Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 11 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
Coaching changes this year were Art Barrett in at Wood; Biz Keeney moved from Bensalem to Tennent, Dan McShane was hired at Bensalem; and Tim Sorber was made permanent, from interim, HC at Abington for the 2001 season.
On Saturday May 26, 2001, Memorial Day weekend, my buddy 2 called me from Hatfield with some interesting news about North Penn. Apparently, celebrated Souderton ex-HC Drew Darrah was hired as the line coach at North Penn. Additionally Mike Pettine Senior was being looked at as advisor (morale & strategy); and Mike Carey for strength and conditioning. Of course Mike Pettine Junior was still coach in what would be his last year at North Penn. I do not know how much of this was fact, but the Knights reportedly had 50 players back from 2000 and it sounded as though they were going to make a run at a state championship.
I opened the 2001 season solo in Doylestown. Threatening thunderstorms likely kept some from the game, but I wanted to see what the “new” Bucks could do, and they were facing St. Joes Prep, nationally ranked and featuring a D1 prospect RB, Kyle Ambrogi. CB West reportedly had but 5 returning starters and a new coach; unranked. And for the three quarters that I saw, it looked like a ranked-unranked match. CB West did pretty much contain highly-touted Ambrogi, but Prep was sharp with a short-passing game and also a few good runs. But the Bucks scored on two big plays. Behind 17-14 in the last quarter the Bucks connected with a long pass TD for the win, 21-17. I thought the Bucks’ looked kind of “regular”, but had beaten a nationally ranked team; I noted “time will tell”.
I relate my second game the next day for mainly philosophical reasons. It was a Panthers-Panthers matchup, Quakertown at William Tennent. I had it as my scheduled game, but was pleased to go for Bud 1 who had lent his pass to a friend and wanted to get into this game on mine. I was glad I could do it, for Bud 1 was responsible for so many of the passes I had over the years. It was Biz Keeney’s debut at Tennent, so I saw two teams with new coaches in the first two games. A 9-3 Quakertown win made it a kind of slow game and I noted that talking with Bud 1 who would be 83 the following week made the day. While he and I shared hundreds of games ca.1960 – 1964; and 1985- on; high school football season was the only time we saw one another. Bud 2 and his wife became social friends; Bud 3 was a relative, and Bud 4 former classmate.
A big note in my record for the game was this – “I don’t know if I really can get into “games” just because they are “games” anymore. I really want to follow CB East & West, North Penn, Pennsbury, Neshaminy, Council Rock, Pennridge, and Bensalem. Best records dictate interest; along with travel.”
For a rare time in my history it was a comment that said I was getting selective, and might miss games if there was not one I particularly wanted to see. I always liked to follow teams with good records because they were a treat to watch for efficiency and program strength, but I do not understand today what I meant by “along with travel”. Travel was perhaps becoming a factor, but in what way?
For the game of 9/14/2001 I noted that I went to Pennsbury, but saw Abington at Council Rock this evening. This was of course just after 9-11 and the attack on American soil. Pennsbury had moved the game to Saturday night and neither Bud 1 nor I knew it as we met at a darkened Falcon Field with little signs of activity. So we opted to see the Ghosts at Indians.
I noted four options for games this night that might indicate what I meant about travel – Regarding this nights choice of games – I wrote first choice CB West at North Penn – “zoo” expected plus distance; second choice Neshaminy at Pennridge – distance alone; third choice Truman at Pennsbury, game moved. Abington-Rock was the fourth option. It was a good game, 20-10 Rock.
This was also the first indication that I called big crowd games “zoos”. This would continue for some time. And having traveled in the past to Allentown, Berwick, West Pittston, Wilkes-Barre, Downingtown, Coatesville, and Hershey it seems that I did not want to travel so much anymore, at least for regular season games. And apparently, the big-crowd games were becoming less appealing.
This season was more of an old fashioned, “anyone can win on a given night” since the Bucks were no longer super elite, and North Penn hadn’t quite got there yet. Neshaminy surprised me; but more of that later.
