Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

No. 1 ranked teams take a hit

TOWAMENCIN TWP. -- So much for being ranked No. 1, or the toast of your enrollment bracket.

North Penn, the top-ranked Class AAAA team in Pennsylvania four state-wide preseason polls, had a 14-6 lead in the third quarter against defending state champion La Salle last Friday night. And an advantage that late in a game at Crawford Stadium usually holds up for the Knights.

But it didn't this time.

La Salle scored three unanswered touchdowns and upset the hosts, 27-14, ending North Penn's 43-game winning streak at home. It was the Suburban One power's first setback at Crawford Stadium in nearly four years to the day when Archbishop Wood won a very similar 25-18 match-up.

Quarterback Matt Magarity hurt North Penn by completing 13 of 22 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns, two of them accounting for the go-ahead scores in the decisive third quarter.

"He's a fantastic player," North Penn head coach Dick Beck said of Magarity. "He's got a good feel for the game."

The Knights, hurt by four turnovers, got both of their first-half touchdowns from Dom Taggert.

North Penn was only one of two No. 1 ranked teams to drop their openers. District 2's Dunmore, atop the preseason polls in Class A - down a bracket since last year's second-place finish behind West Catholic in the AA state final - was upset 10-8 by North Pocono.

And speaking of West Catholic, which not only had plenty of returnees but got a lift with additional players on the roster from the recently-closed Northeast Catholic, got dumped on Saturday by Roman Catholic, 23-14.

West Catholic was No. 2 in the AA preseason poll. General McLane, at No. 6, also lost a 14-3 encounter to Erie Strong Vincent.

Back down in Class A, Southern Columbia appears back to its lofty state. Ranked fourth, SC recovered from a slow start to level No. 9 Line Mountain, 49-20, in a District 4 showdown to open the season.


The first Rally at the Wolvarena - a four-game Saturday special featuring Florida and Ohio powers against Pennsylvania's finest from District 7 - certainly created a lot of excitement and drew a full house of 14,000-plus fans all day Saturday at Woodland Hills in Turtle Creek.

In the opener, Steubenville (Ohio) - with more than 700 wins in its program's history - edged McKeesport, 7-0, to improve to 2-0 on the young season. Game Two saw Pittsburgh Central Catholic, ranked No. 5 in the preseason AAAA poll, bury Buchtel (from Akron, Ohio) in a 35-0 mismatch.

Buchtel (1-1), reportedly in a rebuilding year, has no one better to rekindle the old days than head coach Ricky Powers, the star running back when Buchtel won back-to-back state titles in the late-80s.

The two biggies, though, went to Florida's Cocoa and Manatee.

Cocoa (2-0), the defending state champion with three overall since 2005, extended its winning streak to 26 in a row with a 43-7 rout of Thomas Jefferson, the No. 5 ranked AAA team in Pennsylvania. And in the nightcap, nationally ranked Manatee (2-0) scored 30 unanswered points in the second half to whip host Woodland Hills, the AAAA state runner-up a year ago, 39-16.


District 11 pulled off a trifecta with District 1 last weekend. Easton pounded Pennsbury, 34-13; Liberty defeated Glen Mills, 35-14; and Allentown Central Catholic, ranked No. 2 in AAA, edged Downingtown East, ranked No. 6 in AAAA, by a 30-21 spread.


BIG SCORES: Canton ran up a lot of points in a 70-14 whipping of Wellsboro up in District 4; Upper Dauphin blanked Carson Long, 69-0, out in District 3; and Wallenpaupack did a 68-6 number on neighboring Honesdale in District 2; Simon Gratz and Fells had no trouble finding the end zone in Gratz's 66-36 scoring marathon; and St. Edward's (Ohio) punched out Penn Hills of District 7 by a 65-25 spread. … Carson Long was 0-9 and scored just 19 points while giving up 406 last year.

BIG PLAYERS: Farrell got two fumble returns for touchdowns (75 yards from Kevin Brodle and 71 yards from D'onte Peques) in a 24-7 win over Sharon; York Tech bot 287 yards rushing and five touchdowns from Marcus Holley to outlast Penquea Valley and quarterback Ben Myers' 389 yards passing, 48-46; and Brockway used Derek Buganza's 310 yards and five touchdowns passing to stiff Sheffield, 49-21.

