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.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Expect The Unexpected

It didn’t unfold as many anticipated, and surely didn’t end as most expected. Yes, the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s silver anniversary football season will be one to remember … but not as much for its weekend irregularities as for a highly regarded group of seniors who elevated the level of play for this as well as past seasons and set a standard of distinction for those who follow them in future seasons.

It’ll likely be some time before anyone forgets how just two weeks into the PAC-10 season, that neither of the favorites – two-time defending champion Pottsgrove and two-time runner-up Owen J. Roberts – was in first place. Pottsgrove, which got a week’s head start on everyone, went up to Boyertown for its second game and lost 34-28, which some of its faithful are still putting an asterisk next to because of the second-half injury to quarterback-safety Terrell Chestnut. But neither head coach Rick Pennypacker nor the Falcons ever offered any excuses for the setback. And neither OJR head coach Tom Barr nor the Wildcats ever offered any excuses after they opened with a stunning 20-7 loss at Spring-Ford.

As the schedule rolled into October, Boyertown looked every bit the team to beat. Head coach Mark Scisly and the Bears, who kicked off what was supposed to be a promising but not necessarily perfect season with a pair of non-league wins, owned a spotless 7-0 overall mark before turning away playoff hopeful Spring-Ford for the first 8-0 start in the history of their program.

Then it was on to Owen J. Roberts. The Wildcats had quietly changed their ways since getting roughed up by the Rams. They strung together three lopsided wins, dealt Pottsgrove its worst loss in nearly three full seasons, and pounced on an overmatched Pope John Paul II. But no one thought they would barrel over Boyertown as they did.

The Bears and Wildcats suddenly were alongside one another atop the PAC-10 standings, and they would share first place for the next 26 days.

And nothing would change … not even on Thanksgiving. Boyertown needed a half to put away Upper Perkiomen and Owen J. Roberts needed three quarters to put away Pottstown … co-champions.

Co-champions isn’t what many anticipated.

Co-champions, without Pottsgrove among the group, isn’t what most expected.

A great season.


The co-championship was certainly as big a surprise as any in the PAC-10. But maybe not as surprising as what Daniel Boone did in Section One of the Inter-County League and, along with Pottsgrove, in the postseason.

Despite losing a slew of starters to graduation, head coach Dave Bodolus guided the Blazers to a share of the section title and, in their first venture into the AAAA postseason, a pair of District 3 playoff victories – including a second-round thriller over Harrisburg that was arguably one of the biggest upsets in this area’s football history. And if that wasn’t enough, the Blazers finished with their eighth straight winning season, all under Bodolus, and a school-record 11 wins overall.

Pottsgrove, which could’ve easily packed it in after the loss to OJR, instead regrouped and humbled five straight opponents – including very respectable Academy Park and Interboro – to get back to the District 1-Class AAA final last Friday night. Four very big second-half plays were costly, ending the Falcons’ chance to defend their title as well as their season. But in the end, even another disheartening loss to Strath Haven couldn’t overshadow Pottsgrove’s fourth straight season of 10 wins or more – a run no area program has ever achieved in this region’s 124 years of football.


Individual leaders for the recently completed PAC-10 season were:

Owen J. Roberts’ Ryan Brumfield led in rushing (2,338 yards), total net yards (2,336 yards) and scoring (192 points); teammate John Pennell led in kick scoring (45 points); Boyertown’s Dylan Pasik set the pace in passing efficiency (league-record 183.7 rating); and Perkiomen Valley’s Ben Carbutt led in receptions (41), while Upper Perkiomen’s Ron Gillespie outdid everyone in receiving yards (755). … On the defensive side of the ball, Pottstown’s Chaz Mitchell and Spring-Ford’s Max Ullman each finished with a league-high seven sacks, just ahead of Phoenixville’s Dennis Kelly-Ukata (6.5). Spring-Ford’s Andrew Keys led the league with six interceptions.

Owen J. Roberts dominated the team leaderboard. The Wildcats’ offense led the PAC-10 in rushing yards, total yards and points scored, and their defense led in fewest yards allowed rushing and passing, total yards, and fewest points allowed. … Perkiomen Valley and Pottstown each had a league-high 19 sacks, while Spring-Ford was first in interceptions with 16, and OJR topped the takeaways chart at plus-eight.


A look at some of the other numbers from the 2010 PAC-10 season…

Brumfield set single-season records for yards rushing (2,338), touchdowns rushing (30), and total touchdowns (32). The senior tailback also set league career records for carries (908), yards rushing (6,625), most games rushing for 100 yards or more (27), most games rushing for 200 yards or more (17), touchdowns rushing (76), total touchdowns (84), and total points (512).

Pennell set a single-season record for placements (45). And Pope John Paul II quarterback Dave Cotellese set the single-game record for yards passing (428).

There were also some individual performances this season that earned spots in the Top Five of their respective categories. Perkiomen Valley quarterback Alex Miller’s 118 completions is the third-best, single-season mark in the history of the PAC-10, while his 227 attempts rank second all-time. Gillespie’s 755 yards receiving rank third all-time. And in total offense, Brumfield’s 2,336 yards rank second and Upper Perkiomen quarterback Casey Perlstein’s 1,958 yards rank fifth.

Four new PAC-10 team records were penciled into the books, too. They were established by Owen J. Roberts for yards rushing (3,424) and total yards (3,758) in a season; and by Boyertown for penalties called in a game (15) and for penalty yards in a season (527).


It would difficult to end this season without one final glimpse at the overall numbers Brumfield and Pottsgrove teammates Maika Polamalu and Terrell Chestnut produced in their respective four-year careers.

Brumfield will graduate with area career records for rushing attempts (1,183), games rushing for 100 yards or more (33), and yards rushing (8,483), which is second in the history of Pennsylvania high school football behind Steelton-Highspire’s Jeremiah Young (9,027). He’ll also graduate first in total offense (9,350 yards), rushing touchdowns (101), total touchdowns (111), and points scored (674).

Polamalu ran for 4,388 yards, which puts him No. 6 all-time in area rushing, and Chestnut ran for 3,178 yards – the first area quarterback to reach the 3,000-yard plateau. Together, Polamalu and Chestnut ran 981 times for 7,566 yards and 109 touchdowns, scored 728 points overall, and accounted for 9,542 yards of total offense – averaging 8.1 yards every time they touched the football – to run, throw or catch it.

Put all three together (for your own little high school football fantasy league backfield) … How about 16,049 yards rushing, 18,892 yards of total offense, 220 touchdowns, and 1,402 points scored?

One word for all that — wow.


Let’s Talk Turkey

This column originally ran in the Nov. 25 edition of The Mercury.

There’s still a lot of football to be played. Meaningful football, that is. And we’re talking Pioneer Athletic Conference football, too.

For the 14th time since the new league kicked off its first season back in 1986, the championship will be decided in between the time moms get up this morning to prepare the turkey and trimmings and the time everyone sits down to gobble, gobble, gobble…

Thanksgiving Day football – though nowhere near the favorite it once was thanks to the playoff madness that has sadly sacked so many games and the traditions that went with them – is alive and well.

Alive and well, thankfully, in more than half of the PAC-10 neighborhoods.

And this morning, Boyertown will bus on over to Upper Perkiomen and Pottstown will cross the Schuylkill to Owen J. Roberts with one thing and one thing only on their collective minds – a PAC-10 title, or at least a share of it. And Phoenixville and Spring-Ford, though out of the championship chase, will both have plenty to play for when they meet in Royersford.

For Boyertown, which settled for second-best in its first three runs through the PAC-10 before capturing its only championship in 2006, and for Owen J. Roberts, which has won it all twice and shared another title only to settle for runner-up honors four times since its last championship in 1993, today’s games are opportunities to erase the memories of their District 1-AAAA playoff losses two weeks ago, to strut their stuff in a similar playoff atmosphere and, of course, celebrate a title.

The Bears (7-1, 9-2 overall) are as healthy as they’ve been all season, and hungry. The Indians (4-4, 5-6) have an assortment of aches and pains, perhaps as many as they’ve had all season, and trying to finish up with back-to-back league wins for only the second time this season.

Advantage, of course, Boyertown.

Big up front on both sides of the ball, and quick behind the lines both on offense and defense, the Bears have limited six of their opponents to two touchdowns or less while putting up a school-record 339 points. They made a statement quickly by defeating two-time defending champion Pottsgrove in their PAC-10 opener, were on a virtual unchallenged run behind quarterback Dylan Pasik and his fleet of running backs for the next five weeks, then got bounced – and bounced good – by Owen J. Roberts. They recovered with a win over Methacton the ensuing week … and now need just one more for no worse than a share of the title.

Upper Perkiomen may be forced to go without quarterback Casey Perlstein, who if missing will be denied a chance to go for the double-double and become the first player to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in a PAC-10 season. The Indians also reportedly have a lineman or two ailing. Scoring has never been a problem, not with reliable John Olson carrying the ball and the fleet Ron Gillespie catching it. But keeping pace with their guests – without Perlstein, the general who generates the offense – could be quite the challenge.

Over in Bucktown, Pottstown and Owen J. Roberts will go at one another for the 51st time – the area’s longest Thanksgiving Day rivalry.

Advantage, of course, Owen J. Roberts (but never get too comfortable or cocky with a quick pick in this spirited series).

Pottstown (1-7, 3-8), with a sprinkling of points here and there (not to mention a break or two along the way), could easily be 5-3. The Trojans have lost four games by a touchdown or less, including a one-pointer to Pope John Paul II and three-point, double-overtime thriller to Perkiomen Valley. But the Trojans could be a bit testy because quarterback Jeff Endy is healthy and the owner of an out-of-this-world passing rating the last three times out; the swift Malik Brinkley and Marc Smith are the same two backs who combined for 444 yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening win over Pius X up in Bangor; and the defense features the area’s sack leader in Chaz Mitchell and a linebacker in Cory Heuber who pound-for-pound may be as proficient as anyone this season.

The Wildcats (7-1, 8-3), remember, finally have a chance to stop playing second fiddle to Pottsgrove – the only team to have beaten them the previous two years. Despite looking like anything but a challenger after a season-opening, non-league loss to Conestoga and then the shocking setback two weeks later at Spring-Ford, they clawed their way back into contention with seven straight wins – all quite convincing wins, too. There may not be a better buddy system on any line in the PAC-10 than two-way starters Sean Moloney, Kyle Moore and Mike Nowak. No one has benefited more than tailback Ryan Brumfield, who has run for just under five miles (8,323 yards to be exact) in his fantastic four-year career at OJR. And yet with all those headliners, the versatile and very talented Sam Funk hasn’t gone unnoticed anywhere he lines up on offense or defense.

