Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 10 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
For the 1999 season still in progress for a few playoff teams, I wrote a series of notes about what I had thought to be an “odd” season. It was on November 26th, a Friday. I noted that CB West was again in Wilkes-Barre to meet Abington Heights at 1:00 PM Saturday. My wife and I had chosen to attend my high school’s 40th class reunion that evening and it would have been too much to go to Wilkes-Barre too. Of course my main buddy for these trips was my former classmate (Bud 4), and he was attending the reunion also.
CB West won that game 35-7 and the following week would play Bethlehem Catholic in Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium, another venue I was familiar with. But the wife and I would be motoring to Florida that weekend. CB West won 26-14.
I was home in time to see the TV state championship game won by CB West 14-13 as related in the prior installment.
But I attributed the “oddness” of the season to two rain-shortened games; the fact I opted not to go to four different games within my grasp; and I had no visits to Council Rock or Bensalem this season. The drop off in company by Bud 3 (only 2 games), and Bud 1 (6 this season from 12 prior) continued my “odd” season. I noted that I had no intention of trying for a “new record” for games seen in the coming 2000 (my 50th) season; the 32 games in my 40th season (1990) would be it; and indeed has been to date.
At 3:30 pm on Thursday January 13, 2000 a press conference was held in Doylestown and legendary coach Mike Pettine Sr. announced his retirement. A record of 326-42-4 and winning percentage of .886 (ties not included) was his legacy. I had been ill with flu and home and the grey, cold day with snow flurries seemed to suit the mood at the time. Newspapers and TV were full of tributes for a while, and well they should have been.
I know I did see Mike again at games before he got away for good to Florida and golf; because I remember asking him how his golf was going at some point. And we did see him at a state playoff game to speak with for a minute in Hershey in the future. Mike Carey, a 20+ year “second man” for Mike Pettine was the chief candidate to replace him, and did; but not for long.
At least two of us made the usual pre-season camp visitation, but I wrote no notes on it the next season of 2000. My buddy 1 again mailed me his “second” Suburban One League pass and I was set for my silver anniversary season to begin.
Bud 2 and I hooked up in Doylestown for Pennridge at CB East.
This was the Philadelphia Inquirer’s game of the week to open the season, the Rams of Pennridge were ranked 14th in the state in some polls. CB East was improved this season and running backs Tingle and Holmes led the Patriots to a 17-0 halftime edge. But apparently Ram HC Jeff Hollenbach, in his 4th year of his first tenure in Perkasie, was a master of halftime adjustment. (We just saw that again in the 2015 season when down to Pennsbury 30-6; Hollenbach’s Rams scored 23 third quarter points and the final was only 38-32 Falcons). In 2000, behind Jason Rhodes the first possession of the 2nd half led to a drive and score 17-7 Patriots. But CB East answered, 24-7. The Rams used a trick play which I didn’t detail to get it to 24-14; but then East’s Tingle scored what looked like the capper 31-14 CB East; and we started to depart with about 5 minutes left in the game. In those five minutes the Rams scored twice, but the final was CB East 31-28. East was on its way to a fine 9-2 season.
It was getting to the apex of my knowing and speaking to coaches’ era because as coaching changes occurred in the future, we were past the camp visitations and lost touch with the new coaches. In the next two games I spoke with Biz Keeney of Bensalem, Mike Pettine Jr. of North Penn, Mike Ortman of Council Rock, Mark Schmidt of Neshaminy, and the best known to me CB East coaches Green, Heller, and Phillips.
In the first 4 games, Bud 1 and I were the posse. I noted at Falcon Field on September 9 that Bud 1 was now 82 years old.
CB West opened their first season ever with a different coach (Pettine had been there the first season it was CB “West” in 1967) with four straight away games I did not take in. The first game was in Orlando, Florida. Although that was a standard haunt for me and my wife since 1984, sometimes twice a year, I did not go to that one. The next three were at Abington, Bensalem, and Tennent. I rarely got to Abington, but the other two were usual venues, but I chose other games for some reason.