DUMPSTER: Communications Tech got six sacks from Eric Dickerson in blanking School of the Future, 12-0, down in District 12 last weekend.


WELL-ARMED: Down in Texas, Tivy's Johnny Manziel completed 41 of 75 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another 78 yards and a score in a 39-34 upset of highly ranked Madison. Manziel, who has verbally committed to Oregon, accounted for 581 of his team's 582 yards of offense..

TEXAS TREMBLE: Quarterback David Ash threw six touchdown passes and ran for two more in a 66-63 win over Belton. That was just enough to offset Belton quarterback Jordan Jaquez, who completed 40 of 42 passes for 410 yards and six touchdowns. He also ran for a score in the game that saw both teams combine for 1,091 yards of offense.

RUNNING WILD: Venice (Calif.) back Teondray Caldwell ran for 291 yards and seven touchdowns in a 47-16 romp over Harvard-Westlake.

STREAKING: The nation's fourth-longest winning streak ended last weekend in Iowa when Regina topped Solon, 21-15, snapping the Spartans' 42-game run. … Lake Travis (Tex.) won its 48th straight, 34-24, over Hendrickson last weekend. … The longest active winning streak in the country right now belongs to Plymouth, N.H., which won its 56th in a row with a season-opening 35-7 rout of Swanzey. … Colerain (Ohio) won its 54th straight home game last weekend, 44-12, over Elder. Colerain hasn't lost a home game since 1999. … De La Salle (Calif.) won its 200th consecutive game against Northern California opponents last weekend, defeating Serra, 45-7. The Spartans impressive streak dates back to 1991.


Week one wins lead to optimistic times

Call them the jitters, butterflies, nerves or whatever you’d like (perhaps anxiety or stress if you’re a politically-correct football critic), but no one could deny there were plenty of them last Friday night and Saturday afternoon. They created a wave of mistakes, from missed blocks and missed tackles to an assortment of other missed assignments, turnovers and, of course, some earsplitting hooting and hollering from the sidelines.

No, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it sounds, just your typical opening weekend of high school football.

There was plenty to cheer about… especially for Pottstown and Spring-Ford.

The Trojans, who hadn’t won on opening day since a 28-0 shutout of Norristown in 2003, went all the way up to Bangor and ran over Pius X. Spring-Ford, which hadn’t won on opening day since a 30-7 rout of Garden Spot in 2000, went down to West Chester and defeated East. Want to talk about two programs that have been desperately seeking sanguinity to kick off a new season?

Don’t think the Boyertown, Daniel Boone, Phoenixville, Pottsgrove and Upper Perkiomen football neighborhoods weren’t in a festive frame of mind, either.

Boyertown made very few mistakes in dominating Allentown Allen; Daniel Boone was near-flawless in another destruction of Donegal; Phoenixville ended two years of disappointment against Route 29 rival Great Valley with a come-from-behind win; Pottsgrove looked almost as good as everyone expected it would be in a playful mauling of Mastbaum; and Upper Perkiomen came out with its offensive guns blazin’ to defeat Muhlenberg.

Come to think of it, there were enough bright spots for Methacton, Pope John Paul II, Owen J. Roberts and Perkiomen Valley to help them see through last weekend’s losses.

Methacton – with its new coach and almost entirely new cast of starters – didn’t exactly go belly up against Plymouth-Whitemarsh, a team that practically owned the Warriors in 43 previous meetings. Pope John Paul II had a very competitive chip on its shoulder in its debut up in Reading against Holy Name, which is among the favorites to defend its Inter-County League Section Two title. Owen J. Roberts let an early lead slip away and came up short against Conestoga, a serious contender for the Central League title this season. And Perkiomen Valley, despite squandering a big first-half lead, regrouped for one final drive only to come up short of the goal line – and a win – by a foot.

Yes, just your typical opening weekend of high school football.

But for the sake or argument, it may have been an atypical weekend of high school football for the folks who follow Pottstown and Spring-Ford (not to mention the Trojans and Rams themselves, too).

