Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 4 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
The 1990 season would be my 40th tour and I thought I should commemorate it by trying to set a record for number of games seen. After all, who knew if there would be a 50th? This would mean seeing games I might not otherwise be interested in, but if I could get to a game I should do it. I saw 32 games and I have never even tried to match it since.
I saw all 16 teams that I follow as indicated: 6 times – CB East and CB West; 5 times – Bensalem, Neshaminy, Pennsbury, Archbishop Wood; 4 times – Truman; 3 times – Council Rock, Tennent, Abington, North Penn; 2 times – Norristown, Pennridge, Bristol; once – Morrisville & Bishop Egan.
My Bensalem buddy was well-known at both Bensalem and Neshaminy and by chance obtained Suburban One League passes at both schools. About a month into the season I received one of those passes from him by mail. Talk about a help to accomplish my mission of seeing a record number of games, WOW! The free entrance was really not the key element for having a pass. The pass would let you enter the fields anytime if there were no closed gates and many fields were not, and this allowed kibitzing with coaches if they were at leisure pregame just for a short period. It also would allow you entrance at sold-out games, standing room only sometimes, but not a problem. From one source or another, I would have a pass for 12 of my 16 “golden years” of high school football.
I opened at CB West this season as my Lansdale buddy and father and I caught the Souderton Big Red in town. Troy Myers was a threat for Souderton, but the Bucks’ were too strong and well-prepared. An 80+ yard interception return for CB West, and two Matt Soncini long TD punt returns sealed the deal 35-6 CB West.
The second West challenge at home was Plymouth-Whitemarsh who just missed beating West in 1989 by a point 9-10. So guess what happened this year – CB West won by a point 14-13. We were impressed by the Colonials; I logged that I thought they outplayed the Bucks, but lost by a PAT kick that was true in line, but just short, under the goal post at the hospital end (north) of the field. I noted that the Bucks’ were 2-0 but “needed work”.
My wife accompanied me in several early games this year; she had developed a fondness for the game and she liked the bands and cheerleader routines as well as the game; but she knew what was going on in the games. As I was once a band and drum corps snare drummer, the bands always interested me too. I began to make some notes on those as well as the games at times.
I noted on Sunday October 14, 1990 that heavy rains caused me to pass on North Catholic (0 – for) at Bishop Egan (0-4-1) Saturday night after the Pennsbury game. Dougherty was at Wood that Sunday, but a wet basement and cleanup from the heavy rains caused me to pass on this one too. I noted my record would have to be 35 instead of 37; so I had pre-planned a very heavy slate, which ended up at 32 as I mentioned.
After the first weekend of the season, I caught the next 6 consecutive games of CB East this year. They had opened with a 7-0 win over Bishop Coughlin. Then I saw them beat Wood at home 28-6, LaSalle at home 28-12, at Council Rock 24-12, home for Bensalem 21-7 and Truman 14-6. Finally I saw them at Pennsbury where the streak ended in a 6-14 loss to the Falcons. While finishing 8-3-1 they lost to CB West this season 7-8.
The signature game of the year this season was Saturday Oct 6 Council Rock at CB West. You could feel it in the air. Across the field on the CR side the crowd was pumped and electric. When the game started the team demonstrated the same emotion. The Rock’s Tom Coleman, a junior, lit up this night. He returned the opening kickoff 58 yards, deep into West territory. During the game he caught two passes for TDs and threw a halfback option pass for another TD. He also ran for a 15-yard score. At one point in the game the score was 40-11 Council Rock. CB West recovered in the second half to make the final 40-33, but I never again saw such an assault on the Bucks by a team even though said team might have beaten them. Once again this single loss, the Bucks ended 10-1, cost them a shot at the playoffs. Ridley posted an 11-0 regular season, beat Wilson West Lawn 14-12 and then lost to North Allegheny 14-21 in the final.