Down in Royersford, rebuilt Phoenixville visits rebounding Spring-Ford in a game that has its own share of interesting twists.

The Phantoms (2-6, 3-8) list of injured would’ve filled a ward or two at neighboring Phoenixville Hospital this fall. They lost their key running back after two games, just about the time they lost third-year quarterback Tom Romano. Despite the setbacks, the Phantoms were all even at 3-3 and in the District 1-AAA playoff chase at the midway point. But despite some heady efforts from the likes of Alex McQuiston, Ryan Pannella, Marcus Stokes, Dennis Kelly-Ukata and others, they’ve dropped five in a row.

There’s no better way to put the brakes on such a skid, or better way to help heal all the aches and pains it has brought, than to win the last one. And Phoenixville has been doing that rather consistently, winning eight straight years against a team that had long had the upper hand before the streak started in 2002.

The Rams (5-3, 8-3) appear ready to end the run, though. They’ve righted their sails since being shut out at Boyertown, winning three in a row and putting themselves in a position to match the program’s best season since 1999. And while it would easy to look at sophomore quarterback Hank Coyne’s passing to such reliable receivers as Andrew Scanlan, Drew Thomas and Darryl Branch or Chase Stewart’s running this season, defense has underlined their success. Sack-happy twin ends Bjorn and Max Ullmann, the linebacking threesome of James Hoff, Steve Joyce and Matt Krueger, and a one-two-three punch from Matt Glowacki, Andrew Keys and Ryan Conway in the secondary have helped the Rams limit their opposition to just 160 yards and 15.2 points a game. And the Rams’ defense, along with their special teams, own an area-high six touchdowns.

So, yes, there’s still a lot to play for this morning.


Surprise Party

This column originally ran in the Nov. 23 edition of The Mercury.

There were a lot of new names to assign to a lot of new numbers when Dave Bodolus and his staff sat down back in August to discuss and draft their Daniel Boone roster. It wasn’t quite a “who’s who” exchange, but it was close.

A very good group of seniors, nearly a dozen in all – including five All-Berks and Mercury All-Area selections – had graduated. Gone were their thousands and thousands of yards, plenty of points and a few pages in the record book on offense, and a whole heck of a lot of sacks, tackles and the sort on defense. That group, in a lot of their own fans’ minds, was the foundation of three teams that made three straight postseason appearances and won a combined 26 games.

Bodolus wasn’t whining, though.

“We just don’t look too far ahead,” he explained. “We hope to get as far as we can, of course, but we just want to get out of camp and see what we can do. We want to get that first win, then the next one… It’s week to week, staying focused on that next game. We want to try and stay on an even keel.”

Shutting down camp and opening up with seven straight wins is one thing. Regrouping after an almost-embarrassing 42-0 loss to win two more and a share of the Inter-County Section One title is another. So is winning your very first game in the district’s Class AAAA playoffs.

But traveling out to Harrisburg, a school with nearly twice the enrollment, taking on its football team with the size, speed and athleticism rarely seen (if ever) by Bodolus or any of his Blazers – a team that just one week earlier rang up 75 points in its quarterfinal pummeling of Penn Manor – and dare to think you can play with them, let alone beat them?

“I don’t think (Harrisburg) expected what we had to offer,” junior Zachary Robinson said.

Except for the Blazers themselves, and perhaps a few of their loyal fans seated behind them Saturday at Severance Field, no one else did, either.

Calling Daniel Boone’s 14-12 win an upset is an understatement. Calling it a shocker doesn’t quite get it, either. Yes, it was a surprise. But the Blazers didn’t just use a big play here or there to get to that final result.

They went toe-to-toe with the Cougars up front, went step-to-step with their speed. And thanks to Bodolus’ creativity and leadership – his confidence in a handful of seniors and bunch of unsung others – the Blazers executed his ingenious game plan almost flawlessly. They did it all for 48 minutes.

The final score upstaged two other District 3-AAAA shockers from the night before, when both unbeaten No. 1 seed Dallastown and unbeaten No. 3 seed Wilson lost. It sent waves of disbelief throughout the district, actually the entire state. And for three days now, it’s been tagged as the biggest upset in the history of the district playoffs.

For Daniel Boone, though, it was just another win … another win to get them another game.

“We knew this was going to be a tough game for us,” Robinson said. “But we knew (Harrisburg) was beatable. They were big and fast, but beatable if we came to play.”

Did they ever come to play.

“This was a big one,” Bodolus said when asked if it indeed was the biggest win in his coaching career. “This one ranks right up there. But it’s a little like looking at your kids …you don’t like to compare.”


Bodolus could easily make a lot of comparisons.

His coaching career began as an assistant at St. Pius X High School, his alma mater. He was there two years, spent another at Perkiomen Valley, then returned to Pius to take over the Lions’ program in 1995.

His first four years weren’t anything to shout about – breaking even in his first season followed by three straight losing seasons. Then came the turnaround, or three straight winning seasons and three straight tips to the playoffs.

Pius won its first (and only) Pioneer Athletic Conference title and set a school record with 10 wins overall in 1999; went 7-4 in 2000; then played its way to the PIAA-Class AA Eastern Final and put up a new school record 11 wins in 2001.

Despite the success, a personality clash (to put it mildly) between Bodolus and Pius’ principal led to his firing despite wave after wave after wave of support from the Lions’ current and past football families.

“It hurt, no doubt about it,” Bodolus recalled this past weekend. “It was a tough time for me because I really enjoyed coaching there. It took a lot of time to get where we were, and we had the program on the upswing. I just liked being there, liked everything about it, including the kids, the fans, everyone.”

Bodolus would team up with the staff at Ursinus as an assistant, but kept his eyes open for a head coaching position.

“I enjoyed what I was doing and I wanted to get back, but there was nothing available at first,” he remembered. “Then there were two openings at Phoenixville and Daniel Boone and I applied at both (schools). Daniel Boone offered me (its) position first and I took it … and I have no regrets.”

Bodolus inherited a program that had endured 13 straight losing seasons.

They haven’t had one since his arrival in Birdsboro, though. Far from it.

The Blazers have put up eight straight winning seasons, tying the school record that was set way back in 1964 through 1971. They’ve made eight straight postseason appearances (two in the Eastern Conference playoffs and six – including the last five – in District 3). They’ve scored 300 or more points every season, significant considering no Daniel Boone team had ever produced more than 224.

Bodolus is 69-25 at Daniel Boone, 110-64 overall in his 15 yet-to-be-completed seasons with the Lions and Blazers. Take away those first four “learning” years at Pius and he is a very impressive 97-34.

And for Bodolus, every season – and offseason – is a learning experience.

“No doubt I’m always learning,” he said. “I’m always looking at things, looking how to get better. It’s what I enjoy.”

Bodolus absolutely enjoyed the past two weeks – or at least he should’ve enjoyed them – after out-scheming two coaching legends – Cedar Cliff’s Jim Cantafio, a member of the Pennsylvania Football Coaches Hall of Fame, and Harrisburg’s George Chaump, who had previous stops at IUP, Marshall and Navy.

But even Bodolus’ joy pales in comparison to the Blazers’ bliss of the past eight years.

“I don’t have an answer really,” Bodolus said when asked about the abrupt turnaround and continued success at Daniel Boone. “I have to give a lot of credit to the kids our first year here. They were very hungry. They wanted to win, wanted to do well. They bought into what we wanted, got a little taste of success and, like everywhere else, the kids who followed them wanted the same. They want to win.”

Like Saturday afternoon … when hardly a soul thought they could.

“They played a heck of a game,” Bodolus said.


PAC-10 still finding it hard to compete with big boys — literally

This column originally ran in the Nov. 16 edition of The Mercury.

Pioneer Athletic Conference football teams haven’t exactly been pounding on the postseason doors, at least not in District 1’s Class AAAA bracket since the league kicked off its inaugural season back in 1986.

Four appearances, or four games. Four losses.

Now matter how you break it down, that’s 0-fer, or 0-for-4.

Boyertown lost first four years ago, Perkiomen Valley was next the following year, and both Boyertown and Owen J. Roberts came up short last weekend. With the possible exception of the Vikings’ 36-26 loss to Glen Mills in 2007 and the Bears’ 21-13 setback to Rustin last Friday night, none were too competitive.

The disappointing trend doesn’t appear as though it’ll change anytime soon, either.

For starters, the current enrollment classifications are locked in for another year, so no one – good, bad or different – is going anywhere in the four brackets. To make matters seem even worse, the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s five AAAA teams – Boyertown, Methacton, Owen J. Roberts, Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford – will soon be taking a very noticeable hit when a good portion of their respective lineups graduate in June.

No one really wants to debate how the five schools size up against the rest of the district — or state — either, although there are grounds to seriously debate the need for adjusting all four brackets as well as adding a fifth to the alignment (which the PIAA has looked into, chatted about and tossed off the proposal table).

Of the 45 schools in the district’s AAAA division, Boyertown is ninth (866 students) and Spring-Ford is two back in 11th (856). Those numbers may appear to be in line with the big school enrollments, but not when you see the Top Four – from Neshaminy, Pennsbury and Upper Darby up to No. 1 North Penn – range from 1,295 to 1,538 students. Those numbers dwarf the enrollment figures for Perkiomen Valley’s (702) and Methacton (702), which are situated at No. 24 and No. 27, respectively. And Owen J. Roberts (562), which moved up into the Class AAAA bracket this year, is the seventh smallest school.

Does size really matter? No official

poll has been taken, mind you, but results – or history – tend to support that thought.

Three District 1 schools, all among the big boys, have won a combined seven Class AAAA state titles. Central Bucks West, which owns five of them, was considerably bigger than its current enrollment (732) when winning all five because they were accomplished prior to the district’s split to a third school (Central Bucks South). The remaining two have been won by Neshaminy and North Penn.

The list of district champions since 1992 is dominated by the big boys, too, with the exception of Coatesville (now No. 13 on the enrollment chart) and Plymouth-Whitemarsh (now No. 33), who won in 1992 and 1995, respectively. Central Bucks West owns five, again all before the split from two to three schools; North Penn owns four; and Neshaminy, Ridley and Downingtown – before the split to two schools – own two apiece; and Pennsbury owns one.

It’s probably no surprise that all but two of the 18 district champions in Class AAA have been won by the bracket’s big boys, too. Strath Haven, currently No. 4 on the AAA enrollment chart – and just 24 students from being No. 1 – owns exactly half of those 18 titles. Seven others were won by schools that are now AAAA. The remaining two were won by Upper Merion and Pottsgrove, currently No. 13 and No. 12, respectively, in enrollments.

