Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

PJPII learning how to win

There has been a lot of talk, perhaps too much, of what team (or teams) would eventually step up and separate itself (or themselves) from everyone else in the Pioneer Athletic Conference this season. It may have taken five absolutely bizarre weeks – or, depending on what side of the football field you sit on, five weird and wonderful weekends – but it appears as though Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove have done just that.

Call the Rams and Falcons top-shelf for now. Both Perkiomen Valley and Phoenixville are right behind the two, but there still is very little that separates the remaining five … a handful of rivals topped off by Pope John Paul II.

That’s right, Pope John Paul II.

That’s not a misprint, typo, error or whatever you choose to call it, either.

A year removed from its very first season – a rather undistinguished one considering PJP finished at the bottom or close to the bottom in all but one category on the team leader boards, allowed a very generous 40 points per game, and won just once – the Golden Panthers are on a three-game winning streak.

It may have begun against a rebuilding and injury-riddled Owen J. Roberts. But the following week they surprised Pottstown. Then last Friday night, they surprised Perkiomen Valley. And surprise is rather appropriate in each of those latter instances, too, because the Golden Panthers were the team a lot of people were checking off as an automatic (as in win) when the season kicked off last month. But they sure slowed if not stalled altogether the championship chase both Pottstown and Perkiomen Valley had revved up before they met.

And in case you haven’t noticed, the Golden Panthers are all even in the Pioneer Athletic Conference (3-3), 4-3 overall and, get this, No. 7 in the District 1-AAA playoff points standings.

“I don’t know if we’re as surprised as much as we’re happy,” said PJP head coach Mike Santillo. “We’re happy with the way the team is fighting each week.

“We’re not content, though. To be .500 at this point (in the league) is OK, but we’re not satisfied. I’m not satisfied, and I know the kids aren’t satisfied. We still have some games left to play.”

Phoenixville, Boyertown and Upper Perkiomen are the remaining challenges. The Golden Panthers won’t be favored in any of them. Then again, they weren’t favored in the previous three, or likely in any game they suited up for the past year and a half. But being the underdog, as they say, is a role they’re accustomed to. Now they seem to welcome it.

And welcome it despite a slew of injuries to their already short list of players. Two-way starters Kyle Early (broken arm) and Martin McCluskey (broken ankle) may not return this season. Kirk Cherneskie (broken collarbone) is questionable the rest of the way. Chris Veisbergs is week to week with a nagging injury.

“I’d say we’re banged up,” Santillo said.

Quarterback David Cotellese, who didn’t play football as a sophomore but in just over a year and a half has developed into one of the most accomplished passers in the league, has provided some healing, though. The southpaw has distributed his area-high 101 completions to nine different receivers, with more than two-thirds of that number to Jacob Gribb, Jared Siejk and Jamel Stinson. Though playing half of one game with a banged-up elbow and getting sidelined for nearly a half of another after getting his bell rung, Cotellese has thrown for 1,412 yards and 19 touchdowns – both area-highs as well. He’s spinning his passing magic in the absence of a run game. He escapes blitz after blitz, sometimes throws on his way down, and often finds a way to get the ball downfield and into the hands of someone other than the No. 1 receiver.

“David didn’t play as a sophomore (at St. Pius X), and we had to talk him into playing last year,” Santillo said. “He went into last season not knowing our offense and threw for 1,700-some yards. He worked his tail off in the off-season, though, and knows (the offense) well now.

“And with no run game most of the season, and playing on wet fields and in wet conditions, nothing seems to phase David. That’s why we have the confidence to throw the ball. He knows where to look, and somehow always finds someone to throw to.”

Like last Friday night, when he caught Matt Bildstein – “our fifth receiver on that play,” Santilllo said – all alone in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown at Perkiomen Valley.

But Cotellese isn’t the entire show.

The Golden Panthers have been getting big stops – very timely stops – from a defense that features ends Chris DiLeva, Gribb and Tim Tadros; tackles Ryan Ignatovig and John Bildstein; linebackers John Cherneskie, Nico Peloro and Justice Smith; and Matt Bildstein, Siejk and Tyler Weiss in the secondary.

“The big thing for us has been learning how to win,” Santillo said. “Some do, like over at Pottsgrove, where it seems they just keep winning year after year. You have to develop that mentality. Some kids never know what it’s like to win, never are able to develop that mentality, until they (win) consistently. That’s what we’d like to do here.”

A few milestones reached last weekend…

• Boyertown couldn’t have picked a better time (or worse time for Phoenixville) to post the 350th win in its history than last Saturday. Not only did the 33-17 victory end the Bears’ four-game slide, but dropped the Phantoms two full games back of Spring-Ford in the PAC-10 standings and kind of spoiled their Homecoming festivities.

• Daniel Boone’s Tom Bodolus became just the third quarterback in his school’s history to reach 3,000 career passing yards. Bodolus – the area’s leading scorer (17 TDs, 102 points) and rusher (991 yards) – has passed for 998 yards and 13 touchdowns (with just one interception) this season. He has thrown for 3,096 yards – needing 404 more to become only the 10th area quarterback to reach the 3,500-mark – and accounted for 5,288 yards of total offense in his outstanding career. The only Blazers to reach the 3,000-yard mark before Bodolus were former teammate Jon Monteiro and Chris Bokosky. … Current teammate Darrell Scott needs 681 yards to become his school’s third back to run for more than 3,000 career yards.

• Gribb, in only his second season of football, became Pope John Paul II’s first 1,000-yard receiver, going over that career mark last Friday night. Gribb has caught at least one pass in just 15 games – 62 receptions overall – to reach the coveted milestone. Siejk, with 36 career catches for 713 yards, could join Gribb with a strong finish. … Upper Perkiomen’s Ronnie Gillespie is now within seven catches of becoming just the sixth area player with 100 or more career receptions. Gillespie is third in career yardage, needing 128 more yards to break the area record held by Daniel Boone’s Zack Keeley. … Spring-Ford’s Andrew Scanlan is currently sixth in the area in career receiving yardage.

• Pottstown’s Malik Brinkley went over the 2,000-yard career rushing mark during last week’s game against Upper Perkiomen.

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Hill School football squad was optimistic heading into Peddie game

Frank deLaurentis and his Peddie School football team have done an about-face this season. After a woeful oh-fer, or injury riddled 0-8 season a year ago, the Falcons have come back to win two of three games this season.