State championships on the field had now been played for three seasons. When they were first announced, many of us “just fans” in the east had much apprehension about the storied competition the west would bring to the table. I still admire the WPIAL for its impressive cast of power football schools across (formerly) all four classes. I was surprised that after three championship series, the east held a slim win edge 7-5 for the 12 games played. But the east had not cracked the big 4A class in three tries, so far. Tracking the state championships became another part of my high school football hobby.
The next day my wife and I visited Tennent to see LaSalle and Wood for a Sunday matchup. It was a 26-7 Explorer victory, but with this game and the fact I had seen LaSalle-CB East earlier, I had two looks at the Explorers 6-8, 275 pound defensive tackle, Kevin Conlin. He was a member of the football-playing Conlin family, the most prominent being Chris that went on to Penn State and the NFL. Only in 2016 did I learn I had seen another coach play – Kevin will lead Abington in 2016.
On Saturday Nov 3 I journeyed to Abington’s field which was then a day-only, old field off of Huntingdon Road near Susquehanna Road. I met my Lansdale buddy and his dad there for the CB West visit.
The Bucks’ won 17-7, but the reason that I mentioned this game is that with it I broke my previous game-viewing record of 27 (1977); this was my 28th this season. This was my first visit to this field, but not my last.
Only on Thanksgiving did I finally reach my goal of seeing every team I logged and of all teams it was my alma mater, Morrisville – at Bristol. I had seen Bristol earlier, but it was my first Bulldog viewing of the year. My Lansdale buddy and his dad, my brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) and I took the trip, but the Bulldogs came out on the short end 6-35. Bristol senior QB Jerry Devine went over 1,000 yards for the season during the game.
And Turkey Day was my 32nd game this year out of a possible 37 at the start. I will never beat this number, although I have come close without consciously planning a few times.
Suburban One League realignment was the big issue for 1991. While not the reason in publicity, H S Truman and Pennridge were struggling in their National Conference divisions and both dropped to the Sub One Liberty Division for 1991. The remaining 10 large-school teams were lumped in one National Division. This was Abington, Bensalem, CB East, CB West, Council Rock, Neshaminy, Norristown, North Penn, Pennsbury, and William Tennent. It got the colloquial title “Power 10 Conference” in some circles.
I rearranged my records pages accordingly for the new alignment and dropped Pennridge from my records. My thinking at the time was that it was not an original lower Bucks County school, which was the first rule of my keeping teams in my records. Over the years I vacillated on when to keep records and when to drop schools. Sometimes it was keep only Bucks County Schools, sometimes it was only lower Bucks County Schools. I have never tracked Palisades, which, while in Bucks County, plays in a District 11 league.
Again about the fourth week of the season a Suburban One League pass arrived by mail from my Bensalem buddy. Except for PCL or Bicentennial/Independence games, they would be all free.
My Lansdale buddy’s father and I opened the tour with Bishop Coughlin at CB East. I talked to an old bank customer of mine at some length, whose son was a big lineman for CB East. I was starting to experience the social value of these games more and more with the company and people I would run into. The Patriots of CB East won the game 28-8.
The following Friday night I journeyed to Souderton and met my Lansdale buddy, sans father, for CB West at Souderton. A balanced West attack saw two rushing TDs and two via the airways in a 27-0 shutout of the Big Red. But the Bucks’ were penalized quite a bit, somewhat uncharacteristic for them.
I soloed to the next three games, unusual then, but both buddies were at other games the middle time. Neither of my pals was interested in certain teams and games, but I was going because they were available games.
The big event of 1991 was my Lambertville brother-in-law (he married my wife’s youngest sister) and his new involvement in high school football. He was originally from Nescopeck, PA which is just across the river from Berwick. He wondered if I would be interested in traveling up and seeing a Berwick game. My yes answer was akin to the speed of light.
I was on vacation the week of September when on the 20th, he and I made the 2-hour plus trek to Berwick. We were going to see Wyoming Area (3-0) at Berwick (2-1, sporting a 25-26 loss to Glen Mills who I had just seen the week before at Pennsbury). Glen Mills had beaten the Falcons 41-17 and dressed about 90 players, big-fast- and talented.
