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

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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