Grey Simpson and his Hill School football team are hoping to do a similar about-face … starting today.

The rookie head coach and his Rams have dropped their first three games this season, but remain an optimistic bunch heading into this afternoon’s (3:30) Mid-Atlantic Prep League opener with visiting Peddie.

“We certainly did not plan to be 0-3 heading into our first league game, but I still believe we have a group who can compete for the MAPL title,” Simpson said earlier this week. “We have to take what we have learned over the first three weeks and put it all together against Peddie.

“(At the Hill) you only play for one thing, and that is a MAPL title. We’re currently 0-0 in the MAPL, so our major goal heading into the season is still within reach. In the grand scheme of things, I would much prefer playing good competition before our league schedule starts, so we can get better and ready for the league games. We have certainly done that this year.”

The Rams lost a pair of three-point encounters with Germantown Academy and Episcopal Academy, then got overrun by Chestnut Hill Academy last Saturday night at Pottstown High School. There have been breakdowns and disappointments in the early going for sure, but some bright spots as well.

And Simpson hasn’t lost sight of just who his team lined up against.

“We may be 0-3, but I think we have gotten better,” he explained. “We have certainly been tested in the early weeks. I would be less confident if we played three pushovers and didn’t really know what we had or what we were capable of as a team. I think we know these things.”

Sophomore quarterback Grant Smith has run for two touchdowns and, in a limited passing game, thrown for 234 yards and two scores. Adam Regensburg has accounted for 14 of Smith’s 21 completions. Kwame Larbi has run up 375 yards.

But Simpson certainly has to be concerned about an offense that produced 391 yards in the opener against Germantown Academy, but just 390 in the last two games combined. And with Larbi nursing an injury…

“We are banged up,” Simpson said. “Larbi has been the key to any offensive success we have enjoyed so far this season, so it will be a big blow if he cannot go or is ineffective (today).

“Gregor Davidheiser came back ahead of schedule from an injury last week in a limited role. Hopefully we can expand on what he can do for us going into our first league game. But the short week will limit us on how much we can teach him or how many reps he can get.”

Davidheiser is a two-way end and, along with Fred Santarelli (6-6, 298) and Seth Reinhart (6-1, 252) up front, will be among those needed to step up against Peddie.

The visiting Falcons haven’t exactly put up big offensive numbers. But their special teams – especially the kick return twosome of Gilberto Mendoza and Preston DeLaurentis and punter Chris Carney – have been phenomenal, long returns enabling the Falcons to work with a short field and Carney’s kicks forcing opponents to drive the length of the field.

Mendoza, who shares the ballcarrying duties with Jude Lindberg, ran for 144 yards and three touchdowns in the 28-27 thriller over Brooklyn Poly Prep – the first time Peddie had ever defeated their guests from N.Y.

“I think we’ll be ready to have a great day against Peddie,” Simpson said.

The nightcap of today’s scholastic doubleheader features Perkiomen Valley (3-0, 4-1) at Phoenixville (2-1, 4-1) in yet another game that could go a long way in determining how both teams will fare in the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship chase.

The Vikings, who share the league lead with Spring-Ford, have come from behind to win their last three games. They are 3-0 at home on natural grass and have split their two away games – both played on turf. The Phantoms, one of four teams with just one loss in the PAC-10, have yet to be beaten in two games on the turf at Washington Field.

Upset, or upsets, don’t really apply to the Pioneer Athletic Conference this season. Not yet at least.

So imagine, if you will, this possible scenario: If Phoenixville beats Perkiomen Valley tonight, Boyertown beats Spring-Ford on Friday night, and Pottstown beats Pope John Paul II on Saturday afternoon – there will either be a new leader in the PAC-10 or five-way tie for first place. If those games end as mentioned and Pottsgrove defeats Methacton on Friday night, the Falcons (4-1) would be all alone at the top with a half-game lead on Perkiomen Valley, Phoenixville, Pottstown and Spring-Ford. If Methacton wins, though, the Warriors would join that foursome in first place, all at 3-1.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Rams out to avoid weekly wildness

In just three weeks, Pioneer Athletic Conference football has been called just about everything imaginable – competitive, entertaining, unpredictable, even downright crazy. That would kind of cover it. It sure could kind of cover what appears to be another puzzling, if not wacky, weekend in the PAC-10.

And no one may have as difficult a time safely escaping the ongoing PAC10 mystery this weekend than SpringFord. The Rams (3-0, 4-1 overall) are coming off arguably their biggest win in 13 years, or since a 35-7 blowout of Lansdale Catholic on the next-to-last weekend of the 1998 season – the last time they won (or shared) a PAC10 championship. Tonight they visit Boyertown, where they’ll line up against a team with a considerable advantage in size and experience, where they’ll go up against a team that just a month ago – or before all the madness kicked off – was the consensus favorite to win a second straight title.

However, in their three league games thus far, the Bears (0-3, 2-3) have squandered fourth-quarter leads in all of them and, of course, lost all three.
“But they’re still a very dangerous team,” Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said. “They’ve lost three (straight) games by a total of 14 points, and lost them in some peculiar ways.”

For the record, Boyertown has never opened a PAC-10 season with four straight losses. As a matter of fact, Boyertown has lost four straight league games just once (dropping the final four games of that disappointing 2007 season) since joining the league nine years ago. And for what it’s worth, Boyertown owns one of the area’s best wonloss marks when playing at home.

“We’re sure not overlooking them because we know (head) coach (Mark) Scisly will have them ready to play.”

The Rams, of course, should be ready as well.

They’re averaging just under 375 yards a game, thanks in part to as balanced an offense as any in the PAC-10. Sophomore Jarred Jones has emerged as one of the area’s more explosive running backs, which he put an exclamation mark on last week with 207 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Pottsgrove. That makes it considerably easier for quarterback Hank Coyne, who owns the area’s highest passing rating thanks to an eye-opening 61 percent completion percentage, 927 yards and 10 touchdowns. It also helps that Coyne has six very good receivers, with Andrew Scanlan, Darryl Branch, Ryan Conway and Tyler Yazujian the most active among the group.

Overlooked in the Rams’ offense is their front line, anchored by center Brian Czop, guards Paul Castro and Justin Meals, tackles Brian Tatum and Mike Gilmore, and tight end R.J. Sheldon.

“Our offensive line had a solid game adjusting to different fronts and communicated well last week,” Brubaker said. “But (Boyertown) is much bigger than us up front, so we’ll have to make good offensive decisions and take what (Boyertown) is giving up.”