But here at Crispin Field in Berwick it seemed we stepped back to the 1950s. The crowd gathered early, both sides were raucous with catcalls back and forth across the field. The stands were packed. Before the game fireworks were set off behind and on the goal posts.
I had a little notebook with me and made about five pages of notes. I have no idea where this little book got to over the years. Berwick won 34-14 and I was totally impressed with the area, team, crowd, everything. We both planned to come back next season; but we got back again this season!
The following Friday my new Lambertville football buddy joined me and he met both Lansdale and Bensalem buddies at CB West for a 3-0 Neshaminy visit. The Bucks’ handled the Skins 27-0. Greg Moylan was the Bucks fine field general. He ran the O and when he passed it was most times successful. Matt Soncini was a primary receiver. Dave Binder was a bruising FB, but not quite the size of the later Swett, Armstrong and Picciotti. But this Bucks’ squad lived on defense. The names on defense are more anonymous unless of all-state character, but Rob Swett was all-state LB in his junior year at 6-3, 220 pounds. Moylan made third team QB.
My 50th birthday was the occasion for a surprise birthday party for me in the bank office in which I worked in Newtown, PA on Friday, October 11th. (Actual birth date is 10/16). Of course it was on a second floor private office area, not a retail banking office. I was totally floored by this with lots of attention by many bank employees above and below my level. And my Lambertville football buddy/brother in law was there and to this day I do not get that connection; there were no other relatives of mine, it was basically a business birthday party. Whatever, he and I left after the festivities for North Penn at CB West to arrive to a dark field and no activity; game postponed until Saturday night. We then quickly departed for Morrisville who I knew was home, hosting Archbishop Kennedy. We took it in, a scrappy little affair, basically 9-7 Saints until late in the game when Kennedy iced it with a TD with 47 seconds left in the game, final 15-7 Kennedy.
We figured on catching the NP-West game Saturday night after the afternoon Pennsbury hosting Council Rock game in which all four buddies – me, Lambertville, Lansdale, and Bensalem attended. This year the Indians Tom Coleman, who destroyed CB West in 1990 was a senior. He got wide open on the first play from scrimmage and QB Albrecht hit him for a 78-yard TD. The Falcons countered on a long drive in their style and it was 7-7. Still in the first quarter Albrecht hit Coleman for 77 yards on the fly, 14-7 Rock at the quarter and at the half. The Falcons tied again in the third quarter, 14-14. In the fourth quarter, the Falcons scored and took their first lead 21-14. We were filing out with about 5 minutes left when Coleman came streaking up the sideline just in front of us, grabbed a perfectly thrown aerial and finished a 90-yard pass/run TD. Albrecht then ran in a 2-point PAT and Rock won the game 22-21.
Now, this game had been a giant deke to keep me out of the house while my wife organized a second huge 50th surprise party at our home in the basement recreation-room bar.
Both my Lambertville and Lansdale buddies were in on it. This was one to remember and I still do today. Needless to say we did not get to the North Penn-CB West game that night. Most of us actually couldn’t have gotten anywhere that night. Thank goodness all that had to go home; got there safely.
I do get a bit misty though, remembering so many people that are gone since that date almost exactly 24 years ago. (I am writing this portion October 14, 2015). The next day the wife and I left for a New England vacation.
It occurs to me to shorten my buddy relationships for brevity to Bud 1 (Bensalem); Bud 2 (Lansdale), and Bud 3 (Lambertville); with a sole addition to come a few years later.
On Friday November 1, Bud 3 and I, and two other people (former South Hunterdon H S of Lambertville athletes) motored to Berwick once again for Berwick hosting Wyoming Valley West. Both teams sported 7-2 records. Berwick had since played Central Dauphin and lost 15-17. At the time we were not aware that this was not one of Berwick’s finest teams, both losses were to good teams, but Berwick was used to winning those games. I noted that the Dawgs started only 3 to 5 seniors on both O and D. Obviously this was why the 2 losses this season, and they were close (1 point and 2 points) to good teams; but I said we would definitely have to see Berwick again next season. They had no problem this night, 47-14 over the Spartans.
