Sheldon, Schein, and Coyne Honored at PAC-10 Banquet
By Don Seeley
UPPER PROVIDENCE — Pottsgrove’s football team had a number of special honorees after recording an undefeated record in the Pioneer Athletic Conference this past fall.
The Falcons featured a number of all-league players on offense and defense as part of the 27th Annual All-Pioneer Athletic Conference Banquet by the Football Coaches Association Sunday afternoon at the RiverCrest Golf Club.
As it turns out, the Falcons also received another of the special awards that were presented.
Dan Harp received the prestigious David L. Freed Award for team sportsmanship.
“It is really an honor,” said Harp. “I was really shocked when I got it. Coach (Rick) Pennypacker pulled me aside a couple weeks ago and told me to be at this banquet because I was going to be getting this. I am really honored to get it.”
Harp played on the special teams for Pottsgrove. But he was honored for qualities such as dedication, continuous self-improvement, team success over individual statistics, self-discipline, coachability, loyalty to coaches and teammates and unquestioning faith.
The Freed Award is presented in memory of a former Spring-Ford lineman who died from injuries suffered in a practice machine incident back in 1975. Spring-Ford athletic director Mickey McDaniel talked about Freed before Pottsgrove athletic director Gary DeRenzo spoke about Harp’s resume.
“He put team goals ahead of individual goals in everything he did for us,” said Pennypacker. “He is a hard worker and has all the qualities of David Freed.”
“Mostly I was a team player and we played as a team,” said Harp. “I was shocked. I just go out and practice when I need to and try to get better every day.”
Harp is also a top student in the classroom and remains active at his church, New Hanover United Methodist in Gilbertsville. He also takes part on missions to assist underprivileged people in areas such as West Virginia, Long Beach Island in New Jersey and this summer he is headed for Rhode Island. He attended the Harvey Cedars Bible College Conference this past weekend.
Harp plans to attend Millersville University to study meteorology and mathematics and will continue to do youth work on the side. At Pottsgrove, Harp takes several Advanced Placement courses such as chemistry, calculus and physics.
“I like the challenge,” he said. “I don’t like to take the easy way out.”
Harp lined up as a wide receiver and linebacker at times during his career with the Falcons. But mostly he spent time on all four kick return teams to start the 2012 season and by the end he was a member of the punt return and kick return teams only.
“He never complained, never sulked and never once did he question his coaches for their decisions,” read DeRenzo on behalf of Pennypacker. “In fact, he did just the opposite. He was always positive, jumped on to every scout team, either offense or defense. He was the last senior on the field every night after practice putting away the bags and shiels into the field shed.”
Pottsgrove had its cast of stars this year with quarterback Tory Hudgins, running back Mark Dukes and lineman Madison O’Connor.
“But if you would ask any one of our assistant coaches, Dan Harp is as valuable to our team as any starter,” DeRenzo continued.
Other special award recipients were: Joseph Edwards Scholarship, Spring-Ford’s R.J. Sheldon; Bill Rogers Lineman of the Year, Pottsgrove’s Madison O’Connor; Offensive Player of the Year, Spring-Ford quarterback Hank Coyne; Defensive Player of the Year, Phoenixville linebacker Ryan Pannella; Two-Way Player of the Year, Perkiomen Valley quarterback/defensive back Rasaan Stewart; and Most Valuable Player, Pottsgrove quarterback Tory Hudgins.
Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker talked about Sheldon, who doubled as a defensive end and tight end for the Rams, who advanced to the District 1-AAAA finals before falling to eventual state runner-up Coatesville. Sheldon is also a three-sport student athlete in football, swimming and baseball. He has been a District 1 swimming qualifier for three years. He ranks 67th in a senior class of 572 students at Spring-Ford this year and also scored 1,240 on his SAT.
Sheldon plans to study engineering in college. He also serves as a volunteer in swimming, football and baseball, was a Limerick mentor and was also voted Homecoming King by his classmates.
Rogers, who is fighting cancer, has been coaching football for 55 years at various schools in the area. Before that, he was a standout lineman for the old Royersford High School under the legendary Robert “Coach” McNelly before advancing to play at Ursinus College.
Rogers served as a head coach for 16 years and an assistant for 39 at Pottstown and the former St. Pius X and was an assistant at Daniel Boone, Valley Forge and Exeter.
“For the last four years, he has coached our quarterbacks,” said Pottstown coach Brett Myers. “He loved the game and kids.”
Rogers was represented by his wife, Norma Jean, and four children, Drew, Doug, Dean and Allison.
Boyertown, Matthew Moccia; Methacton, Chris He; Owen J. Roberts, Paul Perreault; Perkiomen Valley, Robert Thacker; Phoenixville, Brian Hyland; Pope John Paul II, Chris DiLeva; Pottsgrove, Zach Birch; Pottstown, Andrew Gazzillo; Spring-Ford, Benjamin Schein; and Upper Perkiomen, Quinn Perlstein.
Wagner’s Ciocci recognized for Good Works
By Don Seeley
NEW ORLEANS — Steve Ciocci sure made an impact paving the way for Wagner College’s run game the past three seasons.
Though the Seahawks’ mainstay at right tackle, the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Spring-Ford graduate filled in at center and guard this past season, and at all three positions throughout his career at Wagner. He helped open holes for teammate Dominique Williams to become just the third back in the program’s history to amass consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and helped give quarterback Nick Doscher enough time to become the program’s all-time leading passer.
