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.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Sideline, Week 3

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

PAC-10 football opens in earnest

Pottsgrove is right smack where it’s been for the last umpteen years – in first place after the first week of a Pioneer Athletic Conference football season.

That’s one week, one win … but that’s it.

And no one needs to remind the Falcons or head coach Rick Pennypacker.

No one, because they’re all aware the rest of the PAC-10 brethren get into it this weekend with the first of eight full rounds. Then, when the temperatures have dropped to half of what they are right now and most people are thinking turkey, stuffing and gravy, the league will wrap up its 26th season on Thanksgiving morning – in all likelihood for the last time, too, ending a tradition that in some neighborhoods dates way, way back into the early 1900s.

What happens between this weekend and Thanksgiving is anyone’s guess, too.

Because so many of the league’s standouts of the last three or four seasons graduated, there were absolutely no gimmes nor guarantees as had been the norm in those previous seasons. There were plenty of questions being asked long before summer camps opened back in mid-August. Today, with two scrimmages and two non-league rounds (as well as Pottsgrove’s league win over Pope John Paul II) in the books, there are still a lot of questions being asked.

So, yes, there is a bit more drama than usual. Actually, the PAC-10 actually hasn’t had this much drama, or such a great full opening-week card to tease the inquiring minds, than it has this time around.

Boyertown is at Pottstown; Perkiomen Valley visits Owen J. Roberts; Pope John Paul II heads down Township Line Road to Spring-Ford; and, to cap Friday night’s card, Upper Perkiomen is at Pottsgrove. On Saturday afternoon, Methacton entertains Phoenixville.

There’s no doubt everyone has a favorite in each of those games, just don’t be too quick to pick.

For starters, Boyertown – the favorite to win the PAC-10 title this season, at least among the coaches – have beaten up on a pair of teams (Allentown Allen and Twin Valley) that have won very, very few football games the past five years. They also have some injuries that need mending. Also, in case anyone has forgotten, the Bears were picked by nearly everyone to beat Pottstown in all but one of their nine meetings since joining the Pioneer Athletic Conference, but managed to survive in just four of them.

On top of all that, the Trojans have to be (or should be) a confident group after nearly upsetting Pius X – a District 11 playoff qualifier a year ago with one of the state’s most highly touted quarterbacks calling the plays again – and pummeling Del Val League defending champion Penn Wood. And, as if Boyertown head coach Mark Scisly needs a reminder, the Trojans can counter the Bears’ quickness and speed with some quickness and speed of their own.

“We’re not overlooking anyone,” Scisly said last week. “I think our first two games really helped our confidence, especially with so many sophomores and first-year starters getting playing time for us.

“We scrimmaged LaSalle and Daniel Boone, two of the top Class AAAA teams in the state. So (regardless of the easy wins over Allen and Twin Valley), our guys know what the PAC-10 season will be like because they can compare it to those two (scrimmages).”

Perkiomen Valley showed it can win (as it did in an overtime thriller against Lansdale Catholic) and go toe-to-toe with a biggie (as it did against Suburban One contender Souderton). The Vikings have also won two of their last five meetings with OJR, and two of the three they lost were by a combined three points. But Owen J. Roberts made as big a statement as anyone last week, bouncing back from a loss to Conestoga with a convincing win up in Reading.

Pope John Paul II owns what many admit is the league’s best passing game. David Cotellese has an area-high 559 yards and six touchdowns throwing the ball and, with a group of reliable receivers, he’ll test anyone’s secondary – including Spring-Ford’s. The Rams, among those right behind Boyertown in the favorite-to-win-it-all poll – especially after the admirable but still disheartening overtime setback to powerful Daniel Boone last Saturday – have their own potent passing phenom in Hank Coyne and 10 new personnel playing defense well above early expectations.

Upper Perkiomen – another team right behind Boyertown in the favorite-to-win-it-all poll – has a little added motivation knowing it has lost to Pottsgrove the last four years. The Indians also know they can move the ball and play good defense. If they cut down on the momentum-killing turnovers and play defense for four quarters – not just in the second half as they’ve done the first two times out – it could get interesting at Pottsgrove. Pennypacker thought that the moment he saw the schedule, but had to be feeling much better after seeing his offense get untracked with 419 yards and just one turnover last week.

