Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 15 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
The 2005 season had no indication of any let down as the June North-South all-Star game at Truman had our normal posse of me, Bud 1, Bud 2, and Bud 4. It was a great way to start my 55th season. And socially we got to speak with Mark Schmidt and John Chaump, and a third coach we did not know of Neshaminy; Mike Ortman of Council Rock North, Jeff Johnson- Morrisville alumnus and of CRN Junior High coaching; Larry Green and Tony Schino of CB East; and a newer CB East coach who said he saw us “Everywhere”; which was a source of pride as a group and made us always smile.
In some cases this was a little deeper than the surface greetings, Bud 1 had known John Chaump since he came to Neshaminy, and was the prime contact there. Bud 4 was a personal friend of Mike Ortman since the days’ way back when he coached at Morrisville; and also with John Chaump who coached at Morrisville too. Bud 2 was the most outgoing, willing and able to speak with, or start a conversation with anyone; and I was the long-term benefactor of it all.
Bud 1 was 86, and would be 87 in September and we all thought he looked “pretty good”. The early departure (about 6 minutes left in the game) really hurt me in this one. It was 28-14 North at the time. This game was played in 13-minute quarters. So in the 46 minutes I was there I saw six scores. In the last 6 minutes I missed 5 scores! They were four TDs (1 North, 3 South) and a field goal that swung the victory to the South 38-35.
Thanks to a call from Bud 4, I was informed of a tri-scrimmage on Saturday Aug 20 at Council Rock North among Morrisville, Rock North, and CB South. School sizes what they were, the Bulldogs varsity only scrimmaged the JVs of Rock and South. But the Rock and South scrimmage included both JVs; all were on the practice fields above the playing field, behind the school. Then the Rock and South varsity teams scrimmaged on the stadium field. Another very social day and we both knew many people from Rock and Morrisville.
Bud 4 and I made the pre-season camp day as the original day we had scheduled to include Bud 2 would have been too late, and his work schedule would not allow an adjustment. At CB East we were saddened to learn of HC Larry green suffering severe health problems and also Tony Schino was sidelined for health reasons. We no longer knew anyone else at East, so departed in but a few minutes. We were happy to see Mike and Buddy Ortman at Council Rock North, and although Bruce English had retired, he was there as a “substitute” coach. At Neshaminy we were able to see Mark Schmidt and John Chaump just as the session was ending.
We lunched at my house this year, a nice lunch prepared by my wife. We then journeyed to Morrisville where I met Coach Gober; I already knew AD John Hubiak; who was also there.
We went on to Falcon Field and spoke with assistant coach Justin Fee, who Bud 4 knew a bit and introduced me to him. The Falcons were practicing about 108 troops and had to use orange, white, and black jerseys there were so many of them; unless they had other reasons for the multi-colors.
So, other than Bud 2 not making the pre-season visit, and sad news at CB East, there was nothing to suggest this would not be another of my golden age seasons.
Bud 4, his nephew, and I caught the annual Falcons – LaSalle scrimmage the Friday night before the season opened, and the Falcons did alright in the game-like session, 27-3 over the Explorers.
We same three opened the season the next Friday night at Neshaminy hosting St Joes Prep, and both teams were ranked in state and national rankings. John Krysa, a 1950’s era Morrisville athlete sat with us; he knew Bud 4 well and he had spoken with me before. John was the lineman for Morrisville that jarred the ball loose from a Neshaminy player in their end zone in 1951 and Ed Gater flopped on it for the TD that provided Morrisville’s last win over Neshaminy 6-0. I noted that the Hawks looked athletic, well-built, and also “National” and they would need it versus St. Ignatius of Ohio the following week. The Hawks’ defense, sturdy line and quick secondary pretty much stifled the Skins O all night. The Hawks first offensive play was a 76-yard aerial for a TD and they never looked back. The Prep won 28-14.
The next Friday I soloed to Falcon Field for a first look at Frankford which I had never before seen. There was not a big away crowd, and the second half I sat with Rock North’s Jeff Johnson, who by-the-way; was a terrific player for Morrisville in his high school days and another friend of Bud 4. He was with, and introduced me to, Chuck Kane Junior, son of legendary Falcon HC Chuck Kane. Chuck, Junior was also married to Rock North’s HC Mike Ortman’s daughter.
The Falcons probably looked much this season as they have for the last two or three current seasons. I mentioned 4 good running backs and some passing too, made the Falcons look dangerous this season. And they would be, going 8-3, losing only to Neshaminy and North Penn regular season and to Downingtown East in the playoffs.