Ciocci, who started every one of his final 25 games and 35 of the 43 he appeared in at Wagner, was a big part of this past season’s drive to the school’s first Northeast Conference title. The Seahawks also appeared in the Football Championship Series playoffs and opened with a win over Colgate before falling to Eastern Washington and finishing 9-4 overall.
And even though Ciocci was named to the All-NEC first team as an offensive lineman and played in last month’s third annual FCS Senior Scout Bowl in Myrtle Beach, S.C., his greatest honor — on or off the football field — was being selected to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team and working with youngsters over the past week as part of the 79th annual Sugar Bowl festivities.
Ciocci was one of only 22 players from school’s across the country to be named to the Good Works Team. One of college football’s premier service honors, the Good Works Team endeavors to shine a spotlight on the positive, off-the-field impact a select group of student-athletes have on their communities.
“As fans of college football, Allstate takes great pride in partnering with the AFCA to recognize these dedicated student-athletes for their accomplishments off the field,” said Kathy Mabe, president of Allstate’s West regions and a member of the 2012 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team voting panel. “These players have demonstrated the unique ability to balance academics with athletics while donating their limited free time and energy to serve others. And we at Allstate commend them for their commitment to volunteerism.”
The Allstate AFCA Good Works Teams were established in 1992 by the College Football Association, recognizing the extra efforts made by college football players and student support staff off the field. AFCA became the governing body of the award in 1997 and continues to honor college football players who go the extra mile for those in need. Allstate partnered to present the award starting with the 2008 season.
Ciocci and the other 21 players brought their passion for volunteerism to the Crescent City to teach children from the YMCA of Greater New Orleans the fundamentals of football.
Three other Pennsylvania natives — including Ursinus senior wideout Tony Rosa (Philadelphia) – were part of the Good Works Team. Also working with Ciocci and Rosa were Temple punter Brandon McManus (Hatfield), and Franklin & Marshall offensive lineman Chad Tothero (Ephrata).
Each year, the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team raises the bar for the impact that student-athletes can have on their local communities. And, as AFCA Executive Director Grant Teaff explained, this year’s roster is no exception. From creating mentorship programs for at-risk youth to building homes and health clinics overseas, the 22 young men have dedicated themselves to bettering the lives of others through countless acts of service.
“The AFCA, its Board of Trustees and members are honored to partner with Allstate in announcing another great class of student-athletes for the 2012 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team,” Teaff said “These 22 student-athletes stand out from hundreds of other college football players who volunteer their time each week to make an impact on their teams and in their community.”
Ciocci, who celebrated his 23rd birthday just over a week ago, has actually been as busy off the football field as he has been on it since transferring from Temple to Wagner following a red-shirt freshman season.
He earned his undergraduate degree from Wagner in May of 2011, finishing with a 3.5 grade-point average in business administration. He was named to the All-NEC Academic Honor Roll twice, and is currently pursing his master’s degree.
But neither Ciocci’s admirable work in the classroom or on the football field managed to overshadow his efforts on the Wagner campus and in the Staten Island community, where he led and participated in a number of charitable initiatives. In April of 2011, he was one of an elite group of six people to receive an award at Wagner’s Civic Engagement Recognition Day Ceremony, which recognizes and honors exceptional individuals, departments and community partners who exemplify a sense of caring and responsibility for others that connects citizens and works to address community problems.
Throughout his career at Wagner, Ciocci has devoted himself to raising the profile of numerous local and national organizations within the campus and local community. He mobilized a host of students to participate in such events as Relay for Life and Operation Christmas Child, and he often visited children in the Pediatrics Ward at Staten Island University Hospital and helped find donors for the National Marrow Donor Program.
Ciocci and the entire Allstate AFCA Good Works Team sat in on Wednesday night’s Sugar Bowl, which featured Florida from the Southeast Conference and Louisville from the Big East Conference in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
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Music City Bowl: Vanderbilt senior defensive tackle Rob Lohr (Phoenixville) and the Commodores closed out their most successful season in over 90 years with a 38-24 win over North Carolina State in last weekend’s Music City Bowl. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Lohr had two tackles for Vandy, which limited the Wolfpack to just 47 yards rushing. Lohr — the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 — started the final 38 games of his career. He closed his final season with 30 tackles, including 11 for losses and two sacks, with two quarterback-hurries and three pass break-ups in helping Vanderbilt to its best season since going 9-1 in 1915.
Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia featured Terrell Chestnut (Pottsgrove) as its starting free safety during a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in last weekend’s Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Chestnut and the Mountaineers’ secondary limited Syracuse to just 142 yards passing, but the Orange ran for 369 yards in the win. West Virginia was ranked in the Top 25 when the season kicked off, but finished a disappointing 7-6.
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Widener placekicker Ryan O’Hara (Spring-Ford) and defensive end Zach Chatman (Upper Perkiomen) are both expected to contend for starting positions with the Pride next season. Both were on the sidelines last month when Widener was whipped by No. 1 ranked and eventual Division III national champion Mt. Union, 72-17, during their quarterfinal game in Alliance, Ohio. The Pride, who finished 11-1, are in search of a new head coach since Isaac Collins’s recent departure to take over the program at Division II Seton Hill in western Pennsylvania
Seven Spring-Ford players named to PFN all-state teams
By Don Seeley
Spring-Ford’s run to last month’s District 1 final certainly caught the attention of the football community throughout the Philadelphia region and around the state.
