Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 16 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
In 2006, for the fourth consecutive season I caught the early June Bucks County Annual Lions’ All-Star game, this year at Falcon Field. Once again Bud 1, Bud 2, and Bud 4 and I were together for it. The South won this one 21-3.
On August 17, Bud 2, 4, and I were a threesome for the annual camp visits. We started at CB East and were warmly greeted by coaches Tony Schino, Mike Elko, and Larry Green. We were now an institution and fairly long conversations were had with all three men as they were available. Next we went to Council Rock North and found equally warm hellos by Mike and Buddy Ortman and Bruce English. These cordial meetings took so much time we broke for lunch at my house before heading to Falcon Field. We were too early for their afternoon session, so we backtracked to Morrisville and some chats with AD Hubiak and then Coach Gober. Then it was back to Falcon Field where Coach Snyder gave us a wave and we chatted a bit with Justin Fee. We did not yet know Coach Snyder, but he was getting used to seeing us. It was a very nice rewarding day, and it was our last 3-party go around for this tradition.
On August 19 (Saturday) Bud 4 and I made our first-ever visit to Central Bucks South High School for their scrimmage with Council Rock North. CRN had the edge 14-0 when we left. We routed home through Doylestown in order to see the new synthetic turf being installed at Doylestown War Memorial Field this season.
The following Friday, I met Bud 4 and his brother-in-law at Council Rock North for their second scrimmage (with Abington). We again saw the coaches to speak with, and as they had also seen us out at CB South the past Saturday, it seemed we would be closest we would ever be to the Rock this season. While true in a way, I still saw 6 Pennsbury games to 4 Rock North.
For whatever reason at the time, the erosion in my hobby continued a bit in 2006. I did not see at all this season – Neshaminy (6-4); Pennridge (7-5); Council Rock South (3-8); Quakertown (4-8); Bristol (8-3); or Morrisville (5-6). I saw all the other teams I follow at least once, but North Penn (10-3) only once.
And once again, I noted the start of the season as “absolutely bizarre”. Tropical Storm Ernesto was due to drop heavy rain all over the area, and every game but Morrisville had been moved or the kickoff time moved with kickoff times such as 12:30, 1, 2, and 3 PM. I opted for Ridley at Bensalem, a 12:30 start and a chance to be with Bud 1, who in one week would turn 88 years old. While he still looked healthy and was getting to more games than when he had the bad legs, I began to wonder how long he would still be getting out to games. He did this season for sure! Ridley won the contest 21-7.
I made the right choice; it began to rain during the game and continued to rain heavier. I was going to leave a bit early and catch the Pennsbury-Archbishop Ryan game, but it was raining too hard and I just went home. I listened to parts or all of the Pennsbury, Neshaminy, and North Penn games as they all started at different times on radio or computer.
A solo trip the next Friday night was for Frankford at Pennsbury. For some years’ now I had seen a man at various high school games wearing a “101st Airborne” baseball cap at games. He was aged and likely a WW II vet, but could have been Korea also. As I met him this time before the game and with no commotion about I told him I had seen him at many games. He was just a high school football follower such as I was; and he was “Jack” from Northeast Philly. We spoke for a few minutes in the quiet outside the stadium. Incongruously, I never again saw him; yet I had seen him in many years before, and can picture him mentally to this day. The Falcons were good this season and the ground and pound in full force. Fagen and Parkes on offense and C J Marck on defense were a load. The Falcons dressed about 90 players. They won this one 22-0.
The following Friday I soloed to Truman, to get a look at Council Rock North who would also have a record-setting season this time around. The Rock had instituted the no-huddle, fast-paced run/pass offense and had the people to operate it. QB Bradish was for real, and there were three good backs Collins, Lugg, and FitzMaurice to carry the ball. The latter name was likely a relative of a whole family of Pennsbury football-playing FitzMaurices’, the father of whom I knew well from banking days; in fact was a great RB on the 1970 Falcon squad (2nd team AP all-state RB). In the game Rock amassed 195 yards rushing and 127 passing and won the game 34-6 over Conwell-Egan. The Eagles had a nice running game of their own, with backs O’Hara and Domzalski. A fumble and 3 picks hurt the Eagles.
More rain and a game changed to Saturday gave me a next day game at CB East in Doylestown. It was versus CB South and I only mention it, because I never before or after saw a cheerleading squad such as CB South this day – 60 cheerleaders! I had to count them they were so numerous. Otherwise the game was flat, 0-0 at the half. And the final was 10-7 CB East on a field goal in the last 50 seconds of the game. But the day was saved socially as I again got to speak with East Coach Larry Green pre-game, sit with Mike and Buddy Ortman the entire game, and Bruce English joined us later.
