Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 19 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
While I did not go to the Lions game again in 2009, I did do a solitary pre-season visit to Falcon Field and spoke with a bunch including Bill Heller, Tony Schino, Justin Fee, and Mike Elko. I was also acknowledged by Galen Snyder. Rain caused me to be absent from two Falcon scrimmages I thought I might do. Too bad I missed LaSalle this year as they went on to the state championship and won it in 4A.
I expected Pennsbury to be good again this season, and planned to pretty much follow them and see other teams if they were away too far on given weekends. It was part of a simplification plan to try to get my mind back to how I could best enjoy my hobby. I felt, or knew, that the kibitzing with many coaches was over as they were leaving the sport; that company would be at a minimum as they were leaving the sport; and that PIAA playoff games were only available if a local team was good enough to gain home field advantage for a number of them; always chancy.
I did open with Pennsbury hosting Conwell-Egan, a schedule shift back to the 1960’s. I noted expected Falcon standouts – Dante Devine TB, Brandon Pepper QB, Eric Williams (WR-S), and Josh Mitchell DL. And particularly in this game DL Colin Healy stood out at just 215 pounds. Devine had two TDs and Pepper 3 TDs and looked hard to bring down at times. Wingback Jeff Fisher also showed potential. I spoke with Bud 4’s brother in law who was there sans Bud 4, who was likely again doing stats at Morrisville. The final was a Falcon victory 34-3.
A tougher test was expected the next Friday when the Pioneers of Frankford invaded Falcon Field. I braved the bad weather and getting wet (I did) to see it. A crowd of about 50 on the away side gave me plenty of elbow room. It poured just before the first half ended and the fine Falcon “Long Orange Line” played in raincoats and left after their halftime show. I left just into the 4th quarter and it was then 24-0 Pennsbury. The final was 24-12 Falcons.
Even a tougher game was expected for the Thursday night encounter next week with an always-tough Glen Mills Battling Bulls squad. For the third week a single game weekend, a solo trek, and to the same field. But the expected toughie turned into a blowout, keyed by four Falcon defensive scores! The Falcons received and eventually were held on downs and forced to punt. On the Bulls’ first play from scrimmage the center-QB exchange popped straight up in the air, was grabbed by Falcon LB Chris Liccione, and he rumbled 41 yards for a Falcon TD. Rumph kick PAT, 7-0 Pennsbury. Next a Glen Mills player fielded a Falcon punt near his own end zone, and trying to elude Falcon pursuers retreated into the end zone and was tackled for a safety. It was 9-0 Falcons D. The free kick from the 20 set the Falcons’ O up with a short field and soon Dante Devine ripped off a 45-yard score, Rumph kick 16-0 Falcons, an offensive score. Next Falcon’s LB Ralph Ciotti ripped the ball from the hands of a stood-up (but not stopped) Bulls’ ball carrier and raced it 68 yards for a score. It climbed to 23-0 Falcons.
A Brown 5-yard scamper on offense made it 30-0 Pennsbury at the half. Only 1:48 into the second half Ciotti picked off a Glen Mills pass and returned it 39 yards for the 4th defensive score of the day. The PAT was missed, but at 36-0 the fast clock was in effect. The Falcons reserves, Berger 4-yard run; closed out scoring, final 42-0 Falcons.
After a 5-season absence, my wife decided to join me for a viewing of the undefeated (2-0) Bulldogs of Morrisville. As she worked at Morrisville, AD John Hubiak was kind to grant her a League Pass, very nice. The visiting school was Conrad Science of Delaware a first-year football school (school originated in 1935) and a third Bulldog victory was expected. The Redskins had no seniors and some 8th graders on the team. In the first quarter the Bulldogs’ Ruben Bresnan had two 6-yard run TDs and Eugene Figueroa an 8-yard pass reception TD. Douglass had two kick PATs and at the end of one it was Morrisville 20-0. In the second quarter fine junior QB Matt Cookson had a 9-yard run TD; Matt Beyer a 9-yard run, and Cookson hit Figueroa with a 60-yard strike TD. Two more Douglass PATs made the count 40-0 at the half. The Morrisville subs did play the second half as much as possible, and scored once more, a Jim Miller 4-yard run, Douglass PAT and it finished 47-0 Bulldogs.