Or so it seems after reviewing Pennsylvania Football News’ All-State selections, released late Tuesday.
Led by R.J. Sheldon – named to the third team defense — Spring-Ford accounted for all seven of the area’s selections on the website’s Class AAAA teams. The only other area players recognized were Phoenixville’s Ryan Pannella and Pottstown’s Richy Masciarelli, who received honorable mention in Class AAA.
Sheldon, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior, was named as a defensive lineman. Teammates Tate Carter, Hank Coyne, Jarred Jones, Zameer McDowell, Mason Romano and Robby Varner all received honorable mention honors.
More than 1,000 nominations for the all-state teams were received from coaches and selected media. PFN staff’s own observations of game, as well as MaxPreps and PFN statistics and college recruiter evaluations were used in selecting the first and second teams as well as honorable mentions for each of the four enrollment classifications.
According to Spring-Ford statistics, Sheldon was credited with 41 tackles, including a team-high seven sacks, as one of the Rams’ defensive ends. He had 11 quarterback hurries, caused three fumbles and recovered three.
Sheldon also started at tight end. He was an integral part of the blocking schemes for the Rams’ running game, and caught 23 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns.
McDowell, who started at the other defensive end spot for Spring-Ford, along with tackles Romano and Varner, received honorable mention defense. Carter was selected as an athlete, while both Coyne and Jones received honorable mention offense as a quarterback and running back, respectively.
Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker, who guided the Rams to their first postseason win — three overall before the loss to Coatesville in the district final – and a school-record 12-3 mark, loses Sheldon, McDowell and Coyne to graduation. Romano, Varner, Carter and Jones will be seniors next season.
PFN All-State Team
RJ Sheldon - 3rd Team DE
Tate Carter - Athlete
Zameer McDowell - DE
Mason Romano - DT
Robby Varner - DT
Hank Coyne - QB
Jarred Jones - RB
Pottstown Mercury's All-Area Football First-Team Capsules
Jeff Adams, Pottsgrove
Linebacker … 6-2, 190 … Junior … Credited with 98 tackles and 2.5 sacks … Unsung contributor to the area’s No. 1 ranked overall defense against the run – his team finished first against the run and third against the pass … Also played tight end in helping his team to the PAC-10 championship … All PAC-10 selection.
Zach Birch, Pottsgrove
Center/Defensive Tackle … 5-10, 210 … Senior … One of anchors of offensive line that helped team average an area-best 315 yards rushing en route to the PAC-10 championship … Credited with 62 tackles and 4.5 sacks … Recovered two fumbles … All PAC-10 selection.
Mark Bonomo, Perkiomen Valley
Running Back … 5-7, 166 … Junior … Carried 133 times for 1,040 yards and eight touchdowns … Caught 24 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns … Big part of area’s No. 1 offense that averaged 420 yards a game … Also helped on defense with six tackles and one fumble recovery … All PAC-10 selection.
Mark Dukes, Pottsgrove
Running Back … 5-11, 190 … Senior … Carried 167 times for an area-high 1,347 yards – an area-high 8.1 yards per attempt – and 22 touchdowns … Also caught four passes for 48 yards in helping his team to the PAC-10 championship … Area’s second-leading scorer with 142 points overall … All PAC-10 selection.
Clay Domine, Perkiomen Valley
Wide Receiver … 6-3, 191 … Junior … Caught 55 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns … Led area in receptions and yardage … One of only two players to catch at least two passes in every game this season … All PAC-10 selection.
Michael Fowler, Pottsgrove
Defensive Back … 5-10, 165 … Junior …Credited with 46 tackles and one sack … Defended two passes … Five interceptions … Also caught a team-high 14 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns in helping his team to the PAC-10 championship … All PAC-10 selection.
Bobby Gallus, Perkiomen Valley
Offensive Guard … 5-9, 185 … Senior … One of offensive line leaders in helping the area’s No. 1 ranked offense produce 420 yards a game … Also helped part-time on defense and contributed six tackles and two fumble recoveries … All PAC-10 selection.
Ian Harrigan, Phoenixville
Punter … 5-11, 170 … Senior … Averaged an area-high 35.5 yards on 33 punts … Had a long of 60 yards … Also handled the placekicking chores, converting 39 point-afters and three field goals for an area-high 41 kick-scoring points … All PAC-10 selection. … The Mercury’s 2012 Special Teams Player of the Year.
Jose Holland, Methacton
Placekicker … 5-7, 175 … Senior … Converted 32 of 35 point-afters and an area-high five field goals … Finished second in the area in kick-scoring with 40 points … Very strong and accurate leg with potential to convert up to 45 yards … Also averaged just over 32 yards as team’s punter … All PAC-10 selection.
Tory Hudgins, Pottsgrove
Athlete … 6-0, 175 … Senior … As his team’s quarterback, ran 160 times for 1,267 yards and 23 touchdowns, and completed 32 of 64 passes for 700 yards and five more touchdowns … Finished second in the area in rushing and third in scoring (141 points overall) in helping his team to the PAC-10 championship … All PAC-10 selection … The Mercury’s 2012 Offensive Player of the Year.
Brian Hyland, Phoenixville
Guard … 6-2, 235 … Senior … Anchor on offensive line that helped his team average over 240 yards running the football and 338 yards overall … Helped his team to the District 1-Class AA playoffs for the second straight season … All PAC-10 selection.