The fifth week of the season I soloed to Doylestown for a Thursday day-night doubleheader of Pennsbury-CB East and Neshaminy-CB West. I noted in the first game won by CB East 28-7 that it was one of a few games in recent years that I stayed until the end; and it was because I was staying for the second game. And this gave ample time for social contact. I spoke to Mike Pettine Sr., Dick Beck, Green and Heller, and Mark Schmidt and John Chaump of Neshaminy. I also spoke with sportscasters Vince Reed (whom I didn’t know previously) and Bill Redner who I knew very well. Bill had banked with our bank for years back as he also owned a tavern at one time, and I knew him as he knew me.
CB West won 54-28 and I was very impressed with the Bucks’ O. They were averaging 48.6 points per game, and were in a streak of four straight 50+ games where they scored 51, 55, 54, and 55 points. The Neshaminy win extended the Bucks 4-year win streak to 50 games.
The weekend of 10/6-10/7 was historic in nature for me in a small, personal way. The wife was again in Connecticut this weekend. (These visits were to her oldest sister who lived there).
Bud 2 was recovering from a bout with pneumonia, and I knew Bud 1 was not interested. Bud 3 was now Turkey-day only, and Bud 4 I saw at many games to speak with, but he traveled solo or sat with family or many old acquaintances as an ex-athlete.
My Friday night game was a 55-7 pounding of Council Rock by CB West. The Saturday afternoon game was North Penn at Neshaminy, a 35-12 Redskin victory.
Saturday night was the historic first-ever game at Falcon Field under lights. The first person in the visitor’s stands for the game was me. That personal part of history affects no one but me, but I liked the fact. Up until 45 minutes before kickoff I was still one of only four in the stands. An electric atmosphere was evident (no pun intended) on the home side. Bud 4 arrived fairly late and sat with me. The game against Abington was a 22-0 Falcon victory. Spoke briefly with 4 different scouting coaches on the night.
I realize now the importance that I then attached to this coach-kibitzing as my notes for many games this season have little play-by-play and mostly socializing with coaches. It was one factor that made this “golden era” as I term it so pleasing. At Council Rock on Friday night 10/13 with North Penn in, I noted speaking to East staffers Green, Rittenhouse, Phillips, and Heller who sat behind me scouting. Bill Heller and I chatted all halftime. I also noted talking to the Pettines’ senior and junior briefly. The Knights vanquished the Indians 31-14.
My wife had left banking in 1999 and now had a co-worker from Bensalem in her present job. Bensalem was at Council Rock Saturday October 21 and my wife knew that her co-worker would be there. So she joined me, Bud 1 and Bud 2 for a “different” viewing foursome than normal. The game was 32-0 Council Rock.
On Friday November 3 I got off early to Bud 2’s house in Hatfield for an anticipated CB West at North Penn contest. CB West won their 55th straight game, but I noted the game as a “possible chink in the armor” of mighty West. More likely it was the father-son coordination within the Pettine family that knew the West program so well. It was perfectly natural, and I thought nothing of it, but some diehard West fans did not like the record-setting coach aiding his son versus his former black and gold.
West got the ball first, drove the field and scored; looked like West, 7-0. But the rest of the half, the Bucks’ could not score from the Knights’ 10 yard line on 4 plays; had a field goal attempt blocked, and allowed two long North Penn pass completions, one for the tying score, 7-7. And it stayed that way until 8 minutes left in the game. As we were leaving West began a determined fourth-quarter drive to eventually seal it 13-7. I noted in my records “It looks like they could have their hands full with a Downingtown or an Erie Cathedral Prep. And next year —-???” The Bucks were loaded with seniors and a lot of them three-year players.
When both the Bucks’ and Patriots made the playoffs and gained home field advantages; it was super. As both teams used the same stadium, there had to be a double-header or Friday night-Saturday day or night games available to me. Such was the case in 2000.
Friday night 11/10 Upper Darby was at CB West in one D1 4A quarter-final. Although the score was 32-8 CB West, the aerial game was needed as the Bucks’ rushing O was held to less than 100 yards for the first time since 11/17/1995. But they moved on once again.
