Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 29 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
My thoughts about my high school football hobby continued on October 30th when I made the Tennent at Truman game my choice for the night. But Pennsbury, both Rocks, Neshaminy, and even Bensalem were all “away”, my usual haunts; and Truman really was a normal destination. And the away destinations were Quakertown, North Penn, Abington, CB South, and Norristown; two I have never been to (Norristown and the present Abington stadium) and three that I don’t venture to anymore. In any case I thought Tennent (4-5) and Truman (2-6) should be a good game as the Tigers were getting healthy to a degree (no QB Lopez-Shefcyk though), and Tennent had wins against three practically winless teams.
But the Panthers looked to be snake-bitten from the get-go. The Tigers Paulson broke a 47-yard gallop early, 2-pt pass try failed and it was 6-0 Tigers. Stalling on their first possession the Panthers punt attempt was blocked and returned 52-yards to the house by the Tigers Akinwande. This time the 2-pt pass PAT connected and it was 14-0 Tigers. The next Panther punt was made cleanly, the only problem was that the Tigers DeLeon returned it 55 yards for a TD. Another missed 2-point try left it at 20-0 Tigers. Still in the first on another Truman possession, Freeman took it in from the 13 yards and the run PAT was stopped short, 26-0 Tigers at the end of one quarter. Tennent could not move the ball much at all in the first half.
In the second quarter Freeman had another short 4-yard TD and a Hirsch PAT kick made it 33-0. Next Freeman who was the Tigers QB hit one of the formerly injured returned stars Justin Fant on a 53-yard pass TD. Hirsch again kicked the PAT and it was 40-0 with still 6 minutes and 57 seconds left in the half. Another Tennent disaster nearly occurred when the tigers picked off a Tennent pass right at the Tiger goal line, but the Truman picker lost the ball while trying to break loose and Tennent recovered at the Truman 2-yard line. Costello than ran it in and averted the first half mercy clock 40-6 at the half.
Due to the score, the urge to get home to see how other important games were going, and a 20-minute senior bandsmen halftime, I decided to book it. Another factor was the Truman asinine practice of yellow taping off the area in front of the grandstand so no one can even walk there. If the stands were free of tape you could clear across them but the band area is yellow-taped on both sides so you can’t cross there either. The front of the grandstand taping is done after the initial crowd is in so if you sit on the far end of the home stands where I do, you have to go all the way around the closed end of the stadium to hit the concessions, restrooms, or leave.
In the future I will either abandon Truman or just always sit on the visitors side.
At least for this season, I decided to take my “zoo crowd” phobia head-on and Friday night see Neshaminy at Pennsbury and Saturday the Rock-Rock battle for the first time ever. This was a departure from all of the things that bother me now and a return to, “let’s give it a try.”
The Neshaminy-Pennsbury game was important this season; it is always important to these two schools and fans. But getting into the playoffs was a destination for the Redskins; a loss and they would not likely make it. The Falcons could have at least one home game if they won it; but would make the playoffs win or lose.
I shunned the big visitors side stands because of the possibility of “aisle sitting” and took a spot on one of the little additional 5-high bleachers near the visitors-side entrance to Falcon Field. Two years ago this worked fine and the bleachers filled with standees as I was on the top. This year this bleacher did not fill and I had all the room I need yet had a good field view. The game evolved as many between two good teams, basic and sound, defense pretty much ruling, with not much spectacular happening. Neshaminy had a determined opened drive capped by a Mason Jones to Zach Tredway 13-yard TD strike. The PAT was blocked, 6-0 Skins.
I think the top prize for the Skins should have gone to the D for this one. They pretty much held the Falcons in check the entire game. In the second quarter the Skins put together a 12-play 77-yard drive. Will Dogba carried the rushing load (31 carries – 197 yards for game) and keyed the drive with a 31-yard dash to the Falcons 2 yard line. Then on a fourth down play, Mason Jones got the needed two yards and McDonald made the PAT to make it 13-0 Neshaminy.
This seemed to awaken the Falcon O and the ensuing 80-yard drive was highlighted by two long QB Alley bursts around the right side. It was capped by a Rupprecht 4-yard carry and Knop kicked the PAT, 13-7 Skins at the half. In the third quarter Neshaminy kicker Dylan McDonald hit a 33-yard field goal to increase the Skins lead to 16-7, while the defense continued to stifle the Falcon offense. Only with 3:32 left in the game did the Falcons Alley hit Luke Snyder for a 5-yard TD strike; with Knop PAT 16-14 final. As I was gone I do not know if an onsides kick was tried, but some sort of difficult kick to possibly handle must have been called for.