Pottstown lost its entire offensive line, all those Goliaths from tackle to tackle, because of graduation. But the unknown and much smaller front sure did its job against Pius X, helping quarterback Jeff Endy run the offense and backs Marc Smith and Malik Brinkley run away with that very rare “double” – two backs with over 200 yards each in a game. Smith had 230, Brinkley had 214. More important, the Trojans had a win against one of District 11’s tradition-rich Class A programs.

Head coach Brett Myers caught a few fanatics off guard when he said he “saw a lot of positives” throughout preseason practices. Guess he wasn’t kidding.

Spring-Ford showed some resiliency against West Chester East in what could definitely be tagged your classic season-opener – a combined 645 yards, 12 turnovers, eight punts and 26 penalties for 183 yards. The Rams, with a new coach (Chad Brubaker) and a new quarterback (sophomore Hank Coyne), put up more points than any team before them since a 46-point spot against Upper Perkiomen a dozen years ago; came up with nine of those turnovers, including two interceptions by James Hoff; and got six points from its special teams when Matt Glowacki returned a punt for a touchdown.

So, yes, a few questions were answered – as they usually are – during opening week. And, yes, a lot more questions remain to be answered – as they usually do – going into Week Two.

But it should be an exciting Week Two, with two games (Methacton at Upper Merion and Souderton at Perkiomen Valley) renewing some old, old rivalries, and another two (Reading at Owen J. Roberts and Pope John Paul II visiting Pottsgrove) featuring first-time meetings … the latter of which kicks off the 25th season of Pioneer Athletic Conference football.


It sure didn’t take Ryan Brumfield long to move up to the top of The Mercury’s career total offense chart. The Owen J. Roberts senior ran for 231 yards and passed for another 36 to push his total to 6,843 yards, moving him past Perkiomen Valley’s Zach Zulli (6,571), Boyertown’s David Crognale (6,626) and St. Pius’ Zack Pierce (6,731) and into the No. 1 spot – with at least 10 more games to go this season. Brumfield’s three touchdowns also pushed his career scoring total to 470 points, tying former Pottsgrove standout Brent Steinmetz for second place, just 28 points behind Pierce’s record 498.


Pottsgrove’s Maika Polamalu became The Mercury area’s 26th player to run past the 3,000-yard career mark last Friday night. He is 25th now with 3,037 yards, joining three Pottsgrove graduates – Jermaine Thaxton (3,253), Brent Carter (4,056) and Steinmetz (4,752) – on the list.


A few new quarterbacks had rather impressive debuts last weekend.

Daniel Boone junior Tommy Bodolus – son of head coach Dave Bodolus – inherited his position from Jon Monteiro, who broke nearly every school record there was. He responded by completing 16 of 25 attempts for 219 yards and five touchdowns. More important, not one interception. Bodolus went to seven different receivers, too.

Coyne showed some guile, to, by throwing for 132 yards and three touchdowns and running for another while eluding an East rush that sacked him on three occasions. And Perkiomen Valley’s Alex Miller provided a lot of positives throwing under pressure, too.

Some veteran quarterbacks – all of whom drew praise from their respective coaches during the preseason – came up with solid games, too. Boyertown’s Dylan Pasik was 4 of 8 for 145 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another; Phoenixville’s Tom Romano found running more to his liking and responded with 148 yards and two touchdowns; Pottsgrove’s Terrell Chestnut executed the Falcons’ option offense like always and scored twice himself; Pottstown’s Jeff Endy squeezed a score in between Smith’s and Brinkley’s two-man show; and Upper Perkiomen’s Casey Perlstein may have come up with the best complete package – 119 yards and two touchdowns passing and 171 yards and one touchdown rushing.


Boyertown’s Aaron Sassaman – who didn’t miss a point-after last season – and Pottsgrove’s Zach Robinson were both 7-for-7 in placements last Friday night. … Phoenixville’s John McInally was 5-for-5 with an 18-yard field goal. … Methacton’s Nick LaPerche helped the Warriors converted two red zone opportunities with field goals from 26 and 39 yards out. … Upper Perkiomen’s Vince Boyle booted five of six point-afters in the Indians’ big win.


Boyertown, Phoenixville and Pottsgrove played turnover-free football last weekend, which the other eight area teams turned it over a combined 21 times. But thanks in part to Spring-Ford getting nine back – which, incidentally, was a single-game school record for the Rams – and Perkiomen Valley (five), Boyertown (four) and Methacton (four) coming up with their share, area teams finished a plus-16 for the weekend.