Now there’s a kicker. The Bears are allowing just over 200 yards a game and, in case you didn’t know, have permitted seven less points than the Rams have in five games overall. They’re a very active and aggressive gang on defense, with Rutgers-bound Chris Muller (6-6, 305) plugging the middle at nose guard. And Jon Neiman (team-high 31 tackles), along with Troy Heuer (29) and Gray Garber (28), all have a nose for finding the ball.

If there is a neutralizer tonight it may be Spring-Ford’s defense and special teams. The Rams have kept opponents from throwing up big numbers behind sack-happy Kevin Nyce, Mason Romano and Travis Daywalt, and kept opponents in step behind Zameer McDowell, Ian Hare, Andy Lovre-Smith and others. Their special teams have gotten huge returns from Xavier Ingram, and an area-high 37 points from kicker Ryan O’Hara (28 point-afters, three field goals).

“But we must do a great job of interpreting the wing-t looks we’re going to see,” said Brubaker, well aware of the Bears’ capabilities up front and the one-two punch behind the line that comes from Neiman (508 yards) and fullback Max Marcus (491) – who have found the end zone seven times each.

New quarterback Chase Garber (117 yards rushing) gave the Bears an offensive lift last week. But in the last three weeks the Bears are averaging 150 less yards and 27 less points than what they averaged the first two weeks. … Branch is questionable, which would mean switching Scanlan to safety and bringing in Rocco Iannetta at a corner in Spring-Ford’s defensive alignment. Boyertown, still slowed a bit by a less than 100percent Jared Von Dohren (injured three weeks ago), may be forced to go tonight without corner Ronnie Mauger (injury).

Also tonight, Methacton (2-1, 3-2) is at Pottsgrove (3-1, 3-2), with both teams looking to remain in the PAC-10 race. The Warriors are going for their third straight league win, which they’ve done just once – during their inaugural season in the PAC-10 three years by defeating Upper Perkiomen, Pottstown and Spring-Ford in Weeks Three through Five, respectively. … Rounding out tonight’s card is Owen J. Roberts (0-3, 14) at Upper Perkiomen (0-3, 14), with both teams looking for that elusive first league win. Saturday afternoon, Pottstown (2-1, 3-2) heads down to Pope John Paul II (1-2, 2-3). The Golden Panthers are coming off a big win last week, but no one needs to remind the Trojans who PJP beat a year ago for the program’s very first win.

Daniel Boone, which needs two more wins to clinch its school-record ninth straight winning season – all under head coach Dave Bodolus – should get within one tonight against visiting Reading (1-4). Next week the Blazers are at Muhlenberg (1-4). Nothing comes easy against the Muhls, who despite being 1-5 a year ago took the then unbeaten Blazers down to the wire before falling, 28-21. Overall, Muhlenberg owns a 349-3 record against Daniel Boone. … After next week, the Blazers close with Governor Mifflin (4-1) at home and both Conrad Weiser (5-0) and Exeter (5-0) on the road.


The Sideline, Week 6

Perk Valley no longer flying under the radar

This column was originally published in the Oct. 4 edition of The Mercury.

Scott Reed likes being under the radar, actually enjoys not getting any attention. Getting overlooked, not getting detected as any sort of a real threat, is just fine.

But after five weeks of football, Reed and his young Perkiomen Valley troops are popping up as more than just a blip on the Pioneer Athletic Conference screen.

Three straight come-from-behind wins – including two over opponents very few outside the Graterford compound thought they could overrun – has ended the obscurity … has exposed the team’s might.

So much so, that neither Reed nor his staff can camouflage the Vikings any longer.

And no one is aware of that more than Reed.

After surviving a season-opening, triple-overtime brawl against Lansdale Catholic (a team that is still winless), and coming up with just a brief battle cry in a loss to Souderton, the Vikings have – in a word – rallied.

Despite running into one enemy with considerably more size and another with more considerably more speed, they have survived. They trailed Owen J. Roberts by six early and won, 31-12. They trailed Pottstown by 21 early and won, 2521. They trailed Boyertown by 14 in the second quarter and won, 22-21.

Now they’re 3-0 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference, sitting atop the standings alongside Spring-Ford going into Thursday night’s game at Phoenixville.

“In all my years of coaching football I’ve never seen a team more resilient than this one,” Reed said. “We’ve been down the last three weeks and have come back (to win). That’s a testament to the kids. They just don’t quit.”

And to think just a month and a half ago, Reed welcomed a group of relative strangers. Their ability, or capability, was unknown … a work in process from Day One. “I really didn’t know anything about most of them when we opened camp,” Reed explained. “I didn’t know what I had. I honestly didn’t know what I had and knew I wouldn’t know until we got these kids to play a varsity game.”

Reed got a little insight into what he had and where he was going following scrimmages against Daniel Boone and Exeter – two teams that happen to have spotless 5-0 records right now – and the non-league confrontations with Lansdale Catholic and Souderton. But he went into the PAC-10 portion of the schedule with an offense that featured just four seniors, and only one (center Sean Leary) started every game a year ago. His defense had eight seniors, but only two lettermen among that group.

“We certainly had a bunch of fresh faces at camp,” Reed said. “But we looked at it as a fresh start, as a renewal of faith in our program. The kids had it tough early. We tested them early. Still, we didn’t have a lot of good answers at first.

“We’ve just made a lot of personnel changes on the fly. We’ve done a lot of shuffling, mixing and matching to get the right combinations. Right now we feel we have people in the right positions, our best 11 on the field to play offense, defense and special teams.”

As Reed pointed out, all the numbers – those often fortune-telling statistics – don’t necessarily add up for the Vikings. They’ve actually given up 201 yards more than they’ve generated, and because of the two one-point wins have outscored their opponents by a mere eight points overall.

But they’ve played opportunistic football. They haven’t hurt themselves with penalties (just 19 in five games). They’ve come up with 11 turnovers (plusthree in takeaways).

The special teams have been nothing shy of superb. Two blocked punts were pivotal in the wins over Owen J. Roberts and Boyertown. In between, Kyle Chudoba hit three field goals in the slop against Pottstown, not to mention boomed a 60-yard punt to pin the Trojans inside their own 10-yard line in the waning moments of the game. The return teams have excelled as well, with Ryan Boyd’s return of a kickoff for a touchdown igniting the comeback against Pottstown.