I braved an even bigger crowd for my first ever Rock versus Rock classic at Council Rock North Saturday night. I sat on the home side, a rarity at Rock, and pre-game with the “Mike” I had met this year after seeing him at games for years. But it got jammed and I moved just before the game, and that lasted just a half.
Just as the prior night this one had major implications for playoffs and Council Rock South would be eliminated with a loss and Council Rock North was also close to, if not eliminated, with a loss. The teams parried to a first quarter 0-0 stalemate. In the second quarter Brandon McIlwain got in from the two and Tyler Nowmos kicked the PAT, first lead CRN 7-0. Behind the rushing of Brendan Patterson the Golden Hawks answered with a drive capped by a QB Shaun Stackhouse 1-yard run, but the low PAT kick hit the goal post cross bar and was no good. As John Madden would say it went “doink” off the crossbar; 7-6 CRN at the half.
Council Rock South opened the second half scoring on a drive and Patterson 32-yard scamper and then he ran the 2-point PAT and it was the Golden Hawks first lead of the game 14-7. The rest of the third quarter was fittingly the Brandon McIlwain show as he carried the team with passes and runs and scored three times on runs of 3, 22, and 2 yards to make the score (with PATs) 14-14, then CRN 21-14, and 28-14. In the fourth quarter, McIlwain hit Tyler Nowmos for a 26-yard pass TD and Tyler kicked his fifth PAT of the night and it was 35-14 CRN Indians and that was the final score.
The crowd crush was huge, although certainly not unpleasant, and I got an idea. I watched the first half conclude from down by the main gate home side. Then I beat it to my car with thoughts that I could get home in time to see the second half that was video streamed and thus not miss any of the game. And I made it. I was home in time to get the computer up and witness the entire second half. Another first for me – half game attended – half game seen on video stream.
Even though all of the teams I would normally follow in the PIAA playoffs were away on 11/13-11/14; I did have a local option for a game – Cheltenham at Truman. Had I made my original first Saturday game at CB East on September 5th, I would have opened and finished the regular season with Cheltenham away games, indeed a rarity; since I had only ever seen the Panthers once before, in 2003.
I expected a decent game as the Panthers were 4-6 coming in and the Tigers were 4-6 on the year also. And the two played to a 28-27 Cheltenham win the prior year. As it was a playoff night and games and results waiting to be discovered on computer at home, I knew I would stay only the first half most likely. Truman received the opening kickoff and on the second play from scrimmage, Lucas Gray bolted 50 yards to the house; the run PAT failed and it was 6-0 Tigers. That was it for the first quarter; as the Cheltenham offense could not seem to find a rhythm. In the second period a Tiger QB Freeman to Jackson screen pass resulted in a 49-yard romp to paydirt; the pass PAT failed and it was 12-0 Tigers. Later in the second Tiger kicker Tim Kenny-Schwartz hit a 22-yard FG to make it 15-0 Tigers. But Cheltenham got on the board when tall QB Branden Mack ran it in from 10 yards out, the kick PAT missed and it was 15-6 Tigers at the half, when I departed as planned.
The Panthers opened the second half scoring when Mack again ran one in from 16 yards out, and then also ran in a 2-point PAT to make the score 15-14 Tigers. The third quarter ended with the score remaining 15-14. In the fourth the Tigers answered with a Quinten Mulbah 6-yard TD run; Kenny-Schwartz kicked the PAT, 22-14 Tigers. The Panthers answered with an Abdul-Haqq 10-yard run and a Mack pass PAT to knot the game late at 22-all. Regulation time ended with the 22-22 tie. Cheltenham had scored last and won the OT coin toss and momentum seemed to be on the Panthers side. They chose to go on D first to see what they would need to do to win in response to how the Tigers made out on their possession. The tigers QB Freeman snuck it in from the 6 and Kenny-Schwartz hit the PAT and it was 29-22 Truman.
On the Panthers OT possession Browne ran it in from the 10 and the Panthers decided to go for two and the win. The Tigers flushed Mack out of the pocket and pressured him just enough to cause an overthrow to intended receiver Matthew Tuszl; final Truman 29-28 in OT. It was the Tigers third win in a row. In March 2016 it was announced that Mack will play at Temple.