Daniel Boone’s Dave Bodolus, whose coaching career began in the Pioneer Athletic Conference and is now in Berks County, picked up his 100t career win. … Spring-Ford’s Brubaker, whose coaching career began in Berks County (at Wilson) and is soon to begin in the Pioneer Athletic Conference, picked up his first win. … Friday’s win at East was also the 275th for the Rams’ program, which began in 1955.


Feels like the first time

There's never a more exciting moment in high school sports than the kickoff of a new football season. It's inevitable, year after year after year. It's never gotten old and, in all likelihood, never will.

Maybe it's that one game that got away or that near-miss from the season past that stirs up the old adage of, "Wait 'til next year." Maybe it's the two-a-days and three-a-days during August's oppressive heat, perhaps the one or two scrimmages, that fire up the beliefs that, "This is our year."

Or maybe it's just the game itself that gets everyone - from the players and parents to the cheerleaders and their cheerful fans - so darn gung ho this time of the year.

Opening night of the high school football season is, in a word, exhilarating.

For some, like Chad Brubaker and Paul Lepre - new head coaches, to be specific - it can be a wee bit terrifying.

Mind you, both Brubaker and Lepre have been around football a long, long time. They played, and played well at one time. They've coached, and coached nearly every fall since graduating from college. But neither have ever strolled onto the field and situated themselves on the sidelines to start a new season as a head coach…

Until tonight.

Brubaker, who was named Spring-Ford's new head coach back in February, will lead the Rams at West Chester East this evening. Lepre, who was named Methacton's new head coach back in March, will lead the Warriors at Plymouth-Whitemarsh this evening.

"I don't feel overwhelmed now, but then again it's only Wednesday," Brubaker said earlier this week. "I'm certainly glad opening night is here, though."

"I'm anxious going into the first game," Lepre said. "I'm really excited to get Game

One under my belt."

The 37-year-old Brubaker, the seventh head coach at Spring-Ford since the Rams' first season back in 1955, played at Cocalico High School and Millersville University. He was an assistant coach for three years at Elizabethtown High School, then spent 12 years at Wilson - the first eight under Jim Cantafio and the last four under Doug Dahms.

If there is one thing Brubaker learned at Wilson - beyond all the Xs and Os - it was winning. There were three unbeaten Lancaster-Lebanon division titles and one District 3-AAAA championship.

Many fans throughout the Spring-Ford neighborhood are hoping he can achieve similar success in his new position, and sooner rather than later. Then again, no one wants to reverse the Rams' fortunes of late more than Brubaker himself.

"There's a lot of newness … new head coach, new offense, new defense, new staff," he explained. "Our kids have done a great job up to this point learning and adjusting to what we're trying to do.

"So it's been a big adjustment. The biggest adjustment for me has been people - staff, players and managers - coming to me for things. I used to be able to say, 'Go see the head coach,' and let him deal with it. Now I'm on the other end."

Now he's calling the shots, all of them, and the Rams seem be responding.

"I'm definitely excited for our kids," Brubaker said. "Our staff feels a certain buzz that these kids have, and I sense our players feel the same coming from us."

The 48-year-old Lepre, just the fifth head coach at Methacton since the Warriors' inaugural season back in 1962, played at Methacton before accepting a scholarship to play baseball in college. He not only returned to his alma mater to teach, but spent 15 years as an assistant under his former head coach, George Marinkov. When Marinkov resigned following the 2005 season, Lepre moved over to Lansdale Catholic as an assistant to Jim Algeo.

Much like Brubaker, Lepre has inherited a program that hasn't had much success in recent years. The Warriors fared well in their first season in the Pioneer Athletic Conference in 2008, but slipped to 1-10 overall last year.

And if anyone knows it's been 10 years since Methacton has had a winning season, it would be Lepre.

"The big challenge is to re-energize everybody," Lepre said shortly after being named the Warriors' head coach. "We need to re-energize the kids, the fans, everyone. That's what needs to happen initially. … And continuing that positive outlook is important."

Two weeks ago, during a mid-week practice, Lepre felt those initial goals were met.

