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

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.



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