Yousef Lundi, Spring-Ford
Fullback … 6-0, 200 … Senior … Carried 149 times for 1,057 yards and 17 touchdowns as his team’s fullback as well as feature back due to a teammate’s injury … Also caught nine passes for 61 yards and a touchdown … Scored at least one touchdown in all but two of 14 games played … All PAC-10 selection.
Riley Michaels, Pottsgrove
Linebacker … 5-8, 155 … Junior … Credited with 84 tackles and two sacks … Intercepted one pass, recovered one fumble in helping his team to the PAC-10 championship … Also ran 15 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns … All PAC-10 selection.
Zameer McDowell, Spring-Ford
Defensive End …6-5, 220 … Senior … Credited with 71 tackles and seven sacks … Also had 13 quarterback-hurries … Broke up eight passes … Intercepted one pass, recovered one fumble … Blocked three kicks … Also caught 17 passes for 280 yards and five touchdowns … All PAC-10 selection. … The Mercury’s 2012 Defensive Player of the Year.
Dayon Mohler, Pottstown
Defensive Back … 5-11, 160 … Junior … Credited with 46 tackles and 15 assists … Led area in interceptions with six, returning one for a touchdown … Forced one fumble, recovered one … Also ran for 344 yards and three touchdowns and caught 22 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns … All PAC-10 selection.
Jeff Morrow, Perkiomen Valley
Offensive Tackle … 6-5, 239 … Senior … One of offensive line leaders in helping the area’s No. 1 ranked offense produce 420 yards a game, and was key in pass protection for team that just missed a berth in the district playoffs … All PAC-10 selection.
Madison O’Connor, Pottsgrove
Offensive Tackle … 6-7, 332 … Senior … One of anchors of offensive line that helped team average an area-best 315 yards rushing en route to the PAC-10 championship … All PAC-10 selection.
Ryan Pannella, Phoenixville
Tight End/Linebacker … 6-0, 180 … Senior … Caught 23 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns … Also ran for one touchdown … Credited with 115 tackles (181 overall) and two quarterback sacks … Recipient of the Norristown Chapter of the PIAA Officials Association’s Sportsmanship Award … All PAC-10 selection … The Mercury’s Two-Way Player of the Year.
Martise Ray, Perkiomen Valley
Defensive Back … 5-8, 177 … Senior … Credited with 88 tackles … Broke up five passes … Intercepted two passes, forced two fumbles and recovered two … Ran for two touchdowns and caught six passes for 63 yards and a touchdown … All PAC-10 selection.
Seth Regensburg, Hill School
Wide Receiver … 6-1, 255 … Senior … Caught 27 passes for 427 yards and seven touchdowns despite double-coverage nearly every play … Also handled punting and placekicking duties for his team, averaging just under 32 yards a punt and converting eight point-afters and two field goals … All Mid-Atlantic Prep League selection.
Mason Romano, Spring-Ford
Defensive Tackle … 6-0, 210 … Junior … Credited with 67 tackles and six sacks … Broke up three passes … Intercepted one pass, forced five fumbles and recovered three … Blocked one kick … Defensive key in team’s run to the District 1-Class AAAA final and school-record 13 wins … All PAC-10 selection.
R.J. Sheldon, Spring-Ford
Defensive End … 6-3, 200 … Senior … Credited with 51 tackles and one sack … Also had 11 quarterback-hurries … Broke up one pass … Forced three fumbles and recovered three … Also caught 23 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, and was his team’s punter … All PAC-10 selection.
Rasaan Stewart, Perkiomen Valley
Quarterback/Defensive Back … 6-1, 176 … Junior … Led team with 163 carries for 1,210 yards and 21 touchdowns … Completed 134 of 220 passes – an area-best 61 percent – for 1,636 yards and 12 touchdowns … Credited with 97 tackles … Broke up eight passes … Intercepted one pass, forced one fumble … All PAC-10 selection … The Mercury’s 2012 Player of the Year.
Robby Varner, Spring-Ford
Defensive Tackle … 6-1, 220 … Junior … Credited with 60 tackles and two sacks … Two fumble recoveries … Blocked three kicks … Defensive key in team’s run to the District 1-Class AAAA final and school-record 13 wins … All PAC-10 selection.
Chris Veisbergs, Pope John Paul II
Wide Receiver … 6-0, 180 … Senior … Caught 36 passes for 633 yards and seven touchdowns … Finished third in the area for both receptions and yards … Also ran 49 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns … Led team in scoring … All PAC-10 selection.
Ryan Yenchick, Phoenixville
Linebacker … 5-9, 175 … Senior … Credited with 79 tackles and one sack … Two interceptions and one fumble recovery … Also led his team in rushing with 179 carries for 1,113 yards and 19 touchdowns, and caught 22 passes for 306 yards and three touchdowns … All PAC-10 selection.
CO-COACHES OF THE YEAR
Chad Brubaker, Spring-Ford
Guided Rams to their second straight District 1-Class AAAA appearance and the program’s first postseason win. The Rams won three in a row to reach the district final, where they fell to eventual state runner-up Coatesville … Finished 12-3 overall – a single-season school record for wins.
Rick Pennypacker, Pottsgrove
Guided Falcons to 10 straight regular-season wins – including nine in a row over PAC-10 opponents for the program’s record eighth league title – before falling in the District 1-Class AAA semifinals … Qualified for postseason for seventh straight year … Finished 11-1, the sixth consecutive season with 10 or more wins.