Of course it had to be a great social night at the alma mater with my wife working there. I thanked John Hubiak for the pass; got introduced to some of the wife’s cohorts; saw three of my old classmates, including Bud 4; sat with former bank and personal friends of ours; and spoke with Dr. Scott the band director. It was like a personal homecoming. Eventually, Dr. Scott presented me with the brass plaque from the school that had my name on it as the outstanding bands-person of 1959. It hangs in my music/computer room.
After another Pennsbury game; 30-7 over Council Rock South; I was joined by my brother-in-law (Bud 3) for his first non-Thanksgiving game since 2004. The occasion was to see the newly restored New Hope-Solebury Lions football program at Morrisville. It had 74 years since (then) New Hope had dropped football after the 1935 season. My Bud 2’s dad, who had passed in 1993, had played for early New Hope teams. Somewhat historic for me; it was my 800th game.
The first varsity year for the Lions, they were 0-3 coming in and the Bulldogs 3-1, coming off of a 7-point loss to Lower Moreland the week before. The Lions did well with a JV schedule the prior year going 7-1-1. The game was competitive as expected. The Lions opened scoring with a 15-yard pass play, but it was their rushing attack that kept the game close. But the Bulldogs miscues – 2 fumbles, 2 interceptions and 7 penalties kept them in check. In the second quarter Bulldog QB Cookson got loose for a 25 yard run and it was 7-7. But the Lions had no problem moving up field quickly to score a field goal with only seconds left in the half; 10-7 NH-Solebury at the half.
It hadn’t changed when we left the game for home in the fourth quarter. A late Bulldog score pulled it out for Morrisville 14-10.
Nice social night again; spoke with Bud 4 and his brother in law, another classmate, AD Hubiak, and the two friends and banker associate that my wife and I sat with two weeks earlier.
At one of those two Morrisville home games in speaking to Bud 4 I asked him if he got to other games anymore. He said he had “retired” from both other games and keeping stats for Morrisville. At least for a few years that certainly seemed true, for I only saw him at Morrisville.
My fifth straight at Falcon Field was next for Council Rock North. Pennsbury’s Dante Devine ran the opening kickoff back 82 yards for a TD. Kicker Corte Rumph did not play and the Falcons went for two after each TD. The first was a success 8-0 Falcons. Three minutes of play later a flash signaled lightning and a mandatory clearing of teams and stands. Lightning seemed very distant, no thunder, no rain. This time I waited around and when play resumed it was typical Pennsbury ground and pound with scores of 1, 1, and 9 yards. All other two-point attempted PATs failed. When Rock scored their two-point try failed after a muffed (fake) kick snap. The final was 25-6 Falcons. The game got tedious late with yellow flags littering play. There were 19 penalties, 12 against the Falcons.
I made the next Falcons game away, as they had opened with 5-straight home. It was only at Truman, a stadium I liked to visit. I met the Pennsbury gatekeeper there as he lived walking distance from Truman and that is why I often saw him there for Truman or Conwell-Egan games. Due to the crowd and seating of the Falcon “long orange line”, we moved to the Truman stands which were never filled. Especially now as Truman was in an extremely depressed state, the 32nd largest high school in the state (PIAA 2013-2014 numbers); AAAA; and 30 players dressed. The game outcome was predictable, the big, strong, numerous Falcons ground and pound versus perhaps 8 or 10 two-way players that had to play the whole game. It was 41-0 Pennsbury. The Tigers did move the ball on offense, but 3 lost fumbles and an interception kept them off the board.
My wife and I made the Morrisville homecoming and the opponent was Dwight-Englewood, another struggling program from far north Jersey (near Ft. Lee). The Morrisville Bulldogs took the opening kickoff, drove the field and a Cookson to Walker 17-yard strike and Cookson run PAT made it quickly 8-0 Bulldogs. The opponents were also Bulldogs and they came right down the field also, but missed the conversion, 8-6 Morrisville. Then on two consecutive kicks – first the kickoff and then a punt, Morrisville muffed them both. D-E capitalized and the “other” Bulldogs led 20-8. But Morrisville came back on a 9-yard Bresnan run and Douglas kick PAT 20-15 visitors after only one quarter.
