Looking Back at Sixty-Five Seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football (Part 30 of 30)
“Here’s a look back at 65 – seasons of Pennsylvania High School Football through the eyes of Kmac”
WHAT HAS IT ALL MEANT?
When I first went to a game in 1951, just past age 10, I had no comprehension at all that I would develop a hobby out of high school football. It was just a chance to follow the local alma mater team and its ups and downs. Being age 10 in a crowd of 16- and 17-year olds and being readily accepted was my first social interaction, and pleasing to say the least. Joining the high school band in my freshman year enhanced the closeness to football and brought additional peer-age friends, and got me to every game the team played; seeing new stadiums and new teams.
Only in my senior year (1958-1959) did I decide to log the results of all of the teams in the Lower Bucks County League in a 3-ring binder for the 1958 season.
I also logged the statistics of every Morrisville game for this season; something never repeated.
Working locally at a bank starting in June of 1959, I was close enough and had the time to also see and log the 1959 season, and once I had two seasons of stats I was not going to stop; I had found a hobby, beyond just going to see games. Much later I backfilled the 1951 to 1958 Morrisville games seen seasons from programs I had retained from Morrisville games; and at some point much later on (possibly 2002) backfilled each of the other teams in my area from team histories purchased from Don Black, who formerly had the ePAsports website.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing of the first 65 years (so far) is the social and unlikely events that I have lived through this hobby.
First, my cousin, 6 or 7 years older than me suggesting I go with his “crowd’ to the first game. He was the oldest of 5 cousins in this family, and the youngest of the 5 as he aged looked very much facially like the late Bruce Stansbury, who coached at Morrisville in 1982-1988 and later Council Rock North and South. Without ever seeing the two side-by-side; to me the resemblance was uncanny.
One of the early older crowd members I met was a real home-team “fan” and supported the three major male sports, baseball, basketball, and football at Morrisville and drove to away games for all of them when possible. Through meeting him and being invited to join the crowd, I got to see away games in all three sports before I got my own car after graduation. And this included college games (Penn-Princeton football), the Harlem Globetrotters, semi-pro basketball in the Trenton area, and other events. During my army service years (1964-68), he got out of following most sports, and I only saw him once ever again in the bank.
But while still active for football at Neshaminy in 1961 or 1962, we met our Bensalem buddy. Bud 1, as I have termed him through the narrative, was older than all of us, but knowledgeable in sports, usually had a joke or two to spin when we met him, and was good company; even got me to a Neshaminy Booster Club meeting and coach-narrated game film of a Neshaminy-Allentown game at the meeting, about 1962 or 1963. I lost touch with him during my service time and first marriage (1964-1975). I did recognize him at a distance at some of the few games I saw in the time period just mentioned, but did not make an effort to chase him down and re-establish contact. In 1985 I ran into him at a Morrisville game and did reestablish a friendship that endured until his death at 89 in 2008 before that season started. Without a count I can say I saw more games with my Bensalem buddy than any other single individual. Most times were chance meetings, but for a period of two or three years after I re-met him, we did coordinate by phone for many games; after that it was more common knowledge of where either of us would be that determined some game choices. He was the source of three or four or more Suburban One League passes that enabled me to see a lot of free high school games.
The second posse member I met because I had a drum corps baseball cap on at a game when the member’s father recognized it and started a conversation.
It was the second drum corps that I had belonged to, and another twist, I had played with the first corps on that very War Memorial Field in 1962 and 1963 long before I saw a football game there. Likewise, I saw two junior drum corps (DCI) shows as a fan at Crawford Stadium in the mid -1970’s before I saw a football game there in 1984. Once I met this man’s son (Bud 2), there was a four person posse for games – me, Bud 1, Bud 2 and Bud 2’s dad for basically 1987-1991. It was likely 1988 or so when I introduced Bud 1 and Bud 2 and his dad; if not shortly thereafter.