Pottstown Mercury's All-Area Football Teams
Wide receivers:: Clay Domine, Perkiomen Valley; Seth Regensburg, Hill School; Chris Veisbergs, Pope John Paul II
Tight end: Ryan Pannella, Px
Tackles: Jeff Morrow, Perkiomen Valley; Madison O’Connor, Pottsgrove
Guards: Brian Hyland, Phoenixville; Bobby Gallus, Perkiomen Valley
Center: Zach Birch, Pottsgrove
Quarterback: Rasaan Stewart, Perkiomen Valley
Fullback: Yousef Lundi, Spring-Ford
Running backs: Mark Dukes, Pottsgrove; Mark Bonomo, Perkiomen Valley
Running backs: Aiden Schaffer, Upper Perkiomen, Wyatt Scott, Owen J. Roberts; Ryan Yenchick, Phoenixville.
Placekicker: Ian Harrigan, Phoenixville
Athlete: Brandon Bossard, Methacton
Ends: Patrick Finn, Pottsgrove; Gray Garber, Boyertown; Ja’Ren Hampton, Perkiomen School
Tackles: Rhett Glaser, Daniel Boone; Tony Pachella, Perkiomen Valley; Anthony Pond, Pottsgrove
Linebackers: Nick Brennan, Pottsgrove; Damar Fletcher, Perkiomen Valley; Kyle Hoffner, Spring-Ford; Sene Polamalu, Pottsgrove
Backs: Jalen Mayes, Pottsgrove; Ben Schein, Spring-Ford; Justin Siejk, Boyertown; John Williams, Perkiomen School
Punter: Jose Holland, Methacton
Wide Receivers: Cooper Given, Methacton; Gary Hopkins, Spring-Ford; Austin Monteiro, Daniel Boone; Jamel Stinson, Pope John Paul II.
Tight ends: Ja’Ren Hampton, Perkiomen School; Ryan Harris, Upper Perkiomen; James Thomas, Owen J. Roberts
Tackles: Chris He, Methacton; Patrick Finn, Pottsgrove; Chase Watters, Pottstown
Guards: Olivier Joseph, Perkiomen School; David Pettine, Boyertown
Center: Nick McMenamin, Boyertown; Jeremy Reid, Methacton; Brad Trego, Owen J. Roberts
Quarterback: Chris Demey, Phoenixville; Jarred Pinelli, Owen J. Roberts; J.D. Okuniewski, Daniel Boone
Fullbacks: Monroe Hampton, Pottstown; Cody Richmond, Boyertown
Running backs: John Garrett, Perkiomen School; Denzel Harvey, Pottstown; Xaview Smith, Daniel Boone
Placekickers: David Gulati, Spring-Ford; Jonathan Klinger, Pottsgrove
Athletes: Tate Carter, Spring-Ford; Dakota Clanagan, Perkiomen Valley
Ends: Zack Gallow, Phoenixville; Chris He, Methacton
Tackles: Brian Hyland, Phoenixville; Austin Jacobs, Boyertown; Chase Watters, Pottstown
Linebackers: Derek Fosbenner, Perkiomen School; Dan Heinrichs, Upper Perkiomen; Danny Light, Perkiomen Valley; Kyle Myers, Daniel Boone; Jeremy Reid, Methacton; Mike Reiner, Perkiomen Valley; Justin Smith, Pope John Paul II; James Thomas, Owen J. Roberts; Nico Williams, Methacton
Backs: Johnnie Bildstein, Pope John Paul II; Kyle Lowery, Methacton; Cole Luzins, Phoenixville; Austin Monteiro, Daniel Boone; Kyle Shronk, Owen J. Roberts; Isiah Smith, Perkiomen School; Xavier Smith, Daniel Boone
Punters: Andy Ricci, Daniel Boone; Cody Richmond, Boyertown
All PAC-10 football teams
Wide Receiver: Clay Domine, Perkiomen Valley; Chris Veisbergs, Pope John Paul II.
Tight End: Ryan Pannella, Phoenixville
Line: Zach Birch, Pottsgrove; Michael Gilmore, Spring-Ford; Jeff Morrow, Perkiomen Valley; Madison O’Connor, Pottsgrove; Montana O’Daniell, Spring-Ford.
Rick O'Brien: Never too early to pick a top 10 for 2013 football
9. Spring-Ford (12-3). The Rams made waves this season, winning their first playoff game and advancing to the Class AAAA district final.
Expected returnees are quick tailback Jarred Jones, handyman Tate Carter, wideout Gary Hopkins, tackle Mason Romano, tackle-linebacker Robby Varner, and linebacker Andy Lovre-Smith.
The Gridiron Sponsored by Maxout
Eight PAC-10 players honored by Tall Cedars
By Barry Sankey
ROYERSFORD — Eight Pioneer Athletic Conference football players and their coaches were honored during the 72nd annual Football Night held by the Spring City Forest of Tall Cedars of Lebanon No. 34 Wednesday evening at the Masonic Lodge here.
Muhlenberg College head football coach Mike Donnelly served as guest speaker. Bob Mull once again chaired the event for the Tall Cedars.
Spring-Ford was recognized for advancing to the District 1-AAAA playoff finals before falling to a Coatesville squad that will be facing North Allegheny for the state championship at Hersheypark Stadium this Saturday night at 6 p.m. Pottsgrove and Phoenixville were cited for reaching the District 1-AAA playoffs.