On Saturday day-night 11/14/2015 I again eschewed live PIAA playoff games Quakertown at CB East 1:00 and Carroll at Wood (Tennent 7:00). Instead I opted to watch the video stream of Pennsbury at Downingtown West PIAA playoff game. This was an excellent choice, a good, very physical, back-and-forth, just enough scoring, exciting game. It was the Falcons ground and pound against the Whippets speed and finesse. They played dead even almost. They tied in regulation 28-28; the Falcons then scored in OT and on defense caused a first down loss, and three pass attempts, the last, a pick; to win the game 35-28. I made the right choice.
PIAA playoffs gave me an added opportunity for Friday night 11/20. Doylestown was the neutral site for the District One, Class AA Championship game between the Springfield Montco Spartans and New Hope-Solebury Lions.
This was ideal for me. Do-able distance and the big War Memorial Field should be no crowd problem for two 2A schools; and indeed it wasn’t. I sat high on the home side, about the 30 yard line and had nothing but space all around me. Two West Catholic coaches came up the near stairs and sat about six rows behind and to my right. Twenty-five minutes to kickoff there were 12 people in the away stands, but the game eventually had a good 2A crowd; nothing like the big schools followings.
Springfield Montco played a more difficult schedule for sure with its Suburban One American opponents such as Upper Dublin and Plymouth-Whitemarsh, and other 3A and 4A teams. They came in 4-6 including a playoff win over Bristol 26-12. New Hope-Solebury was having the best year of its (fairly new) existence coming in at 10-1; but this was against all A or AA class competition. A good game was expected. The 30-man Springfield squad elected to receive. On their first play from scrimmage, RB Ben Fisher took it off tackle, split two defensive backs and raced 78 yards to paydirt untouched. PAT kick good, 7-0 Spartans. Although both teams did move the ball, both D’s seemed to have the answer when needed. With 5:43 remaining in the first half, the Lion’s Jack McKenna broke one for 54 yards and with the PAT kick knotted it at 7.
Neither team had a band, and it was a very quiet, restrained halftime. Nothing much happened in the third quarter, and I left early in the fourth. After I left, very late in the game, the Lions mounted a drive capped by a Nick Garritano 1-yard plunge and good PAT to win the game 14-7.
I added my first District One 2A championship game to my resume.
I fully intended to see the Conwell-Egan-Truman turkey day game solo this year as I knew Bud 3 was not going this season.
I had also a now rare phone conversation with Bud 2 a few days before and he was wondering about the New Hope-Solebury, South Hunterdon Thanksgiving game move to the Wednesday night before to accommodate the Lions’ further playoff game on the following Saturday. He was considering that, or possibly an actual Turkey-day game, possibly meeting me at Truman. In the end one of my age infirmities ruled out a Thanksgiving game this year and I listened to it on WBCB computer radio.
Both the North Penn-Upper Dublin District One Championship and the following week Upper Dublin-Parkland Eastern Championship games were at Souderton, a stadium I have yet to visit, but certainly do-able if I wished to do so. The weather was certainly amenable, but I chose not to go to either game; when clearly I could have. I had set up the first game with my brother-in-law (Bud 3), and called and cancelled it the morning of the game. I knew Bud 2 would be there without contact, as this stadium is as close to him as North Penn’s Crawford Stadium; and he did see the Pennsbury-Coatesville game there the prior season.
But the thought of my leaving time for Bud 3’s, time then to Souderton to arrive an hour and a half pre-game, 3 hours at the game, and possible couple of more hours clearing the after-game crowd and trip home changed my mind. I just did not want to invest the time necessary to take in the game. For the second game there was no possibility of Bud 3 being available; and I had a family commitment as a result, so only under strained circumstances could I have made that one. But there is no doubt that the disappearance of the old “posse” of men that used to be willing and ready to travel to games, along with my aging and ailments, have curtailed my high school football viewing hobby.
Still, I made 20 games this season and that is the total I shoot for to classify a “good’ season, less is not as good and more is icing. My total stands at 913 games, and I have 18 additional TV/video stream/radio prior to the four state championship games which should give me 22 for the season. Most are TV/video stream, which means “seeing’ the games.
There are a few additional factors now playing into my hobby. I have several computer matrix programs that I use to update all 44 class 4A teams records in District One each week, and starting with week 5, I do my own playoff calculations for the 4A classification. This takes a great amount of time, especially the playoff calculations. And the fact that I have written 25 articles for easternPAfootball has added to my football interest while sitting at the computer keyboard. There are now seven high school football websites that I scan several times a day during the football season; of course EasternPAFootball the most prominent. It is possible now to enjoy my hobby without actually going to games.
But, I have no intention of not going to games as long as I am physically able and hope to hit the thousand-game mark someday.
Next time – Recap – What has it all been about?
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