Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 14 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
In 2004, I again caught the Lions’ All Star game in June; and Bud 1, 2, and 4 were there at Council Rock North this time. The North turned the tables this time 17-14.
Many times it is events unrelated to high school football that impact a season in a major way. It is life, you cannot escape them. In August 2004, my wife’s mother was in a terminal stage of cancer, and I cancelled the annual camp visits. This fine lady passed at 5:45 AM on August 30, 2004 and is still sorely missed and revered by many. She is forever at rest in north Jersey.
I made one short solo trip to CB East pre-season and found that of the coaches I knew real well there, Bill Heller, had retired; Andy Szarko and Chris Rittenhouse; possibly others, had gone to the brand new Central Bucks South High School. Brian Penacale, whom I met a few seasons back, had also departed. Only Larry Green, HC, and Tony Schino were left, both of whom I spoke with.
Also pre-season I traveled to Bud 4’s house and we went to Falcon Field for the Pennsbury-LaSalle scrimmage. In the officiated, down-and-distance portion the Falcons won 28-27, a nice fairly penalty-free exhibition. It was my first scrimmage since Phillipsburg-CB West in 1994 and the 1995 stop-in while driving by at CB East with Easton.
The remaining posse of four all went in different directions to open this season. Bud 4 was with Morrisville at Schuylkill Haven. Bud 1 was at Falcon Field for Ryan-Pennsbury. Bud 2 was near home in Crawford Stadium for Glen Mills-North Penn; and I chose Philadelphia’s Dobbins at CB East; primarily because I had never seen Dobbins. CB East won 35-7.
In addition to the new Central Bucks South High School this season; this was the season the PIAA welcomed District 12 into competition, but from Philadelphia it was the Public League only. The PCL would have to wait until 2008. But I think that history would show that the PCL did not cool their heels, waiting for 2008.
The next day Bud 4 and I made an infrequent trip to Abington, mainly to see J P McCaskey, another team none of us had ever seen. Bud 1 was there, and walking a bit better this season. McCaskey won 38-14 and we sat with Neshaminy coaches Mark Schmidt and a returned John Chaump until we moved for a clearing viewing area. This was my last jaunt to this old field. The Ghosts opened their fine new stadium in 2005, and I have yet to make a visit.
The following Friday my brother in law (Bud 3) rejoined for a game other than on Thanksgiving for the first time in 5 years.
It was for a trip to Poppy Yoder and the dually green & white clad and also Ram duality of Central Dauphin at Pennridge. Two teams – same colors, same mascot. Bud 2 joined us there and it was a good game with the local Rams winning 16-0.
Ever since I lived in the Washington Crossing home from June of 1980, and with my wife from February of 1981, we had one instance of high Delaware River in 1996 that just covered River Road with a thin veil of water in locations above and below my home and no evacuation was necessary. But in 2004 although I went to a game on Friday night 9/17 at Bensalem; Saturday was not for the two games I had scheduled, but instead for flood evacuation. The water was the highest since the great flood of 1955, but thankfully, not near as high. I got no water in the house, but my detached garage and storage shed in the back of the property had a minimal water level in them. A creek 100+ yards behind my property caused the rear of the property to flood before the front river-side did. My wife and I and the pooch spent the next three days with my brother (Bud 3) and sister in law in Lambertville.
We were flooded with basements full of water (about 8 feet) in both 2005, and again in 2006; but neither were anywhere near football season, and we were whole again by the time the season rolled around those years.
This year Mark Schmidt at Neshaminy put together another fine football team. I did see them 6 times all together, but not until the 6th week of the season for the first time this year. It was home with Pennridge. Both teams entered the fray 5-0. I noted that the Neshaminy defense especially looked good and they were not overly big physically, but were quick, hard hitting and gritty. They had the numbers with about 88 players dressed. They won the game 31-15.