“I can’t say enough about our special teams, and our defense has come up with some key stops, too,” Reed said.

Perkiomen Valley has had its share of headliners. Sophomore quarterback Rasaan “Rock” Stewart has been a big difference on offense, “maturing faster than expected” as Reed put it. Dante Golson-Goodman is among the area’s leading ballcarriers, and Boyd is among the area’s leading receivers. Both Goodman and Boyd are excellent corners, too, getting a lot of help up front from the likes of Nick Delaney, Dave Forrest and Ezra Ranco, to name a few.

“We just wish we could get off to a good start once,” said Reed, who’s obviously had enough of the comeback route. “You don’t want to count on coming back like we have every week. Maybe we’re just a bunch of rodents … put our backs up against the wall so we’ll scratch and fight. I don’t have all the answers.

“But I do know our league is so crazy this year. It’s a mystery. It seems each week is a puzzle to solve. We keep telling our kids, like we have all season, to keep that intensity. We tell them to be intense, be competitive.”

Spring-Ford’s 49 points last Friday night were good enough to end an 11-game losing streak to Pottsgrove. They were also the most points any Spring-Ford team has put up against Pottsgrove in league play (and the most since a 42-0 shutout in 1987). … The 49 also tied the mark for the most ever allowed by a Pottsgrove team in league play, equaling the total in last year’s loss to Owen J. Roberts and a 2007 setback to Lansdale Catholic. … Going into the game, the Falcons had allowed just six first-quarter points the entire season, but surrendered 14 to the Rams. They hadn’t allowed a single second-half point the previous two weeks, but the Rams rung up 21 overall in the third and fourth quarters. … Last Friday night at Owen J. Roberts, Pope John Paul II went into the locker room at halftime with a lead for the first time this season. The Golden Panthers held onto it, too, and picked up their second PAC-10 win since arriving in the league a year ago.

For the first time this season, Daniel Boone didn’t put any points up on the scoreboard in the first quarter and had a seasonlow seven at the halfway mark of Friday’s game up at Pottsville. The Blazers, whose defense has yet to allow a first-quarter point, loosened up in the second half and won rather easily, 28-12, to improve to 5-0.

Perkiomen School, which is off this week, is 3-1 thus far and, with four games remaining, has a chance to match the 7-1 mark of two years ago. That’s a big deal considering Perkiomen hasn’t had an eight-win season in 33 years – or back in 1978 when the then Indians went 8-1. The only season that ended better than that was 65 years ago – or when the then Indians went 7-0-1 in 1946. … The Hill School dropped its third straight game Saturday night, but was back on the practice field Monday in preparation for its Mid-Atlantic Prep League opener against visiting Peddie School on Thursday afternoon. Peddie is led by former Hill head coach Frank deLaurentis.


When September ends

This column was originally published in the Sept. 30 edition of The Mercury.

In five of its seven Pioneer Athletic Conference championship seasons, Pottsgrove shot through September safe and sound — or unbeaten, to be more specific — against its league rivals. Getting out of the football gate in a hurry, or successfully, is nothing new for head coach Rick Pennypacker and the Falcons.
Pottsgrove has yet another opportunity to run its mark to 4-0 (4-1 overall) before flipping the calendar when it visits SpringFord tonight.

With new headliners like quarterback Tory Hudgins and running backs Robbie Curtin and Mark Dukes and a cast of unsung goliaths up front, the Falcons have provided many, many answers in arguably the most puzzling start of any Pioneer Athletic Conference season. And back-to-back wins over two of the teams expected to contend for this year’s title – Upper Perkiomen two weeks ago and Boyertown last week – have been their latest statements.

But, as Pennypacker preached more than once this week, getting to 3-0 wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. And getting to 4-0, against SpringFord, well… “We may be playing the best team in the league,” Pennypacker said. “Everyone thought Spring-Ford would be good, and we think they’re as good as advertised. We know they’ll be highly motivated, too.”

The Rams, spotless in two PAC-10 games with an overall record identical to the Falcons, will indeed have – or should have at least – some added incentives scribbled in their playbook. They haven’t opened league play with three straight wins in 11 years; haven’t beaten a Pottsgrove team in 12 years; haven’t won a PAC-10 title in 16 years; and haven’t yet appeared in the postseason since playoffs began 19 years ago.

“Our kids are aware we haven’t beaten Pottsgrove in a long time,” said secondyear Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker, whose first attempt to end the skid against Pottsgrove a year ago ended in a 20-14 setback. “It is imperative we don’t look ahead right now because, like we tell the kids every week, none of the other games matter as much if we don’t win this week.”

Pottsgrove has a notable advantage up front in size, a slight advantage behind those lines in speed, and the obvious advantage in big-game experience. But as Pennypacker said, Spring-Ford’s versatility – or balance – can neutralize any if not all advantages.

The Rams’ rise began a year ago with the throwing arm of quarterback Hank Coyne. The junior is still throwing, completing 42 of 69 attempts for 624 yards and seven touchdowns (with just one interception), and still has reliable receivers to throw to with Andrew Scanlan, Darryl Branch, Tyler Yazujian and Ryan Conway. But in recent weeks the run game, with sophomore Jarred Jones stepping into the spotlight, has made significant strides to keep opposing defenses in an honest stance.

And despite graduating 10 of 11 starters on the other side of the ball, throw in a very good no-name defense – led by Travis Daywalt, Ian Hare, Kevin Nyce and Mason Romano – a productive kicking game and solid special teams play and, well, you get an idea why Pennypacker has reason to fret.

“They have a great running game, a great passing game, and their defense is unreal,” Pennypacker said. “They are that good.”

So are the Falcons, who regrouped after a listless first half with a near-flawless second half to erase a 12-0 halftime deficit and defeat Boyertown a week ago. The execution up front enabled Hudgins to throw for a pair of touchdowns and run for one himself. And that execution on defense, from the front line, linebackers and everyone in the secondary – from Steve Ambs, Dan Michaels, Curtin, Johnny Fowler and D.J. Ludy, to name a handful – led to an impressive shutdown over the final 24 minutes of play.

It was the kind of defense Brubaker got a glimpse of in that 20-14 loss last season.

“Last year we struggled with (Pottsgrove’s) pressure in the red zone,” Brubaker explained. “We were inside the red zone two more times in the first half and came away with nothing due to a hurry, a sack and lack of execution. It’s nice to have a good kicker (Ryan O’Hara) this year, but we need to score touchdowns.