The Pioneer Athletic Conference’s remaining five non-AAAA schools are all in the district’s AAA bracket, which numbers 20 in all. Ironically, after Pottsgrove, the four others – Upper Perkiomen (No. 15), Phoenixville (No. 17), Pope John Paul II (No. 19) and Pottstown (No. 20) – occupy two of the bottom six rungs in the bracket. They’ve fared considerably better, though, with a 15-24 overall mark in the district playoffs, but with just one district champion (Pottsgrove last year).

A lot, not all, coaches feel enrollments usually dictate a program’s success within their own leagues as well as in district and state postseason playoffs, too. Others shrug off the notion.

A lot, not all, favor a fifth bracket. Others are willing to listen.

Bottom line, there is absolutely too much of a disparity from the top to bottom in Class AAAA. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed.


Downingtown East’s offense has gotten a lot of attention this season, but the defense deserved all the headlines after last Friday night’s AAAA rout of Owen J. Roberts. The Cougars dominated the front line and held Ryan Brumfield to 42 yards on 22 carries and, more important, kept him out of the end zone.

To put that in perspective it was the fewest yards Brumfield had since the next-to-last game of his sophomore year, when Lower Moreland held him to 32 in the second round of the District 1-AAA playoffs; it was the first time Brumfield was held under 100 yards since the opening game of his junior year; and it was the first time Brumfield was held out of the end zone since the Lower Moreland game.

Brumfield will go into his final game Thanksgiving morning against Pottstown with 8,323 career rushing yards, or No. 4 on Pennsylvania’s career rushing chart. He needs three to pass Schuylkill Haven’s Zach Barket and 110 to pass East Stroudsburg South’s James Mungro to finish No. 2 to Steelton-Highspire’s Jeremiah Young (9,027).


The Mid-Atlantic Prep League has tie-breakers in the event two or more teams tie for the championship, and that can happen a lot with a membership of just six teams.

The first tie-breaker is head-to-head competition, which denied The Hill School a share of the title with Lawrenceville after the Rams dropped their first MAPL game to the Larries last Saturday, 21-14, and the two schools finished with identical 5-1 records. Had both teams been unbeaten going into the game, that tie-breaker – if there should even be one in the first place – is acceptable. And if there were playoffs – which there are not – where a seeding must be determined, head-to-head is acceptable.

So, if Hill was good enough to beat Hun two weeks ago, which Lawrenceville couldn’t do last month, it’s literally unfair to deny anyone a share of the title.

With all due respect to the league administrators, 5-1 is 5-1. It’s what you do over an entire season, not one weekend.


Don Seeley is the sports editor of The Mercury. His high school football column runs Tuesdays and Fridays through Thanksgiving.

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No love lost between PAC-10, Ches-Mont

This column originally ran in the Nov. 12 edition of The Mercury.

Pioneer Athletic Conference and Ches-Mont League football teams haven’t exactly been buddy-buddy … not for a long, long time.

Twenty-five seasons have passed since Phoenixville, Pottsgrove, Pottstown, Spring-Ford and St. Pius X pulled out of the Ches-Mont and teamed up with Lansdale Catholic, Perkiomen Valley and Upper Perkiomen to establish the then PAC-8. The mass exodus stirred up a wave of emotions, even created some disharmony. Then, two years later, when Great Valley and Owen J. Roberts departed the Ches-Mont and booted the new league’s membership up to 10, the competitive fires became even more intense.

For a while, whenever anyone from the leagues lined up against each another, you could bet no one had to grab any chalk and scribble “we’re-better-than-you” on the locker room blackboard. Beating one another went beyond the scoreboard.

Time, of course, has healed most of the wounds from the break-up. Very few, if any, of the administrators who sat down together but failed to resolve their issues, chief amongst them divisions — or realignment based on enrollments and geography — are around today. And none, not a single one, of the head football coaches who drew up the game plans or strolled the sidelines back in the final season before the break-up are around today, either.

So, yes, despite an occasional scrimmage or early season non-league game here and there, the competitive fires haven’t really been all that intense in recent years.

But don’t dare think the PAC-10 versus the Ches-Mont flames haven’t flared up – or been brought up and talked about – this week.

Tonight, in the opening round of the District 1-AAAA playoffs, two of the PAC-10’s best, co-leaders Boyertown and Owen J. Roberts, visit two of the Ches-Mont League’s best, American Division champion Bayard Rustin and National Division co-champion Downingtown East.

You think anyone is determined to make a statement this evening?

Boyertown, which got dumped by Downingtown West (35-6) in its only previous District 1 playoff appearance four years ago, is 1-3 overall against Ches-Mont League opponents since joining the PAC-10 in 2002. The Bears have never met Rustin before. However, ever since losing to Phoenixville in its inaugural football season four years ago and to Pottsgrove in the opening round of districts the following season, the Golden Knights have gone 4-1 against PAC-10 teams – losing only last year’s District 1-AAA semifinal to eventual champion Pottsgrove – and own a noticeable 154-47 advantage in points scored.

Owen J. Roberts, up in the AAAA bracket for the first time, did survive a double-overtime marathon with Great Valley in the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs two years ago. But ever since leaving the Ches-Mont, the Wildcats are dead even – 10-10-1 overall – against their former league rivals. Downingtown East, meanwhile, has only gone up against one PAC-10 team and won that game quite decisively. However, no one needs to remind any longtime local fan about how Downingtown – before the jointure split into two schools – dominated area teams.

Ironically, the two AAAA games are just part of tonight’s postseason treat.

Down in the Class AAA bracket, Upper Perkiomen will be visiting a familiar opponent in Strath Haven, unquestionably the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s biggest nightmare (yes, nightmare), and Pottsgrove will be entertaining Academy Park, the team the Falcons played in their very first postseason game back 10 years ago.

Strath Haven strung together eight straight district titles and two state championships from 1996 through 2003. During that stretch they played 10 postseason games against PAC-10 teams and won all 10, and won all but one – a 28-24 thriller over Upper Perkiomen in 1996 – rather easily when all was said and done. The Indians, who lost 21-10 to Strath Haven the following season, too, have made five previous postseason appearances, but have just one win – over then PAC-10 rival Lansdale Catholic – in six tries.

Pottsgrove, of course, is starting what it hopes will evolve into a second straight District 1-AAA title. Unlike last year, though, the Falcons have two losses – thanks in part to a defense that imploded at Boyertown (34-28) and Owen J. Roberts (49-20). But they also have an offense, seemingly healthy for the first time since Week Three, which has rung up nearly 1,300 yards and 160 points in the last three games. Academy Park, which lost an early lead and the game (20-7) to Pottsgrove back in 2000, lost its only other two tests with PAC-10 teams, both to Spring-Ford in the late 90s. And don’t think the Knights’ 6-4 record is all that bad, either, considering three of the losses were to teams on the district’s postseason cards tonight.

* * *

ON THE RUN: Yards, as well as points, may be plentiful tonight in Downingtown. The game features two of the district’s – if not Pennsylvania’s – top backs in OJR’s Ryan Brumfield and the hosts’ Drew Harris. The two have combined for more than 4,100 yards and 58 touchdowns between them this fall.

Brumfield is leading the state with his 2,538 yards and, unofficially, is fifth in the entire nation. He has run for more than 200 yards in seven straight games and in all but one of OJR’s 10 games this season, averaging just under 10 yards every time he takes a handoff. He’s also found the end zone at least three times in each of the last seven games.

Going into tonight’s game against the Cougars, Brumfield’s career numbers are 1,127 carries for 8,281 yards. He is fourth on the state’s all-time rushing chart and within reach – with at least two games remaining – of No. 3 Zach Barket (8,325) of Schuylkill Haven and No. 2 James Mungro (8,432) of East Stroudsburg South. The all-time leader, former Steelton-Highspire standout Jeremiah Young and his 9,027 yards, may be a wee bit out of reach unless the Wildcats make a long postseason run of their own.

Harris, a familiar name in Downingtown football lore, has run up 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns in nine games this season.

ON THE RUN II: At Pottsgrove tonight, Terrell Chestnut – who may be as close to 100 percent as he was before being injured during Week Three’s loss at Boyertown – needs 176 yards to become the first area quarterback to run for more than 3,000 career yards.

CLASS ACT: Upper Perkiomen quarterback Casey Perlstein, who has quietly racked up some impressive numbers in his two seasons running the Indians’ offense, has been selected as the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s recipient of the Norristown Chapter of Football Officials’ Sportsmanship Award.

The late Nick Pergine, who served as the chapter’s president for many years before losing his courageous battle with cancer, once said the Sportsmanship Award revealed more about its recipient than any statistic and was more valuable than any block or touchdown he may have made on the football field. And that is especially true with Perlstein – the son of Steve Perlstein, the athletic director at Upper Perkiomen – who has been nothing but a class act on the football field.

SIDE LINES: The area’s four teams go into tonight’s opening rounds with a combined 12-14 record in postseason play. Pottsgrove (9-6) boasts the only winning mark, while Owen J. Roberts is all even (2-2) in four games, Upper Perkiomen is 1-5, and Boyertown is 0-1. … Up in District 3, Daniel Boone is making its area-record fifth straight playoff appearance – and eighth consecutive postseason appearance when counting two Eastern Conference games in 2003 and 2005. Pottsgrove is second in that category with four straight District 1-AAA appearances, followed by Owen J. Roberts with three.


A Hard Bargain

This column originally ran in the Nov. 9 edition of The Mercury

Funny how no one (including Jim Mora) wants to talk about you-know-what until the you-know-what arrives. Well, the playoffs are here … finally.

And for the first time since District 1 surrendered to the idea of playoffs and got most (not everyone initially) to sign up, get on board and share the excitement of postseason play back in 1992, the Pioneer Athletic Conference will have four teams lining up for the opening rounds. Throw in Daniel Boone making what has become its customary appearance in the District 3 playoffs, and you have an area-record five teams participating in the postseason.

And even though the Lawrenceville-Hill School spectacle isn’t exactly a playoff game, it is one of the longest-running and most-heated prep school rivalries in the entire country … and Saturday afternoon they’ll be playing for a Mid-Atlantic Prep League championship on top of all that.

Think there’s a little bit going on this weekend?

First thing is first — District 1.