Morrisville’s Bulldogs put five scores up in the second quarter – Cookson to Beyer 31 yards; Cookson to Figueroa 38 yards; Cookson 1-yard run; Safety on D-E; Cookson 1-yard run, and Douglas 4 PAT’s. At the half Morrisville 45-20. The third produced two more Morrisville TDs – Bresnan 6-yard run and Wilcox 56-yard interception return. Two more Douglass PATs and it was 59-20 Morrisville as the wife and I departed.
Morrisville’s Miller had a 41-yard run to end the scoring 65-20 Morrisville. The score was a record for Morrisville, beating the 55-20 win over Yeadon in 1971. It still stands.
My birthday weekend in 2009 it started raining on late Thursday or Friday morning, and it was still raining on Sunday morning. The games were played and I just might have followed Pennsbury to Bensalem had it not been for the rain. It was my first Pennsbury miss this season.
The all Pennsbury or Morrisville and their opponents continued for one more week as Tennent was at Falcon Field on Thursday night 10/22. This was not Jewish holiday scheduling, but something about a Junior Prom and other going-ons at always busy Pennsbury. Devine bolted 28 yards for the initial Falcon score and it was 6-0. Kicker Rumph was not available again until late in the game and I suspect he was with a soccer team when absent. But the Falcon’s muffed a punt on their own two-yard line. Even a 1-6 team can make two yards in four tries and it was soon 6-6. But soon Devine was on another jaunt this time 80 yards and a second 2-point run PAT attempt failed 12-6 Falcons. On an ensuing Falcon drive, the runner fumbled a pop-up, grabbed by a speedy Panther defender and raced 60 yards to knot the game 12-12.
From that time on it was all Falcons. Fisher scored from 10 yards out. Devine ran the PAT, 20-12 Falcons. Pepper hit Williams for a 21-yard pass TD; Stango run PAT – 28-12 Falcons. Pepper than ran one in from the 6 and Devine ran the PAT, 36-12 Falcons at the half. In the third quarter Devine added a 9-yard run and Rumph was there to kick and it was 43-12 and the final score. Subs played liberally in the late 3rd and 4th quarters.
Rain again ruined a chance for a Thursday night – Friday-Saturday 3-game weekend.
The final week of the regular season I again passed on the traditional “zoo crowd” games for Abington at Truman. The Ghosts had shattered the Pennsbury 8-0 streak the prior week at Abington 27-13. They sported a record of 6-2 and another mismatch might develop. I arrived early as I always do; and although the gate was unattended and not locked I stood at the window sort of “first in line” when the time came. Soon a gentleman came by and he was the Truman AD Mr. Collins. He appreciated the fact that I did not just walk in and bid me now go in before the ticket sellers were present. As the rest room was beckoning I did accept his offer. I met him inside later to thank him again and we talked a little bit; what a fine gentleman.
The game was more even than expected but the Ghosts were always ahead and in charge. A bad option lateral and a pick again hurt the Tigers, but in most cases they looked as though they could have won. The final was Abington 35-19.
I returned to Truman Saturday night for a PCL AAA playoff game between Lansdale Catholic and Archbishop Wood. The Crusaders got up 12-0 on the Wood Vikings. By halftime the score was 12-7 Crusaders. Seesawing most of the second half, Wood scored to take a 14-12 lead. Lansdale catholic came back with a pretty pass play to a wide-open receiver to the entrance-end of the field and kicked the PAT to go up 19-14, end of the third.
Coming in the same direction in the fourth quarter Wood QB Jerry Rahill (PCL AAA MVP for 2009) hit a receiver in the end zone. Wood went for a 2-point PAT and got it, final 22-19 Wood.
