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

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.



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