What was the chance of a high school football nut like me having a brother-in-law that was originally from the Berwick area? In 1991 he suggested we take in some Berwick games as he knew the area intimately. When he married my wife’s youngest sister, he was living and working out of the Rocky Hill, NJ area and had matriculated at a central Jersey high school. I never really knew about his early childhood in the Berwick area until he mentioned going to see the Dawgs. From 1991-on he became Bud 3 and before long met Bud 1 and Bud 2 and his dad; and our group had grown to five for a couple of years until the all-too-soon passing of Bud 2’s dad in early 1993.
All the time 1985-1993 I became aware of how important this company at games had become. I still soloed to certain games if I wanted to see them, and I still saw more games than any of the other buddies; it was just me. But the most fun was when we all congregated at the same game; what laughter, game discussion, and how quickly time flew during those moments.
My second and present wife went to many games with me, but although she met and knew all my buddies and their wives; usually went with just me, when I had no one else to go with.
But more importantly, three different times in our now 37-year relationship; it was she that got me back on track for high school football when I was having some difficulty with it for some reason. I was truly blessed the second time around with a woman that fully understood me, and saw no threat to me enjoying a hobby outside of the practical routine of life.
Through her, the fourth Buddy relationship began when a classmate of mine all through high school came into the bank when she was working on a Friday afternoon in 1997 and posed the question as to whether I would be interested in a long trip the next day to Wilkes-Barre to see a CB West-Wyoming Valley West playoff game. He wanted to go and had no company for the trip. I knew him since first grade, but he was an athlete – baseball, basketball, and football up to his senior year, and I was not. We spoke cordially many times that I saw him at games beginning when I got back to it in 1968, but he had family, and other ex-Morrisville and Pennsbury athletes that he mostly attended games with. So this, in 1997 was new, and somewhat fleeting; it was 2001 to 2004 that it was mostly he and I and occasionally others attending games.
All Buds brought more to the table than just company; Bud 1 knew all the administration and officials at Neshaminy and Bensalem where he concentrated his interest. That’s why he often got two league passes a year, one from each school, and I was a big beneficiary of that situation.
Of the people he knew, I eventually became known with Bob Schopp, Sheldon Par, John Chaump, and Tom Adams Sr. and Jr., administration, coaches, and fans at Bensalem and Neshaminy. Of course, when I knew Bob Hart was at Bensalem; I already knew him from Morrisville High School. Surprisingly, he also knew me from school.
Bud 2 knew well enough to speak to, all of the old BuxMont coaches, including Mike Pettine Sr., and radio personality Jim Church, along with literally hundreds of other people; he was recognized by someone at almost every game we went to. In fact, he went with us (me and Bud 4) to Wilkes Barre in 1997 to see the game mentioned above. Over 100 miles away at a place where none of us had ever been before we hear a voice call out, “Hey _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _”; (Bud 2’s name of course). It was someone who knew him from Lambertville and also followed high school football. It wasn’t the only time it happened. Bud 2 was the most outgoing one of us all, always ready to strike up a conversation in a ticket line, in the stands; anywhere, anytime.
Bud 3, my brother-in-law, was quieter as was I, but if drawn into a conversation was all there, and with a soft-spoken, warm way toward others and their feelings. Key with bro was his knowledge of Berwick and the surrounding area. He knew it like the back of his hand and this was including the trip to West Pittston. And he knew right where Villanova Stadium was, which was one-up on me at the time. He also had no problem with long runs such as Berwick or Hershey, either. The fact that he was originally from Nescopeck, near Berwick, set us up nicely with the Berwick fans when we attended games there as outsiders.
Bud 4 knew all of the athletes of his era and somewhat beyond it, as he was always associated closely with Morrisville doings and also in various sports organizations in the county.
He also knew John Chaump personally as he had coached at Morrisville at one period. The same was true with Mike Ortman and Bruce Stansbury. He was friends of many ex-athletes from numerous schools.
I, as a non-athlete, brought only a deep love of high school football to the table. But, it was due to my pre-season visits to football practices that I began in 1993 on my own, that all of us expanded our knowledge with additional coaches around the league. In 1994 I got Bud 2 to join me, and eventually Bud 4 also joined, and we had some great talks with coaches at these pre-season practices. There was always rest sessions here and there, and depending on the coach and his specialty always time for a few words; we were soon recognized year-to-year, and became warmly greeted at most locations. It was a wonderful ride for a high school football fan.
Now completing 65 seasons, I have seen 913 games, an average of 14 games a season. Only one season missed entirely, no games – 1967. The number seen per year varies at every number between 1 and a top 32, except 19 and 31. No seasons produced total games seen of 19 or 31.
Total different teams seen sit at 157, and are from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, DC, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The top five teams in number of times seen are Pennsbury – 202; Neshaminy – 157; Morrisville – 139; Council Rock (& CR North) – 135; and Central Bucks West – 131. They are the only five teams over 100 views each.
Twenty teams I have seen no longer exist at all, or under the name that I once saw them.
I have seen many great games, many good teams; (it does not take a team winning a state championship for me to tag them “good”). My parameter for a good season is 7-3 a .700 winning percentage. Any win-loss record that exceeds or equals .700 is a “good” team. I make specific exceptions for 8-4 (.677) depending on an analysis of schedule and who they lost to; and all other win-losses speak for themselves. I have seen many fine high school football players without saying. Far too many in 65 years to make a list here. I also missed many of the great categories in lean years that I could not make games; and this I truly rue. I would be to a thousand games easily without about 14-15 lean years for high school viewing.
But it is the various incidents or occurrences that have happened that are keen in my mind as special to me that has made my hobby interesting.
I have given some examples, but here’s one special moment: In 1951 in the first and second games I saw at Morrisville, the Bulldog QB was Charles Galambos. As he was 16 or 17 and I was 10 I didn’t know him, but his sister Barbara was in my class grades 1-12. I met him as kicking coach at Pennsbury about 2008. Just last year (2015 season) before the Neshaminy at Pennsbury game Charlie and another man joined the two Falcon gatemen and me in pre-game conversation. Charlie, it was explained, was suffering some age ills and was in a care facility of some sort. When I told him that I had seen two of his games in 1951, especially the win 6-0 over Neshaminy, he lit up like a bulb.
We went on to name players from that team and he was seemingly very happy with the conversation. He mentioned John Krysa who loosened the ball that was flopped on in the Redskin end zone for the only score of the game. Sixty-four years later I talk with a man that played in the first game I ever saw! (I had spoken with him on several occasions when he was kicker specialist at Falcon Field in the mid 2000’s, but I am sure he wouldn’t have remembered that).
And John Krysa who he mentioned I had met at a Pennsbury home game and sat with him and others out at Neshaminy one game also. I do not see the notation, but the original meeting was likely the late 1980’s. His son played at Pennsbury.
At an early 2014 game I saw Tom Adams Jr. at a game and moved to sit with him. He was with another man and I was introduced to Pancho Micir, a man that was QB at Bishop Egan and took the Eagles to the PCL and City titles in 1966. Only this year (2015) in conversation with my sister, I learned that she once took tennis lessons from Pancho Micir.
Tom Adams’ father, T A Senior, besides being a Bensalem hall-of -fame athlete, was a pretty good country dancer before he passed, and I also learned that he and my sister danced together many times at various country dances. Go figure; it is a small world!
Jeff Johnson was a really good high school football player at Morrisville according to Bud 4, who knew him well. I just do not know the era, it was likely when I was not close to the Dogs in given years. But I got to know him to speak to at various Council Rock and other games. He was in the Council Rock Junior High coaching system. I saw him again to speak to at the Rock North-Pennsbury game this (2015) season. In 2005 Bud 4 and I journeyed to East Stroudsburg for a college playoff game against C W Post. In the Campus store pre-game, we run into Jeff Johnson and his daughter, who was attending East Stroudsburg.
Jeff also went there and I believe holds some sort of defensive record at the school. We all sit together at the game; afterward Bud 4 and I depart. Hour or two later, we run into Jeff at Hot Dog Johnnies, a well-know hot dog eatery on the Delaware River in northwest Jersey. None of this was planned, and a just happy coincidence among very nice people. (Not including myself, only others can make that decision).
This season (2015), I was totally surprised to be honored at halftime of the O’Hara-Wood Sunday October 18th game at Tennent as an army veteran. Eight of us, or so, were walked to midfield between the Wood cheerleaders who were in two rows with small American flags. Then a prayer was made over the PA system and a young lady sang two choruses of God Bless America. We were presented with camo shirts with appropriate wording, and a thank you to all servicemen was read. It was truly touching and I will always consider it a high honor among the events of my long time hobby.
Various coaches greeting any of the group of us with, “You guys are everywhere” was another thing we eventually prided ourselves on. I have mentioned numerous times in my narrative when this occurred. Mike Pettine Sr. doing it in Hershey at a game was probably the apex.
Meeting the coaches in one way or another beginning in 1994 was a special part of my hobby never dreamed of at the outset. I knew Coach Gordon Davies and Dick Lee of Morrisville in high school obviously, had them as teachers and Mr. Davies also drivers education. Although I was not an athlete I got along well with Mr. Davies who called me “Mac”. Mr. Lee was a favorite of our entire class of 1959. His son Rick Lee played at Morrisville, coached at Neshaminy and Bensalem, and I have sat with him at games, most prominently from 2013 through 2015. Spoke with him many, many times before that.
In my solitary viewing era 1968-1983, I made no effort to meet coaches, never thought about it. It was my wife getting a Morrisville schedule early pre season in 1993 that led me to try to get schedules at other schools by myself which I did. Then in 1994 we began touring pre-season camps as a regular part of the coming season. For whatever reason we developed an early, warm relationship with the CB East coaching staff, at one time Larry Green, Bill Heller, Tony Schino, Craig Phillips, and Chris Rittenhouse.
Another twist, Craig Phillips was the son of the head teller that was friends with my wife that got me back to the hobby, the first time for her in 1984.
He played for a good 1984 Morrisville team that my wife wanted to see. He didn’t know me upon our first meeting around 1996 until I told him my wife and his mom’s connection. He did know Bud 4 from Morrisville connections once Bud 4 started to do the pre-season tours. From our first visit to CB East, the staff truly seemed glad to see such interest by fans and welcomed us each and every season we did the tours. And Bill Heller, who ran a fishing business on the Delaware River offered to buy my house if I ever wanted to sell, and became the closest of associates; I still see him every summer as he still uses the area around me. He stopped to chat summer of 2015 and I chatted with him at the CB South-Pennsbury game this season. There is irony here too; Bill was on the 1960 Bensalem team and instrumental in laying one of only two defeats on the Bulldogs that season 19-13. He is really hobbled with bad knees now, and I do not envision much future football involvement for Bill. He got me my only sideline pass viewing of a game, CB East-North Penn in 2002.
Our second closest coaches’ relationship was Council Rock and later when it became CR North. This developed after Bud 4 joined our pre-season jaunts as he was a close personal friend of the Ortman’s from their years at Morrisville. Bud 4 had two sons matriculate at Morrisville and at least one played football, so he was both skin- and residence- connected at Bulldog land. But Mike and the late Buddy Ortman and Bruce English were wonderful to talk with and always warmly greeted us. I was offered a sideline pass twice for Rock games, but had to decline for various reasons both times.
I did my only scouting ever with the Ortman’s at a Bensalem at Tennent game when Buddy asked me to outline all of the starters and senior replacements in the program. Huzzah!
We met Biz Keeney when he took on the Bensalem job and spoke with him there, when he was scouting at other games, and again at Tennent when he moved there. This relationship was more of an, “I know you guys” when we saw Biz then some of the others. But we always had nice conversations.
Mike Pettine got to know me and Bud 2 from an actual invasion of his office at the school by us one time. Either after school or a non-school day, there was activity at the school and we were there for some reason; I think for a big pre-game ticket sale, and Bud 2 saw Mike alone in his office and said let’s give it a try. We said we were long-time high school football fans and just wanted to meet him and not bother him or stay if it was inconvenient. Mike was totally amenable to shooting the breeze and we must have spent a half hour or 45 minutes with him. Deep-voiced, he was a towering presence that talked with us as if we were old friends. He knew us by our first names from then on whenever we saw him. We only once visited a CB West pre-season practice however. But we saw Mike on numerous occasions thereafter and were recognized. I was the first person to greet Mike Pettine as he stepped from the bus in 1991 after returning from Altoona and the Bucks’ first state championship. Among a crowd of perhaps 500, I just happened to have the right spot for the bus that stopped with the door directly in front of me. I also had worked at the bank with Tony Rohach that was then a Bucks’ assistant coach, and also greeted him. Bud 3 and I had learned when the busses were due and had made the jaunt to Doylestown. It was around 9:00 PM.
Mark Schmidt and John Chaump, later Roger Grove were our main connections at Neshaminy. None of our group was closer to Mark than me for some reason. Bud 4 knew John Chaump from Morrisville coaching days. But, it seems that I was mostly solo when I ran into Mark Schmidt except at pre-season visits. And visits at Neshaminy were usually from a distance as they practiced on a field quite distant from the parking and we usually just watched from the lot.
But I ran into Mark a lot while he scouted other games or sometimes just seemed to be there watching. And I mentioned in my narrative that he seemed to be alone at times before his own games a lot. I talked to him at Truman and Neshaminy in a quiet moment before games his team was playing. I talked to him at Council Rock and Pennsbury while he was there scouting. He knew of an illness of mine that eventually required surgery; and he asked me about how I was doing from a year to another year; I found that amazing. I spoke with him as line coach for LaSalle at Tennent where they faced Wood and won in 2014; and for the last time to date at the 2014 Thanksgiving Day game at Harry S. Truman.
For some reason we didn’t seem to get to Pennsbury for pre-season visits until about 1997 and although I have met and talked to Mike Elko, then coach; I do not think it was until later.
Justin Fee was a contact there until I finally met Galen Snyder to speak with, somewhat after I had met his parents.
At times Bill Heller and Tony Schino were there, and I knew them from CB East, of course. I spoke to Galen at the Pennsbury-Neshaminy game this past season (2015). As luck would have it, on senior night a long line of parents-player-cheerleaders-band people lined up behind the temporary stands I was on and there was no movement for a while and Galen, Luke, and Mr. Snyder (Galen’s dad) were right alongside me. It was a night for family; I only exchanged a few pleasantries and left them alone.
And as fate would have it, I got to speak with two of the greatest coaches (there are many more) in Pennsylvania history in Mike Pettine Senior and the late George Curry.
When I attend games now, I usually look for a familiar face, and most times ask them if I can join them. I have never had a “no”, and the easy conversation after sitting that has occurred is an indication that the recipient of my company’s response was not truly “just politely offered”. After a few years of seeing Falcon coach Galen Snyder’s mom and dad in the stands, they insisted that I call them by their first names. Since the demise of the posse, I have also taken a page out of Bud 2’s book, and offered conversation to stranger’s and for the very most part have benefited with some nice response also.
I have struggled emotionally with the loss of the posse and loss of the known coaches and pre-season visitations that are no longer really likely. As age infirmities catch up with me, I miss games now that I would never have missed some 10-, 20- years back. Such is life.
I do not expect my high school football enjoyment to end until I cannot any longer physically, or otherwise, get to games. Even then, hopefully there is some TV and video stream coverage to see, and worst-case scenario, radio to at least hear the game. I also hope to maintain my written and computer logs even if I cannot for some reason get to games.
If I have any goal to achieve, it is likely only to try to get to the century mark someday in games seen in person. I would likely be 80 or 81 if I continue to get near 20 games a year; but Bud 1 saw his last games at 89; so I have a shot, fate willing.
And so whoever might have read this saga; has my life story 1951- 2015 as it pertains to high school football. What it has meant is precious to me. Hours of enjoyment; at one time a deep rooted live-or-die emotional roller coaster for a particular team to win, camaraderie with fans and coaches for a long period, trips to games I never dreamed I would see; games in the most beautiful weather and time of year, and in brutal weather; and a hobby I can augment every fall.
I am far from a high school football expert, and my records are for a small segment of Pennsylvania high school football, but I hope I can enjoy local high school football through my final year whenever that may be, as Bud 1 did at 89 years of age.
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