Honored senior players included Nick McMenamin, Boyertown; Matt Raymond, Owen J. Roberts; Robbie Thacker, Perkiomen Valley; Sean Hesser, Phoenixville; Justice Smith, Pope John Paul II; Tory Hudgins, Pottsgrove; Chase Waters, Pottstown; and Zameer McDowell, Spring-Ford.
Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker spoke about McDowell, a star 6-5, 220-pound defensive end/tight end who has quickly adjusted to early season success in basketball as well.
“Zameer had an amazingly successful senior season and he was a big reason we had the success we did,” said Brubaker.
Brubaker feels McDowell has a bright future ahead in either basketball or football. McDowell has already met the Wall of Fame criteria at Spring-Ford after only starting half the games last season. He has been nominated for the Spring-Ford Wall of Fame but will have to wait until five years after graduation in order to be officially inducted.
Owen J. Roberts head coach Tom Barr brought with him Raymond, a star wide receiver/defensive back who also saw time on special teams.
Traditionally, the Wildcats have been a powerhouse running team. However, this season the Wildcats passed for more than 1,600 yards, according to Barr, and much of that success was due to Raymond’s ability to run patters and catch the football.
“It was mostly due to Matt and his dedication during the offseason to prepare the team to get ready,” said Barr. “He was the force that allowed us to be competitive in our passing game this year.”
Raymond made 31 receptions for 722 yards for an average of 23.3 yards per catch. He finished second in the league in receiving yardage, first in touchdowns and second in yards per catch. He achieved all this despite missing the final four games with a fractured leg and came to the banquet with crutches.
“He really came along from his sophomore and junior years,” said Barr. “He is an outstanding player and an outstanding student.”
Raymond has attained all “A’s” in Advanced Placement (AP) statistics, calculus and business as well as Honors English courses at Owen J. Roberts.
Raymond’s best performance for the Wildcats featured a contest in which he made four receptions for 179 yards and four touchdowns.
Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker, a 25-year veteran with the Falcons, talked about Hudgins.
Pennypacker said Hudgins originally wanted to focus on boys lacrosse as a sophomore because he felt he was too thin to play football, where he would be susceptible to injuries. He backed up Terrell Chestnut that year, and in one outing against Owen J. Roberts, Chestnut was injured so Hudgins got the nod. On the second play, Hudgins also went down with a shoulder injury.
“Two years later as a senior he set records and became one of the most prolificj players we have ever had at Pottsgrove,” said Pennypacker. “He is also a great kid and a great student. He is a tremendous young man and is respected throughout the school.”
He also did community service work that included feeding the homeless and cleaning up as well as coaching a Little League football team.
Hudgins has earned a football scholarship to attend Bucknell University, where he plans to study for a career as a physician’s assistant. Pennypacker’s son, Ross, is an assistant coach at Bucknell.
Perkiomen Valley assistant coach Tim Connolly spoke about Thacker, a starting right guard on offense who doubled along the defensive line.
“I can’t say enough about Robbie,” said Connolly. “He was undersized and went against some of the biggest kids in the league and gave it everything he had. He gave consistent effort and had a motor that kept going. He worked in the weight room and was a leader by example. He came to camp in shape and was able to outrun defensive backs, running backs and quarterbacks because he put in the time. He played with heart and wanted to play even when he was hurt. That was his character. He did not want to disappoint his teammates and coaches.”
Despite the shoulder injury, Thacker was consistently around the ball making plays. On offense, his pulling ability at guard helped the Vikings feature a potent rushing attack this fall.
Phoenixville head coach Bill Furlong was accompanied by Hesser, an undersized Phantom who played all over the gridiron. His positions included nose guard last year and cornerback, halfback and tailback this year.
“The reason I brought Sean is that he epitomizes everything we wish to be at Phoenixville,” said Furlong. “He is undersized, but he does everything.”
As a ninth grader, Hesser did not play much for a team that finished unbeaten.
“But Sean stuck it out and he is definitely one of the most coachable kids we have ever had,” said Furlong.”He just loves the game and he understands the game. He hardly came off the field.”
Hesser became the Phantoms’ leader in yards per carry. Hesser also excels in the classroom, where he carries a 3.6 grade point average.
Pope John Paul II head coach Mike Santillo was joined by Smith, a star linebacker on defense.
“He didn’t play offense, but he gave our offense fits as a two-year Scout Team Player of the Year,” said Santillo. “He wiped out our running backs and wide receivers. He served as a team captain and led the team in tackles.”
Smith, the son of Upper Merion head coach Hal Smith, is also a straight “A” student who takes Honors and AP classes. The three-year starter has his eye on Ivy League, Centennial Conference or possibly Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) colleges for playing at the next level.
Pottstown head coach Brett Myers spoke on Waters, who became a starting lineman on both sides of the football.
Waters came out for defensive tackle as a junior, but the Pottstown coaches were unsure as to whether he could handle the position. Waters was part of the rotation and then showed he could definitely shine as a starter during a week of practice in the gym due to rain. He punished teammates on the wooden floor to draw notice. The work paid off that weekend as Pottstown won its game with the interior line stopping a pivotal fourth-and-one play with Waters keying the defensive stand.
“As a senior he started both ways,” said Myers. “We didn’t know if he could do it, but by the end of the year he made all-league on both sides of the ball. He overcame every obstacle and is a special kid.”
A “B” student, Waters plans to study at a trade school and play football.
Boyertown head coach Mark Scisly brought McMenamin.
