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, November 30, 2011

A memorable Thanksgiving week on tap

This column was originally published in the Nov. 22 edition of The Mercury.

Unless Mother Nature changes her tune, or you happen to be the Frosty Freddy Football who doesn’t even get a chill until the temperatures dip under zero with accompanying gusts of wind, dress warm this week. Before it’s over, it’ll be the area’s busiest Thanksgiving week of high school football on record.

And unless coaches and administrators at area schools change their tune, it’ll be the very last Thanksgiving week of high school football as we’ve come to know it.

What’s so ironic is that if the tradition and pageantry of Thanksgiving football does indeed end — as most predict it will — this last one may well be one of the most eventful since it all began way back in the early 1900s.

It all kicks off Wednesday night, when Spring-Ford travels to Phoenixville for its rescheduled (or pushed up) Thanksgiving Day game; continues Thursday morning with Upper Perkiomen at Boyertown and the area’s longest-running series featuring Owen J. Roberts and Pottstown at Grigg Memorial Field; and finishes up Saturday with Phoenixville and Pottsgrove playing for the District 1-Class AAA championship at, at, at… who-knows-where.

Oops – word just in – the Phantoms and Falcons will play 1 p.m. at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School.

It took nearly three full days for everyone to get on the same page – and agree to what was on that page, as in time, date and site – for that district championship game. And it wasn’t that anyone needed another dose of disorder, but when Phoenixville and Pottsgrove both won their district semifinals last Friday night, the chaos began.

And before it ended, or when officials announced the exact time, date and site for the championship game at 11:15 a.m. Monday, one of the principles in the process was ready to “get a damn arbitrator.”

Calling the entire course of action frustrating would be an understatement.

But it’s not without precedent:

• Exactly 10 years ago, Pottsgrove – after losing the District 1-AAA final at Strath Haven the Friday before Thanksgiving – came back to defeat St. Pius X the night before Thanksgiving to deny the Lions a share of the PAC-10 championship and win the title outright. Two nights later, Pius regrouped, traveled up to Wilkes-Barre, and crushed nearby WB-Meyers in the PIAA-Class AA state quarterfinals.

• In 2007, Pottsgrove defeated Rustin and Franklin in its first two postseason games, thumped St. Pius X the night before Thanksgiving, then got thumped itself two nights later by Garnet Valley in the District 1/12-Class AAA Subregional final.

• Two years ago, Pottsgrove defeated Upper Moreland and Rustin in the first two rounds of the District 1-AAA playoffs, and St. Pius defeated Del Val Charter and Calvary Christian in the first two rounds of the District 1/11-Class A Subregional playoffs. The Falcons and Lions met Thursday morning – both agreeing to play their junior varsity teams – and Pottsgrove won easily to cap a perfect run through the PAC-10 in the final game between the two schools (Pius closed its doors the following June). Two days later, Pottsgove outlasted Interboro in overtime for the district title, while Pius fell to Tri-Valley in the first round of states.

In case you didn’t notice, in all three of those previous instances Pottsgrove had to come back two days after its Thanksgiving Eve or Thanksgiving Day games to resume its postseason schedule. And St. Pius X had to come back two days after its two Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving Day games to resume its postseason schedule.

For the record, the PAC-10 has a rule that all league games must be played – so there was no way around not playing the Spring-Ford and Phoenixville game; the district agreed, several years ago, that all district finals in the Class AAAA and AAA brackets would be played at a neutral site with turf – and despite admirable attempts to get the Phoenixville-Pottsgrove showdown played somewhere within the PAC-10 neighborhood, those attempts failed because PAC-10 schools with turf had already begun winterizing their facilities and the costs to reverse that work would’ve been exorbitant.

Everyone involved, from the coaches and athletic directors at Phoenixville and Pottsgrove to the District 1 officials – namely executive chairman Rod Stone, executive secretary Bob Ruoff and football chairman Bob Boyer – was frustrated after two-plus days of trying to establish a time, date and site … and mentally wasted after desperately trying to keep everyone happy in the process.

For that, they more than earn a round of applause.

But after this week, the odds are you will not – repeat – will not be hearing any round of applause on any area football field on Thanksgiving Day.

The Hill School, right smack in the middle of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League title chase until dropping its final three games, got a pick-me-up of sorts last week when Adam Regensburg, Fred Santarelli and Jack Mellgard were among the All-MAPL first-team selections.

Regensburg, who broke Hill’s single-season receiving record and had eight interceptions, was a two-way pick at receiver and defensive back. The Towson-bound Santarelli was named as an offensive lineman and Mellgard as a linebacker.

“Regensburg was a dynamic player for us who plays on both sides of the ball,” Hill head coach Grey Simpson said. “It was no surprise he was voted to the first team on offense and defense, and he was in the conversation as a Player of the Year (candidate), too.

“Santarelli was a dominant offensive lineman, clearly one of the top lineman in the MAPL, and was a unanimous selection. And Mellgard was a unanimous selection at linebacker, the deepest position in the MAPL. (Mellgard’s) contributions to our team were praised by all the league coaches.”

The Rams also had four players receive honorable mention – Santarelli (defensive lineman), Nate Mueller (linebacker), Kwame Larbi (running back) and Grant Smith (quarterback).

Sad news hit the Owen J. Roberts football community this past weekend when it was learned Charles Nesley, the father of assistant coach Chuck Nesley, passed away.

The 62-year-old Nesley, a longtime member of the Bucktown Boosters and as big a supporter of the program as anyone, was a 1968 graduate of OJR. He played football for Henry Bernat, and won’t likely ever be named to any all-time team this or all-time team that. But one thing Nesley did do was play the game like few others. He played every single down as if it was his last one, played every single down as if it was the difference between winning and losing a championship. And if he had a broken finger, broken leg, broken ribs or concussion, as long as he could stand, he was out on the field… playing to win.

Not surprising, it’s how his son (Chuck) and daughter (Jen) competed, both in high school and college.

Yes, he will absolutely be missed. Charles leaves us with so many great memories, a blessing in itself. But what many of us will remember most about Charles Nesley was that as hard as he played the game, he was just as soft-hearted a man as a husband to Sue; as a father to Chuck and Jen; and as a genuine friend – with that quirky smile – to countless others.



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