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

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."


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