The following week, on my 63rd birthday, I saw the Skins take on Council Rock, again at Heartbreak Ridge. I was joined by Bud 4; and in the second half by Bud 1 (coming over from the home side). Again the defense was featured when the Skins beat the Indians 24-0.
Then I would see four of the Skins five playoff games to make the six I saw. I will discuss them later.
Friday 10/22 my brother-in-law (Bud 3) and I planned and executed a work-game trip to Berwick, our first since 1993. There was work to be done on a vacant house that was Bud 3’s grandparents, then his parents (actually now his in 2016), and I would help at the house, and we would see Williamsport at Berwick in Crispin that night. I had never seen the Millionaires play. Tom’s Kitchen (Conyngham); Barb’s Hoagies, and Tozzi’s Pizza provided us nourishment for the day and a half we were there. Berwick won 41-19 and I did not detail the game as the next day, many miles away at home I had no local papers to review the game. That was the last time to the current time that I had the pleasure of seeing the Dawgs play.
Another of the factors which I noted each season was the number of teams with good records that I saw in a season.
That count was 7 this year and included Neshaminy 13-2, North Penn 10-3, Pennridge 10-3, Conwell-Egan 10-3, CB West 9-2, Tennent 8-3, and Archbishop Wood 8-4. My arbitrary cutoff was 7-3 for a 10-game season, and 7-4 for an eleven game season, any seasons longer than that were usually self-explanatory.
And it then only included the local teams I followed, not any opponents that I saw that might be good also. This I altered later to include any opponents not local with good records.
This total of 7 teams with good records was the highest number in my then 54 seasons of high school football. It was one factor to include this season in my “golden era” seasons. And it was the last season of my golden era.
The one regular season loss to North Penn 30-31 in overtime put Neshaminy in a travel situation for the playoffs and the first stop was in Doylestown at CB West.
In 2004 the situation at CB West was this: Randy Cuthbert as Head Coach had posted three winning seasons in the Colonial and Patriot Divisions of Suburban One 2001 through 2003.
But the records were 7-3, 6-4, and 6-4 and the Bucks’ had not made the playoffs since 2000. Another league realignment saw CB West in the smallest schools conference, the American, for the 2004 season. Here they found the going more CB West-like and went 9-1 in regular season; having lost only their non-league season opener to Easton 12-17. They were the higher seed for their playoff contest, so at home against Neshaminy.
Rain Friday night 11/12 moved the game to Saturday night 11/13. A van full of 6 people, including me and Bud 4, hauled to Doylestown for the game. We all met Bud 1 there. CB West used a short, tower kickoff strategy to Neshaminy up backs all night. And viola! The first one produced a Skins fumble recovered by the Bucks’. They then drove the shortened field and capped it with a Tyler Dinnis 4-yard plunge. A repeat kickoff went to the same Skins up back. As if to atone for the first result, this time he returned the kick deep into Bucks’ territory. A five yard Flogel to J. Kinney pass and Kevin Kelly kicked-PAT knotted it at 7. The score then moved to 13-7 CB West after a blocked PAT attempt. The Skins premier RB Georg Coleman then went 60+ yards to the house and the Kelly kick made it 14-13 Neshaminy. The Skins added another TD and it was 21-13. Just before the half, Bucks’ QB McMonigle hit McNeil on a 32-yard strike to make it 21-19. The obvious choice was to go for 2. The attempt to run it in failed and the half ended 21-19 Neshaminy.
In the second half the Redskins’ scored first and the Kelly PAT made it 28-19 Neshaminy. Later Kevin Kelly converted a 25-yard field goal to make the count 31-19 Skins. But the Bucks’ came back with two scoring drives of their own, with Dinnis scoring twice on short drives. After the first of those scores the PAT was kicked and it was 31-26 Neshaminy. After the second of these Dinnis plunges, a 2-point conversion was made and it was 34-31 Bucks’ with about 6 minutes left in the game.