Friday November 13 was PIAA playoff day for Unionville at Pennsbury. My first-ever viewing of Unionville who had a fine tradition for football. A nor’easter storm was about and high winds and rain kept the crowd down. The Falcon band played the national anthem and departed for dry. Brandon Pepper ran one for a 98-yard TD and Rumph kicked the PAT and it was Falcons 7-0. But still in the first quarter Unionville answered with a 32-yard strike to a wide-open receiver in the middle to make it 7-6. The run PAT failed and it remained 7-6. The third quarter battle was for field position in the tight game, and the Indians of U’Ville won. They put one in to take a lead of 12-7 after another failed run PAT attempt. Almost at the games’ end the Falcons had the ball on the Unionville 5-yard line. Time for two plays and they couldn’t get it done; final 12-7 Unionville. It was an upset if you consider a 15-seed beating a 2-seed. But although not as big as the Falcons, the Indians were athletic, well-coached, and disciplined. On defense they had 8 or 9 men in the box and were quick to the ball. In the first half they ran a double wing and switched to an I formation in the second half. Very impressive was my only viewing of Unionville in person to date.
The next day I soloed to Truman again for a non-league encounter between Stroudsburg and Truman. Unbelievably, I was early again and afforded the same courtesy by Mr. Collins who I promised I would bring paying customers for the Thanksgiving Day game; and I did. The Mounties of Stroudsburg, whom I had never seen before were having a poor season and yet it was a good game, final 21-7 Truman. I made no game notes but was impressed with the band and told the director so. They had drum corps-like white feather-like adorned shakos, and bell-front basses or contra basses and mellophones. They played a modern book augmented by amplified guitars and a keyboard. It was a very entertaining show.
My brother-in-law (Bud 3) and I did visit Truman on Thanksgiving Day and I had hoped Bud 2 might join us, but this T-day match up did not interest him. The Pennsbury gateman showed up and we moved to sit with him and I introduced Bud 3 and he to each other. Both QBs – Singlar for Conwell-Egan, and Peterson for Truman were superb this day. Peterson was QB, safety on D, played deep on kickoff returns, and punted. Singlar was QB and played safety on D.
Conwell-Egan opened scoring when Singlar hit McAnany for a 17-yard TD; 7-0 Egan. Truman answered with a Peterson 4-yard keeper; 7-7 at the end of one. Next C-E used a wide receiver (Bond) pass to Bonner for a 27-yard trick play strike; 14-7 CEC. Truman drove close enough for another Peterson 4-yard run and it was 14-14 at the half. Truman took the second half kickoff and executed a time-consuming drive and capped it for their first lead 21-14. A Thomas 14-yard run had been the capper. Still in the third CEC’s Singlar ran one in from the four; but the PAT kick was blocked – by who else? – Peterson. At the end of three it was Truman 21-20 in a fine T-Day game. Then CEC used most of the 4th quarter for a sustained drive ending with a 13-yard strike from Singlar to Bond.
Singlar then ran the 2-point PAT and it was 28-21 CEC with about 2 minutes left in the game. We left; late for us, but we were enjoying this one. There was no further scoring.
And so my 2009 and 59th season came to a close as it used to – on Thanksgiving again. My total of 15 games was better than the two prior years, but far from the golden age. Of the 15 games, 11 were solo, but I did meet and sit with my friend from Pennsbury at one. My wife joined me for two and bro-law (Bud 3) for two. That was very nice. I did add five new teams to my viewing list – Conrad Science (DE), New Hope-Solebury, Dwight-Englewood (NJ), Unionville, and Stroudsburg.
But the golden era 26 games per year average had suffered 2005-2009. In these five seasons my average had dropped to 16 games per year average, a full 10 down. Many were the reasons for the decline.
The count of different teams seen was now at 147 from PA, NJ, DE, and Massachusetts. The determination to follow a single school (Pennsbury) with a side of Morrisville being thrown in by my wife, caused me to not see the greatest number of schools in quite some time. In 2009 I did not see Bensalem (rare); Neshaminy (unheard of); C B East, C B South, C B West; Pennridge; Quakertown; Bristol, or North Penn. I saw 9 schools that I follow not at all. In essence I did not see one school of the Suburban One Continental Conference at all in 2009.
But I did enjoy following the Falcons and their 9-2 season, and seeing my alma mater at least competitive again with their best QB in years, Matt Cookson; a junior this season. A 7-5 season was the Bulldogs best in 17 years since the 1992 10-2 season.
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