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.

Friday, October 7, 2011

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.).



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home