The next day, home from Berwick, Bud 3, his son – my nephew – and I took in CB West at Council Rock. Remember Rock beat West in 1990 40-33 and the chief culprit was Tom Coleman, now a senior at Rock. Typical of Mike Pettine, the Bucks looked super-prepared to avenge last year’s game and were perfect in control and execution, and out-ran, out-passed, and out-defended the Rock on the way to a 49-7 victory. Rock got a little chippy, highly unusual at that school even though I saw it once before at Tennent. CB West now stood 8-0 on the season.
On November 23 (Saturday) Bud 3 and I journeyed the short run to Council Rock. Bud 1 had called me that morning and said he would be at that game, and he was. In my 41 seasons so far I had never seen Tennent AT Rock before and it was my motivation over the Neshaminy-Pennsbury classic this season. I also thought that would be a blowout this season and it was, 41-0 Pennsbury. This game was much more entertaining.
Tennent consistently moved the ball on the ground with Adcock, Livezy, and Pernsley. Rock’s passing attack this year; especially Albrecht to Coleman also was effective again. But in the end a field goal and one PAT was the difference, 17-13 Council Rock. We bid farewell for the season to Bud 1, as he spent the Thanksgiving period in the Poconos, and he said he was not interested in following CB West if they made the playoffs, which were still elemental; next season district playoffs would be initiated.
My Suburban One League pass got Bud 3 and me into the CB East – CB West Thanksgiving Day game at War Memorial Field this season. It was SRO; an estimated 10,000 in attendance, so we stood at the fence at about the 15-yard line, visitor’s side, school-end of the stadium.
We could see ok, except when the play was down close at our end and a mass of sideline people blocked the view somewhat. West looked a bit sluggish early, and they fell behind 6-7 early and QB Moylan went down with an injury (thankfully, he was back in the game in the 4th quarter).
By halftime it was 14-7 CB West, and with about 37 seconds remaining in the game CB West’s Patterson hit a field goal to make the final 17-7 Bucks’; completing an 11-0 regular season.
Ridley went 7-4 this year, possibly 6-4 regular season, Interboro (Ridley win) was likely still on Thanksgiving. Coatesville posted a 10-0-1 season with a tie with Henderson marring their chance. Neshaminy was but 4-7. These were the three protagonists that had kept CB West from the first three playoffs. Now it was West’s turn.
On Saturday, December 7 Bud 2 and I journeyed to Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium to see CB West and Easton butt heads in the PIAA Eastern Championship, or state semi-final. Bud 3 was scheduled to go, but was suffering a back strain and his daughter was ill. Surprisingly, we ran into Bud 1, who had at the last minute decided to come with someone who provided the transportation. I found it mildly amusing that the announcer said that Easton would have the West bleachers and C B West the East bleachers, reversing a part of the name of each team. (Well, you had to be there). According to local Bucks County sources the Easton players had been jawing that the Buck’s had not played anybody like them and another dig that had CB West annoyed. Whether this was true or pre-game hype is unknown to me.
But I did know that Easton was good. Easton was almost always good, going back a long time. This year they were 13-0 coming in, with a playoff win over Pottsville 25-15 included. Their offense averaged 34.8 points per game. CB West averaged 30.5 points per game. The Easton offensive line averaged almost 6-3, 237 pounds. Their chief threat was running back Juan Gaddy, whose career 5,116 rushing yards was tops at Easton through 2013, at least. West’s defense held the edge 4.6 (coming in) to 12.0 for Easton; and as the old cliché goes – “defense wins championships”.
Easton got the opening kickoff and drove the field and scored, but missed the PAT and it was quickly 6-0 Easton, and it looked like they were right on their brag (if it actually happened).
