jack Detmer calling the signals for the first time since an injury sidelined him three weeks ago.


Brumfield goes into tonight’s game at Boyertown situated third in rushing yardage and sixth in both total offense and scoring on The Mercury’s career charts. … Chestnut needs 57 yards to reach the 3,000-yard mark in career total offense. … Chestnut and Polamalu both have 228 career points going into the Upper Perkiomen game tonight.

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