CB West lost to North Penn, Neshaminy, and Pennridge to post a 7-3 season, no playoffs; the first time since 1990. North Penn lost to Pennridge, Neshaminy, and CB East to post a 9-3 season, and no playoffs. Pennridge lost to Carlsbad, California, Neshaminy, and CB East, went 8-3 no playoffs. CB East lost to Reading, CB West, and Neshaminy twice, once in the playoffs. Neshaminy lost to no one, went 15-0 and was the second team from Suburban One and Bucks County to win a state championship. I wrote up that season in an article for easternPAfootball.
Perhaps the big surprise was Truman who posted a 6-6 season, the last for Galen Snyder as HC there. I saw them only once, at Pennsbury on the moved game to Saturday 9/15. Bud 1 was there and also Bud 4. Later Bud 4’s son and another classmate of ours, and former Morrisville football player, Dave Fabian came up and sat with us. Actually, he and Bud 4 were fast friends since high school. Anyone who knows the Falcons of the last few years can imagine the offense the Tigers under Snyder used against Pennsbury; a good QB and three deceptive, speedy backs and ground and pound formula; the Tigers beat Pennsbury 27-13.
I managed to get to 7 of Neshaminy’s 15 contests this season. This was a championship team of grit and guts because it didn’t come easy. This was no 44-0 every game champion. The Skins struggled mightily in some contests.
Four times during the season the Skins were down by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter of games; 12 – 14 – 14 – and 15 were the tallies behind. Six games were won by a TD or less. Two games were won with under a minute to go in the game; one with 00:00 left on the clock. It was not a season for the faint-of-heart. The fact that the Skins came back to win all of those games makes it a truly magical season for Neshaminy.
Examples include that they beat CB West at home 21-19 on a pass play, the last play of the game. I was already beating traffic, but I saw the first three quarters. A 2-point PAT was the difference in a 15-14 win over CB East in Doylestown. Their non-league opening season game was a 28-27 win over Father Judge.
I took full advantage when others wanted to drive for road trips, and again this was Bud 4’s specialty. We two arranged to go to Hershey on 11/24 for a look at who would be Neshaminy’s next opponent and a rematch of a game we saw the season before – Cumberland Valley-Bethlehem Catholic. This was a terrific game. The offenses dominated with Becahi mostly airborne and Cumberland Valley a ground attack.
The Golden Hawks took the kickoff for an opening drive TD and the 6-0 lead. The Eagles were offside’s on the kick PAT attempt so the Golden Hawks decided to go for two. They failed. CV answered with a drive; scored and kicked a PAT, 7-6 Eagles. Becahi then put on another scoring drive and 2-point PAT try, and again failed, 12-7 Bethlehem Catholic. Cumberland Valley then marched down the field again, scored and missed the PAT kick, 13-12 CV. Back again came the Golden Hawks, again missing a 2-point PAT attempt, 18-13 Becahi. You can guess what happened next – Cumberland Valley marched down the field yet again; scored, and converted a 2-pt pass PAT, 21-18 Eagles. It was nearing halftime but it was enough time for Becahi to connect on a long pass for another score, this time kicking the PAT and it was 25-21 Bethlehem Catholic at the half, and an entertaining half it had been!
The Eagles received the second half kickoff and were stalled deep in their own territory. Fourth and short was thought makeable, but the Eagles were stopped short. It cost them as Becahi converted, but again missed a 2-pt conversion try; 31-21 Golden Hawks. But CV then put on another successful drive and scored and kicked the PAT and it was 31-28 Becahi. Then a late pick by CV gave them the lead either 34 or 35 to 31. One of their last two TD PAT conversions was missed, but I am not sure which one. Either way they tacked on another late TD icing the game and the final score was Cumberland Valley 41-31. This was a great ball game.
