Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 28 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
I was very much looking forward to the 2015 season, and my Suburban One League thumbnail team write-ups for easternPAfootball that ran in January 2015 were an expression of that feeling.
It would be my 65th season and the first game my 894th. First goal for the year- get to the 900 games seen total; shouldn’t be a problem.
I soloed to the Wood-Pennsbury scrimmage and sat on the Pennsbury side for a change – not knowing anyone on either side normally. But by doing so I missed Bud 4 who opted to come on the visitor’s side, as far as I know, for the first time in several seasons. This year the teams played a four-quarter 12-minute refereed game, but with no play clock as a lot of time was used before plays, especially by the Falcons. Wood dominated the first half 28-0 on mid-season running form and Russo pinpoint passes. I switched to the Wood side at the half (but missed Bud 4; he might have departed) to talk with Mr. and Mrs. Snyder, as pre-game I had seen HC Galen Snyder and he said they would be there. Having known them for some time by first names now, at that scrimmage they confided in me that this was it for Galen, he would retire after the season. I had to live with this locked inside me the entire season until Galen made it public. I would not betray the trust.
My desire to see “new” teams led me to switch my planned Council Rock South at Pennsbury opener for Perkiomen Valley at Council Rock North instead. It worked to a tee, because of my love for offense in football the Falcons-Golden Hawks ended 13-6; this one saw 92 points put on the board. This one was a battle of the Quarterbacks – and 902 yards of offense; Perk Valley 329 passing and 217 rushing for 546 total, and CRN 225 passing, 131 rushing and 356 total.
Now senior and South Carolina-bound Rock QB McIlwain bolted for a 70-yard romp on the Rock’s first possession and then ran in the 2-pt PAT and it was quickly CRN 8-0. Then he hit Thompson with a 6-yard TD and again ran the 2-pointer, 16-0 CRN. But PV also had a fine QB and junior Steven Sturm ran in a 9-yarder and the PAT was kicked by Patla, and it was 16-7 Rock at the end of one. PV then scored first in the second quarter when Strum again ran 7 yards and Patla kicked the PAT 16-14 CRN. Sturm next hit Williams with a 65-yard strike; Patla kick to take the first PV lead 21-16. Rock now stormed back with another McIlwain 16-yard run, but a 2-pt pass PAT attempt failed and it was 22-21 CRN. Then Big Mac hit Nowmos for a 48-yard strike and McIlwain ran in his third 2-pt PAT, 30-21 CRN at the half. All 7 first half TDs were by arm or run of the two quarterbacks.
Obviously, PV made the best second-half adjustments and scored four consecutive times, 3 in the third and the first in the fourth. The scores were Sturm 3 yards to Jaworski; Arch 11-yard run; and Sell – two passes from Sturm, 2 and 5 yards. Patla 4 PATs.
This barrage led the score to be 42-30 PV at the end of three and my usual start out. I heard the fourth TD early in the fourth quarter as I walked to my car, 49-30 PV. After I left in the 4th, McIlwain again hit Nowmos for 48 yards; the run PAT failed, 49-36. PV was not yet finished and a Williams 2-yard run; kick good, final 56-36 Perkiomen Valley. The Vikes finished 10-2, losing only to Spring Ford in conference and Pennsbury in the playoffs. I read in mid-December 2015 that PV Head Coach Scott Reed had stepped down.
I had all intentions of celebrating the opening of the new CB East home stadium on the first Saturday of the season. But the 11:00 AM kickoff time and an expected monster crowd for the opening just gave me second thoughts. I would get up there later.
The lure of another new team got me to Tennent that Saturday night for Allentown, NJ at Wood. Years and years ago, I used to follow in the papers the local, or Central NJ, teams at a glance, and at one time some of them were rated with PA local teams in the Trentonian newspaper polls. As far as I knew the Allentown Redbirds were a very rural farming-area team and not so good; but that was way back when. I would imagine farm land sell off and urban sprawl had caused growth in the system since way back then. Be that as it may, they were no match for Archbishop Wood.