But CB West had a balanced attack running and passing, and I remember one long pass completion on the opposite side of the field that put West in scoring position, I don’t remember when it occurred, but I believe it was the first half. Whatever, the rest of the game was West, soon 7-6 West; then 14-6, 21-6, 28-6, and late in the game 34-6. I do not remember when the PAT was missed in the score progression, but West did get up by four touchdowns. Easton scored again against either the subs, or a relaxed defense. Final 34-12; and CB West would play for a state championship.
Bud 3 and I considered the trip to Altoona for the state championship game, but the 4 to 5 hour ride after a rainy Friday continuing into Saturday game day precluded a go.
CB West went on to win the state AAAA Championship 26-14 over Erie Cathedral Prep of D10. Key was that it was the first eastern team to win in 4A, the first District One team to win at states, the first Suburban One team to win at states, and the first Bucks County team to win at states. All of this was significant to me if not the world. One would have to notice that it was not a WPIAL team West beat.
I made 26 games in 1991; saw five new teams – Bishop Coughlin, Glen Mills, Berwick, Wyoming Area and Wyoming Valley West; saw my first PIAA playoff game; got to 2 new stadiums – Crispin Field and Goodman Stadium; and saw a state champion play – CB West.
Big for 1992 was the beginning of elemental district playoffs. They were not fully developed, but it was a start. On a closer note, Council Rock and Morrisville fielded their best teams in a while; but those two and CB West were the only teams posting outstanding records this year.
To open this season I picked up Bud 2 in Hatfield and we journeyed to Poppy Yoder field for C B East at Pennridge. This was a good opener. East took a 10-0 lead. And they maintained it long – at 10-7, 17-7, 17-14, and 20-14. But late in the game Pennridge had moved ahead 21-20. With 3 minutes left in the game, CB East kicked a field goal and held on to win the game 23-21.
Next day, Bud 3 and my nephew joined Bud 1 at his Bensalem main post for Truman at Bensalem. Here Bensalem AD and Morrisville Alum Bob Hart awarded me my own Suburban One League pass; my first direct pass, not second hand from Bud 1. Bensalem won the game handily 28-8.
Second week of the season Friday I picked up Bud 3 and his son in Lambertville and we met Bud 2’s father and Bud 1 at Doylestown for defending state champ CB West’s opener with Souderton. A good game, CB West extended their reign, 21-6. I noted the Buck’s running game and defense as very good and a lack of passing. But sophomore QB Snyder was subbing for an ailing senior QB Bill Marsland and this was not known to me at the time.
I noted the first three games to illustrate that there was now a gang of five including me, and that for most games there was some combination of the five that I eventually called my “posse”. Lansdale Bud 2’s father was the fifth, and not as often member, but sometimes it was just he and I. It was most unfortunate that we were soon to lose him. I was not consciously aware at the time of how much this “posse” social end of the game would mean to me. Only Bud 3 was family, but when we gathered at games, it all seemed liked family.
On the fourth week of the season we made a pre-planned trip to Berwick to see the 1992 edition of the Dawgs. A foursome that included me, Bud 3, Bud 2, and one of the foursome from Lambertville that had gone with us to the second game of 1991. This was an away game at West Pittston against Wyoming Area. This was the time that I have mentioned in other stories that we met and talked with HC George Curry as he walked alone around the track near where we were pregame, and he stopped for a couple of minutes to talk to us. We told him where we were from and had come all this way to see his Dawgs.
He seemed pleased at this and asked if we knew Mike Pettine at CB West which we assured him we did. Bud 2 was the talker among us and the one that had such amazing memory of high school football and drum corps. He had introduced me to Mike Pettine at CB West in his office on some occasion that we were at the school, but school was not in, although there was a lot of activity there. After that we talked with Mike on many occasions, but never at a West practice.
Berwick won the game in West Pittston 28-0. Ron Powlus was the QB and he revealed a quick accurate release on pinpoint passing.
On vacation and my 51st birthday, Oct 16, 1992 I was in Berwick again, with my wife and Bud 3 (my brother-in-law) and his wife, my wife’s youngest sister. The distaff side decided they wanted to see Berwick football too. This night the Dawgs were tested by the red and silver clad Cougars of Hazleton Area.