Methacton will find out real quick what direction it’s heading after Saturday’s visit from Phoenixville. The Warriors did an about-face last week, showing they have a legitimate running threat (Davonte Fung) to take some of the heat off veteran quarterback Brandon Bossard as well as a defense that can create turnovers and short-field opportunities for its offense. They’ll need that consistent effort to quiet Phoenixville, yet another team right behind Boyertown in the favorite-to-win-it-all poll. The Phantoms, as healthy as they’ve been in three years, have experience and talent in virtually every spot of the lineup – a slew of individuals who will distinguish themselves even more as the season progresses.

Should be a great weekend … and an even greater season.

Daniel Boone quarterback Tom Bodolus, who ran 32 times last Saturday at Spring-Ford, upped his career passing yardage to 2,219 yards to lead all active quarterbacks. Coyne, a junior, is at 2,113 and Cotellese is at 2,074 … Upper Perkiomen’s Dylan Wesley could also end up with big numbers. The junior southpaw is very accurate on short tosses as well as going long, most of the time to Temple-bound speedster Ron Gillespie, who himself is closing in on The Mercury’s Top Five for career receptions and yards. … Pottstown’s Sage Reinhart, completing 65 percent of his attempts with three touchdowns and no interceptions through two games, could be a big factor in Friday’s game with Boyertown.

Perkiomen School opened its 108th season of football last Saturday with a shutout of Emily Fisher Charter. … The Hill School, the area’s very first football team, kicks off its 125th season of football this Saturday at Germantown Academy. The Rams will be under the direction of Grey Simpson, the area’s only new head coach this season.

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The Sideline, Week 2


The Sideline, Week 1


Thriving, surviving and arriving in opening week of scholastic football

Some thrived, some survived, and some arrived. Some broke a record or two. Of course there were some surprises, even some disappointments.

No reason to expect anything different during the opening week of the high school football season.

Three out of the five teams likely to decide exactly who wins the Pioneer Athletic Conference title this year – Boyertown, Phoenixville and Spring-Ford – all won. They actually won too easily. Those other two teams – Pottsgrove and Upper Perkiomen – if you haven’t guessed by now, lost. Daniel Boone, the consensus favorite to run the table up in the Berks Football League’s Division One bracket, also won. Won quite easily, too.

Perkiomen Valley showed a bit of mettle by coming back time after time to outlast former PAC-10 rival Lansdale Catholic in triple overtime. Pope John Paul II also showed a little fortitude, coming from behind on a couple of occasions to defeat Berks Catholic.

Pottstown actually played comeback football, too, only to see a late turnover flick off its momentum switch and turn on Pius X’s in a disheartening loss.

And Methacton and Owen J. Roberts … not exactly the start either had hoped for, but exactly the start they experienced a year ago before reversing the ways in Week Two.

It all added up to six wins and five losses for the 11 area teams that kicked off their respective schedules last weekend.

And for the thrived, survived and arrived?

Obviously, the three contenders thrived.

Boyertown put up a school-record 509 yards running the football, and Jared Von Dohren’s 32.6 yards per carry (seven overall for 228 yards) is another single-game school record for backs with a minimum of five carries. And those 52 points – 44 of which were unanswered after Allen tied it at 8-8 in the first quarter – were the fourth highest single-game mark in the history of the Bears’ program. … Phoenixville ran for over 400 yards in a game for the first time since Week Eight of the 1999 season – that’s right, 12 years ago – with Vince Nattle accounting for 237 of them himself. Teammate Travis Andrews went over the 1,000-yard mark carrying the football, too. And linebacker Dennis Kelly is off to a big start with a pair of sacks. … Spring-Ford set a single-game school record for points scored with its 63 against West Chester East – the first time a Rams’ team had gone over the 60-point mark. Overlooked in the romp was first-year kicker Ryan O’Hara, who set a school record and all-time Mercury area record with his 9-for-9 effort on extra points (five shared the previous mark of eight in a game). … Daniel Boone also set a single-game school record for points scored with its 61 against Donegal – the first time a Blazers’ team had gone over the 60-point mark. The Blazers scored nearly every way possible, too, finding the end zone by running and throwing it, and by returning a kickoff and a fumble.

The survivors?