"Things are different, and we're happy with the kids' attitude," he said. "Things have gone well. Things have been very positive."

All of which have helped - but not altogether eased - Lepre's nerves as a head coach.

"Just being in charge of everything as opposed to being a position coach certainly has made me a little anxious," he said. "Making sure we have everything with us, making sure we're prepared as well as we can be, and wondering if we tried to put in too much … things like that are what you worry about."

Brubaker and Lepre have learned to delegate a number of duties to their assistants.

Both have drawn up all the Xs and Os for their players.

And now, well, now it's time to play some football.

"I've never really liked first games because there are too many unknowns," Brubaker said. "I'm definitely excited for our kids because they've worked hard for this. We want to find out what we can achieve.

"But our goals are no different than any other team's goals on opening night. We want a 'W' like everyone else does."

Mike Santillo will make his debut with Pope John Paul II tonight against Holy Name up in Reading.

The 44-year-old Santillo actually spent the past four years as the head coach at Kennedy-Kenrick. After the doors closed at both K-K and St. Pius X back in June and before the doors to the brand new Pope John Paul II High School opened this week, Santillo was hired to take over the Golden Panthers' program.

An ironic twist to this evening's game is that Santillo will be going up against veteran Holy Name head coach Rick Keeley, a St. Pius X graduate. Keeley and the Blue Jays compete in Section Two of the Inter-County League, which features the Schuylkill Valley Panthers and head coach Jeff Chillot, also a St. Pius X graduate.

Dave Bodolus, yet another St. Pius X graduate - and former head coach of the Lions' program - will be going for his 100th career win tonight when Daniel Boone travels to Donegal.

Bodolus was 41-39 in seven seasons at Pius, guiding his 2001 team to the PIAA-Class AA Eastern Final. At Daniel Boone, he ended a string of 13 straight losing seasons in his first year (2003), has had a school-record tying seven straight winning seasons, has made seven straight appearances in the postseason playoffs, and is 58-24 overall.

Bodolus' son Tommy, who once lugged those water bottles onto the field at Pius when he was a toddler, is now a junior and will be the Blazers' starting quarterback for tonight's game against the Indians.

Father and son are likely to get a little support from the Daniel Boone softball team tonight. Donegal defeated the Blazers in the District 3-AAA championship last spring.

Unofficially, 82 PIAA-member schools - including 13 in District 1 - underwent coaching changes this year. In addition to Lepre, Santillo and Brubaker, the District 1 newcomers are John Donnelly at Central Bucks East; Dave Rackovan at Central Bucks South; Chuck Crews at Chester; Ryan Smith at Chichester; Adam Collachi at Council Rock North; Mike Choi at Great Valley; C.J. Szydlik at Jenkintown; Scott Green at Kennett; Dan Chang at Plymouth-Whitemarsh; and George Banas at Quakertown.

Labels: ,

Can anybody beat the Falcons? Don't bet on it

The Pioneer Athletic Conference kicks off its 25th season of football in just over a week with just one game on the opening-night card — Pope John Paul II visiting Pottsgrove.

Not a bad season premiere. Not bad at all when considering it stars the new kids on the block who, like everyone else, would like nothing more than to knock the two-time defending champions' block off.

The consensus (which everybody loves to be part of but often hates what it reveals)?

It isn't going to happen.

That's not to knock the Golden Panthers, who are expected to make more than a cameo appearance in their official debut as the newest characters in the PAC-10's cast.

Fact is — or the consensus, that is — the storyline could be much the same through the league's nine-week run.

"We know what a lot of people are saying, but we're not listening," is how Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker responded to the consensus. "Every week in this league is a battle. I don't care who you are or how good you're supposed to be, if you're not prepared, and if your team doesn't come ready to play, you're going to get beat."

No one, in the PAC-10 that is, has beaten the Falcons since Oct. 19, 2007, when they got leveled by Lansdale Catholic, 49-26, down at Wissahickon High School.

Since then, they've won 21 in a row, and only three opponents — Boyertown and Perkiomen Valley in 2008 and Phoenixville in 2009 — have been able to stay with

in two touchdowns of the Falcons in that span.

