Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 22 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
The 2011 HSF season was a total disaster from my usual perspective. In 2011, I fell back 50 years to the same amount of games I saw in 1961; and these two years were the only years that I saw this many games – seven! Only seven games!
In the spring of 2011 my wife and I decided the time had come for a major home improvement – a new kitchen. We began the planning process with a kitchen designer-supplier.
My wife was not so much interested in the all star game this season and so I did not even plan to go in June. Kitchen planning was well along by then. In late June we lost our beloved Lhasa Apso of 13 years, and the normal pet-loss grief took hold of both of us. Kitchen construction was to begin on August 24 and run to October 17 (actual dates – the projected times were very close to these). I knew that high school football season would be affected.
My wife was amazing in constructing meals with the outside grill, and she did a wonderful job using the basement recreation room for a second “kitchen” with Nu-wave oven, crock pot, toaster oven, steamer, and electric fry pan. Of course we ate out and called in as well at times. But every day for the most part for almost two full months it was contractors, plumbers, electricians, heating and duct men, sheetrock people, insulation man, flooring installers, painters, and storm door man; requiring us to be present.
And during it all we were twice evacuated with the prospect of the river flooding and wiping out our basement during the construction. My wife and I did very well through it all keeping level and balanced, but I think it took a toll nevertheless; especially with the pet grief throughout it all. The kitchen came out beautifully, and we were spared the flooding (barely). But a lot of time hauling things out of the basement and then putting them back was necessary.
All of this took its toll on high school football.
The two flood events were post-Hurricane Irene, Aug 26-29, 2011; and then Tropical Storm Lee rainfall Sep 5-9, 2011. We were out of our house at least two days each event, and without power at least two days each, adding to the mayhem of the period.
The first event wiped out the planned LaSalle-Pennsbury scrimmage for me. It was likely held or moved and held, I have no idea.
I tried to open the season as usual with Easton at Pennsbury. It was Labor Day weekend, 9/1, in between the storms, nice night, and I noticed how much the Falcon gatekeeper had aged in one year at the gate. I hoped he would be back in 2012; he said he had been having back problems.
I sat where I usually sat the last few years, toward the scoreboard-end stairwell, where Mr. Snyder (Galen’s father) always went up to his seat. I nodded hello as usual when he arrived. But, for some reason it did not feel the same. I had a feeling of strangeness at the game; not like it always felt for the past 60 years going to the games. I felt alone, like I did not know anybody anymore. Soon, great ex-Morrisville athlete Denny Poland appeared, and I went down a few rows and sat with him for the game. The game was decidedly Easton, 3-0, 10-0, 17-0 and 24-0 all in the second quarter. That was the final as well. Easton had a big, college sized band, not the trend around here, as almost all the bands are smaller these days.
I enjoyed getting started, enjoyed the band, but the strangeness I couldn’t really shake. It was surreal, like I had never been to Pennsbury before. And I had been going there since 1968.
The next weekend was the threat from Tropical Storm Lee, another evacuation, and we were just back in the house Friday Sep 9 and power restored about 2:00 PM. We had all the stuff we had moved from the basement (again) to be moved out (again) so the contractors could work in the kitchen again on Monday, so there was no time to even listen to games.
After just one game, and its strangeness, the motivation left me to get out and go to games. F-S Sep 16-17, I had Neshaminy at C B East programmed for Friday and Wood at Conwell-Egan Saturday. I noted that we were still “coming down” from the two flood threats, and there was no kitchen. Later, in the back of my mind was the thought of leaving my wife alone Friday nights with no kitchen, and the first season without our pet, and I felt that played a part too. She was very tearful over the pet right up to and including Christmas, because he loved it so much; or at least appeared to as animal/pets often do.