I was cranked pretty well for the Saturday night 11/11 game, a rematch of the season opener I had seen between Pennridge and CB East. The Ram loss 31-28 in that one had been the Rams only loss of the season to date. The Rams played in another division and did not face CB West, North Penn, Neshaminy or Pennsbury regular season. Bud 4 and his brother-in-law showed up for this one and sat with me. A short analysis was that the Rams had three good running backs, the Patriots one. The Pats could not get Tingle untracked. The Ram trio of Kochen, Harris, and Rhodes was hard to stop. But it was still a close game, 7-7 at the half, and the final was Pennridge 13-7 in a defensive battle.
Where my wife now worked was a man from Doylestown and through the two of them, I got two tickets for the next weeks’ Pennridge-CB West D1 semi-final. In those days advance sales were thought advisable and the possibility of sell-outs a frightening concept. But it was not a problem as even though Bud 2 and I had the two tickets, Bud 1 showed up on his own, and Bud 4 and his brother-in-law also joined us and took this one in. The Rams won the toss and deferred. The Bucks’ took the kickoff and began a long ball-control drive that got them up 7-0. When the half ended it was still 7-0 Bucks’. Early in the third quarter, just a couple of plays after the Rams’ got the kickoff, Division 1 prospect Jason Rhodes took an inside scissors handoff 57 yards to the house; 7-7. Then CB West answered with a long drive to success and it was 14-7. The Bucks’ D then forced the Rams to punt. West’s Dave Camburn received the punt and went 75 yards to put the Bucks up 21-7. The Rams answered. Another long run set up a 3-yard Rhodes plunge; 21-14 at the end of three. Next Phil DiGiacomo busted one for 25 yards, but the PAT was missed and it was 27-14 CB West. Just before I began my normal early exit, Rams’ QB Jeff Hollenbach Jr. hit his speedy receiver Fox on a 53-yard bomb; PAT good; 27-21 CB West with 8 minutes left in the game. Finally, with only a minute or so in the game, DiGiacomo sealed it with a 6 yard plunge. A 2-point conversion was good, making the final 35-21 CB West.
I knew the season was ending for me with a three-game Thanksgiving Day through Saturday this season because the following Saturday the wife and I were leaving for Florida again.
The Turkey-day flip to South Hunterdon home made it my first visit to that field. Another good game ensued, final Del Val 35-20; but in truth, while Lambertville was a somewhat small city and limited surrounding area school, Del Val was growing exponentially and this series was doomed to be very one-sided in the near future.
I trekked solo to the District One 4A Championship between Downingtown and CB West in Doylestown. But I was soon joined by Bud 1 and Bud 4. And I again saw my former banker acquaintance which I had seen the prior game also, and we spoke for a while again. We had worked for different banks since I changed jobs in February 1997. Downingtown was equally 11-0; likely with a bit tougher schedule than CB West overall. West was 12-0 because of that early game in Orlando. The Whippets were just as numerous and just as big as the Bucks and they had a battering ram back similar to the Bucks of Mike Pettine’s last few years. The Whippet’s star back, Mike Rechiutti got his 137 yards and at least one of the Whippet’s touchdowns, but West contained most of the other Downingtown producers. And in a somewhat surprise, the Bucks went for two points after each of their four TDs, and got them all. The Bucks’ went to the air early and added their rushing game later and were successful at both. Deep into the first half it was 24-0 Bucks when QB Orihel was picked off deep in their own territory which led to 8 points for the Whippets, and the half ended 24-8 CB West.
In the third quarter the Whippets put on a long drive of power football that would have been fatal if they had been able to do it all game; but they couldn’t. Meanwhile West continued to score also and the final was 39-14 CB West.
I guess it was at the game when Bud 4 and I discussed a trip to J. Birney Crum in Allentown the next day to see the District 3-11 regional between Cumberland Valley (12-0) and Bethlehem Catholic (9-3). Becahi’s three losses were the result of their playing a national schedule. The losses were to Mullen of Denver, CO; Brooklyn’s Poly Prep; and Moeller of Cincinnati.