A good kickoff return followed and then the Skins’ rode Coleman bursts to a 38-34 lead with 3 minutes left. CB West could not make a first down on the ensuing possession, and the Skins held the ball for the last minute, final 38-34 Neshaminy.
I followed this car-full trip with a solo trip to Perkasie the next Friday for the D1 4A semi-final pitting a rematch of an earlier North Penn – Pennridge contest.
I had not seen the first match up, won by Pennridge 35-27. The Knights came in 9-2; and the Rams 10-1. This was an excellent hard-hitting, exciting, trick play-filled game that it was a shame anyone had to lose.
North Penn took a 7-0 lead. Before long the Rams executed a double handoff, pitch, option pass to knot it at 7. Not to be outdone the Knights answered with a perfectly executed double-pass, or lateral-pass, forward pass if you prefer; to go up 14-7, and the first half ended with that score.
In the second half the Rams answered again, missed the PAT, and it was 14-13 Knights. Then a ball-strip fumble recovery by the Knights gave them a 6-yard field; converted to 21-13 after three quarters. I began my lonely trip home at that point. With one minute and 39 seconds left in the game the Rams scored and converted a clutch 2-pt PAT and it was 21-21. But the Knights returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to the Rams 39 yard line.
After a 5-yard penalty set the Knights back to the 44; Knights QB hit Gallagher on a 35-yard pass/run to the Rams 9 yard line. With 14 ticks left on the clock, a successful Knights’ field goal won the game 24-21 North Penn.
I soloed to Neshaminy, but ran into Bud 1 there, for the District One 4A Championship, Friday night 11/26/2004. Another rematch – North Penn – Neshaminy, the first won in OT by the Knights 31-30. The first score was set up when Neshaminy recovered a muffed punt. This led to a drive that stalled at the Knights 28-yard line. Dependable senior kicker Kelly hit the field goal from there; 3-0 Neshaminy. Then Kelly’s kickoff sailed into the end zone, not unusual. But on the first play from scrimmage, the Knights’ Pete Stoll raced untouched around the left side for the TD. It was 7-3 Knights’ in a heartbeat. Another Redskin drive featured 32- and 37-yard bolts by Coleman. They scored on a 6-yard hook-and-ladder pass Flogel-Kinney-Coleman. It was 10-7 Neshaminy. Then the Redskin defense held and another drive led to a Coleman 8-yard run, Kelly kick – 17-7 Neshaminy. Next Pete Stoll near repeated his 80-yard burst, this time 77 yards and it was 17-14 Skins. The ensuing kickoff was returned by Jason Kinney’s twin brother Jarred 71 yards to the Knights 5. Coleman plunged the five yards and it was 24-14. Now, get this – END OF FIRST QUARTER. It was a 38-point back and forth initial stanza, definitely my kind of ball game. The pace indicated a 96-56 final score, but anyone who knew football realized the pace wouldn’t continue. (Except the 2015 season Meadville 107-90 over Dubois)!
Indeed, the second quarter produced only a single score. With 1:03 remaining in the half, the Knights Carpenter went off-tackle for an 8-yard TD; the PAT kick bounced off of one of the uprights – no good; 24-20 Neshaminy at the half.
Again in the third quarter there was only one score. On fourth-and-inches for the Knights on the Neshaminy 42; everyone was up tight on defense. Again Pete Stoll bounced outside and flew the 42 yards for the TD; 26-24 North Penn. The Skins’ Jason Kinney blocked the PAT try.
Once again I leave a great game in progress. After I did the Skins put on a 7-play 57-yard drive with QB Flogel finishing the final 3 yards. A bad snap ensued on the PAT attempt – no PAT. That’s about the only way Kelly did not make them. It was 30-26 Skins. After a later North Penn punt, on the first play from scrimmage Coleman bolted 57 yards for another TD and the holder got the snap for the PAT, no problem for Kelly; 37-26 Neshaminy. With 8:05 left in the game, for whatever reason the Knights third QB (sophomore Levens) was in and he connected on a 72-yard strike to Carpenter and it was only 37-34 after a successful 2-point conversion.