“His dad is in charge of our whole youth program,” said Scisly.
McMenamin has a perfect 4.0 GPA and is also an outstanding football player as a center.
“He was our most consistent lineman the last two years,” said Scisly. “He knew where everybody was on offense. He blocked for three different running backs who had 1,000 yards in two years. What sets him apart is he is a great leader. This year was not our best in terms of wins and losses, but he was positive and I could depend on Nick.”
McMenamin plans on playing football in college at the Division III level.
The Tall Cedars presented gifts to the players.
Hank Coyne - Mini-Maxwell Award Winner
Annamarie's Band Member of the Week
Oehlert Brothers Player of the Week - Hank Coyne
Annamarie's Band Member of the Week - Jake Bailey
Officials honor four of PAC-10’s finest
By Don Seeley
NORRISTOWN — Football officials aren’t any different than any of the other men and women dressed in those black-and-white striped shirts with whistle in hand, or those men and women in blue. Whatever the sport, they get screamed at, booed and hissed … even if they make all the right calls, even if they call the perfect game.
But what few of those frenzied fans who do all the howling realize is how good the members of the Norristown Chapter of the Pennsylvania Football Officials Association really are before they wash, fold and put away their attire for the winter.
Last week, for the umpteenth time, they held their annual banquet down at the Holy Savior’s Club in Norristown. And while it just may be a social of sorts before they take a seat for dinner, it’s all about remembering others who motivate them, who help make their often unappreciated jobs that much easier each season … about recognizing outstanding individuals in and around the game of football.
This year they honored Phoenixville’s Ryan Pannella, Spring-Ford’s Sydney McGill, Upper Perkiomen’s Dylan Wesley — all accompanied by their parents — and Spring-Ford athletic director Mickey McDaniel.
Pannella, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Steve Pannella, was presented the Sportsmanship Award — presented to the player who stood out among his peers by demonstrating the highest ideals of sportsmanship on the field with his leadership, clean play, language, support of teammates and positive actions toward opponents.
“He was fully into the spirit of the game,” presenter Tom Drakeford said of Pannella, who was in on over 100 tackles in helping the Phantoms qualify for the District 1-Class AAA playoffs for the second straight season.
Pannella, named a Mini Max winner by the Maxwell Football Club last week, carries a 3.7 grade-point average in the classroom. He was joined at the festivities by head coach Bill Furlong.
McGill, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jeff McGill, was presented the Walter Gould Award — presented to an individual who works unselfishly, and without compensation, to assist their school or local youth league. McGill, who has been the Rams’ “ball girl” for three seasons, drew a round of applause from the officials when accepting her award.
“You never had to worry about her being there when we needed to put another ball in play,” Drakeford said of McGill, who carries a 96 grade-point average. “We never had to look for her because she was always at the right spot at the right time, and she was such a pleasure to work with.”
“We’ve called Sydney our director of football operations at Spring-Ford,” said head coach Chad Brubaker, who along with assistant Steve Schein sat with the McGill family. “Mondays through Thursdays she makes sure everything is ready for us when we arrive for practice and makes sure everything is cleaned up and put away when we were finished. And on Friday nights, she’s just awesome.”
Wesley, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Dale Wesley, was presented the Art Andrey Scholarship Award – $1,000 to assist an individual with his/her financial obligations in attending college.
Joined at the festivities by head coach Steve Moyer, Wesley was a two-year starter at quarterback for the Indians. He threw for more than 1,000 yards in each season and, as both Moyer and Drakeford noted, is an outstanding leader both on the field and in the classroom.
McDaniel, accompanied by his wife Becky, was presented the Silver Whistle Award — given to the school for its handling of game-day functions, ranging from the treatment of officials to the behavior of its players, coaches and fans.
“Mickey and his staff make every Friday night an enjoyable experience for us,” Drakeford said.
Spring-Ford has been presented the Silver Whistle Award 10 times since 2000 and 12 times overall.
The officials also dedicated their program to the late Robert “Bob” Hogga, who touched and impacted countless young athletes in the Phoenixville community for well over 20 years before he passed away last July. … Treasurer Ricky Falcone also noted the annual Nick Pergine Football Clinic – the longest running clinic for high school football officials in the Mid-Atlantic Region – will be held May 17-19 at Wildwood Crest, N.J. More information on the clinic is available at www.nickperginefootballclinic.com
Coyne, Spring-Ford seniors leave legacy
By Darryl Grumbling
DOWNINGTOWN — Friday’s District 1-Class AAAA championship may have been hopelessly out of reach, with Spring-Ford trailing juggernaut Coatesville by 38 points in the fourth quarter.
The clock may have been running out on the Rams’ superb season.
Yet there was Spring-Ford quarterback Hank Coyne, still guiding his squad with guts and guile one last time at Downingtown West’s Kottmeyer Stadium.
A four-yard toss to Zameer McDowell to start it off. And later, back-to-back runs of 7 and 15 yards to set up a three-yard Yousef Lundi TD run with 3:48 left.
No, that final drive and resulting score didn’t have a whole lot of impact in what wound up a 59-28 victory by a dynamite Red Raiders squad.
But it did provide perhaps an appropriate final chapter in what will go down as one of the top signal-calling careers in Spring-Ford — and Pioneer Athletic Conference — history.
Though he was thoroughly outgunned by Coatesville counterpart Emmett Hunt, Coyne battled the entire time he was on the field. To the bitter end.