And a rain-changed Monday game gave both a 3-game weekend and a chance to get together with Bud 4 as he was always tied up at Morrisville games on Friday nights. We trekked to Tennent and the Ryan-Wood game, a good one won by Archbishop Ryan 21-19.
Next the Jewish holiday rescheduling gave me a chance for a Thursday double-header in Doylestown, and a rare chance to see Bud 2 again; he didn’t make many games anymore. CB East beat an undefeated Norristown squad in the first game 21-7.
But the second game bears historical mention.
Because of what I observed I looked up my count of CB West games on the computer before writing up my notes and it was my 125th CB West viewing. This team looked far from the CB West of the Pettine-Carey era. First, they dressed 36 players, (CB South had 60 cheerleaders), way down from the old 70 to 80 man squads of yore.
Physically they also did not look to have near the size of long-gone teams (nor of the opponent Souderton’s 62 players). The Indians premier RB Ronnie Powell returned the opening kickoff about 75 yards and a 7-0 lead with only seconds off the clock. A CB West fumble on their first series led to a very early 14-0 Indians lead. Rushing and passing well, the Indians took a 35-0 mercy rule lead into the locker room at the half. At the end of three it was 42-0 Souderton. We left to get some scores via radio, and the final was 49-6 Souderton. I felt I had seen the total decline of CB West from their glorious past. The Bucks’ finished the season 2-8 under second-year HC Chris Felton.
Council Rock North (5-0) was at Souderton (5-0) on Saturday, October 7th. In the old days this battle of unbeatens would be attended by me for sure (CRN won 26-10). But times had changed and if there was any game closer, I would likely now opt for that. So I chose Falcon Field for the Truman Tigers visit and another chance to see Bud 1; and he was there. After the half we were joined by Bud 4, and the three of us decided to see Bensalem at Pennsbury the following Friday night. The best Falcon team since Galen Snyder took the helm in 2002 beat the Tigers 42-13.
We did meet as planned for Bensalem-Pennsbury, but Bud 4 had to be late again as he had dinner at his son’s first. This one was about as expected 27-0 Falcons. But even back then I noted that “The Falcons’ look like they might be in trouble if they ‘have’ to throw.” A lament some critics have repeated in very current times.
I next had a wonderful three-game weekend of games followed by a weekend of no games due to obnoxious steady rain.
On Friday 11/10 this year’s playoffs began and I chose Abington at Council Rock North over Wissahickon at Pennsbury, both first round 4A games. It was the first-ever playoff appearance for Rock North who had just posted their first ever 10-win season and first-ever undefeated regular season. Council Rock had never had more than 8 wins in a season no matter how many games played since the school started playing in 1919. And I hoped for perhaps a last handshake with HC Mike Ortman as he had announced his retirement after the season ended. His entire staff was going with him.
Bud 4 and four of his relatives joined me at the game and Bud 4 was likely there for the same reasons as I was. But we had no allusions, this was no normal #16 (Abington) versus #1 (CRN) game. We feared indeed that the Ghosts would win it. They took the lead 7-0. A long Bradish pass answer made it 7-6, and the PAT was missed. Abington again scored in the second quarter and it was 14-6 Ghosts at the half. In the third period the Indians scored and successfully converted a 2-point PAT to knot the game at 14 after three quarters.
As I was making my usual early exit, I did see the Ghosts execute a 50-yard strike to the far end zone, and PAT making it 21-14 Abington. Woody with the big “A” for Abington along the cheerleaders sideline was happy. I was still loitering outside the fence when Rock started their successful drive for a score. They scored after I had left, but again missed the PAT and it ended 21-20 Abington. I was more concerned with the departure of the well-known Council Rock coaching staff.
The following week, I did visit Falcon Field for the West Chester East Vikings playoff invasion. I met Bud 1 and Bud 4 and his brother-in-law there. The Vikings ran a similar attack as Pennsbury, but with an added aerial competence and I was somewhat fearful. But at the outset I could see that the Vikes’ might have a problem matching the size of the Falcons. The East backs were smaller and the Falcons D pounded them unmercifully. And it took gang tackling to bring down the big Falcon backs. Parkes and Fagan were big strong running backs and the latter had 170 yards rushing and two TDs. Parkes had two short plunges for TDs. Falcon QB Iturbides 1-yard plunge made it 34-0 Falcons on the first play of the fourth quarter. Some of the West Chester crowd and I; began our march out. The Vikes got two fourth quarter scores, perhaps against the Falcons second D; final 34-14 Pennsbury.