I drove out to Coatesville with Bud 4 the next Friday night to see the Manheim Central-Strath Haven Eastern AAA final. It had rained heavily earlier in the day and there was no activity at the Coatesville Stadium. A security guard verified our fears that the game had been postponed. We were going to Hershey again the next day for the Cumberland Valley-Neshaminy AAAA Eastern final. We planned to still do it; but travel from Hershey to Coatesville for the moved AAA nightcap. Bud 4 would drive that one.
We decided to see if Bud 2 could join us, he had only been to 3 other games so far this season. He was undecided on the Friday night inquiry, but he called early Saturday and said he was in.
I wrote an article on this day also called “One Great Game Day” – see Archives on easternPAfootball.
We got seated in Hershey next to an aisle and soon Mike Pettine Senior and possibly someone else came walking up the aisle. We spoke to Mike and he stopped a few seconds and led with the usual retort, “You guys are everywhere”.
Two sustained first-half drives and an interception deep in their own territory gave Cumberland Valley a 12-0 lead at the half. As Neshaminy received the second half kickoff, I dusted off the old axiom and said, “The Skins have to score on their first possession and then stop the Eagles on their first possession”. And that is just what they did, 12-7 Eagles. In the third Jamar Brittingham got a short TD off of a drive for Neshaminy and the third quarter ended 13-12 Neshaminy. The Skins blocked a punt and returned it for a score in the fourth and it was 19-12 Neshaminy. I don’t remember why so many conversions were unsuccessful, only one made for 5 TDs so far in the game. The Eagles roared back with a short-drive (time-wise); when an inside reverse went 41 yards for a TD. A kicked PAT knotted the game at 19 with 6 minutes left to play. But the Skins Keith Ennis received the ensuing kickoff and raced to the CV 20 yard line before he was stopped. The short field was conquered by Jamar Brittingham making it 25-19 Neshaminy, after a 2-point PAT attempt failed. The Eagles were in a nice two-minute drill drive with less than 2 minutes left when an aerial strike to the tight end was completed deep in Redskin territory; but a Redskin defender stripped the ball and Neshaminy recovered it. Neshaminy won the east title 25-19 and would meet Woodland Hills in the state final.
Because we were motoring down US Route 344 to Coatesville and we had time, we of course saw this game to the end; very rare for me. We got to the Coatesville Stadium just in time to get a low-level seat at the very end of the visitors side; eastern end of the stadium. It seemed to be the LAST seats available also! The Manheim Central – Strath Haven game mainly was defensive and featured some hard-hitting football. Just 7-0 Strath Haven nearing halftime, the Barons muffed a punt in their territory and the Panthers recovered. A quick long strike then made it 14-0 Strath Haven at the half. Late in the game it was 14-7 Panthers. Then within less than a minute left in the game the Barons scored again and it was 14-13 with a PAT option to consider. Time out, Barons. They would go for two and the win! Time out Strath Haven. Then the try; a pass to the left side of the far (western) end zone – incomplete. An onsides kickoff was recovered by Strath Haven and that was the end; final 14-13 Panthers.
The first heavy rain in months caused me to cancel my initial opportunity to see a state championship game. Bud 4 and a van full of his relatives included an invitation for me, but I had tired of sitting out for bad weather games. I listened to the game on WBCB, and Neshaminy brought a state championship back to District One, Suburban One, and Bucks County.
I put my 51st season to bed with notes in my written, and now also computerized, records. I added 21 games; on par with 22 and 21 the prior two seasons.
Lights at Pennsbury, the last stadium I regularly visited to add them, had completed the minimization of Saturday afternoon games. Signs of possible erosion in the delight of high school football arose in the notes for the season, especially to crowds, travel, and game choices. I did have company at 18 of 21 games, but it was more one at a time than the old posse we used to have at games. Bud 4 for 9 games was an indication of greater participation and in fact, he and I were going to be at the greatest concentration of games the next three years.
While 2001 was seemingly down a bit in many ways, 2002 would see a BIG rebound!
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