"And they're still a very good football team," said Owen J. Roberts head coach Tom Barr, whose only two league losses the last two seasons — 41-14 and 35-14 — have been to Pottsgrove.


"They're bigger and I think they may be faster," said Perkiomen Valley head coach Scott Reed, who had the Falcons' fans fidgeting in their seats two years ago until Maika Polamalu pulled in a 37-yard touchdown pass from Terrell Chestnut to cap the hosts' come-from-behind 32-29 thriller.

The Falcons are bigger than any of Pennypacker's previous teams. Two-time, all-league center Dan Foust is 255 pounds; junior guards Eric Bonenberger and Scott Schollenger — starters as sophomores a year ago — go 230 and 255; and rotating tackles Chris Nester, Dylan Pritchard and Madison O'Connor go 250, 260 and 325. They're all over six-feet tall, too.

That should bode awfully well for the speed of Pitt-bound Chestnut and Polamalu, set for their fourth seasons of football; for 6-foot-2, 215-pound fullback Kayvon Greene; and — should Chestnut find the need to go up top — for receivers like Steve Ambs, Devin Greene, D.J. Ludy and Zach Robinson.

The funny part, actually it isn't any comedy as far as everyone else is concerned, is that Pennypacker "feels better" about his defense.

"They get to the ball so quickly," said Upper Perkiomen head coach Keith Leamer.

What the Falcons may lack in size on the defensive side of the ball is offset by that quickness, namely up front with all-league nose guard T.J. Demetrio and tackle Tyler Wysochanski, behind them with linebackers Danny Michaels and Polamalu, and in the secondary with Chestnut, Ludy and Curan Wilson.

"Some of our younger kids are going to have to come along quickly, though," Pennypacker said.

Nine other teams hope to come along even quicker.

Up in Boyertown, the Bears are big. Make that very big. The front lines are anchored by 6-foot-6, 285-pound Chris Muller, who's already getting offers from Division I-A schools. The offense could put a lot of points up with veteran quarterback Dylan Pasik, fullback Tom Froehlich and running backs Jon Neiman and Jared Von Dohren. And the defense features a handful of outstanding linebackers in Jeff Ellwanger, Sean Fulmer, Zach Heffner, Troy Heuer and Tyler Shaw.

"We're a better team this year," said head coach Mark Scisly, putting a lot of emphasis on "team."

Methacton has a new coach (Paul Lepre), a new offense, a lot of energy … and a very noticeable attitude.

"The kids have responded pretty much to everything we've asked of them," Lepre said last week.

The Warriors, who made their PAC-10 debut with a 4-5 mark in 2008 but slipped to 1-9 a year ago, have shelved the Wing-T for the spread option. Sophomore quarterback Brandon Bossard, who last season was pressed into a starting role because of injuries before a broken collarbone sidelined him after playing in six games, is healthy and bigger (6-3, 190). Veteran assistant Eric Ranieri — a Methacton graduate, like Lepre — will coordinate the 4-3 defense determined to surrender considerably less than the school-record 399 points of a year ago.

Owen J. Roberts has an entire senior front line on offense — including a threesome as potentially dominating as anyone has with center Mike Nowak, right guard Sean Moloney, and right tackle Kyle Moore — and Ryan Brumfield running behind it.

Brumfield broke nearly every imaginable school and PAC-10 record last season, when he led the entire state in rushing. Barring injury, he could erase whatever records are remaining, including a slew of rushing, scoring and total offense career marks, by the time he stops running this season.

The Wildcats, whose biggest concern all summer was at quarterback, also have one of the PAC-10's more unsung talents in wingback-linebacker Sam Funk.

The defense, though experienced up front with Nowak, Maloney and Moore, at linebacker with Nate Blevins, Funk and Mike Moran, and in the secondary with Brumfield and Ryan Megay, has some additional holes to fill if it's to match last year's alignment, which allowed the fewest points per game (13.8) of any OJR team in eight seasons.

At Perkiomen Valley, Reed knows a little about defense. A year ago, his new 3-5 look posted three shutouts and allowed only 90 points in league play. He has six starters from that defense back, including Brendan Murray at one end, Lou Fioravanti at nose, Bobby Strickland and Kyle Williams at two of the linebacker spots, and Ben Carbutt at safety.