The Falcons next had Abington at home. Their regular-season matchup at Pennsbury resulted in a 4-overtime 35-28 Falcon victory. So a barn-burner was expected. Bud 2 trekked from Hatfield to my house to see it, and we met Bud 1 at Falcon Field. More rain had Falcon Field, a heavy natural grass field, muddy and slick. Both sides experienced slips and slides and they parried to a first quarter zero stalemate. In the second stanza, Falcon RB Jackson Fagan broke a 17-yarder and the Falcons had a 7-0 lead at halftime. After a Falcon punt in the third, Ghosts QB Kevin Morton hit receiver Eaton for an 81-yard TD. But the Falcons Josh Parkes blocked the PAT attempt; 7-6 Falcons. Fagan added another 23-yard TD scamper in the third and the PAT made it 14-6 Falcons after three.
In the fourth another Morton-Eaton 38 yard strike narrowed the game to 14-12. Six minutes remained in the game. We three attendees began to clear the stairs. Bud 2 and I began to walk the muddy field behind the visitor’s stands. We heard the 2-point conversion try was missed and it remained 14-12. We clicked on the radio in my car to hear another Fagan 51-yard scamper, but the PAT was missed and it was 20-12, the game was not iced. But, with about a minute and a half left in the game the Falcons picked off a Morton aerial and Ryan returned it 48 yards to the house. The PAT made it 27-12 and finally put the game in the freezer.
I thought this was my last game of the year as the Falcons had to go through Ridley next; never an easy chore; and even if they won, where would the eastern final be held? I had to wait a bit in 2006 for answers.
I listened to the Pennsbury at Ridley game on the radio. Defenses ruled the whole first half and it ended 0-0 with few first downs and 12 punts executed.
More of the same in the second half until two Falcon pass interceptions set up two third quarter scores. After it became 14-0 Falcons, the bigger Falcons controlled the rest of the game on both O and D for the rare visitor win in Phil Marion Stadium.
I was very happy to learn that the eastern final Pennsbury-Bethlehem Liberty would be held at Doylestown War Memorial Stadium and its new turf field. I could go there. I met Bud 2 in the ticket line and we met Bud 1 inside.
Later Bud 4 and brother-in-law joined us; and my old banker friend again made it. I saw him four or five times in Doylestown in the 4 or 5-year era span. Fittingly, our whole posse that started in June at the all-star game was together for the final 2006 game. And this was the very LAST time that all four of us were together.
This was some game; it was one of those in cliché – “Nobody wants to lose.” It was 14-14 when I left with about 8 minutes left in regulation. Of course I clicked on the car radio to listen to the finish. Both teams scored in the fourth quarter and it ended 21-21 in regulation. The first OT produced a 28-28 tie. The second OT resulted in a 31-31 tie. The third OT ended 38-38. In the fourth OT Liberty scored and had to defend leading 45-38. The Falcons were down to fourth down. QB Iturbides could not find an open receiver and ran for the goal, but was stopped two yards short; final 45-38 Bethlehem Liberty.
Dan Persa, who was QB for the Hurricanes made first team all-state as “Athlete”. Offensive lineman Mike Hitchings was 2nd team all-state. And DB Oscar Rivera and LB Al Petros were third team all-state defense for Liberty. For Pennsbury Jackson Fagan was 2nd team RB all-state; C J Marck was first team LB; and Greg Bickel was second team DL all-state.
While there were many fine things in the 2006 season, I could not restart a golden era with it. The total games was only 20 again; I was by now hoping to make 20 as my annual total; where once 30 games were in near reach each season.
In fact I added a new category – “media games” because with the less attendance in person it seemed I should actually list those games that I saw on TV or computer stream, or listened to on the radio or computer. And starting in 2006 I did that – getting 14 media games in addition to my second 20-game total season in a row. Of course the media games were not added to my games attended total, but were supplemental to that figure.
I had company at 14 of my 20 games which was an improvement over 2005 also. I saw no new teams or visited no new stadiums in 2006.
Although I could not wait to get to games each week, and certainly enjoyed my time there, there was just some kind of different feeling about the seasons since 2004. I didn’t know what it was then, and still don’t; but I continue to march on.
Source: Pennsylvania Football News annual resource guides.
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