Throwback Thursday: The 1996 C B East Patriots
At that time coach Mike Pettine was in his third season at what then became Central Bucks West in Doylestown. Prior to 1969 the Doylestown school was Central Bucks High School. I did not start following either of these schools until 1988, and cannot pretend to know the earlier coaches, records, and politics involved.
But I can imagine that after a few years, and as Mike Pettine established the powerhouse that West became; there had to be a “shadow effect” of East playing in the background of West, at least in football. I heard at one time that students had a choice of schools to attend in the district, but I never knew if this actually existed or was pure chatter. If it did exist, each sport could attract athletes interested to either West or East for a particular sport. Perhaps a reader can comment and get this clarified.
Be this as it may, over at CB West Mike had opened in 1967 with an undefeated 9-0-1 season and then had a so-so 6-4 season in 1968; in 1969 when East opened, The Pettine Bucks went 5-5, a break even tour and the closest to a losing season Mike Pettine would ever have. Was that a result of the split and departure of talent? I do not know the answer, but we know the story of Mike Pettine after that.
After 10 consecutive losses to the Bucks, the CB East Patriots finally turned the tables on West and won the 1979 tilt 19-7. At least part of the reason was running back Joe Kozak who was All-state for East; and certainly Scott Stancavage (or Stankavage) QB and DB who was also All-state and went on to careers at North Carolina and a brief NFL stint with Denver and Miami.
In 1983 the Pats again edged the Bucks 7-6. All-state End Bob Tait might have been part of the reason, but the Bucks had an All-stater of their own, none other than Mike Pettine, Jr. who made first team as a D back.
The first year of the state championship playoffs in 1988, the Patriots tied the Bucks 14-14 on Thanksgiving at Del Val College. This tie cost the Bucks the first appearance of a local team in state playoffs. They were unbeaten for 54 consecutive games at that point, but at 10-0-1, Neshaminy went to the playoffs at 11-0.
Then the Patriots endured another string of losses to the Bucks’ until our year of 1996. By 1996 the Patriots were 2-25-1 against their sister school.
The late Larry Green had coached at Pennsbury 1992-1995, and was back at C B East for 1996. Our pre-season practice visit gang messed up the schedule this year and school was already in session when we hit the fields; so I did not make the usual pre-season visit notes. The Pats were coming off of a nice 7-3 campaign in 1995.
I made a solo trip for the season opener in Doylestown for Monsignor Bonner at CB East on Friday August 30, 1996. I had only seen the Friars once before, in 1976. CB East won the contest 35-7 and I noted in my notes that I thought they looked “special”; Ficzko, Moosbrugger, Mitchell, Scott, and QB Borstein all were mentioned. I now rue that I stopped buying programs and indeed got rid of many in later years due to having so many. I did not know I would someday be recounting these games for posterity.
The next week down at Harry S. Truman the Patriots manhandled the Tigers, 55-12 in a game I did not attend. I went to Doylestown for Pennsbury and CB West. I braved the downpours from hurricane Fran, but no other crew members wished to be out this night.
Thursday night September 12 the Falcons of Pennsbury came to Doylestown again, this time for C B East, and I was interested in that one. Although the Falcons were 0-2, their losses were to Parkland (13-2) and C B West (10-1) both of which I saw; so I expected maybe a close contest against East. I noted that East looked flat tonight and had 4 lost fumbles and the offense was inconsistent when not fumbling. But, the Patriots did score first and took a 7-0 lead. But then both defenses tightened and during the course of the game the Falcons converted three field goals to get and hold the lead 9-7 with about 3 and ½ minutes left in the game. At that point C B East had the ball and was faced with a fourth and nine situation. The Patriots came through and scored on a 27-yard pass TD; with PAT, final 14-9 Patriots. Maybe my “special” notation for game one was going to be accurate.
Council Rock (then still one school) still played Saturday afternoons in those days, and I opted for C B East’s invasion on September 21. My Hatfield buddy and his wife and I had caught Neshaminy at C B West the Friday night before (20th) and witnessed a 35-8 West victory. My buddy on Saturday traveled down from Hatfield to Rock, this time sans wife, for this contest. In one of those coincidences that I love to note, the exact same score of the night before 35-8, occurred; C B East winning. I only noted that “East’s massive line dominated both sides of the ball and their running attack looked brutal. East and West are drawing step by step to a November showdown.” They were even posting identical scores!