I didn’t get to my second game of the season at Council Rock South for the invasion of William Tennent, until Friday 10/21; the 8th week of the season. Our kitchen was finished on October 17th and things were somewhat normal again. It was not expected to be much of a game as the two teams were going in different directions. Tennent was the smallest team (individual player size) I had seen in a long time; really looked like a lot of 8th graders. Tennent HC Biz Keeney’s troubles continued. Rock South I noted was looking like a high playoff seed (they became number 1, you don’t get any higher). The Golden Hawks won 35-14. I felt a little more comfortable at this game, more normal, not as “strange.” I was very relieved by this.
On Saturday night 10/22 I again ventured to Falcon Field for Council Rock North and the Falcons. I sat alone again, but felt a little more normal than week 1; I spoke to Mr. Snyder briefly. I noted here that I thought the Falcon’s would probably make the playoffs, but have to travel and likely lose early. I think the Falcons this year fooled everyone a bit. A two-game weekend was most refreshing at this point.
A cold breeze foreshadowing a brutal October storm started on Friday night Oct 28 and caused me to sit this weekend out. Then a terrible October Northeaster hit on Saturday with snow and ice that knocked out power to about 200,000 in the area, and millions in the Northeast.
Needless to say there was no game for me Saturday, although some were played in the miserable weather. Power wasn’t back until Sunday night at 9:40 PM for us.
After missing so much of the season I couldn’t get motivated to any of the Friday Nov 4 traditional matchups – Falcons-Redskins; battle of the Rock’s; or even Bensalem at Truman. The one I really wished I would have gone to was in Doylestown, C B South at C B East. South won that one 61-40. I would have like that one.
The fact that Council Rock South repeated with a fine team in 2011 was somewhat of a saving grace for me. I would again be able to see three PIAA playoff games close by; but of course the Golden Hawks would have to win to keep it so.
The D1 PIAA 4A quarter final was Friday November 11 – Upper Dublin at CRS. I noted that I knew no one at the game and this was a big change as in the past I almost always knew someone. A good first half ended at 14-7 Council Rock South. I heard a fan in the away stands say: “We could win this”, which likely was because of the first half closeness, and the fact that the Cardinals were a 16 seed and Rock South 1 seed. But in fact, UD could not contain the triple-option offense by the wishbone rushing Golden Hawks. They would get five TDs on runs of 30, 32, 29, 80, and 31 yards. No 1-yard plunges here. Allowing 496 yards rushing will get you beat. Making these dashes were Alimenti and Donnelly – two each, and Steinmetz, a junior. The final was 34-7 Council Rock South, assuring another game for me the following Friday.
Downingtown East was the opponent next time, and I expected this would be a tough, close game; and I was right for three quarters. The Golden Hawks efficient offense and future all-state kicker Ben Solis got them up 7-0. But the ensuing kickoff went to the Cougars’ speedy Jay Harris and he raced 83 yards; quickly it was 7-7. But bruising Hawks runner Alimenti got loose for a 29-yard, “won’t go down” burst and it was 14-7 Hawks after one. In the second the Cougars passing attack was razor-sharp and led to a capping 1-yard plunge; but the PAT kick was off and it was 14-13 Golden Hawks at halftime.
In the third quarter Donnelly broke a 41-yarder and Solis was deadly, 21-13 Hawks. But not for long. A 75-yard pass completion made it 21-19, and of course you go for two here. But it was not made and the very even three quarters ended 21-19 Hawks. I was leaving 2 or 3 minutes into the 4th quarter, but I did see Rock drive up field and score on a one-yard plunge and the Solis PAT to go up 28-19. I saw the ensuing kickoff which was towards me in the exit end of the stadium, and the first two Cougar plays. Fine East QB Lauletta was sacked twice as it looked like the Hawks’ defense was just letting it all out with furious rushes. After I left, Solis put it on ice with a 32-yard field goal and it ended 31-19 CRS.
A Thanksgiving game change this season was a natural for many reasons. South Hunterdon had finally dropped Del Val and with the town across the bridge from Lambertville now playing football again, a game with New Hope-Solebury was certainly a natural.