It was another quarterback show of sorts. First, Wood’s Joe Davis took the opening kickoff 79 yards to the house. Dan Zanine kicked the first of many PATs; 7-0 Wood in a heartbeat. I learned that the Redbirds had played for their region championship the prior year and had returned the entire O line. Their blocking led to a 57-yard burst by Jordan Winston deep into Vikings territory. He then dove two yards for a score and the PAT knotted it at 7. Wood answered in one play from scrimmage after the kick off. Russo hit Mark Webb for 58-yards; 14-7 Wood. The Redbirds answered again by driving 80 yards in 15 plays culminating in a Winston 8-yard run; PAT – 14-14. In only three plays, ending with a Thompson 3-yard run and PAT the Vikes got up 21-14. It was all Wood from that point on: 28-14; 35-14; and 42-14 at the half. All three scores were Russo aerials – 28 yards to Webb; 51 yards to Jordan Johnson; and 59 yards to Thompson.
After the first score of the second half (Russo to Gillespie 18 yards), and 49-14 Wood, I left the building. Two more rushing Wood TDs – Nasir Peoples 34 and Jalen Reynolds 10, with one of two PATs made it 62-14 Wood after three. Second kicker Longenhagen’s first PAT was wide but he made the second. In the fourth, Allentown’s small, but quick RB Joe Mannio scored on a three-yard run to make the final 62-21. The Redbird’s were 5-4 before their last regular season game on 11/14/2015 which is the date I am writing this portion.
There is no question that one way or another I was a bit Brandon McIlwain enchanted this season and I believe for good reason. I had watched this fine young man and QB for the fourth season now as a starter. At first unconsciously I was scheduling the games for the opponents as well as the attraction. But I saw 7 of his 11 games this season, and I will be forever glad I did. Despite others opinions, I feel it’s not often you see a man of this caliber play in local football. I believe all of the well-deserved post season awards vindicated my position.
When the CB South Titans came to Council Rock for North 9/11 I got to speak with coach Tony Schino at the stadium bottom for a bit. He was still one of the few coaches I still knew to speak with. Today’s McIlwain show included him running for two TDs, threw a TD pass, on safety returned a pick 65 yards for a TD, ran in a 2-pt PAT and threw for two 2-pt PATs, a nice day’s work. He was responsible for 30 of the Rock’s 36 points. CRN won 36-29.
Rain near departure time kept me from Gratz at Wood Saturday night, 9/12 and seeing another new team in D12’s Simon Gratz. It was a 44-30 Wood victory.
My first Falcon Field visit of 2015 was 9/18 and was a double purpose CRN and McIlwain at Pennsbury. The Indians only scored 19 against the Falcons and Mac’s two runs accounted for 12 of that total. The Falcons had rung up 35 points in the first half and the fast clock was in effect the whole second half. It was here that I noted that it would seem that the rest of the Indian team was not up to the caliber needed to guarantee a fine season for an outstanding athlete. The defense especially seemed wanting.
My wife joined me for Truman at Bensalem the next evening. She knew a former Bulldog that was now on Truman and was interested in getting out of the house and seeing him play and he did on special teams at times. The Owls were riding a 20-game losing streak back to 2013. But the critical hand of fate stepped in the late first quarter when the talented Tiger QB Mark Lopez-Shefcyk went down hard on a short run towards the Bensalem goal line right in front of where we sat in the visitors stands. It was serious; so much potential, he was done for the season. And it was not the only key injury to a possible fine Tiger team, three stars of the team would be out for extended periods; they were not deep enough to reach their potential. They won this game 21-7, and the Owls currently sit on a 28-game losing streak back to 2013; being 0-10 in 2015.
The historic visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia moved many games around and one was Roman Catholic-Archbishop Ryan rescheduled for Bensalem on Thursday 9/24. It was actually Roman’s home game. I have no stats as I follow neither team, but I always try to see some PCL games each year if they fall in my now short viewing range. It was a good game. It was tied at 7 and tied at 14 and Ryan was deep in Roman territory about to score when I left after three quarters. They did score, the final 21-14 Ryan.
On Friday night 9/25 Souderton at Pennsbury was the choice for my historic 900th game in person.
I sat with former Morrisville athletes Bud 4 and Denny Poland and talked for a brief time with a man I had seen for years primarily at Council Rock North games. His name was Mike.
It was another solid Falcon performance 37-0 over what I had thought would be a much better Souderton edition this season. But this just did not materialize and the Indians finished under .500 at 4-6.
After passing on two 11:00 AM starts at CB East, I made my first visit to their fine new edifice for their third home game, hosting Council Rock North and Brandon McIlwain. This was a good one. Council Rock scored 26 points and McIlwain had a hand in all of them.