Perkiomen Valley opened with a lineup full of no-names, or a long, long list of new players. The Vikings also lost the turnover and total offense statistical battle with Lansdale Catholic. But they showed a bit more resolve – especially on the final play, a blitz that pressured LC quarterback Pat Schoenberger into an incompletion on the attempted two-point conversion – to endure the three-overtime marathon and earn some recognition (not to mention respect) in a hurry. … Pope John Paul II opened with a roster half the size of Berks Catholic, using most of its players on both sides of the football while the Saints platooned at nearly every position on both sides of the football. But the Golden Panthers didn’t wear down or out, which the defense sure proved by pitching a second-half shutout (until a late BC score against the reserves). Quarterback David Cotellese found a couple of reliable receivers (Jared Siejk and Tim Tadros) who will make opposing secondaries keep an eye on someone other than Jacob Gribb, especially the way they caught the ball under pressure to erase that halftime deficit.

If Pottstown builds on last Friday night’s debut, it’ll help erase the memories of the disheartening setback and put the team on the right track heading into the league portion of its schedule. The Trojans played well defensively, holding Pius X under 100 yards on the ground and limiting standout quarterback A.J. Long to 214 yards and one touchdown – significantly lower than his 250-plus yards and two-plus touchdowns a game averages of a year ago.

And for the disappointed?

For the first time in a long, long time, Pottsgrove lost its season-opener. But don’t think being 0-1 is the start of something new – like losing consistently – for the Falcons … not with the line they have, not with the smattering of skill people behind them, either. However, they’ll have to get it in gear in a hurry, opening this week with Pope John Paul II and then running smack into Upper Perkiomen, Boyertown and Spring-Ford. By October, the Falcons will either be in the running again or an also-ran for the first time in seven years. … It’s the same for Upper Perkiomen, which took a half to get its offense and defense unwound. Surrendering 27 unanswered first-half points after taking a 6-0 lead was the difference, especially when the Indians defense pitched a shutout in the second half and gave up a total of just 228 yards overall. Upper Perkiomen, like Pottsgrove, will be in it or possibly out of it – the PAC-10 race, that is – when it’s time to flip the calendar over to October.

The remaining two?

Methacton got beat by a very good Plymouth-Whitemarsh, possibly as good a team the Warriors will see for at least a month. Trying to win against a good team after falling behind 14-0 in the first four minutes of a game and 21-0 after one quarter – when you’re attempting to reverse a troubling 10-year trend of losing – is like scaling Mt. Everest with sneakers and a windbreaker. If there’s such a thing as a “must game” for the Warriors it’s this Saturday against Upper Merion, a longtime rival that has lost 11 in a row and 15 of its last 16 dating back to 2009. … And for Owen J. Roberts, that delayed Saturday night setback may not have been as bad as it looked at first glance. Quarterback Blake Bradshaw threw the ball well, someone other than Brumfield and Funk finally ran the ball and ran well at times, and the defense came up with three picks. The big challenge ahead for the Wildcats, who lost nearly every starter from a year ago, is not only filling in the holes but cementing them with consistency.

Just think, all that and we still have nine full weeks and a couple of other abbreviated weekends to go…

Perkiomen Valley scored more points in its opener (27) than it did in any game a year ago. The win was also the 150th in the history of the Vikings’ program. … Spring-Ford junior quarterback Hank Coyne went over the career 2,000-yard passing mark last Friday night. … Coyne and three others put together some absolutely ridiculous passing ratings in their openers. Coyne (14 of 19 for 269 yards, 3 TDs) topped the group at 244.7. Cotellese (12-22-260, 3 TDs) was at 189.7; Daniel Boone’s Tom Bodolus (14-23-184, 3 TDs) was at 169.6; and Pottstown’s Sage Reinhart (9-15-135, 1 TD) was at 157.6. … Bodolus’ passing rating doesn’t reflect what else he did, like run 16 times for another 194 yards and three additional touchdowns. That gets a overall rating of “WOW.”

According to two publications, a new state record was set Friday when Dobbins Tech’s Sishon Solomon returned an interception 109 yards in a 12-0 win over Lincoln. One wonders if the old record happened to be the 107-yard return Royersford High School’s Ralph Eagle brought back in a 12-0 win over Marple-Newtown back in 1931.


Goodhart hits home run with Baseball for Life

Bonnie Goodhart delivered her first pitch just over four years ago, a few hours after what seemed like her umpteenth round of chemotherapy.

She wanted to help others … others, like her and so many of her friends, who were fighting cancer.