Boyertown is traveling to Henderson High School on Friday night to take on Bayard Rustin and make its first trek into the postseason in four years. Owen J. Roberts is making its third straight appearance in the postseason – and first in AAAA – with a trip to Downingtown East. In AAA, Pottsgrove opens up defense of its AAA title with a home game against Academy Park, and Upper Perkiomen – at least for some of its coaches and all of its longtime fans – takes that long and dreaded drive to Strath Haven.

If you noticed, Boyertown and Owen J. Roberts are lining up against a pair of Ches-Mont League teams. Some say that isn’t good. Surely not the (good) luck of the draw. Heck, one Southeastern Pennsylvania writer even said “the Ches-Mont will take a PAC-10 team anytime” in the playoffs during a radio talk show last weekend.

Oh yeah, he said it … and despite not getting into any details, he could back it up.

The PAC-10 hasn’t fared well against the larger schools in the Ches-Mont since the controversial (and emotional) break-up back in 1986. And not faring well covers the regular season as well as the postseason, although there were only two playoff games between the two leagues – Boyertown getting dumped by Downingtown West, 35-6, back in 2006, and Owen J. Roberts outlasting Great Valley, 30-29 in two overtimes, in an AAA confrontation two years ago.

The fact there’s only been that one AAAA playoff game doesn’t really provide much substance in any argument for the Ches-Mont being the mighty alignment. But the fact Ches-Mont teams repeatedly compete for and win a lot of postseason games – and have won three AAAA district titles (none since 1996) – is something no one in the PAC-10 can talk about.

Will that change or not this weekend is anybody’s guess. Both Rustin and Downingtown East, whether you want to believe it or not, will be the heavy favorites – Rustin because of a great coach in Mike St. Clair and its reputation (which was tainted just a wee bit with its fans’ behavior after last year’s District 1-AAA semifinal setback at Pottsgrove), and Downingtown East because of its strength of schedule, a great coach in Mike Matta and, of course, a lot of individual talent.

Whether Boyertown and OJR are intimidated by all that – or motivated even more by it – is yet to be seen.

And it’s the same for Pottsgrove and Upper Perkiomen.

The Falcons gave the PAC-10 its first Class AAA title a year ago, but a lot of critics came out of the woodwork the following week and downplayed the achievement when they were beaten in the first round of states, 30-28, by Archbishop Wood. This was supposed to be Pottsgrove’s shining season, but it lost some of its razzle-dazzle in Week Three when four-year starter and Pitt-bound Terrell Chestnut went down during a 34-28 loss to Boyertown back and even more splash-and-flash four weeks ago when OJR put a 49-20 thumping on them.

Chestnut and the Falcons have gotten a little healthier since that forgettable Friday in Bucktown, winning three in a row and outscoring the opposition by a 160-34 spread. Next up is Academy Park, which Pottsgrove defeated 14-7 in its very first postseason game back in 2000, but a team much, much better than its 6-4 record may indicate. And a team that head coach Rick Pennypacker already said “scares the heck out of us.”

But no one faces a more imposing challenge than Upper Perkiomen with that long ride to that darkened dungeon of football at Strath Haven. The Indians, who incidentally have been to the postseason four times now since 2004 and six times since its initial appearance in 1996, haven’t had much luck when it comes to playoffs – even less against Strath Haven.

For those who don’t remember, the Strath Haven program already owns nine District 1-AAA titles – including eight in a row from 1996 through 2003 – and a pair of state championships. The Panthers are also 10-0 overall against six different teams from the PAC-10 – Lansdale Catholic (1-0), Perkiomen Valley (2-0), Phoenixville (1-0), Pottsgrove (3-0), Pottstown (1-0) and Upper Perkiomen (2-0) – and hardly a one was even close.

In other words, tall tasks await all four of the Pioneer Athletic Conference playoff teams this weekend.

Up in District 3-AAAA, Daniel Boone – which equaled its program’s best regular-season mark of 9-1 by erasing Exeter last week – gets to host Cedar Cliff (7-3). The Blazers haven’t looked at all like the dominating team they were the first half of the season, but they have showed considerable grit in pulling out a couple of wins since that humbling 42-0 loss to Governor Mifflin three weeks ago. The visiting Colts haven’t exactly been overwhelming in their last three games, either, struggling to get by Lower Dauphin (1-9) and Chambersburg (2-8) and outlasting Mechanicsburg (1-9) in double-overtime last weekend.

* * *

Three provisional games scheduled at the outset of the season for this weekend – Norristown at Phoenixville, Pottstown at William Tennent, and Spring-Ford at Upper Darby – will be played Friday night.

And, don’t forget, Perkiomen Valley visits Methacton on Saturday afternoon in both teams’ PAC-10 and season finales. The Vikings (4-4, 4-6) need a win to finish above the .500 mark in the league, while the Warriors (3-5, 4-6) are looking to end a two-year skid against their guests and regain the upper hand they long had in the series.

* * *

Two of the area’s best players a year ago – Pottsgrove’s Preston Hamlette and St. Pius X’s Josh Rogers – capped their seasons with big games in Valley Forge Military Academy’s 38-19 rout of Fork Union (Va.) last weekend.

Hamlette had 16 tackles and forced a fumble, while Rogers had four sacks among his eight tackles and forced a fumble for VFMA, which finished up 8-0.


Catch Them If You Can

This column originally ran in the Nov. 5 edition of The Mercury.

Terrell Chestnut and Maika Polamalu bid farewell to the Pioneer Athletic Conference tonight. So will a number of their Pottsgrove teammates, as well as a small group of seniors from Pope John Paul II on Saturday afternoon. The senior send-off continues next weekend when Methacton and Perkiomen Valley close out their PAC-10 schedules, and it’ll end when Boyertown and Upper Perkiomen, Phoenixville and Spring-Ford, and Pottstown and Owen J. Roberts all take part in the final day of the PAC-10’s 25th football season on Thanksgiving morning.

It may seem a little unfair to pick out two from that long, long list of seniors.

But no two have stood out as long as Chestnut and Polamalu … no two teammates, that is, for four straight seasons.

Their athleticism, their untapped football skills, were evident from the very beginning, which is why Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker and his staff decided to “bring ’m up” to the high school varsity as freshmen. But what separated Chestnut and Polamalu from so many other valued freshmen was their work ethic, their drive to be all instead of part of it all.

Some freshmen give their teams a spark here and there, that glimmer of hope – wins and championships – along the way as they play out their sophomore, junior and senior years.

Chestnut and Polamalu gave the Pottsgrove program an immeasurable rush. They threw a charge into the offense with their ability to run, throw and catch the football, with their knack of finding an opponent’s end zone from anywhere on the field. They threw a charge into the defense with their gift of reading plays, with their flair for making the plays.

Teammates, as well as opponents from around the Pioneer Athletic Conference and throughout District 1, noticed. They were a presence at every practice. And for those who strolled from the opposing sidelines and onto the football field with them, well, they got to see – up close and in person – the impact they had on the games they played.

In the beginning, Chestnut and Polamalu were indeed promising freshmen … and they continued to deliver as promised ever since.

It was never easy, either. Chestnut made a name for himself when he was selected to the all-state first team defense following his first season. Polamalu already had a name – thanks to cousin Troy Polamalu, an All-Pro defensive back with the Pittsburgh Steelers – and because of it had to play up to everyone else’s often lofty and unfair expectations.

But their drive to become better players, their drive to become integral part of a better team, never wavered.

Nor did their stance as leaders … as role models.

They may have been stars born four years ago, in the spotlight all four of these years now. But they’ve always opted to share that glare with everyone around them – their teammates.

In their four years together – Chestnut, Polamalu and the rest of the Falcons went undefeated to win back-to-back PAC-10 championship seasons, and going into tonight’s regular season finale against visiting Phoenixville, own a 31-4 record in league play; they qualified for the District 1-Class AAA playoffs three straight years – winning that coveted title a year ago – and will make it an unprecedented four years in a row next weekend when they kick off this year’s postseason; and they’ve compiled an overall record of 43-8 … hoping to add to the left side of that ledger before all is said and done this – or next – month.

Of course, Chestnut and Polamalu contributed their share and more to those achievements. And they were always recognized. Both have been all-conference this and all-area that, and on practically every all-state team that’s selected nowadays.

Pennypacker and his staff, as well as everyone else with the slightest interest in the Pottsgrove football program, will unquestionably miss Chestnut and Polamalu as much if not more than any two players before them. Fans here and there will unquestionably miss what they brought, and added, to the game.

And the PAC-10 will long miss Chestnut and Polamalu, two the league’s best ambassadors … two players who for four years epitomized everything that was right with high school football, on and off the field.


Statistically, Chestnut and Polamalu – despite limited roles on offense as freshmen – have put up jaw-dropping numbers despite sharing ball-carrying responsibilities with a lot of others during their four years. The two have a combined 895 carries for 6,799 yards, 107 touchdowns and 654 points overall. Throw in senior Kayvon Greene, who didn’t get called on to carry the ball that much until midway through last year’s grind, and those numbers jump to 1,158 carries for 8,788 yards, 137 touchdowns and 840 points.

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AROUND THE PAC: Boyertown, with a minimum of three games remaining, needs two wins to get into double figures and match the school record of 10, set in 1977 and matched in 1979. … Methacton (4-5), with two games left, has an opportunity to finish with its first winning season since going 8-3 back in 2000. … Owen J. Roberts has scored 364 points and, with a minimum of two games remaining, will likely break the single-season school record of 385 set last year. … Perkiomen Valley needs one win in its final two games to reach 150 in the history of its program. … Injury depleted Phoenixville is 109-109-1 overall in PAC-10 play and needs to win both or split its final two games to avoid going under that .500 mark for the first time since the league kicked off in 1986. … Pottsgrove needs 57 points to go over the 400-point mark for an area-record fourth straight season. … Pottstown needs one more win for the 475th in the history of its program, a number that trails only Phoenixville and The Hill School on the area’s all-time wins chart. … Spring-Ford needs 35 points to post the most any Rams team has scored since 1999. … Upper Perkiomen (4-5), with only one losing season since 2000, needs two to reach 275 in the history of its program.

PRIVATE ISSUES: The Hill School (3-0), Hun (3-1) and Lawrenceville (3-1) are the only teams that can determine this year’s Mid-Atlantic Prep League champion … and they’ll do all that this weekend and next. Hill visits Hun this afternoon, then hosts Lawrenceville – in the two teams’ 108th meeting of the spirited series – next Saturday. … Tom Calvario closes out his first season as Perkiomen School’s head coach today with a game at St. Andrew’s, Del. The Panthers were certainly the area’s most traveled team, playing in Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware (twice).