Brandon ran for two TDs, threw for two TDs and threw for one two-point conversion. Down 26-7 in the third quarter the Patriots prime RB Alex Gibson bolted 53 yards for a TD; Kittleson kick PAT and it was 26-14. Still in the third quarter, but after I had departed, CBE ran a wide receiver option pass Owen Griffith to Wes Verbit for a 56-yard TD. The score narrowed to 26-21 after only three quarters. But no one scored again and two lost East fumbles likely cost them the game. The evenness of the game was seen in some stats – first downs 17 each team; yards passing CBE 192, CRN 189; and penalties CBE 8-82 and CRN 8-85.
On Monday night 9/28 I capped a rare 4-game weekend counted as Thursday and Friday nights, Saturday afternoon and Monday night. I returned once again to where it all started 65 seasons back, Morrisville hosting Lower Moreland. Not used to winning seasons anymore the Bulldogs were 2-1 coming in this year. I sat with Bud 4 who rarely missed a Morrisville game home or away, and later another classmate of ours joined us. I also got to talk with AD John Hubiak a couple of times during the evening. A look at the teams physically told me that the Bulldogs were going to have to gang tackle. But it was a good even close game won by the Lions of LM 10-7. It seems that whether Morrisville has size and/or speed they lack experience. This year fully 10 freshmen and 10 sophomores were on the roster. There were only 3 or 4 seniors on the squad. They looked and played well, only inexperience mistakes seemed to hurt them. Second-year Coach Derek Savage seems to be doing well with the program overall.
Missed a game Friday night 10/2 due to winds and rain. CB East at Council Rock South was on the docket, but passed. I watched a video stream of Downingtown East and Unionville instead. Cary Angeline was as advertised for the Cougars.
Saturday 10/3 was still gray, windy and misty, but ok for a 2:15 Tennent at Council Rock North kick off. I got a chance to talk with Mike Ortman pre-game who was an advisor on the Rock North staff. He also said it was a wrap after this season for him. We shall see. In this one McIlwain threw four TD passes and did not carry the ball once. A blocked kick defensive score and run, both by Leuz of CRN helped the rout. The final was 53-0 CRN with subs scoring late.
That night I made it to Neshaminy early and got a perfect parking spot, when one of the parking attendants came up to me and said, “Did you know you had a flat tire on the right rear of your car?” Not being particularly adept in mechanics, I opted to try to get it home rather than affix the doughnut in the parking lot. So I missed that game and it cost me a tire. I did get home, almost on the rim.
The Friday night rain moved the Falcons home game with Abington to Monday night and gave me that one. The Ghosts were suffering terribly this season, I can’t believe Woody with the big “A” was very happy. Another rout ensued and the teams got “chippy” as sometimes happens in lopsided games. Both teams were flagged 13 times and for Abington 100 yards and Falcons 125 yards and a possible ejection (it was not announced, but I saw an official give the thumbs “out’ sign). The final was 52-21 Pennsbury.
Rain, thunderstorms right at departure time caused me to pass on CB West at Council Rock South Friday evening October 9th. So I watched the Pennsbury at Bensalem video stream. For the second straight game the Falcons scored exactly 52 points, this time 52-12.
I returned to CB East’s new stadium for Saturday 10/10 not realizing it was the dedication of the stadium game. That meant political speeches, oh boy. But some well- deserved thank you’s were included and that was fine. Tennent had ideas of ruining the day for the Patriots. Their Dakota Wherrity hit a 25-yard FG, 3-0 Panthers which held up for most of the first half. CB East was without starting QB Lamb and it showed; they could not get a sustained O going in the half. In the closing seconds of the half, a drive by East finally reached paydirt on an Alex Gibson 2-yard plunge and PAT and the half ended 7-3.
Although it was a perfect fall day for football, bright sun, cold breeze, pleasant atmosphere, it was also another homecoming (and I sit though about every school’s each year), I did not want to do it again and I left at the half. CB East came out and iced the game in the third quarter with three scores and the final was 28-3 Patriots.
My 74th birthday night 10/16 was a planned solo trip to Bensalem for a chance to see North Penn in person. Of all things, an accident on the PA Turnpike with the road closed had traffic backed up every which way in the Bensalem area. Under normal conditions the run for me to Owls stadium can be a nightmare; now it was decidedly worse. Channel 6 was saying that massive traffic jams were occurring in the Bensalem area. That was out.