“Our other big concern will be our defensive assignments. Our young kids are learning, getting better on the fly. But we need to play focused, assignment-oriented defense, with each player doing his job first. Any loss of focus could result in a big play.”

The Falcons have made big plays on offense and defense kind of the norm for a long time. This year isn’t any different, either, as both Upper Perkiomen and Boyertown will attest.

“If anyone thinks we’ve played the best teams in the league already then that’s an insult to all the other teams,” Pennypacker said. “We have played three good teams already, but we feel every team, including Spring-Ford, has a chance to beat us. Heck, we very easily could end up 3-6 by the time this (league) season is over.

“This is a big game, but we take every game as our most important game of the year. We just try to make sure we never allow ourselves to get too high or too low. We’re expecting a battle.”

Pottsgrove hasn’t been shut out in a Pioneer Athletic Conference game since a 37-0 loss to Phoenixville on Week Six back in 2002 – a span of 79 consecutive games. The second-longest such streak belongs to Spring-Ford, which went 59 straight games without being blanked between 2002 and 2009. … Pottsgrove has also gotten out of the gates quickly this season, at least in the first quarter that is, outscoring its four opponents 38-6 in the initial 12 minutes of play. Spring-Ford has outscored its four opponents by a 55-7 spread in the second quarter thus far.

Pottsgrove is 3-0 in the league, a game up on Perkiomen Valley, Phoenixville and Spring-Ford – all with 2-0 records thus far. Perkiomen Valley, which entertains Boyertown tonight, hasn’t opened 3-0 since 1999 when they finished second behind champion St. Pius X. Phoenixville, which travels to Pottstown tonight, last started 3-0 in 2005, when head coach Bill Furlong directed the Phantoms to a 9-0 run and the PAC-10 title.

Unbeaten Daniel Boone (1-0, 4-0) gets its first real test of the young Berks Football League Section One season tonight up in Pottsville. The Blazers, with three legitimate Player of the Year candidates in Tom Bodolus, Zach Robinson and Darrell Scott, have outscored their opposition 97-19 in the first half.

Pope John Paul’s Jacob Gribb had 11 receptions last week, which tied the third-best mark in PAC-10 history and was three shy of the league record of 14. … The late Carl Schrump and Bill Hart were inducted into Boyertown’s Football Hall of Fame following last Friday night’s game. Schrump (1965 graduate) and Hart (1969) were both key contributors in the Bears’ 1963 and 1968 ChesMont League championship seasons. … The Patriotic Order of Sons of America will donate two flags in a brief ceremony prior to the Boyertown-Perkiomen Valley game tonight. … Three area teams face short weeks after this weekend’s games. The Hill School hosts Peddie School next Thursday afternoon (3:30), while Perkiomen Valley visits Phoenixville next Thursday night (7 p.m.).


The Sideline, Week 5

At the one-third mark

This column was originally published in the Sept. 27 edition of The Mercury.

Just in case you didn’t notice, and most likely haven’t, one-third of the Pioneer Athletic Conference season will be over and done with – in the books, as they say – after this weekend’s games.

Just in case you didn’t notice, and in all likelihood few have, one-half of the entire regular season will be over and done with – in the books, as they say – after this weekend’s games.

The fact there are six more PAC-10 rounds to go (five before the postseason playoffs kick off, with the final abbreviated round on Thanksgiving morning), may not seem like too big of a deal, at least for the moment. And the fact everyone still has half of their regular season to play, sure doesn’t seem like a big deal, either.

But you can bet the house a lot of area coaches were fully aware of those timelines when they headed into their respective film rooms late Friday night or early Saturday morning. And you can bet the whole darn housing development some were feeling a sense of urgency before they even sat down and flipped on the projector (oops, their computer and media player).

“This season is just crazy,” said Perkiomen Valley head coach Scott Reed. Absolutely crazy. “The Class of 2011, the seniors who played a year ago, was one of the best ever in the PAC-10,” Reed added. “Now we have a bunch of new kids trying to make a new for themselves all around the league.”

Pottsgrove, the team most felt needed some time – perhaps an entire season to rebuild after Chestnut, Greene, Polamalu & Sons took their business off to college – is 3-0 and all alone atop the PAC-10 standings. That’s a legitimate 3-0, too, with a pair of wins over a couple of opponents most coaches, players and fans absolutely agreed on as being the league’s front-runners, or contenders.

Right behind the Falcons, at 2-0, are Perkiomen Valley, Phoenixville and SpringFord.

Perkiomen Valley, which could’ve easily opened camp with name tags because of all the new faces, wasn’t even mentioned – not even in a whisper – during those early “contender” conversations. Yet last weekend, the Vikings upended a team that a week earlier upended one of those contenders. Phoenixville hasn’t had a winning record in the league in three years. Spring-Ford had to replace 10 of 11 starters on defense, and was supposed to surrender a heck of a lot more points than it would likely engender.

Methacton and Pottstown are both 1-1, but absolutely capable of taking down anyone on any given weekend as their seesaw start has already revealed.

And then there are the others – Boyertown, Owen J. Roberts, Pope John Paul II and Upper Perkiomen.

Boyertown and Upper Perkiomen were two of the teams everyone was talking about long before the season kicked off. Both were not only expected to contend, but ease their way into the District 1 playoffs. Believe it or not, both are 0-2 in the PAC-10 and, respectively, 22 and 1-3 overall. If you want to talk about a sense of urgency, sit down for a brief chat with Mark Scisly and Keith Leamer.

Don’t overlook Owen J. Roberts and Pope John Paul II, either. Not yet. If not for the Chestnut, Greene, Polamalu & Sons act, the Wildcats may have had three PAC-10 titles instead of a share of one. So a portion of the current Boys of Bucktown roster remembers how good winning feels and are none too happy about being 0-2 right now. And if PJP ever gets its defense together – if only for three-quarters of any given game to go along with arguably the league’s best passer and his gang of reliable receivers – well, watch out may be the best way to say it.

“You never like to use athleticism with entertainment, but this (season) sure is entertaining,” Reed said. “Every week is definitely a new chapter, a new story. Every week the matchups are different. For us, last week it was speed (against Pottstown), and this week it is size (against Boyertown).

“I think you’re going to continue to see a lot of things (no one expects to happen) happen. I don’t know if any of the games are or will be upsets, either. All I know is every week you better bring your lunch and go to work … play your best. There just aren’t any easy ones, absolutely none, this year.”