"Half of our kids are back, but our big concern is the other half," Reed said. "Those other guys are going to have to step up and step up fast."

Phoenixville head coach Bill Furlong used that "half-and-half" adage to describe his team. The Phantoms, with a slew of injuries leading to an uncharacteristic three wins last season, have their share of headliners. Perhaps none bigger than healthy quarterback Tom Romano, who with time to throw could easily pass for 1,500 yards or more; the offensive tackle-linebacking tandem of Ken Cenci and Marcus Stokes; defensive end Dennis Kelly; and placekicker-punter John McInally.

"We have a lot of new guys coming along," Furlong said. "But if it takes six or seven weeks for them to come along it could be a long season."

Pope John Paul II, of course, wouldn't mind a long season … as in playing beyond Thanksgiving in the postseason playoffs.

With players from Kennedy-Kenrick and St. Pius X teaming up for the first time, head coach

Mike Santillo's concerns about getting everyone to know one another and on the same page were answered almost immediately after camp began back in mid-August.

And after two-a-days and three-a-days, as well as a scrimmage, Santillo — as well as the Golden Panthers themselves — feel they have a pretty good football team, too.

"I think the team has something to prove to the PAC-10, that two schools can come together and be one," said senior running back-linebacker Conor Myers, who helped Pius to the District 1-Class A championship last year.

The Golden Panthers have some size, most notably with tackle-linebacker Jacob Quin (6-3, 295); some true grit, most notably with fullback-linebacker Chris Ploskon; and some promising talent, most notably with tight end-safety Nate Breidenbach, fullback-linebacker John Cherneskie, Myers, center-defensive end Nick Ostrander; and brothers Josh and Matt Bildstein.

Pottstown, which graduated its entire offensive line, may have as many new faces on the lineup card as anyone in the PAC-10. But head coach Brett Myers is as optimistic — and as energized — as he's ever been in his previous three seasons.

"Everything has been positive," he said. "We're kind of excited about the season."

Myers may have lost the PAC-10's biggest front line to graduation, but he was confident as he spoke of his smaller — and much younger — offensive and defensive lines this time around. He talked about quickness over size, and if the Trojans can move people out of the way, Myers sure has others to find their way to the end zone.

Fullback Marc Smith and running back Malik Brinkley are both capable of reaching 1,000 yards on the season, and veteran quarterback Jeff Endy can keep everyone honest on defense with his versatility.

And on defense, Smith has been a big surprise at end, Brinkley and Corey Heuber are a presence at linebacker, and Endy, workaholic Nick Herbine and Dawon Matthews fill out a solid secondary. Kyle Dentler is also a valuable weapon as the Trojans' placekicker-punter.

Chad Brubaker has been looking for valuable weapons since taking over the program at Spring-Ford. The former longtime Wilson (West Lawn) assistant has had 70 players in camp, all adjusting to a new head coach as well as a new offense and defense … and some new expectations.

"The kids have been great and done everything we've asked of them," Brubaker said. "We've put

a lot of (new) things in and have tried to progress with that, but it's a long learning curve. There have been a lot of adjustments, the biggest of which may be to the expectations that I have."

The Rams, who have won six PAC-10 titles but none since 1998, played well defensively a year ago but produced just 106 points in their nine league games.

Brubaker, known for his work with Wilson's offense, hopes to light up the scoreboard a bit more this season. His offensive line is a bit smaller than most around the league. But he's been excited about the progress of quarterbacks Ryan Conway and Hank Coyne at quarterback, and he has a pair of explosive running backs Chase Stewart and Drew Thomas and a big-play receiver in Andrew Scanlon.

Offense has never been a problem at Upper Perkiomen, and shouldn't be this season, either.

Head coach Keith Leamer has moved the fleet Ronnie Gillespie from wideout to tailback, has another Red Hill hulk at fullback in John Olson (6-1, 195), and the very accurate Casey Perlstein to throw the football. All that behind a sizeable front line anchored by three-year starting center Jake Nyce, guard Cody Caciolo and tackle Mike Paul.

But defense is the one area where the Indians — who have had just one losing season the last nine years — need a lot of improvement.

"We're ahead of where we were at this time last year," Leamer said. "But we have to continue to get better and stay injury free, too."