There were still visitors-side stands in Birney Crum this season and we sat near the end of one of these, practically having the whole section to ourselves. It was my first-ever viewing of Bethlehem Catholic (Becahi). A long interception return put Becahi up 7-0. The Eagles answered with a long pick return of their own; 7-7. Then a Becahi field goal made it 10-7. Cumberland Valley answered 14-10 Eagles. But the Golden Hawks came back again in this battle of the birds, to take a 17-14 lead into the locker rooms at the half. It was an excellent back-and-forth game to that point. Scoring picked up in the second half, with the Golden Hawks getting the better of it 26-14 to make the final score Becahi 43-28. The difference was that Becahi had a two-pronged air/ground attack, while the Eagles had trouble moving the ball on the ground. I noted that I thought CB West would be challenged by these Golden Hawks next week.
I was (almost?!?) sorry I was going to Florida that Saturday, because the game would be at Neshaminy, an easy trip for me. And West won 27-12 sending them into their fourth consecutive state championship game this season and on a win streak of 59 games.
Unfortunately, it all ended in Hershey this season when it took OT to do it, but the Erie Cathedral Prep Ramblers’ finally got a win over CB West, 41-35.
This particular Rambler edition came in 13-0 and at season’s end had scored 667 points for an average of 47.7 points per game. That was first in the state in 2000 of 590 teams.
Their margin of victory of 35.9 was good for third in the state. They had games of 77-0, 62-21, and 54-6 on their resume. A 27-20 playoff win over Altoona was their only single TD victory of the season prior to the championship game. All state for these Ramblers were Dale Williams (OL), Josh Lustig (WR), Tim Dance (RB), and on the defensive side Charles Rush (DL), Joe Dipre (LB), and Ed Hinkel (Spec). All three defenders were first-team all state as was Williams.
So it was no slouch that ended CB West’s reign at 59 games; taking OT to do it. Phil DiGiacomo, Justin Outten, Fran Golden, and Dave Camburn made all-state for the Bucks’; none were first-team selections.
Back on October 25, 2000 I had a question about the District One playoffs that I wanted to explore. I called the PIAA and a nice lady told me that it was handled at the district level.
I knew that Mike Pettine Junior was a D1 representative, so I called North Penn on a chance I would get connected. I did and Mike did not know me but to see, and as no visual phones were available, I gave him a quick “who I was” and what I wanted, and was very nicely told the information that I wanted to know. In previous meetings, I thought Mike was a bit more reticent than pop; but then I knew senior better also. But Junior was more than nice and happy to help me. Little did I know that I was speaking with a future (now-ex-) NFL Head Coach.
I got to 22 games in 2000, one better than the prior season. Bethlehem Catholic was the only new team I saw. I did get 5 PIAA playoff games, just short of my all time best 6. The turn of the century saw the interest in attending high school games start to wane for Buddy number 2 from Hatfield. He made 6, half of the dozen of the past two seasons. Bud 3 was already Thanksgiving Day only, and Bud 1 and I were only together at 5 games in 2000, the least since 1988. Conversely, Bud 4 was actually at 5 games with us, the most ever, plus many games we just ran into him, or he showed up.
Sometime in 2000 I also got a personal computer, a first for home use. Starting in 2001 I began to convert my hand-written records to various computer logs for easy reference, but never dreaming I would someday write some articles for easternPAfootball. I still continue to maintain my handwritten records to this day even though the records are computerized.
For the second consecutive year a Thursday January press conference was held at CB West. At 1:30 PM Mike Carey announced his resignation due to a personal “burn out” after 24 years at it; plus he had 4 daughters he wanted to devote more attention/time with. What he didn’t say is that he owned or had interests in several bar/taverns in the area also. But the announcement was not totally unexpected by those in the know; which wasn’t me. Ex-CB West graduate Randy Cuthbert, already on the coaching staff was the leading candidate, and indeed the next coach. Randy had matriculated at Duke and had a short NFL career 1993-94 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Archbishop Wood, Tennent, Bensalem, and Abington also had coaching changes for 2001.
Don Black’s various individual history books.
Pennsylvania Football News annual resource guides.
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