But Neshaminy could not be shut down this night. Coleman broke another 23-yard haul to the Knights 15 after which Jarred Kinney broke a 15-yarder off the right side; Kelly kick 44-34 Neshaminy with 5:52 remaining. Getting yet another possession, Coleman scored his 5th TD of the night and Kelly’s PAT kick closed out the scoring for the evening, a 51-34 Neshaminy win.
Four of the six that had van pooled three weeks earlier, including Bud 4 and me, rode to Bensalem for the eastern 4A final between Neshaminy (12-1) and Easton (12-0). It was a Saturday day game on December 4, 2004 in bright sun, but cold breeze. The game had been moved from Friday night due to heavy rains in the area and the natural grass field at Bensalem was muddy. I neglected to write up the game until after the state championships, so I believe it was basically as I state it. Although Neshaminy seemed to be controlling, it was only 7-0 Neshaminy at the half. Easton received the second half kickoff and drove the field and scored knotting it at 7 apiece. I think Neshaminy regained the lead and Easton again tied it up pretty late in the game 14 all. With about 52 seconds left in the game the Redskins got up 21-14 and we began to exit as it was an overflow crowd and we did sit as sardines in a tin. We were on the away (Easton) side, and it had been the first time I ever sat on that side of the stadium for a full game since it was erected in ca. 1967 when I was still in the service.
But we were able to stand outside the band gate open-end of the stadium and watch the Red Rovers good kickoff return along with a good two-minute drill come right down the field. Several pass attempts ended when Neshaminy intercepted to finally ice the game; another good one in the books.
On December 11, 2004, I drove down to Morrisville intending to pick up Bud 4 and do the driving to Hershey and the 2A and 4A championships. But another relative of Bud 4 and the same nephew that was part of the 6-group, and 4-group entries also were there, so Bud 4 drove his van to Hershey.
As a District One follower all of my life, this was an especially interesting state final duo as both the eastern 2A and 4A teams were from D1. The AA representative was Lansdale Catholic, then a member of the Pioneer Athletic Conference and so, D1. Their opponent was Grove City from D10. Grove City looked sharp early in an aerial game and took a 7-0 lead. But LC had an elusive, not-so-huge running back named R. C. Lagomarsino. Mr. R C broke one for 78 yards soon on, but a 2-pt pass attempted PAT was no good and it was 7-6 Eagles.
In the second quarter R C got loose for a 37-yard TD and another failed PAT made it 12-7 L C. The half ended 12-7 Lansdale Catholic.
In the third quarter, Crusaders’ QB Adams took it in from 44 yards out and after the third failed PAT attempt it was 18-7 Crusaders. Next it was R C again, this time for a 72-yard dart, and this time a kicked PAT was good and made it 25-7 Crusaders. Later, very late in the third quarter, a bad pitchout in their own end zone cost the Crusaders a safety and it was 25-9 L C, but this seemed to really inspire the Eagles and their fans as they would get the ball. The Eagles received the free kick to start the fourth quarter and then drove the field (mostly through the air), to score and tack on a 2-pt PAT, and it was 25-17 with 11:43 left, plenty of time and a one-score game. But the Crusaders were not to be denied and took the kickoff and marched down the field until FB Noochi burst the final 6 yards to make it 32-17 with the PAT. There was 6:20 left in the game.
In another possession the Crusaders Lagomarsino tacked on another 27 yarder and with a 2-point PAT the score was an unreachable 40-17 with little time left. Lagomarsino had a state playoff record 353 yards rushing. I do not know if this was within class or overall, or if it still stands.
By the time the ensuing 4A championship was history I had realized something that I had likely not before. I realized that for all my years of high school football, I finally was ready to just appreciate all ball, in all leagues, in all districts, in all classes; because there was good football to see in it all. I was ready not to just put it all on the line for the Suburban One League, District One, or Bucks County teams; but to just enjoy game performances, whoever they were.