No one ever said it with such passion, or with such conviction.

Lymphoma leukemia may have robbed her of the happy and healthy life she had been so blessed with, the happy and healthy life she had cherished and shared with her husband, Jim, two daughters and three sons. But four long years, four exhaustive years of going here and there for treatments and medical advice – from the Pottstown Memorial Medical Center’s Cancer Unit, to the Fox Chase Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania Hospital and Temple University Hospital down in Philadelphia, and all the way out to the Hershey Cancer Center up to the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York – didn’t rob Bonnie Goodhart’s zest for life.

Or her desire to help so many others who’ve been tortured by cancer, both mentally and physically.

And financially.

“I had the opportunity through the years to be in various cancer centers and see the other needs people have,” Goodhart said recently. “Those other needs are help with their bills.”

Goodhart, along with some hints and guidance from her husband, came up with Baseball For Life – a one-pitch, slow-pitch softball tournament. To say it was a hit from the inaugural event back in 2008 would be an understatement. Its popularity has grown, evidenced by the number of teams participating each year since.

The bulk of the revenue from the tournament comes from registration – $25 per player or $250 per team. Not bad for what has always proven to be a fun-filled day of softball at Ringing Rocks Park. There are also 50-50 raffles to generate a few more dollars. And there’s plenty of food for everyone under the pavilion, just up the path from the playing field.

But the bottom line, and one that brings a big genuine smile to Goodhart’s face, is the amount of money raised … and where it’s gone.

“We’ve always given a portion of the money we’ve raised to Relay for Life,” Goodhart said. “We’ve given about $3,000 to Relay, and we’ve spent (from Baseball For Life) somewhere around $7,000 helping others.”

Goodhart gets very emotional when talking about the number of cancer patients who are unable to pay certain bills because of limited insurance coverage. There are also those cancer patients, or their spouses, who are out of work, which more often than not translates into no insurance coverage whatsoever.

Baseball For Life, she explained, simply cannot hit that grand slam for everyone. In other words, there obviously aren’t enough funds to make mortgage and car payments.

“We all get the big, big bills from the hospitals, cancer centers and doctors,” Goodhart said. “There are some associations out there that can help people with those type of bills. We’re not here to pay the big, big bills.

“But we are here to help people who, because of a number of reasons, are struggling to pay their electric or oil bills, their rent. We’re also here to help those people who can’t afford to go out and buy the medications they need to fight cancer.”

Goodhart has been able to get the names of those in need from representatives of neighboring hospitals, specifically Pottstown Memorial Medical Center. She would also like to hear from someone from Phoenixville Hospital’s Cancer Center, if indeed anyone there needs help.

“There are people who go in for treatments every day who can’t afford to pay certain bills,” Goodhart said. “We’ve even seen people panicking because they don’t even have the money to pay for their medicine.

“There are people out there who don’t ask for a thing, who don’t ask for anything, but they need help. That’s why we’re here. And what makes us a little different is that we will try to do everything we can to get those people the help they need right away.”

Baseball For Life isn’t an open-checkbook, mind you. Goodhart will write a check directly to the electric company or to the pharmacy, for example. No cash is exchanged, and no checks are written out to individuals.

“Again, we want to hear from the nurses and doctors, or even from the relatives of people who need the help,” Goodhart added. “No one should be embarrassed to ask us for help. No one should ever be pushed aside, and we certainly will not push anyone aside.”

The one thing Bonnie Goodhart will push, though, is her tournament.

And for one very inspiring young lady, this one will be the most fun. After nearly eight full years of fighting lymphoma leukemia – and beating what seemed to unbeatable odds – she is in total remission … cancer-free.

“We would love to have more teams sign up, and we’d love to see more people come out to watch the games and support Baseball For Life,” she said.

This year’s tournament gets under way 8 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 at the Ringing Rocks Park facility. Individuals as well as teams, which are guaranteed a minimum of three games, can still register to participate in the event by calling Jim Goodhart at 610-327-4844. The deadline to register is Monday, Aug. 22. … Pottsgrove High School graduate and longtime Pottstown-area resident Lew Hoffman’s ballclub, The Spikes, has committed once again and will be looking to defend their title. … Anyone wishing to make donations may do so writing Baseball For Life, 1407 Glasgow St., Pottstown, Pa. 19464.

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