Bud 4 and I sat with Mike and Buddy Ortman the next night, Saturday 9/10/2005 at Truman. The coaches were scouting Conwell-Egan who was on the docket for the following week for Rock North. North Catholic was the opponent. NC had trouble with both lines; allowing C-E penetration on offense, but rarely getting any penetration on defense. But they stayed in the game with speed and special teams. Con-Egan got up 6-0 and then North’s Cruz ran the ensuing kickoff 86 yards to the house; after the kick PAT North led 7-6. Egan answered with a drive and 2-point conversion to go back up 14-7. The Eagles’ defense then held, and another Egan score, missed PAT made it 20-7 Egan. But a North 60-yard punt return TD and PAT made it 20-14 Egan at the half. In the third quarter a North 22-yard aerial TD, but missed PAT knotted it at 20 each. In the fourth quarter Eagles’ QB Schaefer plunged in from the one to close out scoring, final 27-20 Conwell-Egan, in an entertaining match.
On Friday night 9/23/2005 I soloed to Falcon Field for Council Rock North (3-0) versus Pennsbury (3-0). I noted in my record book, “Another solo trip and Friday night only in what is becoming the norm as Saturday games of interest and distance preclude two games a week. High gas prices and not liking being “on the road” anymore play in. At least this year trips to Pennsbury and Council Rock mostly: are fine.”
Definite erosion in my own mind was evident and obviously played a part in the end of the golden era that I classified as 1989-2004. It was a combination of factors in the end, but my own conscious reasoning was certainly part of it. And retirement had me more than ever settled in with comfort at home. I was always a home body; enjoyed many hobbies during my life, and was never bored at home.
This was expected to be a good one and it was. Rock opened scoring on a Cinzio FG, 3-0 CRN. In the second quarter, the Indians’ Collins bolted 80 yards for a score; Cinzio PAT 10-0 Rock North. With 2 minutes left in the first half, the Falcons scored on a 24-yard Crowell to Reilly pass; Craven PAT; 10-7 Rock North. Then a recovered fumble by the Falcons led to a short field. Just seconds before the half ended, Pennsbury’s Branham scored; PAT missed; and it was 13-10 Falcons at the end of the first half.
The only 3rd period score was a Vivacqua 8-yard run for Rock North. With the Cinzio PAT, North re-took the lead 17-13. I left the stands for a close-up sidelines look to start the 4th quarter; something I often did at many fields. The action was at that end and I watched the Falcons’ Parkes plunge a yard for the TD and it was 19-17 Pennsbury. Just as they lined up for the PAT the stadium lights went out. I left and listened to the restart on WBCB radio and the game was just finishing as I pulled into my garage at home in Washington Crossing. The final score was Pennsbury 27-24.
The following Friday night at Pennsbury it was North Penn (4-0) at Pennsbury (4-0).
Of my 20 games this season, I had company at 10, just half, and this was the coming trend until all company was extinguished to a greater degree. I do not know what happened this season with Bud 1, except he followed Bensalem and Neshaminy primarily, and those games I was not attending. Bud 2 was down to a couple of games a season, Bud 3 only Thanksgiving. Bud 4 was doing statistics for Morrisville which he often did, and of course they played Friday nights just as about everyone else.
This was the game that set bad feelings in place between North Penn and Pennsbury for some years to come. Two pre-game incidents occurred. Pennsbury would not allow North Penn to set up their tower apparatus in the end zone for taping purposes. Second, the Pennsbury band started to march on the field early while the Knights were still in pre-game drills. Orange shirt-clad adults were also on the field as if to protect the bands-people. It was not homecoming, about the only time that the band started that early.
I never saw an explanation, but I have been to more Pennsbury games than any other team, and truly, I never saw the band start that early unless for special activities for which none existed that evening.
The game was well played, few penalties and was just 21-13 North Penn late. But two late scores by the Knights made it 35-13 and on the last one someone on the North Penn sideline yelled, “That one’s for the band” loud enough for all to hear. There were reportedly angry words between the teams’ staffs after the game. But the Knights’ amassed 432 total yards in the game to the Falcons’ 212, and were clearly the stronger team.
A trip to Bensalem on Monday night October 17 was my first chance to see Bud 1 since the all-star game in June. The Falcons (5-1) dominated the Owls (1-5) in the second half to win 39-9. Spoke with Dan Taylor, whom I knew as his wife had worked in banking with me at one time. She also was an actress/singer in local theater, and I most recently saw her a few years back volunteering at St. Mary Hospital in Langhorne.