On the Rebound

This column originally ran in the Nov. 2 edition of The Mercury.

Daniel Boone, The Hill School, Methacton, Pottstown and Spring-Ford all won football games last Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Considering what they did the week before, or weeks before, the wins were rather impressive.

In other words, none of the five had much to shout about the previous week. They lost and, to borrow a comment from one coach, “looked bad” in the process.

But coaches preach to their teams about bouncing back. Good teams recoup and regroup… learn from the mistakes made, tuck them away in the past, and move on. Good teams perk up, and pick it up.

All five sure did this past weekend.

None perhaps better than Daniel Boone.

Two weeks ago, unbeaten and entering a game most felt they would win, the Blazers were embarrassed 42-0 up at Governor Mifflin. It was their worst loss since a 50-0 setback to Great Valley eight years ago, their worst Inter-County League loss since a 51-6 shellacking by Muhlenberg nine years ago. Both of those were before Dave Bodolus took over the program.

Don’t think Bodolus didn’t take it personally. In his eight seasons with the Blazers, he had never lost a game by 42 points. In his eight seasons with the Blazers, he had never been shut out. As a matter of fact, you’d have to go back a few years, back to his fourth of seven seasons as the head coach at St. Pius X – when his Lions lost to Pottsgrove, 21-0, on Thanksgiving in 1999 – to find the last time one of his teams were blanked on the scoreboard. For the record, that’s a string of 126 straight games before the Mustang mauling.

But last week, coming off that stinging loss and entering a game most fans beyond the Birdsboro borders felt they would lose, the Blazers battled throughout a 27-20 overtime win over visiting Conrad Weiser. It not only kept them in the I-C Section One title chase, but guaranteed them no worse than a tie for the championship if they win again this Friday night against Exeter.

Yes, that was impressive.

The Hill School was on a little roll of its own with three straight wins – including a pair against Mid-Atlantic Prep League rivals Peddie and Mercersburg – before heading up to New York two weeks ago. It wasn’t only a long bus ride to Brooklyn, but an even longer trip back following their 33-0 loss to Poly Prep.

Like Bodolus, Marty Vollmuth hadn’t been accustomed to getting shut out. But his Rams recouped and regrouped, in a hurry, too, because they were back on the road to Blair Academy in northern New Jersey last weekend. They responded with a 41-21 romp that, should they stay the course this week over at the Hun School, will clinch no worse than a tie for a second straight MAPL championship.

That was impressive.

Methacton and Pottstown were both reeling heading into the weekend. Methacton, which showed so much promise in a 3-1 start, had lost four straight and gave up 181 points in that stretch. Pottstown, which opened with a big win over Pius X, had slid into a seven-game skid that hurt even worse seeing that three of the losses were by a combined 11 points. But the Warriors and Trojans, with the threat of their seasons getting away from them, bounced back and gained some respectability with wins last Saturday afternoon.

That was impressive.

Spring-Ford was in the Pioneer Athletic Conference chase and among the Top 16 teams in the District 1-AAAA playoff points standings for the very first time two weeks ago, and could’ve gotten a hand on a share of the PAC-10 lead and cemented a berth in the postseason when it visited unbeaten Boyertown. The Rams instead lost the game – 20-0 – and perhaps the drive to finish as strong as they started. But they recovered, reorganized and reshaped their run for the final month of the season with a 28-0 shutout of their own against Perkiomen Valley, arguably their biggest and most challenging rival the past decade or so.

That was impressive.

And it would be foolish not to admit what Owen J. Roberts and Pottsgrove did last weekend wasn’t impressive, too.

The Wildcats, who for the first three weeks of the season didn’t look at all like or play like the PAC-10 contender it was supposed to be, rang up its sixth straight win – and ended Boyertown’s unbeaten season – with a no-doubt-about-it, 55-14 romp of the Bears. Yes, Ryan Brumfield and the offense is lighting up the board, but the first-team defense isn’t exactly getting overshadowed by that glare, not with the team owning a share of the PAC-10 lead and within a win of clinching a third straight postseason berth.

And over at Pottsgrove, where a noticeable group of fans have jumped the proverbial bandwagon, the Falcons are getting healthy … and suddenly have the look of the previous two teams that swept through the PAC-10 and won last year’s District 1-AAA title. They’ve rebounded from two losses – the last one a humbling 49-20 setback to OJR three weeks ago – by putting up 118 points the last two times out, and with one more test this Friday night against visiting Phoenixville, could be more than just the “expected” playoff qualifier by the time the postseason kicks off next week.

* * *

The Hill School can clinch no worse than a tie for its second straight MAPL title with a win at The Hun School this week. The Rams are 3-0 and Hun is 3-1. The only other contender is Lawrenceville (3-1), and the Larries visit Hill for that traditional season-ending brawl Nov. 13.

* * *

Pottsgrove’s 69-19 offensive at Upper Perkiomen erased a few records. The 69 points are both a school record and PAC-10 record – breaking the mark set by Phoenixville (against Upper Perkiomen) in a 63-33 rout back in 1988. It was also the second-highest number of points allowed by Upper Perkiomen, coming up short of the Indians’ 71-0 loss to C.B. West back in 1960. … Owen J. Roberts has scored 50 or more points nine times in the history of its program, and eight of those games – including five the last two seasons – have come under head coach Tom Barr. The Wildcats are within 21 points of breaking the school record for points scored in a season (385), which was set last year. … For Boyertown, the victim of OJR’s offensive last week, it was the most points a Bears team has allowed in a PAC-10 game and only the second time in the last 14 seasons any Boyertown team has surrendered 50 or more points in a game.

* * *

Brumfield is now fourth all-time in Pennsylvania history for career rushing yards. The OJR senior has 8,023 yards with a minimum of two games remaining. He could conceivably run by Schuylkill Haven graduate Zach Barket (8,325), and possibly even East Stroudsburg graduate James Mungro (8,432), while a couple of postseason games or more may be needed to run down Steelton-Highspire’s Jeremiah Young and his record 9,027 yards. … Brumfield ran 126 times for 903 yards and 13 touchdowns in four games against Boyertown. The next two teams (who’ll like when he graduates) he has fared well against are Methacton (699 yards, 8 TDs in there games) and Upper Perkiomen (698 yards, 10 TDs) – despite one carry for minus-two yards lining up against the Indians as a freshman. … Pottsgrove’s Maika Polamalu (4,087 yards rushing), currently No. 6 on The Mercury Area’s career rushing list, will likely finish second on the Falcons’ chart behind Brent Steinmetz (4,752).

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Brumfield, Pasik at center of showdown

This column originally ran in the Oct. 29 edition of The Mercury

BUCKTOWN – Whenever Owen J. Roberts lines up for a big game, at least for a good part of the last two and a half seasons, the focus always seems to be on Ryan Brumfield. Whenever Boyertown lines up for a big game, at least this season, the focus always seems to be on Dylan Pasik.

Understandably so.

Brumfield has run just about every conceivable way in carrying the Wildcats to 21 wins in their last 24 Pioneer Athletic Conference games and back-to-back appearances in the District 1 playoffs. Pasik has taken snap after snap, made all the right reads and – along with the help of running backs Jared Von Dohren, Tom Froehlich and Jon Neiman – has guided the Bears to six straight and six very convincing PAC-10 wins.

And after this evening’s showdown, when all’s said and done, either Brumfield or Pasik will likely be basking in the Friday Night Lights.

But it will be a gang of unsung souls – defensive linemen and the fellas who fill in behind them – who both Brumfield and Pasik will be trying to avoid in this long-awaited game that will likely determine who wins, shares or loses a league championship … and measure the pulse of both teams’ postseason lives.

“This is one of those games that’ll be man-on-man, a very physical game,” said Boyertown head coach Mark Scisly, whose team is a spotless 6-0 in the PAC-10, 8-0 overall and situated alongside North Penn in the fifth spot in the District 1-AAAA playoff points standings.

With the exception of two games, the Bears have been able to shut down opponents’ running games. Tackles Chris Muller and Travis Mitchell, along with linebackers Troy Heuer and Zach Heffner on the inside and Jeff Ellwanger and Tyler Shaw on the outside – not to mention quite active safeties Tyler Mauger and Neiman – are surrendering an average of just 138 yards a weekend.

But the Bears haven’t gone toe-to-toe with an offensive line like the Wildcats, who feature center Mike Nowak, guards Zach Glanski and Sean Moloney, tackles Jake Manfredi and Kyle Moore, and tight ends Mike Moran and Robbie Patrick. And the Bears haven’t yet had to deal with anyone who can scoot like Brumfield, who alone is averaging 249 yards a game this season and, even more impressive, a few inches more than 205 yards a game since his sophomore season.

“We know we have to stop Brumfield, who obviously is a very good player,” Scisly said. “But you can’t overlook their linemen. They’re pretty good, too.

“We also can’t overlook (OJR’s) threat to pass, either. Their quarterback (Ryan Megay) has gotten a lot better. We don’t want to give up that big pass, that big play.”

And if that isn’t enough for Boyertown to keep a collective eye on, there’s Sam Funk. A three-year starter, Funk will set up at wing and, at times, fullback. He’s quietly run for 516 yards – just under 10 yards a pop – and scored nine times overall. Moreover, he’s a reliable receiver.

“We rely on the run because we’re a running team,” said OJR head coach Tom Barr, whose team (5-1, 6-2 overall) needs a win to draw even with the Bears in the PAC-10 and to remain in the Top 16 in the District 1-AAAA playoff standings. “We also have a passing scheme, too. We have what we feel are sound passing plays if we want to use them. We haven’t abandoned (the pass), but if everything is going right with our running game there’s no need to throw the football.”

As impressive as the Wildcats’ offense may be, Boyertown can match it … and no one knows that more than Barr.

“You just can’t focus on Pasik alone or any one other player in their offense because they have so many guys who can hurt you,” Barr said.

Thanks to center Tyler Bogert, guards Zack Paskel and Muller, tackles Tyler Boggs and Jake Semple, and tight ends Jake McKee and Shaw – as Sixth Man Extraordinaire Adam Seanor, who has filled in at center, guard and tackles – Boyertown has gotten a lot of mileage out of everyone else behind that anonymous front.

Neiman (489 yards), Von Dohren (485) and Froehlich (453) are averaging six yards a pop and have scored 18 touchdowns between them. Pasik, a threat to step out himself, has thrown for 1,102 yards and 15 touchdowns – and all that without tossing an interception this season.

Pasik has spread his limited passing game around to nine different receivers. Shaw, for instance, has just three catches – but has taken each of them to the end zone for touchdowns.