The next Friday I opted for Crawford Stadium and West-North Penn over The Patriots hosting of Abington. West won 27-0; and guess what the score of the East win over Abington was? Well,—– close 26-0. It was getting eerie.
I again followed CB West to Bensalem the next Friday night while East was scheduled to be away at Norristown Saturday night.
Both West and East won again (the East game was played Monday night); with a little break in the matching score department. West won 41-0 and East won 31-8. Both CB East and CB West now stood at 6-0.
Due to the schedules I was then able to see the last 5 C B East games, and after missing the next West game; the last 4 C B West games.
North Penn was C B East’s next game, originally scheduled for Friday 10/11, but played Saturday night 10/12. This might have been an accommodation for East playing the prior Monday night. I was solo this trip and only made a note that the Pats’ used five long runs (4 by Andy Ficzko) to handle the Knights 42-17.
After a Saturday night rainout, I soloed again to my first ever Sunday public school game on October 20th in Doylestown for Bensalem at C B East. The crowd was very slim and I noted it gave me some social time speaking with Tom Adams Sr. a Bensalem Hall-of-Famer, and Bensalem AD Bob Hart and coach Ron Buckley. I also spoke with East coaches Larry Green and Bill Heller and Larry promptly asked me, “Where’s —–?” (My Hatfield buddy). Coach Buckley told me that fully 15 Bensalem players did not make the Saturday night-Sunday switch, and star running back Alex Houston came late. I also spoke to CB West star running back Dave Armstrong in the stands. I made no game notes, and it was probably pretty pat; CB East 42-14.
My old Bensalem buddy, who didn’t make the Sunday contest but also followed Neshaminy as well, and I met in Doylestown the next Friday night for the Skins and C B East. The Patriots won 33-12 and were now rated high in the state class 4A state rankings (I noted 4th to 7th. There must have been more than one poll referenced).
The stage was now set for the CB East – CB West match between two teams sporting identical 9-0-0 records. Their respective averages coming in to the game were on offense – CB West 37.9 and CB East 34.8. Defensively it was CB West 6.7 and CB East 9.7. An anticipated crowd of perhaps 20,000 was hyped as the game drew attention for a battle of unbeatens, the league championship, intense rivalry, playoff position, homecoming, and state rankings. My Lambertville buddy was instrumental into talking me out of my thoughts about the futility of even trying to get in to this one. He and I went up to Doylestown at 4:30 in the afternoon to see what we could do. The traditional pre-game parade was just winding up and we parked about our normal spot, solving problem number one. A line had already formed at the ticket booths for SRO tickets and we became about 14th in line; not so bad. War Memorial Field definitely would not have held 20,000 per pre-game hype, and the usual, possibly 8,000 or greater crowd filled the stadium to capacity.
In the end it was the Bucks’ once again that won 21-3 in a very workmanlike effort, capitalizing on mistakes and battering the good East defense with Dave Armstrong.
Both East and West made the playoffs and due to a storm the next Friday night played a day-night doubleheader on Saturday November 8 in Doylestown.
The day game was the Downingtown Whippets at CB East. The Whippets had lost their opener to Allentown Central Catholic 42-25; their only setback. A physical see-saw battle ensued, a very good game. The margin of victory was two pick-sixes by Whippet’s stars Dan Ellis and Arlen Harris, leading to a 37-25 Downingtown victory, and ending one of the Patriots best seasons ever. Lineman Josh Mitchell, 6-5, 280 was first team All-state and went on to Penn State.
Only in 2005 when the Patriots posted a 10-2 season, was this 1996 year eclipsed, at least in record.
The Bucks were also beaten in the nightcap by Plymouth-Whitemarsh 21-16.
The third Central Bucks High School, Central Bucks South was opened in 2004. Word on the street was that this would hurt C B East the greatest in draining sports talent; and it appears that at least in football it has come to pass. The Patriots have had only two winning seasons in the last 10 that the CB South Titans have existed.
I can only imagine if there was only one Central Bucks High School. Based on PIAA 2014-15 football enrollment figures it would be 2538 and the largest high school in the state.
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