Just as I considered an alternate of Council Rock South at William Tennent, the same news also said that there was an accident at Jacksonville and Bristol Roads stopping traffic and that was a key intersection on my route to Tennent. It was as if this night was jinxed.
My option was to see the video stream of Pennsbury at Pennridge and as it turned out this was a honey.
My brother-in-law (Bud 3) has a good philosophy in “everything happens for a reason” and maybe this was it. On my birthday I get to sit in comfort and enjoy a very entertaining game! It ended 38-32 Pennsbury.
The next day was an easy run to Council Rock for the invasion of Harry S. Truman. It was a cold, windy bundle-up day. Rick Lee soon came and sat with me. We had the greatest time talking about old Morrisville anecdotes and stories from the late 1950’s and on.
Rick’s father was the late Dick Lee, a favorite of our class of 1959, and at times football, basketball, and baseball coach at Morrisville. He also umpired for baseball. He had a wonderful outward disposition and offered humor in many ways. Rick and I traded old stories of his dad. I laughed more than I had for a long time.
Not that the game was a dud, it wasn’t. Unknown to me at the time was that Brandon McIlwain had suffered a broken thumb the previous game and couldn’t throw. So he was converted to a running back for this game with direct snaps to someone else. So Mac promptly ran for 170 yards and four TDs. He also made one high, long, punt that went sideways at the Truman one.
But it was a close good game 20-15 after three quarters with Rock leading. After the beautiful punt rolled out on the 1 yard line, the ensuing Truman punt gave the Rock good field position and as I walked to my car I heard the PA announce the McIlwain 9-yard TD run and Nowmos PAT to make it 27-15 Rock. After I left a blocked Tiger punt at their one yard line gave McIlwain a one-yard field to cover and he did, final 34-15 CRN.
A Sunday game opportunity was for 10/18 with Cardinal O’Hara at Wood, of course at Tennent. As expected the crowd was thin as expected for Sunday high school football, but still a nice group on both sides. Little did I know then that I was to be part of the halftime entertainment. About ten minutes before the opening kickoff the PA announcer said would all veterans line up in the end zone away from the scoreboard end about five minutes before the half ended to be honored. I decided to wait and see if there were any others, as I was a Vietnam Vet, but was not going solo for this. About 7 or 8 of us gathered and so we were honored with the Wood cheerleaders forming two lines out from the goal posts for us to walk out to center of the field. They all had American flags. In a very nice ceremony a young lady with a fine voice sang two choruses of God Bless America, there was a prayer for American servicemen, and a thank you message and we were each given a camo shirt with appropriate wording.
It was a fine experience and a well-thought exercise by the Wood officials; and I very much was thrilled by it. Included were a Korean vet old timer, a Desert Storm vet, Vietnam, and career retired men, army, navy and air force in our little group.
Wood won the game 50-7 in their usual workmanlike fashion.
They returned the opening kickoff for an 82-yard score; then returned a punt 59 yards to the house, and it was 14-0 before the Vikings O got on the field. When they did Russo connected for a 18-yard pass/run score. And so it went 35-0 at the half and a fast clock the second half.
I had a tough choice to make for Friday night October 23rd. North Penn was at Pennsbury, or Quakertown was at Council Rock South. The deciding factor was that I had seen the Falcons numerous times and the Knights at least on TV; while I had seen neither the Panthers nor Golden Hawks this season. It was CRS. The two teams traded two scores each in the first quarter and it was 14-14 after one. Then the Panthers D began to slow down the Golden Hawks offense. The second quarter saw only a Burns TD and Soriano PAT to give the Panthers the 21-14 halftime lead. As I left after three the Panthers were again close to a score.
I was too far towards my car to hear the PA announcer, but the away crowd roar told me Burns had made the yard needed to go up 28-14 with the PAT. Another Burns late fourth quarter score made the final 35-14 Quakertown.
A Saturday double header was a possibility on Saturday 10/24. At 1:00 Bonner-Prendie was at Wood. The Friars were only 3-4 and I had seen Wood twice already, so I no-no’d this one. Then I opted out of the West Catholic at Conwell-Egan nightcap simply because “I did not want to sit that lonely pre-game hour this night”. What was happening to me? I questioned myself on how important high school football was to me anymore?
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