We sat in the bleachers opposite the press box side as we did in 2002, and it was the Grove City side for 2A and Neshaminy side for 4A. We were high enough, about halfway up, and about the 15 or 20 yard line near the scoreboard end of Hershey Stadium. When the Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings lined up across the end zone line opposite our vantage point, I was awe-struck. Was this a small college team? Did these kids start to lift weights when they were three? One player looked to be about 6-6 and 300 pounds, possibly Pat Illig a junior, who made all-state the following year. The rest, no matter what height, looked like studs; there were no short or thinner players to be seen, and there were about 88 of them or so. I remarked to Bud 4 after a few moments of stunned silence; “Neshaminy’s in trouble”. Bud 4 heartily agreed.
And trouble it was. PCC led at the quarter 14-0; at the half 35-0 and mercy rule; and as we departed with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter 42-0 and driving. We heard the 49-0 tally as we were behind the main side stands walking to the car. The Skins got a couple on the PCC subs and final was 49-14.
I believe that this was the best high school football team that I ever saw; and still do. They went 16-0 for their title; across the always competitive WPIAL and then the state. Pennsylvania Football News agreed with me and no less than 9 players were on all state teams.
In the PCL Cable pre-championship predictions show in a recent year (perhaps 2012 or 2013), this PCC team was again mentioned by all sportscasters as one of the best ever. Three more made the 2005 all-state team and probably played as juniors this season.
There was not a weakness that could be seen in this team at least in this game. Size, depth, speed especially, aerial, rushing, special teams; it was just all there. Most impressive was speed to the ball on defense. There were close to 7 defenders around every tackle. The normally potent Neshaminy backs could not establish anything. I have not seen all of the good teams, and it is always difficult to compare different eras, but it will take some time for me to acknowledge I saw any better team than PCC 2004.
All-state for teams I had seen this season were the 9 from PCC, Georg Coleman, Kevin Kelly, Tom McEuwen, Kevin Staub, and Joe Mautox – Neshaminy; Dotun Akintoye North Penn; Brandon Pirrone, Tennent: Ryan Greiser, Pennridge; Shaamar Coates, Williamsport; Steve Slaton & Ryan Biernat, Conwell-Egan; Joe Haldis, Council Rock South; Ryan Hamilton, Council Rock North; Brad Veiling, CB East; Zach Pizzarro, Easton; Tyler Dinnis, CB West; Brant Quick, Dan Erdman, Jeremiah Morris, Keith Ball, Tristan DiPippa, and Christian Force, Berwick Area; Mike Craig, R C Lagomarsino, Brian Cottone, Matt Moneta, and Sal Nocci, Lansdale Catholic; Tony Alosio, Jesse Alfreno, and Kent Uber, Grove City.
I saw 28 games in 2004, a total in the high range with only one 32, one 30, one 29, and another 28 game season the same or any higher. While there were no new stadiums, I visited 13 different venues, one off my all-time high of 1992 – 14. I got to Berwick again, likely for the last time.
Company was around for 22 of 28 games, particularly Bud 4 who I had seen 15 games with in 2002 and 2003 also; and 13 this season. But for all intents and purposes, he was now going to slowly exit to a great degree.
For the seasons 1989-2004, I had seen 417 games, an average of 26 games a season. All of my highest years totals were in those 16 years – 32 games (1990), 30 games (1996), 29 games (2002), and 28 games (1992 and 2004). All four state championships I had seen came in the period (2002 and 2004). My one time on a sideline for a game was 2002. Socially, the greatest amount of buddy camaraderie was in these 16 years; and I spoke with the greatest concentration of coaches in this era. More new stadiums were visited, more new teams seen, and the most state champions I ever saw, regular season or playoff/championships were in this time frame.
My glorious, golden era – 16 seasons, had come to an end, but I had no way of knowing it then.
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