Speaking of going to work, this Friday’s late shift will be a grueling one.

For starters, Pottsgrove is at Spring-Ford – and yes, despite only being the final day of September, this one could go a long, long way in determining who wins the PAC10. It’s been a long, long, long time since the Rams have gotten the best of the Falcons, too (which we’ll reveal more of on Friday). … Phoenixville will meet its toughest opponent to date with a visit to Pottstown; Boyertown will obviously attempt to unleash its frustrations on host Perkiomen Valley; and both Pope John Paul II and Owen J. Roberts look to get into the win column in Bucktown. … Saturday afternoon, Upper Perkiomen will likely have the same mental approach as Boyertown – freeing itself of two weeks of frustrations, that is – when it travels to Methacton.

Two area quarterbacks are among the state’s leaders – in two different categories – through four weeks of play. Daniel Boone’s Tom Bodolus is second among quarterbacks in rushing (and 20th among all ballcarriers) with 570 yards. Among quarterbacks, he trails only Ringgold’s Percy Law, who has 688 yards. Pope John Paul II’s David Cotellese is 10th among quarterbacks in passing with 884 yards. He is second, unofficially, in District 1 behind Octorara’s Dan Solomon, who has thrown for 965 yards.

Spring-Ford’s Ryan O’Hara is on pace to erase part of the kick scoring section in The Mercury area’s record book. Through four games, O’Hara is a perfect 21-for-21 on point-afters and has converted 3-of-4 field goals for 30 points. … Perkiomen Valley’s Kyle Chudoba tied the PAC-10 singlegame mark for field goals in a game when he hit on three in last Friday’s 29-21 thriller over Pottstown.


Tossing and turning

This column was originally published in the Sept. 23 edition of The Mercury

The last thing Rick Pennypacker wanted to hear before he plopped into bed and hit the pillow last Friday night was that Boyertown had lost. Don’t get the veteran Pottsgrove coach wrong, he isn’t exactly a Bears fan.
Mercury File Photo Head coach Rick Pennypacker, right, and Pottsgrove, which is 2-0 in the PAC-10, visit Boyertown tonight. The Bears are coming off a 34-27 loss to Pottstown last Friday.

But going to sleep knowing those Bears were next up on his team’s schedule… Nightmares? “I just know that (Boyertown) is mad, and now we have to be the one who plays them next,” said Pennypacker, very much aware of how preseason Pioneer Athletic Conference favorite Boyertown got bumped off last week at Pottstown, 34-27.

“That team is going to be fired up now, and I know (head coach) Mark (Scisly) will have them sky-high to play us. They are hard to beat over there to begin with, and I know his teams don’t play like that two weeks in a row.”

For the record, Boyertown has lost back-to-back games just twice under Scisly’s watch. A few coaches around the league, as well as the majority of Boyertown’s faithful following, didn’t think the Bears would lose one PAC-10 game this season.

But Pottstown went toe-to-toe with the Bears up front, used a couple of big plays on offense to take an early lead and, with the help of an even bigger defensive stop late in the fourth quarter, pulled off the first of what could be many surprises this fall.

The ironic part of last week’s game is that it seemed as though the football cleats were on the other foot. The Bears, remember, opened their league schedule a year ago with a surprising 34-28 upset of the Falcons, ending the two-time defending champions’ 26-game PAC-10 winning streak and igniting the Bears own co-championship season. But that was last year. Now, the Bears have to turn it around. And turn it around in a hurry.

“There were some things (against Pottstown) that really disappointed me,” Scisly said earlier this week. “I’m hoping that was a wakeup call for us. I’m hoping the guys put the effort forward to fix what went wrong.”

Not everything went wrong, of course. Nick McMenamin had yet another solid game at center, helping pave the way for Jon Neiman and Max Marcus to run for 254 yards and three touchdowns. However, the passing game produced just 28 yards. And the defense surrendered a generous 289 yards on the ground and another 162 passing, overshadowing the continued aggressive play of Gray Garber and Troy Heuer. No matter how you add that up, though, 451 yards is way, way too much – and just one yard shy of doubling the number (226) the Bears gave up in their first two games combined.

But while the Bears were stumbling, the Falcons were running, running and running some more, turning what most anticipated as an early season showdown into a Pottsgrove hoedown.

Not much of anything went wrong for the Falcons in their 67-7 rout of Upper Perkiomen. The 67 points and 522 yards rushing were both the second-best marks in PAC-10 history. Mark Dukes ran for a career-high 242 yards and four scores and Robbie Curtin contributed 113 yards and two more scores. Even quarterback Tory Hudgins used his legs to get into the end zone twice, too.

“First of all, nothing went right for (Upper Perkiomen),” Pennypacker said. “They had a bad night. They were put in an early hole and couldn’t get out of it.

“We are not as good as that score indicates, and that’s why I feel we’re still not playing at the level we have to play at in order to compete with Boyertown, Pottstown and Spring-Ford. Yes, our offensive line did a good job last week, but the kids have to play better in order for us to have a chance. We have to step it up this week. We can’t afford any letdowns.”

There sure isn’t any time to relax. Next week, Pottsgrove is back on the road at SpringFord. The week after that, the Rams get on the bus and head up to Boyertown.

Don’t dare think it’s a threeteam chase now, either.

Pottstown – which beat Boyertown and gave a lot of other teams a dose of confidence in doing so – visits Perkiomen Valley; Spring-Ford has to deal with a very angry Upper Perkiomen in Red Hill; and Phoenixville, still playing under most people’s radar despite three straight wins, has to entertain Owen J. Roberts, which has dealt the Phantoms more than their share of disappointments in 52 previous meetings.

“Coming off a big win is no different than coming off a loss for us,” said Pottstown head coach Brett Myers, denying the Trojans had any hangover from the Boyertown win during this week’s preparations. “We put (wins and losses) behind us and focus on improving as a football team. That is something we’ve always taken pride in because over the course of my time at Pottstown, at the end of the year, we are a better team – no matter how many injuries we’ve had or games we’ve lost. Our kids keep improving.”

Myers hopes the improvement continues tonight against the Vikings, who have outlasted Lansdale Catholic in triple-overtime; showed a bit of grit in a loss against District 1-AAAA playoff contender Souderton; and came back to sack Owen J. Roberts last week.

“We have to improve on sustaining our blocks and finishing plays because we’re again going to be the smaller team on the field,” Myers said. “We have to hustle to the ball (on defense), too, because PV has some playmakers who can both run and throw. They’re very difficult to defend.”