Now 2005 was a very rainy year, and in fact, our house was flooded for the first time in the spring. We were back in shape by football season, but there was a lot of rain during the season moving games to Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays in many cases. Thankfully, the rains were not hard enough to cause more flooding, but that would come again in June 2006.
I had no closer games for Friday night 10/21, so I soloed to Doylestown for my first-ever look at the CB South Titans at CB East. Eventually CB South would grow to be the, so far, marginally strongest of the three Central Bucks schools, but they were only in their second season here. East dominated in the late 3rd and 4th quarters to win 41-13; but it was a “game” up until then.
Heavy rain at times on the next day at Pennsbury had the lights on for the second half. The weather and the fact that Neshaminy-North Penn was that day also, kept the crowd down at this one. Pennridge was the foe, and at halftime the crowd matriculated to under the bleachers for protection from rain until the second half began. Here I got to talk with Bob Cook, an old drum corps associate of mine from the Lambertville corps days. His son was playing for Pennridge as he had moved from Levittown to Sellersville some years back. Bob was still playing the bugle with the Bridgeman Alumni Corps, and he was a fine soprano bugler, just as his dad was in the 1940s and 1950s with Archer Epler of Upper Darby. The game was a nice, hard-fought game won by Pennsbury 14-7.
After a Monday night game still in rain, 10/24, I noted in my records that, “Three consecutive weekends of rain have made an unprecedented mess this year!”
On Friday night 10/28 I soloed to Newtown and an expected CB South at C Rock South game and arrived to find the area dark, quiet, and “dead”. The game had been moved to Saturday unbeknownst to me; I had seen nothing in the papers about it.
So I hiked to Morrisville and watched my alma mater play a much more athletic Academy of New Church squad pretty well; just a 7-0 ANC win. Bud 4 was doing statistics at the sideline and I believe I stayed all game and spoke with him after the game when he asked me about the next day.
The next day I had accepted his Friday night offer for a trip to Millersville for a Division II college game between Millersville and Mansfield.
We were there to see ex-Morrisville player Juan Jones get the 1000 yard rushing mark. It was a no-chance given; he only needed 3 yards to get it. But he got about 160 in a display of bruising small college rushing. After the game we met Juan and spoke with him a while. Very nice gentleman; my wife, who had long back departed banking to work at Morrisville High School knew Juan and had echoed how nice he was. Bud 4 knew him well from his long time Morrisville connections. Former Neshaminy Redskin players were also on both Millersville – Andy Koch, Nick Fezko; and Mansfield – Rodney Davis.
Soloing to Doylestown for the CB East – Conestoga playoff game, I ran into another old banking associate, Kevin Cornwall, whose son attended CB East. This was a very good ball game back and forth, with East finally pulling it out 23-21.
I also saw most of the Neshaminy-Downingtown East game; or the “Pat Devlin Show” if you prefer, the next Friday. Pat Devlin, Downingtown East QB, Miami-bound, threw for 316 yards and three TDs, and carried the team on his back the final drive of the game and plunged one yard for the game-winning TD with 19 seconds left in the game. East won 45-38.
Bud 4 drove the next day to Delaware Valley (then College, now University), just outside of Doylestown, and I saw my first-ever Division III college game; a playoff game at that. Curry was the opponent and Del Val won 37-22. At the level considered just above high school I was amazed at the difference that level made. The stud-looking athletes, precision aerials, and schemes and hitting was quite different. In conversation with Bud 4 here he intimated that he was somewhat tired of high school football and wanted to pursue some doable college venues. I very much enjoyed what we had done, and still would do, but I kept records on high school football, and that was where my heart was.
On Thanksgiving, Bud 2, Bud 3 and I abandoned our 6-year streak of South Hunterdon-Del Val, NJ games because we expected a complete blowout there (we were correct 68-0). The three of us saw our first-ever Truman-Conwell-Egan Turkey day game. Also a wet snow that ended at daybreak made the artificial turf at Truman a good option. For 3 and ½ quarters this was a good close game at 26-15 Truman that anybody might win. A Truman 95-yard interception return and another late score made the final 40-15, and it seemed worse than it was.
This game choice was on my account; because of the three of us I had the most interest in Truman and Egan. As Bishop Egan I saw 28 games of the Eagles basically in two periods; 1960-1965 (13), and 1976-1979 (9), none 1966-1975, the remaining 6 scattered between 1980 and 1982. When the school became Conwell-Egan in 1993, I did not see them until Steve Slaton drew me back in 2002 when the Eagles became a regular again.