“(Pasik) makes things happen for them,” Barr said. “He makes big plays happen.”

The OJR defense has made things happen, too. The Wildcats are actually permitting less yards on the ground (114) and overall (198) than the Bears behind a strong front that features Moore and Joe Polignano on the ends, Moloney and Nowak at the tackles, and Funk, Nate Blevins and Moran in the linebacking spots.

“(Owen J. Roberts’) defense is playing well,” Scisly said. “Their tackles are both superior players. Nowak is so physical, and Moloney is so quick.”

Bottom line, it comes down to what Scisly, Barr and every other coach preaches from Day One – blocking and tackling.

Which is what Brumfield or Pasik will likely be talking about when it’s all over.

* * *

Both teams have excellent kicking games, too. The Bears’ Aaron Sassaman and the Wildcats’ John Pennell are tied for the area lead in kick scoring with 37 points apiece. … Boyertown has forced opponents to play catch-up most of the season, outscoring their rivals 186-41 in the first half through eight weeks. … OJR, which has amassed 979 yards rushing the last two games, had 11 turnovers in its first four games but has turned it over just once in its last four games. … Boyertown, which last week recorded the 350th win in the history of its football program, goes for its 50th PAC-10 win tonight.


Bears-’Cats tilt will have ‘huge’ impact on playoffs

This column originally ran in the Oct. 26 edition of The Mercury.

All the football fanatics in Boyertown and Bucktown are already talking about Friday night’s game between Boyertown and Owen J. Roberts. Just imagine what must be going through the minds of those Bears and Wildcats…

Both teams, as most know by now, are armed offensively with size and quickness on the line and speed behind it … a whole lot of talent that can put up big, big numbers on the scoreboard. Both teams, as most know by now, have proven they have the ability to disarm anyone defensively with size and quickness on the line and speed behind it … a whole lot of talent that can minimize those other numbers on the scoreboard (and sometimes keep them at zero, too). Both teams have made a habit of holding onto the football, too … and when the opposition doesn’t, they sure have had a way of getting it back.

All that sure gives everyone a lot to talk about.

The fact the Bears and Wildcats are one-two in the Pioneer Athletic Conference standings can sure add to any conversation, too. The Bears, remember, are unbeaten at 6-0 — not to mention 8-0 overall for the first time in the 71-year history of their program. The Wildcats, remember, are 5-1 (6-2 overall) and have looked unbeatable during a five-week run in which they’ve outscored their opponents by an average of 30 points.


Not really, because PAC-10 leadership (or possible championship) aside, there’s also the issue of securing a spot in the District 1-AAAA playoffs.

Boyertown is currently tied for fifth in the points standings – up one spot from a week ago thanks to that 20-0 shutout of Spring-Ford. A win Friday night would clinch a spot in the 16-team bracket, and another win next week against visiting Methacton would clinch a home game in the opening round. Owen J. Roberts is currently 14th – up three very big spots from a week ago thanks to the 42-20 pummeling of Pope John Paul II. A win Friday night, in all likelihood, would mean another noticeable jump up the standings, and a win next week at Perkiomen Valley – which has lost by one point and two points in the rivals’ last two meetings – would clinch a spot in the opening round.

In other words, this Friday’s game is big, like really big … huge, if you will.

Yes, there are next week’s games and those Thanksgiving issues to be decided before all’s said and done. But this game – like everyone is saying – will go a long way in determining who gets into the postseason and where they play, and who gets their hands on that PAC-10 championship trophy.


If the Wildcats get into the playoffs, they would be just the second area program and second PAC-10 program to get into district playoffs three successive seasons. Daniel Boone has been a District 3-AAA qualifier the last four seasons, while Lansdale Catholic set the standard in the PAC-10 by appearing in five straight (1994-98) and four straight (2004-07) before moving down into the Philadelphia Catholic League.

* * *

Spring-Ford’s drive for a spot in the District 1-AAAA playoffs crashed with the loss to Boyertown. The Rams, who slipped from a tie for the 14th spot down to No. 18 this week, aren’t that far out of the 16th and final spot. But they certainly must beat bitter-rival Perkiomen Valley this week and Pottstown next week – and get some help from around the district to knock those just above them, namely Henderson and Penn Wood – to claim their program’s first postseason berth. … And up in District 3, Daniel Boone not only lost for the first time this season but lost sole possession of the Inter-County League Section One lead and dropped from third to sixth in the AAAA power ratings. It would take a lot of Twilight Zone-like events to deny Daniel Boone a spot in the postseason, but a loss this week to Conrad Weiser (7-1) – which is No. 3 in the district’s AAA ratings – or a loss next week to bitter rival Exeter (4-4) could cost the Blazers a home game in the opening round.

* * *

Pottsgrove, which needs a lot of help to get a share of what would be a third straight PAC-10 title, can become that second (or third) PAC-10 team to make the postseason three consecutive seasons with wins this week at Upper Perkiomen and next week at home against Phoenixville. The Falcons are currently No. 3 in the District 1-AAA points standings behind Strath Haven and Upper Moreland, which widened its lead a bit over the weekend with a 14-13 thriller over Suburban One American Conference rival Upper Dublin. While the consensus favors Pottsgrove the next two weeks, neither may be as easy some say. Upper Perkiomen quarterback Casey Perlstein is creating havoc running the ball and throwing it to turf-burner Ronnie Gillespie, and Phoenixville has been nothing but a pest for the Falcons the last three years. … Upper Perkiomen, incidentally, is No. 7 in the eight-team AAA bracket right now. The Indians travel to Pope John Paul after entertaining the Falcons this weekend.

* * *

Two of the area’s best football players last year – if not the last two or three years – have been putting together great seasons at Valley Forge Military Academy. St. Pius X graduate Josh Rogers, an All PAC-10 and all-state selection who led the entire league and was among the state leaders in sacks a year ago, and Pottsgrove graduate Preston Hamlette, also an All PAC-10 and all-state selection who anchored the Falcons’ drive to a pair of league titles and a district championship, are creating havoc on VFMA’s defense. In last week’s 34-27 win over Friendship Collegiate (Washington, D.C.), Rogers had two tackles for losses and eight overall, forced a fumble and recovered another. Hamlette had a team-high 15 tackles and a fumble recovery. Their efforts kept VFMA unbeaten through six games, and they hope to make it seven in a row on Saturday at Maryland Academy of Technology.

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Boyertown not looking past Spring-Ford to date with OJR

This column was originally published in the Oct. 22 edition of The Mercury.

Five weeks ago, moments after Boyertown upset Pottsgrove, a whole lot of football fans thought it was time to get the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship trophy engraved, boxed up and delivered to Boyertown. Last week, moments after Owen J. Roberts put up 49 points on Pottsgrove in a surprising romp, it seemed as though a lot of those same football fans wanted to put a hold on that shipment.

At least for another two weeks, or until late Friday evening, Oct. 29, to be specific.

That’s when the Bears and Wildcats meet over in Bucktown … the game, most say, which will determine if Boyertown wins or shares the PAC-10 title.

Mind you, all that may sound great to the Bears, but right now it’s all falling on deaf ears.

If the Bears don’t get the best of Spring-Ford tonight, the outcome of next week’s showdown (and the remaining two league games)

just may determine if Boyertown wins or shares – or possibly even loses – the PAC-10 title.

“We’re not thinking about Owen J., or anyone other than Spring-Ford at this point,” Boyertown head coach Mark Scisly said earlier this week. “No one is looking ahead, not when we already know that Spring-Ford beat Owen J.

“Our kids know the importance of this game. Believe me, this is a huge test for us.”

For the record, Boyertown is the lone remaining unbeaten in the PAC-10 (5-0, 7-0 overall) and can claim the program’s second league championship trophy with a win tonight, next week at Owen J. Roberts and in those final two tests at home – the first against Methacton and the other on Thanksgiving against Upper Perkiomen. But looking ahead, beyond the task at hand, if you will, could prove quite costly.

“From Day One our whole focus has been on one game at a time,” Scisly said..

If anyone would check the back of the t-shirts the Bears wear out and about – or the dog tags that dangle under them – they’d see, in writing, exactly that … what Scisly has been drilling into his football team since Day One.

So, yes, the Bears’ focus is squarely on the Rams (3-2, 5-2), who may be just a wee bit better than their record indicates.

“(Spring-Ford) plays well, plays hard,” Scisly said. “They have a lot of very good football players. Defensively they fly to the football. They’re very dangerous.”

What concerns Scisly the most is the Rams’ defense. They have slowed down if not shut down four opponents’ running games, and surrendered very little against the pass. Twins Max and Bjorn Ullmann have a combined 9.5 sacks coming off the ends, Dan Albanese has been a pest of late inside the Ullmans, and linebackers Matt Krueger (3.5 sacks) and James Hoff are having all-league seasons. The secondary, which has come up with most of the team’s area-leading 16 interceptions, is anchored by Matt Glowacki, Andrew Keys and Stephen Joyce, who have 11 picks between them.

If that isn’t enough, the Rams’ special teams may be among the best in the area. Their return teams – combined with the defense – have accounted for six touchdowns and set up countless other scores.

“Spring-Ford is similar to us in that they have a lot of one-way starters,” Scisly said. “When they’re out there, on offense or defense, they’re usually fresh.”

Chad Brubaker, the Rams’ first year coach, would like to keep everyone fresh, too. But that will require holding onto the football on offense and defusing Boyertown’s explosive offense.

The Bears are averaging just under 38 points a game with as balanced an offense as there is in the PAC-10. They can go to any one of four backs – Jared Von Dohren (453 yards, 7 TDs), Jon Neiman (423 yards, 5 TDs), Tom Froehlich (308 yards, 4 TDs) or, of late, Tyler Mauger. And then there’s quarterback Dylan Pasik, who can run well himself but is considerably more dangerous throwing it – completing a ridiculous 67 percent of his passes for 1,086 yards and 15 touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception this season, either.

Getting to and wrapping up that group hasn’t been easy, either. Boyertown isn’t just big but quite mobile as well.

“Boyertown is huge up front,” Brubaker said. “We cannot match their size. They have a ton of weapons, too. We cannot relax for a play or we’ll be in trouble.”

The Rams may find more trouble if they take a play or two off on offense, too. Their run game has been inconsistent. The line, with Chase Stewart – who played his sophomore year at Boyertown – and fullback Andrew Thomas running behind it, is producing an average of just 147 yards a game. Sophomore quarterback Hank Coyne has thrown for 963 yards and shown considerable maturity of late. He threw six interceptions in his first three games, but has just two the last month. And he’s thrown for eight of his 13 touchdowns the last three weeks, including four last Friday night.