For my brother-in-law (Bud 3) and me, it was (at New Hope) walking distance from his home in Lambertville and across the bridge, but with hills and traffic concerns; we rode. Bud 2, now of Hatfield, had graduated from New Hope and scouted for South Hunterdon, so a natural on two counts. It was the first game of the series, and deemed “battle of the bridge” with a bridge-like, rotating trophy built for the winner each season.
These two schools were much closer in size than the old Del Val situation and a good match was expected. When we last saw South Hunterdon in 2008, they were down to about 23 players and lacked any physical size in general. We were surprised to see 42 this time and with some good-size physically also. We met Bud 2 there, fully expecting him although not discussing it beforehand and as usual many other Lambertvillians we knew. South got the kickoff and drove the field and scored, eating half the first quarter; but missed the PAT, 6-0 Eagles. But the Lions did not take long to answer, and made the PAT and it was 7-6 NH-S. In the second quarter the Lions also hit a nice, fairly short field goal to take a 10-6 halftime lead.
The third quarter was scoreless, but the Eagles had received a punt deep and began a long drive that led to a TD just as the 4th quarter began. They went for 2 and missed and it was 12-10 South Hunterdon. We watched the ensuing kickoff to be sure it was not a quick score, but it was routine and we left for much-anticipated turkey. We missed no scoring, and the historic first modern meeting of the two schools ended 12-10 South Hunterdon.
The following night was the District One semi-final featuring Garnet Valley at Council Rock South, of course at Rock North’s stadium. My first-ever viewing of the Jaguars, or “Jags” and I was impressed. The team was numerous, big and sparkling in away all-white and maroon numbers and wide pants’ stripe and it looked as if every uniform was brand new. Equally impressive were the band and crowd that was large, full of vocal support, and courteous.
That they could score was no secret, but could they defend the wishbone triple option? A Golden Hawks 59-yard opening drive was capped by an Alimenti 10-yard rush. Early 7-0 Hawks. The Jags offense was obviously balanced and was proficient both on the ground and in the air; very dangerous. But the Hawks got a stop early, and soon Donnelly broke one for 36 yards; and with the accurate Solis kicking, a 14-0 Golden Hawks lead with about 5 minutes left in quarter number one. The Jaguars did not take long to counter this time, but missed the PAT and it was 14-6. Likely in the second quarter, the Golden Hawks 32-yard pass to P. J. Gallo set up another score and it went to 21-6 CRS. But the scary Jags O again took little time to answer, but again missed a conversion (2-pt try of course); and it was 21-12 CRS. Before the half Solis hit a decent-length FG to put the Hawks up 24-12 at the half.
The hand of fate stepped in early in the third period. Garnet Valley received the second half kickoff and were deep in their territory. On the second play from scrimmage the fine-looking Jags’ QB Ryan Corkery went down on a scramble, I believe untouched by a defender; but he was injured enough to remain sidelined for the evening.
Unfortunately for the Jags’, his replacement was quickly picked off on a pass attempt, and it was 31-12 CRS early in the second half. All other scoring was after I left, but the final was 38-24 Council Rock South, and I understand the last two Jags scores were late in the game.
Had the District One Championship been at Council Rock North as it was last season, I surely would have taken it in this dismal season; but it was at Plymouth-Whitemarsh. I had only been there once, in 1993, and it was now “too distant” for me. Unfortunately for the Golden Hawks it was against North Penn again. And the Knights were destined to represent the east at Hershey this season. The Knights beat the Golden Hawks 34-14.
In the snow at Hershey, the Knights played a good game except for one play on defense; and lost to Central Dauphin 14-7 on a long pass completion/run TD.
So far that was the last hurrah for the Suburban One League to date; silver at Hershey; now 5 years past.
In late December 2011 and early January 2012 the news was circulating that the Philadelphia Archdiocese would likely close Bonner, Conwell-Egan, and West Catholic. But private funding was found to keep all open; and as they all remain in 2016, so far- so good.
One thing for certain resulted from the disaster of the 2011 season. I was determined to pick myself up, dust off, and get back INTO high school football. With the events of the year it was an anomaly; I could, and would, get back to high school football as I liked it.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
Share This Post: