Throwback Thursday: The Decade of the Bucks – Part One
The 1990-1999 decade of the nineties belonged to the Central Bucks West Bucks’. The Bucks played 129 games in this time, and won 121 of them posting a decade record of 121-8. This winning percentage of 93.8% was first in the state for the 1990s for 608 football-playing schools. Although Berwick was first in total wins this decade at 127, the Dawgs had 13 losses leading to a 90.8 winning percentage. The 1980’s were Ridley’s – 100-5-2 and 94.4%; and again Berwick had more wins, but at 108-17-1 the percentage was 85.8%.(a)
I began to follow CB West in mid-season 1987, and saw 85 of those 129 games in the 1990s. The ten records posted for the decade were 10-1, 13-0, 11-1, 11-2, 11-1, 10-2, 10-1, 15-0, 15-0, and 15-0. As the old adage goes, “not too shabby.”
The Bucks entered the decade off of a “mortal” 1989 season at 7-4; a season that saw the most losses since 1976, and included a 55-game unbeaten streak broken. They opened the 1990 campaign hosting Souderton on Labor Day Friday and three of our ‘crew’ including me caught the game. West junior Matt Soncini returned punts, had two long TD runs on offense, and the Bucks added an 80+ yard interception return TD to beat the Indians 35-6. Our same three crew attended West’s second game versus Plymouth-Whitemarsh, a team that gave CB West more fits than any other in the 1990s. West had only beaten the Colonials 10-9 in 1989. And in 1990 it was only a single point again 14-13. It would get worse with P-W.
After two weeks visiting other teams, on Saturday night October 6 the Bucks hosted Council Rock (2-2). The Indians brought one fired-up team and crowd to Doylestown. The Indians unleashed an aerial game and speed that was terrific this night. Rock’s Tom Coleman ran the opening kickoff back for 58 yards. Mr. Coleman also ran for a TD, threw a halfback-option pass for a TD, and was a receiver for two TD passes. At one point in the game Council Rock led 40-11. In the second half the Bucks played well enough to make the score respectable, final 40-33 Council Rock. I never again saw CB West that far behind in a game.
After allowing those 40 points, no team scored more than once on the Bucks the remainder of the season; their D allowed 1 TD each to their final 6 opponents. But the final game against CB East was only 8-7 CB West. As this was only the third year of state championship play and before district playoffs, the one loss eliminated the Bucks and Ridley went on to the state final, losing to North Allegheny 21-14. Jay Bower, OL – 6’4”, 255, and WR Matt Soncini 5’8”, 140 were second team All-state for 1990.
Every year that Mike Pettine senior coached at CB West, he and his staff tailored the offense and defense to the talent that was available.
Good line play on both sides of the ball was always evident. Speed cannot be taught, if it was in short supply, a battering ram offense developed. Most times the QB could throw accurately if needed.
Opposing teams were caught between not knowing what was coming, or knowing what was coming but “try to stop it!” And the Bucks never failed to install solid defense either. Among 10 coaches for the 1991 squad you might know names Mike Pettine senior and junior, Mike Carey, Sid Hunsberger, and Dick Beck.
Another adage that “defense wins championships” was apparent with the 1991 Bucks’. Among 13 opponents that season, five were shut out, four more scored one time, and the top score by an opponent was 14 points in the state championship game. The defense allowed 5.8 point per game on average. The O did not lack either, as they averaged 30.5 ppg. I saw this West club 9 times including at Council Rock on Saturday November 2nd where the Bucks enacted revenge on Rock for the 1990 defeat. In a game of controlled execution perfection both on the ground and in the air, CB West won 49-7. Seniors Greg Moylan QB, Matt Soncini, WO, Ryan Moore, TE, Dave Binder, FB, Roman Fitzmartin, SE, Steve DeLuca, DB, and Chris Cleland, RB, among others, led this fine edition. My Hatfield buddy and I made Lehigh Stadium for the CB West – Easton Eastern championship game. The practically always-good Rovers were averaging 34.8 points per game behind an offensive line that averaged 6’2”, and 237 pounds. And their running back was Juan Gaddy, a junior who would have over 5,000 yards rushing in his career. But, after the opening drive and lead by the Rovers’ 6-0, the Bucks’ defense shut down the Rovers O. And the defensive secondary and lack of sufficient defensive line pressure from Easton allowed some great pass completions, and a CB West 34-12 victory. These 1991 Bucks went on to become the first AAAA state champion from the east, the first from District One, the first from the Suburban One League, and the first from Bucks County. QB Greg Moylan was third team All-state, and two Bucks’ on All-state defense were Rob Swett (jr.) LB, and Sean Lenz, Specialist.
The 1992 Bucks began the season as the defending 4A State Champions and riding a 19-game win streak. I saw their first five games among a total of 8 for the season. Scores for the five were a bit more restrained than in 1991 at 21-6, 13-0, 36-20, 35-10, and 34-3. But it only takes one point more for a ‘W’ over an ‘L’. In the opener at home my notes said they won their 20th straight with a good running game and defense. I noted the lack of passing, but I did not know at the time that the starting QB, Ben Snyder sophomore, was subbing for injured starter Bill Marsland senior. I noted in game two that the passing was more evident when Marsland was back at the helm. Featured this season was Rob Swett, 6’3”, 225 pound FB-LB. This was the first year for district playoffs and West (10-0) was home to host Coatesville (9-1). I was among about 7000 fans to take this one in. I noted that the clubs were mirror-image teams living on the run and good lines on both sides of the ball.
The Red Raiders perhaps had the edge in the speed department. I do not think they attempted one pass all game and led 12-6 at the half. West was forced to the air when their ground game was contained and knotted it 12-12 just into the fourth quarter.
But then the Raiders countered with a delayed handoff to Walt Washington, 5’9”, 170 pound speedster, who bolted 50 yards for the winning TD, 19-12 Coatesville. The Raiders amassed 319 rushing yards on West which I doubt was often accomplished. Still playing CB East on Thanksgiving at this time, the Bucks won narrowly 28-23; to finish 11-1. Rob Swett made first team All-state as a linebacker.
The 1993 Bucks were previewed as being a strong defensive club. The opener at Souderton seemed to verify this, a 26-0 shutout. West had two TDs called back on penalties this game, a beautiful long pass completion and a long punt return. The Bucks next went to Norristown where the Eagles beat the Bucks 17-6. I know nothing of what happened here, but it had to be considered an upset as the Eagles ended 6-4 on the season; give the Eagles credit for a big W. At the third game versus Neshaminy, won by the Bucks 27-7, I noted that QB Ben Snyder looked good and “was back”; possibly he was absent for Norristown and part of the reason for the loss? I also noted the Bucks appeared to be living on D this season for the fourth game at North Penn, won by the Bucks 14-0. The Norristown game was the only one of the Bucks first 10 regular season games that I did not see. After shutting out Bensalem 27-0 and Tennent 50-0, the Bucks went to Council Rock. This one was a classic. A sustained Rock opening drive led to a 7-0 Rock lead. West’s O was pretty much contained. But a second period fumble recovery gave the Bucks good field position and they then drove to a 7-7 halftime tie. The Council Rock initial second half drive was stopped and the Bucks then drove to take the lead 14-7 at the end of three. Early in the fourth, the West punter dropped the snap and Rock returned it for a 25-yard defensive score. A 2-pt PAT pass made it 15-14 Rock. Getting late in the game, an interception put CB West in business for a 71-yard, 13-play drive and 2-pt PAT to go up 22-15. But Rock came back with a 2:16 minute drive and a spectacular Wellen 39-yard pass to Cozza for a diving catch in the end zone to make it 22-21 with 2 minutes remaining. Rock would go for two to win. Wellen again put it into the air, and it was batted up at the goal line with both teams in position to catch the tip. I remember it as one of those movie moments when they go to slow motion to follow the ball down. A CB West defender grabbed it to preserve a 22-21 win. I did not go to Coatesville for the District One championship, but what must have been a great game ensued with West winning 32-21. A mud bath rainy eastern championship at Lehigh saw the Bucks just get by Easton 6-3. A second state championship appearance was thwarted by a nationally recognized North Hills club that scored late and converted a 2-pt PAT to beat the Bucks 15-14. The Indians put four players on the All-state squad: WR Ken Bollens and QB Eric Kasperowicz were first team; and defensive linemen Seamus Murphy, 6’5”, 250 (1st team), and Chris Barie, 6’3”, 240 (3rd team). CB West’s Todd Volitis, 6’3”, 240 was right alongside Murphy on 1st team defense, and Jason Gattuso was a CB West 3rd team all state choice at linebacker.
The 1994 Bucks were somewhat of a senior-laden club with 24 seniors on the 59-man roster. The new opener this season were the Chester Clippers, a team I hadn’t seen since the Neshaminy era in the 1960’s. Pre-season chatter had the offense as the strong suit this season. Ben Snyder, senior QB looked sharp in the opener with accurate passing. Drops by receivers kept the score down a bit. It was 22-0 Bucks in the fourth. The Bucks then went to a prevent defense and gave up a score, 22-7. With the subs in, the Clippers scooped up a fumble and returned it 67 yards to make it a 22-14 final, CB West. On a Saturday morning radio sports show the next day, Mike Pettine said his “offense sputtered” this game. Featured for the Bucks this term was running back Bill Lowe, 5’9”, 170 pounds, who had 11 touchdowns across the Bucks first four contests. The Bucks came into the expanded playoffs 10-0, for a home semi-final against Wissahickon. The Trojans also featured a running back named Lowe (Shawn). Both Lowe’s also played defense. Both showed their stuff. West’s Bill Lowe had one TD, and almost 200 yards rushing. The Trojan’s Shawn Lowe had two TDs and about 175 yards rushing. The game was tied at 7 and tied at 14 at the half. In the fourth the Bucks got the only other score to win 21-14 after having to quell another Trojan drive. I wrote in my notes that the other quarterfinal was Downingtown over Springfield (Delco) 56-13, and I would make the Whippets the favorites over West in Doylestown next Friday night. I am not always right; and in fact usually do not predict games because I have no confidence of being right. But I was right on this time. It was not only Aaron Harris and Bryn Boggs, two outstanding Whippet backs that ran behind a more than capable O line; but also a stingy defense that was not that much heralded before the game, that did West in. A long halfback pass to Harris, plus a counter to a back other than Harris or Boggs did the Bucks in; final Downingtown 14-7. I again made a note, “Downingtown looks capable of a state championship.” I was wrong; but they played for it and lost to McKeesport only 17-14. But they would win it in 1996. CB West outstanding lineman Mike Gimbol, 6’5”, 265 made first team All-state OL this season.
The first half of the 1990 decade saw the Bucks post a 56-5 record and appear in two state 4A championships and win one.
(a) All marked stats are courtesy of the fine Don Black high school football history publications or his fine website ePASports.com.
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