Upper Perkiomen had to forget about the second-worst loss in its program’s history in a hurry, too. The Indians have one of the league’s best running backs in John Olson and a potentially dangerous passing game with quarterback Dylan Wesley. But they’ll have to deal with a SpringFord defense that, behind senior Kevin Nyce – not even a projected starter when camp opened this summer but the team leader with 5.5 sacks – gets into opposing backfields with regularity. The Indians will also have to regroup defensively, because SpringFord may be as balanced with the run-and-pass as anyone in the league.

Still-underrated Phoenixville must also keep the momentum it generated a week ago down at Methacton. The Phantoms took their final possession downfield for the go-ahead score, then held off the host Warriors’ last-minute attempt to pull out the win.

Saturday’s lone PAC-10 game has Methacton visiting Pope John Paul II. The Warriors, if overlooked in the least could surprise any of the aforementioned contenders, feature one of the best individual defensive talents in David Low. The senior standout and his teammates must deal with the area’s leading passer – PJP’s David Cotellese (781 yards, 7 TDs), who has two excellent receivers in Jared Siejk and Jacob Gribb and as many as three other reliable targets to throw to.


The Sideline, Week 4

No time to dwell on successes, failures in the PAC-10

No matter how well-executed the play or how good the game, or even how great the overall effort in the end, there is always that next snap, that next game. Football coaches, like every coach in every sport, preach that until they’re croaky … and a little cranky, too.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise if a few of the boys around the Pioneer Athletic Conference are a bit hoarse today.

The league’s first full round of games last weekend sure didn’t play out as a lot of the coaches expected. They sure didn’t play out the way most of their players and fans had scripted, either.

Boyertown, the team so many felt could run the table this season and the team that left few thinking otherwise after overwhelming its two preseason opponents, lost. It lost to Pottstown, which has definitely given the Bears more than their share of challenges through the years, but to a team that has had opportunities to win in the past before a critical mistake led to the surrender of a late lead and, of course, a loss. This time, though, Pottstown forced the critical mistake, capitalized on the opportunity to take a late lead and, of course, won.

It may have been just one game, but it may — the emphasis is on may — go a long way in determining what direction both Boyertown and Pottstown are headed. And there’s no time, absolutely none, to dwell on what developed last Friday night.

No time, because this week Boyertown has to entertain Pottsgrove – a team that has either won or contended for a PAC-10 title for more years than most of the anti-Falcon fan following cares to remember, and a team that seemed to have fixed whatever offensive or defensive predicaments they may have had in a 67-7 rout of Upper Perkiomen. No time, because this week Pottstown has to travel to Perkiomen Valley – a team that gained a little identity and a whole lot of confidence with last week’s win over Owen J. Roberts, and a team Pottstown hasn’t beaten the last eight times they’ve met, or since the Trojans’ last championship season back in 2002.
John Strickler/the Mercury Pottsgrove’s Mark Dukes (6), who leads the area in rushing, had four touchdowns in the Falcons’ thrashing of Upper Perkiomen on Friday.

As if that isn’t enough for one Friday night, there’s also Spring-Ford visiting Upper Perkiomen and Owen J. Roberts heading down to Phoenixville – a pair of matchups oh so similar in importance to the two already mentioned.

The Rams, by their own admission, looked good for a half and not-so-good for the other half against Pope John Paul II. One half won’t get it done against Upper Perkiomen, which has had its own share of playing “partials” before the collapse against Pottsgrove. A Spring-Ford win this week only sets up yet another key showdown next week with Pottsgrove. Upper Perkiomen, felt by many in the preseason to be a PAC-10 contender as well but slowed considerably of late by a few injuries, obviously cannot afford another early loss if it hopes to stay in the chase. So that, along with last week’s embarrassing loss, sure has fueled the competitive fires.

Owen J. Roberts, meanwhile, needs to find the game it unveiled in a win up in Reading two weeks ago. Phoenixville, 3-0 for the first time in six years, is no longer under the radar. The Phantoms showed their resiliency last Saturday at Methacton by coming back time and time again. They were at their best on their final possession, which covered 71 yards and ate up all but 20 seconds of the game’s last 3:06, and then on their final defensive stance by holding the Warriors out of the end zone on the game’s last play.

Oh, don’t forget Saturday’s matinee, either. Methacton is back at Pope John Paul. The Warriors could and likely will create a lot of trouble in the league, and they’re playing a PJP team that one coach has already admitted, “scares the living you-know-what out of you every time they snap the football.”

And to think all of this ahead is just Week Two of the PAC-10 season...

Officials’ whistles are being heard and heard often. Penalties are up, way up from previous seasons. Ironically, the teams getting the most flags thrown at them are among the area’s best – Upper Perkiomen (25 penalties), Spring-Ford (23), Boyertown (22), Daniel Boone (21) and Pottstown (20). … OJR may want to throw a curse on No. 396. That’s exactly how many yards the Wildcats gave up to both Conestoga and Perkiomen Valley – both losses. … The Pottsgrove-Upper Perkiomen annual affair is the PAC-10’s highest-scoring series with 1,271 points put up on the board between the two rivals – an average of 49 a game. … Pottstown’s 35 points last week was the most a Trojans team has scored in a league game since a 53-7 romp over St. Pius X during Week One of the 2008 season. … Pottsgrove’s 522 yards rushing tied the league’s second-best mark, while PJP’s 306 yards passing is the league eighth-best mark.

Three St. Pius X graduates are coaching in the Berks Football League and enter their respective conference schedules this week with a combined 63 preseason mark. Daniel Boone’s Dave Bodolus leads the threesome at 3-0, while Schuylkill Valley’s Jeff Chillot is 2-1, and Berks Catholic’s Rick Keeley is 1-2. … Yet another Pius grad, Perkiomen School head coach Tom Clavario, is 1-1 so far. … Four other former PAC-10 coaches are a combined 5-7. They are Marple-Newtown’s Ray Gionta (Boyertown and St. Pius X) at 3-0; Cardinal O’Hara’s Dan Algeo (Phoenixville) at 2-1; Hempfield’s Ron Zieber (Boyertown) at 0-3; and Lansdale Catholic’s tireless Jim Algeo at 0-3.