“We have to be aware of (Boyertown’s) blitz package and make adjustments on the run,” Brubaker said. “Our skill players need to continue to move the chains and sustains drives.”

Boyertown hasn’t permitted many long drives, or time-consuming drives. Despite allowing an area-low 13.3 points a game, the defense has been overshadowed somewhat by its own offense.

Up front Travis Mitchell and Chris Muller have been quite disruptive; Tyler Shaw, Troy Heuer and Zach Heffner are as active and proficient as any linebackers in the league; and Mauger – the Bears’ strong safety who gets help in the secondary from Brooke David and David Siepietowski – may be among the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year honors in the PAC-10.

“Execution and consistency is critical for us to have a chance in this game,” Brubaker said.

Executing, and executing consistently, is what has led the Bears to a school-record seven straight season-opening wins so far. That and their approach each and every week, of course.

“One game at a time,” Scisly said. “All we’re concerned about and focused on right now is Spring-Ford.”

* * *

MIXING IT UP: The District 1-AAA playoff points standings could undergo another major shuffle this weekend. No. Upper Moreland (6-1) is at Upper Dublin (6-1); No. 2 Strath Haven (6-1), which has quietly crept back into the postseason picture it once dominated for so long, visits Upper Darby (5-2); and Academy Park (6-1) can ill-afford to take anything for granted at Glen Mills (3-4). No. 4 Pottsgrove entertains Methacton, while No. 5 Springfield-Delco (5-2) visits dangerous Conestoga (4-3). No. 6 Bishop Shanahan (4-3) should end its three-game skid against visiting West Chester East (1-6). Phoenixville and Upper Perkiomen are tied for the No. 7 spot and square off in Red Hill tonight, one of which is hoping to keep No. 9 Oxford where it is in the in a bid to make the eight-team playoff field.


Brumfield is more than a record breaker

This column was originally published in the Oct. 19 edition of The Mercury.

High school statistics vary from team statistician to team statistician, from newspaper to newspaper. Because of it, because of no assigned or acknowledged “official” statistician, all the sometimes mind-boggling numbers are different.

The difference of a yard here and there on a run or pass reception, or whatever one cares to chart over the course of a game, isn’t usually that much. Over a season or career, well, the difference can be significant. And when an individual or a team is closing in on a specific record – whether it’s a school, league, area, state or even national record – it becomes a roll of the dice as to who’s right, who may be right, and who’s way off the mark.

However, when all is said and done, that existing record – whatever it may be – wasn’t exactly an issue after all because it got obliterated … or expunged, as in erased from whatever book it was penciled in.

And no one has taken the guesswork out of all that arithmetic more than Ryan Brumfield.

The Owen J. Roberts senior, who didn’t look at all like he was going to break anything other than a bone in his fragile frame the first time he took a handoff as a freshman, already had a handful of game, season and career records before the current season kicked off last month. Seven weeks in, he’s wiped out nearly every game, season and career record, as well as a few other marks not necessarily recorded on the scholastic level, ever documented at Owen J. Roberts, in the Pioneer Athletic Conference or throughout The Mercury area.

Name a record, or ask about one – any of them in the rushing and scoring sections of your favorite record book – and Brumfield owns it. He got rid of the OJR single-game record for yards rushing in a game last Friday night when he ran for a personal-high 329 yards, taking out the previous mark of 311 set by David Frame. His final carry of the evening also sent him to the top of the Southeastern Pennsylvania career rushing chart, right alongside West Catholic (Philadelphia) graduate Curtis Brinkley, each with 7,429 yards. Brumfield will own that record Saturday afternoon after he takes a handoff or two against Pope John Paul II.

It seems the only existing mark that doesn’t have Brumfield’s named attached to it is St. Pius X graduate Zack Pierce’s 1,162 career carries. With 1,044 after last Friday night’s extravaganza and a minimum of five games remaining on this year’s schedule, Brumfield needs to average just over 23 carries a weekend to make the entire rushing section of the Owen J. Roberts, PAC-10 and Mercury area record books all his and his alone.

Considering he’s averaged exactly 23 carries in his 45-game career – and just under 27 as a junior and senior – expect that mark of endurance and proficiency to become his, too.

Brumfield also is already No. 1 in the area in total offense (rushing, passing and receiving) mark with 8,296 … 1,565 yards more than Pierce produced at Pius. And Brumfield soared by Pierce five weeks ago in career rushing touchdowns and the following week in career scoring when he went over the 500-point mark.

But if there is one thing to remember about Brumfield, now and in the future if and when a conversation turns to the area’s great running backs, it’s that he has earned every one of the records.

“Hard work,” head coach Tom Barr has said time and time again of Brumfield’s physical and mental growth. “When he first came up with us as a freshman, he’d get the ball and go. But he’s learned to be a lot more patient, waiting for his blocks, looking for that seam … and then off he goes. He has great vision, too.”

Beyond the Bucktown borders, near as well as far away, some people forget that Brumfield has game in basketball and track, too. He’s been the point guard for two years, although last winter’s season was cut short when he had surgery on a nagging hand injury. He’s also been one of the state’s best high jumpers every spring.

Dave Strock, who has seen his share of talent at Owen J. Roberts, first as an outstanding Wildcat athlete himself and now, for the past 29 years, as the school’s athletic director, made a bold statement about Brumfield two years ago: “By the time he graduates, he’ll be the greatest athlete ever at Owen J. Roberts.”

Monday morning, Strock said: “I certainly do remember saying that. And I was right. Ryan is the best all-around athlete we’ve ever had here at Owen J.”

All that and he still manages to carry just under a 3.0 grade point average in the classroom.

The best part of it all, and the part that simply cannot be measured by yards or grades, is that Ryan Brumfield is one very classy young man.

Never once has he failed to acknowledge his teammates, who have helped him get to where he’s at, to get his name on all those pages in the record books, to see his name in all the headlines. Never once … and he was like that when he took his very first handoff against Downingtown West in the 2007 season-opener; was like that throughout two outstanding sophomore and junior seasons; has been all this season; and will likely always be.

* * *

AROUND THE PAC: Boyertown is now 7-0 for the first time in the history of its football program, which began in 1939. … Methacton nearly doubled its previous-best offensive showing with 411 yards last Thursday night, but the Warriors have turned it over nine times the last two games and the defense is allowing an average of 44 points a game the last three weeks. … Owen J. Roberts has a minimum of five games remaining and needs five wins to reach double figures in the won-loss column for the third consecutive season. The program’s previous-best of back-to-back, 10-wins-or-more seasons were in 1983-84 and 1986-87. … Perkiomen Valley hasn’t won two in a row this season, but can get to .500 with a victory this weekend against Pottstown, which is itching to end a six-game skid of its own. … Pottsgrove is 4-2 in the league with three games remaining. The Falcons haven’t lost three PAC-10 games in a season in four years. … Spring-Ford’s defense has 13 sacks divided among three players – twins Max Ullman (5) and Bjorn Ullman (4.5), and Matt Krueger (3.5) – and an area-high 16 interceptions.

TIED, NOT BROKEN: A look back into the PAC-10 record book revealed that Pottstown’s Kyle Dentler didn’t break the record for the longest field goal but tied it when he converted a 47-yarder against Pope John Paul II two weeks ago. Eight years ago, Owen J. Roberts’ Shawn Albright hit from the same distance during a 24-3 loss to Lansdale Catholic.

ROAD WARRIORS: Perkiomen School was up in Connecticut last Saturday to play St. Luke’s. The Hill School will travel to Brooklyn (N.Y.) this Saturday to play Poly Prep. Neither team thought heading out of town was the way to an easy win, either. St. Luke’s is 5-1 after defeating Perkiomen School, and Poly Prep is 5-1 going into this weekend’s game with Hill.


OJR hopes third time’s the charm

This column was originally published in the Oct. 15 edition of The Mercury.

BUCKTOWN — Tom Barr has lined up his Owen J. Roberts defense this way and that, nearly every way imaginable, in hopes stopping Pottsgrove’s offense the last two years.

Not a whole heck of a lot has worked, though.

Back in 2008, with Terrell Chestnut, Maika Polamalu and Preston Hamlette accounting for over 300 of the team’s 383 yards, Pottsgrove rolled up a 41-14 win. Last season, with Chestnut, Polamalu and Kayvon Greene accounting for 256 of the team’s 289 yards – all on the ground, too — Pottsgrove ran up a similar 35-14 win.

Those two losses were the only two in the Pioneer Athletic Conference for the Wildcats, who otherwise had a handle on everyone else but still had to settle for second place behind Pottsgrove both seasons.

So, not surprising, Barr and his staff were back to scheming again … trying to come up with a game plan that will not only stop the threesome and the rest of the Falcons tonight, but also keep the Wildcats in the chase for that elusive PAC-10 championship and a District 1-AAAA playoff berth.

Unlike the last two years, though, the Wildcats (3-2, 4-2) need a win tonight over the Falcons (4-1, 5-1) — and another win next week at Pope John Paul II — just to set up yet another showdown. And that, of course, would be against unbeaten Boyertown, which put itself in the enviable position it’s in way back in Week Three by sacking Pottsgrove with its first league loss in over two years.

But because of a surprising setback to Spring-Ford last month, a little round-robin, which has happened only once before – back in 1998 when Lansdale Catholic, Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford shared the title – is the best OJR can hope for right now.

To set up that sort of scenario, though, it’s first things first … like beating Pottsgrove, a rival that doesn’t look all that different than it did a year ago (or two years, for that matter).

“(Pottsgrove) is a little different this year, but not that much different,” Barr said earlier this week. “They still have those three talented backs, but I think their line is quicker. They don’t need to pull a lot because they can go right at you. Their zone blocking is so good.”

The Falcons’ front – center Dan Foust, guards Eric Bonenberger and Chris Nester, and tackles Madison O’Connor and Scott Schollenberger – arguably had their best showing of the season last Friday night. And then there are those other three (or four)…

Chestnut isn’t 100 percent since going down with an injury against Boyertown. He’s yielded the quarterbacking responsibilities to Tory Hudgins, who’s more than carried his weight. But when head coach Rick Pennypacker called on Chestnut last week in the fourth quarter of a then 14-14 brawl with Spring-Ford, it was Chestnut who danced and pranced his way into the end zone for the decisive score. Then there’s Polamalu and Greene, who have done nothing but demoralize defenses. Polamalu has 808 yards and nine touchdowns, and averages over eight yards a carry. Greene has 653 yards and 13 touchdowns, and averages just under seven yards a carry.