The 1976-1979 period for Egan was particularly significant as part of the Bill Travers Head Coaching era at Bishop Egan that extended from 1976-1984 and generated a rebirth at Egan. Beyond the halcyon days of Bedesem after 1970 Bishop Egan began to suffer enrollment issues due to the decline of Fairless Steel and other industry centered in Morrisville and Bristol. Coming over from North Catholic, Bill Travers and his no-nonsense, fiery approach fit at Egan. Bill restored the quick-hitting power running game out of the “I” formation. After a settling in year in 1976 at 3-5-1; Bill’s next four seasons were 7-3, 7-3, 6-4, and 8-1-1; and his career at Egan was 55-35-4. And Egan went back to the playoffs three times during this tenure, in 1981, 82, and 83; winning the division title in 1983.
More importantly, Bill Travers was the type of coach that inspired and was a positive influence for the players that played for him and youth in general. He followed his Egan career as Coach at North Penn and was a teacher and counselor for 46 years in the Catholic and Public school systems until his retirement in April 2016.
Thanksgiving Friday night I motored to Bud 2’s and we went to Crawford Stadium for the Downingtown East – North Penn playoff game. Having seen East at Neshaminy the prior week, I was not too sure how the Knights would do against the superb Devlin.
A high-scoring affair was expected and it started just that way. With the East aerial game and the Knights’ pounding style, both teams scored twice in the first quarter and it was 13-13. But only one second quarter score occurred; a Tyrece Evans 65-yard sprint made it 20-13 Knights at the half.
After trading fumbles on each teams’ first possessions in the second half; the Knights’ Turner bolted 70 yards to put them up 27-13. Less than 3 minutes later, the Cougars answered with a Walls scamper and it was 27-20 North Penn. Then the North Penn lines and speed took over the game. Pete Stoll had bursts of 66 and 20 yards to get the Knights up 41-20.
Then Knights QB Feiser hit Jim Levens with a 79-yard pass/run play to make it 48-20 in the fourth quarter, and the packed away side of the stadium began in exit mode.
With 9:34 left in the game, and we were listening in the car heading for Bud 2’s house; Stoll broke another one 47 yards to set the final at 55-20.
The next day Bud 4 picked me up early in the morning and we headed to East Stroudsburg for an NCAA Division II college playoff between the visiting CW Post Pioneers and the home Warriors. Both teams sported 10-2 records. Post’s away white, green and yellow looked like the Green Bay Packers while the Warrior’s red looked like the Kansas City Chiefs. The Warriors eventually gained domination and a 55-28 victory, but it was just 17-14 at the half.
A great experience; we had arrived early and visited the college store and ran into Newtown’s Jeff Johnson, an East Stroudsburg alumnus, and whose daughter was attending there at the time. We all sat together in the stands for the game. Later, on the way home, we ran into them again at “Hot Dog Johnnies”, a renowned eatery on Route 46 in New Jersey. It was my last college game to the present time.
I did not write why, but the next playoff, North Penn – Bethlehem Liberty at J. Birney Crum in Allentown didn’t materialize for me, nor did another state championship game trip. I listened to the Knights – Hurricanes game on radio and it sounded like the Knights were totally flat for some reason, but the fine Liberty team and its defense was likely the reason.
I could not rate the 2005 season as a continuation of the golden years. First I saw 20 games, down 8 from 2004, and the lowest total since 1988, the year before the golden era began. Second, the poor weather season with numerous rainy games and rain-changed games took the pace and continuity from the schedule unlike any season I could remember. Third, I chose to go to three college games instead of high school football games further diminishing the pace of the season; my choices, but I made them.
I did see four new teams – Frankford, CB South, Academy of New Church, and Downingtown East, and that was good. But company faded from the high 70 and 80 percentiles to 50% for 2005. Everyone but me and Bud 1 of the once strong posse was leaving high school football in various stages. In late October 2005 I already had in one of my notes something to the effect of “this surreal season”.
Of the various factors that I rated my seasons on, every one of them was down significantly from the prior “golden era” seasons. Perhaps it was psychological more than anything else; but the 2005 season seemed different from 1989-2004; my golden era had ended.
The only post-season notes for 2005 I made were related to some realignment in the Suburban One League and the pretty much dissolving of the small-school Independence League, which I had not much observed for many years anyway.
Sources: Letter from Rob Lucenti, Bishop Egan 1976-79.
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