Fast Cougar backs likely had the better stats in the game, but Berwick led 7-6 in the 3rd quarter. Then Ron Powlus broke a 70+ yard keeper up the home sideline to ice it 14-6 Berwick.
The Bensalem-Pennsbury game was good this year, a back and forth affair at Bensalem viewed by my wife and I and Bud 1’s wife and he. The final was 28-25 Bensalem who had a 6-4 season while Pennsbury finished 6-3-1 this season.
I decided to check out my old alma mater on Halloween night at 6-1 against Jenkintown in Morrisville. This Dog edition was for real and was under Chuck Knowles. Many years later I met Chuck courtesy of a Morrisville classmate of mine, who would become Bud 4. Usually a strong running team, tonight the QB was 5 for 5 passing for both TDs and there were two 2-pt PATs to make the final Morrisville 16-0. This Bulldog team ended 10-2. They were the first class A District 1 champions, 22-6 over Jenkintown again. But in the early PIAA playoff system, they could advance no further on point ratings. This was the only 10-win season in the Dogs’ history. Their offensive average was 2nd of the 15 teams I followed at 20.3, behind CB West’s 23.5. And their defense was also second to West – 8.8 Morrisville to 8.0 CB West.
CB West got the home field advantage for the playoff round against Coatesville. Bud 3 and I sat with a fellow banker acquaintance of mine, who was also a former Neshaminy Redskin. In a way these were mirror-image teams living on the run and good, burly defenses. I do not think the Red Raiders threw one pass; the Bucks’ had to when their run game was halted. At the half Coatesville led 12-6. In the third quarter West got the equalizer and it was 12-12. Then Coatesville’s speedy Washington broke a 50 yard run on a delayed handoff up the gut. The final was19-12 Coatesville and it was the end of West’s current 29-game win streak.
For the first time three of the posse took in a playoff game not involving local teams on December 5th. For some reason my brother-in-law knew right where Villanova Stadium was and he and I, and Bud 2 motored there in his van.
It was to see the Coatesville-Cumberland Valley state 4A semi final, or Eastern Championship. These two had met in a regular season game and CV had beaten the Raiders 28-19, the Raiders only loss of the season to date.
Cumberland Valley featured a running attack with occasional aerials. And FB Jon Ritchie at 6-3 235 pounds was a battering ram. The line was big and stud-like; and all-state along with Ritchie was lineman Brian Potteiger 6-3 230; and specialist Corey Gumby.
The result was about the same as the first game between these two – 22-6 Cumberland Valley. Ritchie went on to Michigan and Stanford and 94 games in the NFL with Oakland and the Eagles.
I saw 28 games in 1992, two PIAA playoffs, saw the D1 class A champion play regular season, and saw two state champions play, Berwick 3A and Cumberland Valley 4A. I had a league pass for the third consecutive season, and I got to two new stadiums- West Pittston and Villanova University. Two new teams I saw were Hazleton and Cumberland Valley. I had company at almost every game, a nice social factor and slow-time ennui reducer.
The East swept the state championships in all four classes, the only time that this has happened by either side 1988-2015. Cumberland Valley, Berwick, Valley View, and Scotland School all won gold for the east.
I was cranked to keep the football season going, and added off-season notes to my records. One was that the Philadelphia Archdiocese was closing Archbishop Kennedy and merging Kennedy-Kenrick. More locally, the present Tullytown Bishop Egan High School would be moving and merging with all-girl Bishop Conwell as Conwell-Egan High in 1993. Enrollment shrinkage issue was the big concern with the costs involved of the open schools.
I had no way of knowing, nor any concept of it at the time; but the year of 1992 would cap my “company” at games years at 89% of the games this season, just up from 88% the prior season.
I would never reach that percentile again, but still enjoyed percentages in the 80s and high 70’s for several more seasons of my “golden period” yet.
Don Black’s various individual high school record books.
Pennsylvania Football News annual resource guides.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
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