Up the gut, off the tackle or around the outside, regardless of who’s taking the snaps, it’s an offense – an option offense – that can drive the field or strike immediately.

“Right now they have (Polamalu and Greene) who can play either role of dive man or pitch man,” Barr said. “A lot of teams key on certain personnel, like a lot of teams do against us (with running back Ryan Brumfield).

“But against Pottsgrove you can’t really key on any one person. And you really can’t load up the box against them, either. I know they haven’t thrown the ball much, but don’t let that fool you. They threw on us two years ago (Chestnut was 4 of 6 for 165 yards and two touchdowns), and they can still throw it. They just haven’t had to much this year.”

OJR’s defensive fortunes lie up front with Joe Polignano and Kyle Moore at the ends and Mike Nowak and Sean Moloney inside of them at the tackles. Linebacker Jake Manfredi sets up inside, or in between Sam Funk and Mike Moran.

“One problem with the option offense is that a lot of teams don’t execute well, but Pottsgrove does,” Barr said. “They run the veer as well as a tight version of the option, so we had to spend a lot of time (defensing) that this week.

“Our defense has been playing well, and playing well against the run inside. But our concern (with Pottsgrove) is our defense on the outside.”

Pennypacker and the Falcons have a little issue of their own to be concerned about, too. That would be Brumfield.

The senior tailback had 145 yards and a touchdown last year and 113 yards and two scores the year before against the Falcons. Those numbers pale in comparison to his usual weekend production, but Pennypacker and everyone else is well aware of the fact that Brumfield has literally rewritten the PAC-10 as well as Mercury-area record books.

“First of all, Owen J. Roberts is a very good football team,” Pennypacker said. “And Brumfield may be one of the scariest backs we have faced.”

Brumfield, who leads the area in rushing (1,357 yards) and scoring (15 TDs), could be even scarier this time around because the OJR passing game at last surfaced last week. Quarterback Ryan Megay completed 5 of 6 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns against Upper Perkiomen.

“Ryan Megay is coming around and making correct choices now,” Barr explained. “That helps, too, because teams can’t always load up the box on us now with the threat of putting (the ball) up.

“But the thing about (the Falcons) is that they react quicker than most teams. They get off the ball quick and get into the gaps so fast that you’re only able to get a piece of them. They just beat teams to the punch.”

Pottsgrove, which got strong games last week from sophomore end Nick Brennan (in his first start), nose guard T.J. Demetrio and linebackers Danny Michaels and Robbie Curtin, will no doubt load up the box in an attempt to slow down Brumfield. But they’ll also be aware of him returning kicks …an area of the game that nearly proved disastrous for the Falcons last week.

“Last week was a big win for us,” Pennypacker said. “But we have to play better on both sides of the ball against Owen J. And we have to shore up our special teams, especially against Owen J.”


Polamalu (3,679 yards) needs 81 more tonight to move from No. 10 up to No. 7 on The Mercury’s career rushing chart. … Brumfield tops the chart with an even 7,100 yards, which put him at No. 9 all-time in Pennsylvania history. He needs only four yards to move up one more spot and 166 yards to move up to No. 7 ahead of Southern Columbia’s Henry Hynoski.


Daniel Boone ended a 19-game losing streak to Muhlenberg last year with a 13-0 shutout. Things “look” like it could be a bit easy in making it two in a row tonight when the unbeaten Blazers (3-0, 6-0) host the struggling Muhls (0-3, 1-5). But head coach Dave Bodolus, who absorbed six of the losses in the skid that began in 1990 and didn’t end until last year, will be taking nothing for granted against his guests.

The Blazers are alone atop the Inter-County League Section One standings, with four teams (Conrad Weiser, Exeter, Governor Mifflin and Pottsville) all a game back at 2-1. After tonight, the Blazers face three of them – at Governor Mifflin next week, home against Conrad Weiser the following week, then at Exeter in the regular-season finale on Nov. 5.


The Hill School continues its Mid-Atlantic Prep League grind Saturday afternoon at home against Mercersburg.

One of the Storm’s best-known graduates was the late James Stewart. Yes, James Stewart the actor, who was nominated for five Academy Awards, won one and was later presented Hollywood’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

Stewart was born in Indiana, Pa., had two younger sisters and was expected to continue his father’s hardware business, which had been in the family for three generations. Instead, he attended Mercersburg, where he played football and ran on the track team before graduating in 1928.

In addition to his acting achievements, Stewart also had a noted military career. He was a World War II and the Vietnam War veteran who rose to the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.


In the face of adversity

It always seems so easy to talk about Boyertown, Pottsgrove, Owen J. Roberts and Daniel Boone. This season has been no different.

Boyertown is still unbeaten and alone atop the Pioneer Athletic Conference standings; both two-time defending champion Pottsgrove and two-time runner-up Owen J. Roberts are only one game back of the Bears; and Daniel Boone is still unbeaten and alone atop the Inter-County Section One standings.

Everyone has something to say week in and week out – good or bad, that is – about those four teams, and rightfully so.

But neither Phoenixville nor Pope John Paul II had been the subject of many conversations in recent weeks, and understandably so. Phoenixville head coach Bill Furlong may have been thinking of joining the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, and PJP head coach Mike Santillo may have been thinking of joining the cast of Survivor.

The Phantoms have created their own three-block path from Washington Field to Phoenixville Hospital. They’ve been unfortunate, actually unlucky, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time in absorbing a series of injuries that otherwise would seem like a script of football fiction. Nine starters, either down for the count for a game, two or three, or out for the entire season, have forced Furlong to be considerably more creative lining up his personnel than outlining any game plan.

Furlong and his staff lost a projected two-way starter for the season before it even kicked off because of a concussion; a two-way starter for the season after two games; and another two-way starter for the season after three games. He lost his kicker, one of the area’s best, for the season due to a soccer-related injury. A few two-way linemen haven’t played in weeks, and no one knows for sure when they’ll return… Only one Phantom – lineman Marcus Stokes – was in a position he played last year when Phoenixville gave Boyertown a bit of a battle two weeks ago.

Yet the team continues to redefine resiliency, and did it with an exclamation mark last Saturday afternoon throughout a 48-6 win at Methacton.

Their medical chart may reveal page after page of aches and pains, a lot of frustration – even a tinge of anger. But the Phantoms are back to even at 2-2 in the PAC-10 and 3-3 overall. And if the District 1-AAA playoffs would kick off this weekend, Furlong’s persistent Phantoms would be playing in them.

That is worth talking about.

So is Pope John Paul’s win last Saturday, and not because it was the program’s first win but because how it was achieved.

The Golden Panthers, with about a handful or so of seniors on the roster, hadn’t had much to cheer about through the first month of the season. But being young as well as the new kids on the PAC-10 block had worn off, as did some noticeable week-to-week improvements. The so-called moral victories were getting old, too. Being 0-for-5 was testing the mental approach, the confidence, the drive.

And no one would’ve thought the Golden Panthers’ misfortunes were going to change Saturday, especially when trailing 32-20 and taking possession on their own 11-yard line with 8:20 remaining. Those numbers, and that particular scenario, sure seemed like they added up to a sixth straight loss.

Seemed like, that is. The Golden Panthers used a penalty, one big run and three long passes to find the end zone in just under three minutes and get within 32-26. Then a defensive stand, their best of the afternoon, gave them the ball back. Two snaps later, they were back in the end zone again to get even at 32-32, and the decisive point-after – not so automatic considering a motion penalty pushed the attempt back five yards – was good. Finally, Pope John Paul had its first win.

And that is worth talking about.


PRIVATE MATTERS: Perkiomen School got back to even at 2-2 with a win over Emily Fisher Charter (from Trenton, N.J.). Panther senior Bruce Brittingham was as happy about it as anyone because he’s not only from Trenton but knows a lot of the EFC players – including quarterback Quaron Brittingham, his cousin. Perkiomen hits the highway this week for a game at St. Luke’s in Connecticut. … The Hill School opened defense of its Mid-Atlantic Prep League title by blanking Peddie. It was the Rams’ third shutout in their last four MAPL outings. This Friday they host Mercersburg, who they dumped 29-0 a year ago.

STREAKING: Boyertown is 6-0 for only the second time in the history of its football program, matching the 1954 team’s start. The Bears will attempt to go 7-0 for the first time ever this Friday at Pottstown. … Spring-Ford came up with one of its best games at Pottsgrove in recent memory, but couldn’t convert in a couple of second-half trips to the red zone and lost to the Falcons for the 11th consecutive season. … Daniel Boone, which needed a last-minute drive to beat Pottsville two weeks ago and came up with big play after big play in overtime to defeat Reading last Friday night, is 6-0 for the first time in four years and only the third time in the history of its football program. The Blazers won seven in a row in 1966 and eight straight to kick off the 2006 season. They’ll try to match that first mark this Friday at home against Muhlenberg.

MAKING THEIR MARK: Pottstown’s Kyle Dentler, overshadowed by a number of outstanding kickers this season and last, set a PAC-10 record Saturday by booming a 47-yard field goal through a strong crosswind. … Perkiomen Valley quarterback Alex Smith was 19 of 37 passing at Boyertown, the sixth and third best marks, respectively, in PAC-10 history. Teammate Ben Carbutt had 11 receptions, which tied the league’s third-best effort. … Owen J. Roberts’ 549 yards of offense at Upper Perkiomen was the league’s ninth-best mark.

MOVING UP: Pottsgrove’s Maika Polamalu is now a member of The Mercury’s Top 10 for career rushing. The senior running back has 3,679 yards, but needs just 81 yards to move ahead of Pottstown’s Christian Allen and Spring-Ford’s Joe Haley and Mike Bach into the seventh spot. … OJR’s Ryan Brumfield continues to run where no area back has ever run. Brumfield is at an even 7,100 yards rushing, up to 7,967 yards of total offense, and at an even 550 points scored – all Mercury-area career records.

NOTABLE: The Scanlan brothers, all six of them – Bill, Jerry, Joe, John, Kevin and Robert – officiated the Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove game last Friday night. It’s believed to be the first time that’s ever happened in Pennsylvania (if not the entire country). … Owen J. Roberts graduates Luis Laboy and John Hayward and their Red City Outlaws teammates will line up against the Philadelphia Hornets in the IFL-EFA Association’s first round of playoffs Sunday afternoon at Exeter High School. The Hornets (8-2) won the semi-pro league’s North Division title. Laboy has run for 207 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 20 yards, while Hayward has 17 tackles, including five for losses, and a sack.