Daniel Boone is one of three BFL Section One teams that finished the non-league portion of their seasons at 3-0. Conrad Weiser and Exeter are the others, while Pottsville and Governor Mifflin are currently 2-1. Muhlenberg and Reading are both 1-2, and Twin Valley – which travels to Daniel Boone

this Friday evening – went 0-for-3.

Hill School came up short against Germantown Academy in last week’s opener that kicked off the program’s 125t season of football. New head coach Grey Simpson wasn’t completely disappointed in the effort.

“Although the first game did not end on the scoreboard as we all would have liked, I think we came away with some positive things we can build on for Week Two,” Simpson said. “Most important, for the coaching staff and the players, we have some film to look at this week to help in the teaching of what we are trying to accomplish on offense, defense and special teams. From (the coaching staff) standpoint, that has been the biggest issue in not playing a scrimmage and having very little quality live action.”

The Rams lost eight days of practices and a scrimmage due to students being sent home prior to Hurricane Irene’s arrival in the Pottstown area. They return to the field this week at Episcopal Academy, which is 1-2 – each loss by seven points.


Boyertown knows PAC-10 opener at Pottstown won’t be easy

This column was originally published in the Sept. 16 edition of The Mercury.

POTTSTOWN – No question Boyertown is nearly everyone’s favorite to win the Pioneer Athletic Conference title this season. That’s all most of the league’s coaches, players and fans have been talking about (or reading about) since practice began back in mid-August.

Now it’s time for Boyertown to prove it’s worthy of all the honorable chat (or ink).

The Bears, coming off a pair of comedies up at Allen and over at Twin Valley, kick off their PAC-10 season this evening at Pottstown — a team that has dealt Boyertown its share of upset losses through the years, and a team that is much better than the two Boyertown beat up on by a combined score of 94-14.

“This is no easy game,” head coach Mark Scisly said. “Pottstown is one of the better teams in our league. I really believe that.”

Not surprising, what concerns Scisly the most about tonight’s affair is speed.

It’s a legitimate concern, too, because the Trojans have plenty of it with Corey Baker, who in two weeks has looked like a Player of the Year candidate; Malik Brinkley, an allleague selection a season ago; and Misohn Coppock, who can run right alongside his two better-known teammates. There are others, too, like Cory Hueber and Rashaad Brinkley, key contributors on both sides of the ball.

“It’s like they have three track stars out there,” Scisly said of Baker, Brinkley and Coppock.

But don’t think the Bears will be reduced to playing catch-up, either.

For starters, they’re more experienced up and down the lineup – with a lot of the manpower back from last year’s co-championship season run – and own a noticeable size advantage. And they also happen to have some speed of their own on offense as well as on defense.

Behind the sizable Nick McMenamin at center, Chris Muller at guard, and Tyler Boggs at tackle, the Bears have run and run well. Overall, they piled up a school-record 500plus yards in Week One, another 253 in Week Two. Jared Von Dohren, who will be a “game-time decision” because of an injury according to Scisly, along with Max Marcus and Jon Neiman, have pretty much run where they’ve wanted to. And sophomore quarterback Griffin Pasik made one giant leap from the first to second week in directing the offense and throwing the football.

All that has failed to overshadow a defense that limited Allen to minus28 yards rushing, shut out Twin Valley’s passing game, and has come up with a combined seven sacks and five turnovers. Troy Heuer and Gray Garber (two sacks) have been the most active with 15 and 14 tackles, respectively. But they’re getting a lot of help from the likes of D.J. Stemple, Peter Slabonik, Ronnie Mauger and Travis Mitchell.

“But we’re still going to have to tackle well, wrap up and not let (Baker, Brinkley and Coppock) get out in the open field,” Scisly said. “I just know we have to play better this week. We have to raise our level of play, and raise our level of play a couple of notches.”

They need to raise it all right … and not look ahead to next week’s showdown with Pottsgrove.

Baker has scored seven times already, and can get to the end zone on any given play – offensively or defensively. Brinkley averages eight yards a carry. And quarterback Sage Reinhart, who has impressed Scisly, doesn’t throw much but certainly makes the most of it (13 of 20, three touchdowns and no interceptions) when he does.

Where the Trojans’ big challenge may be is up front – where linemen Andrew Gazzilo, Jalonie Hutchinson, Dante Auman and Huber will have to deal with the Bears’ talented bulk.

“All I know is that this is by far the best Pottstown team I have seen in the four years I’ve been at Boyertown,” Scisly remarked. “Like I said, we’re going to have to play at higher level this week than we did the past two weeks.”

If you don’t think Hill School football has been around for a while, think again.

The then “Hillers” kicked off their first season in 1887. That year, Grover Cleveland was president; the U.S. signed a document to lease a naval base (Pearl Harbor) on a littleknown, faraway island called Hawaii; the very first Groundhog Day was celebrated in Punxsutawney; and the largest snowflakes every recorded – 15 inches wide by 8 inches thick – were reported during a storm in Ft. Keogh, Mont. And putting food on the table was a bit cheaper, too, considering a pound of cheese would set you back less than a dime; a pound of butter was about 20 cents; and a gallon – that’s right, a gallon – of molasses was just over a quarter.

And football? Well, the playing field was 110 yards long with no end zones; offenses – which didn’t include the forward pass yet – had three attempts to advance the ball five yards for first downs; and touchdowns were worth four points. Things sure have changed. Change continued at Hill this year, too, with a new head coach who had to endure a preseason unlike many (if any) over the past few weeks in gearing up for the school’s milestone season that begins Saturday afternoon at Germantown Academy.

The new fella, Grey Simpson, was just getting to know who was who when Hurricane Irene blew threw and forced school officials to send all students home for eight days. Simpson not only lost six days of practice, but a scrimmage as well.

“You want those scrimmage reps so you can see, as a coaching staff, what works and what doesn’t, and to evaluate personnel,” Simpson said earlier this week. “We’re going to have to evaluate things on the fly in our first game and make the proper adjustments in the game plan and with our personnel. We want to give our guys the best opportunity to be successful.”

According to Mercury records, Hill opens on Saturday with an overall record of 514-338-51.

Speaking of going back, back, back…

Running back John Garrett is the eighth member of his family to play football at Perkiomen School. His great-grandfather played back in the 1920s; his grandfather played in the 1950s; and his father lined up for the then Indians under former head coach and current athletic director Ken Baker in the early 1980s. Four of his uncles also played at Perkiomen. If that isn’t enough, his aunt – Mary (Garrett) Giovino – also graduated from Perkiomen School.

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