Rams coach Chad Brubaker wouldn’t expect anything less from Coyne, or for that matter his entire contingent of seniors.
Coyne wound up completing 14 of 28 passes for 143 yards while throwing two touchdowns and one interception. Along the way, he became The Mercury area’s all-time career leader in both completions and attempts, while finishing second in passing yardage.
“He’s been great,” said Rams tight end/defensive end R.J. Sheldon, one of the few Rams, like Coyne, to have seen quality time as a sophomore two years ago. “He’s only gotten better over the past three years. He’s going to be really hard to replace.”
As are the rest of the Rams’ final-year players, who will graduate having put together a school-record 31-8 mark over the past three years highlighted by their first three postseason wins in program history.
Guys like fullback Yousef Lundi, who came up huge when junior tailback Jarred Jones went down with injury earlier in the season and wound up being a 1,000-yard rusher.
Like the bookend combo of Sheldon and Zameer McDowell, who composed a potent pass-catching tight end combo while each wreaking havoc on the defensive line.
Like offensive linemen Michael Gilmore, Montana O’Daneill and Justin Meals, who paved the way for the Rams’ three-pronged ground game.
Like linebackers Ian Hare and Kyle Hoffner; safety Travis Daywalt; and corner Ben Schein — key cogs in a team-oriented defense.
And like Coyne, their cool and composed leader on and off the field.
“I’m so proud of the way they’ve played all year,” Coyne said of his fellow seniors. “Some of these guys didn’t even start until this year, but they stepped in and made big plays. They played their hearts out from the snap to whistle on every down, and that’s all you can ask for.”
“The motto for our seniors this year was, ‘Raise my performance; raise my expectations,’ ” Brubaker said. “And they certainly did that. They set the bar really high, and our future teams will have to step up their game because of this senior class.”
Two years ago, in Coyne’s first year as a starter and Brubaker’s first year at the helm, the Rams went 9-3, a significant step up from the previous year.
Then last year, Spring-Ford went 10-2, bringing home their first PAC-10 title in more than a decade.
But that was only the appetizer for this fantastic fall, when the Rams took down the trio of Garnet Valley (43-27), Ridley (28-26) and Pennridge (35-24) to reach the district final.
“It’s been a tremendous year,” Coyne said. “It’s been the best experience of my life. Something I’ll never forget. Something I’ll take to the grave with me.”
And though Coatesville’s high-powered offense buried the Rams for good (after they had hung within 28-21 late in the first half), the mood afterward was as much positive reflection as it was heartbreak.
“There’s really no good way to go out unless you win the whole thing,” Sheldon said. “But it’s been a great journey.”
“First of all, (the seniors are) graduating with the most wins in Spring-Ford history,” said Brubaker. “They’ve had some good modeling (from previous classes) over the past two years, and now they’ve done the same for our sophomores and juniors.
“I can’t say enough about them. We care about these kids so much. They’ve worked hard and done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
And created a lasting legacy along the way.
Coatesville cruises by Spring-Ford for District 1 title
By Don Seeley
DOWNINGTOWN — Most football teams see opportunity arise from big hits, big stops and, of course, turnovers. Coatesville sees opportunity the moment it touches the football.
Coatesville doesn’t waste opportunities ... nor time, either.
In Friday night’s District 1-Class AAAA final, the Red Raiders scored the first six times they took possession — seven overall when including a fumble return for another touchdown — to continually thwart early Spring-Ford comebacks and run away with a 59-28 romp at Downingtown West High School’s Kottmeyer Field.
The No. 9 seed Red Raiders averaged over eight yards for their 50 snaps. And, for the most part, it all began with Emmett Hunt and Chris Jones, and ended with Daquan Worley.
Hunt, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior quarterback, may have been hurried occasionally, but completed 13 of 18 attempts for 172 yards and four touchdowns — three to Jones and the other to Dre Boggs. He also carried five times for 25 yards and a score. Worley, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound running back, took 18 handoffs for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
The scores, all of them, were textbook execution, with a bit of quickness and a lot of speed as well.
Enough to advance the red-hot Red Raiders (12-2) into next week’s PIAA semifinals against this afternoon’s battle between La Salle and Parkland, and end the winningest season (12-3) in the history of the Spring-Ford program.
“It’s not just their speed and their athleticism, but they’re big and strong, too,” said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker. “What don’t they have?”
Friday night, Coatesville didn’t lack a thing, with the possible exception of some focus that led to 10 penalties for 70 yards.
“We didn’t think (beating Coatesville) was impossible,” said junior Tate Carter, “but we knew we were up against the odds. They just played harder. They wanted it more.”
Carter — who returned Coatesville’s third kickoff 91 yards for Spring-Ford’s first score — along with quarterback Hank Coyne and some unsung work up front by the Rams’ offensive line, were among the few bright spots. Actually, the very few on the final night of November that got colder and colder, thanks to Mother Nature as well as Coatesville’s own cold shoulder, or chilly reception it gave Spring-Ford right before and right after halftime.
Coyne’s eight-yard touchdown pass to Gary Hopkins got Spring-Ford to within 28-21 with 4:15 remaining in the half. But Coatesville took the ensuing kickoff and Hunt engineered an eight-play drive into the end zone, his 14-yard toss to Jones to push the lead back to 35-21.
And if that wasn’t enough, two snaps after the break, Hunt found Boggs for 21 yards and Worley took the following handoff 51 yards for a touchdown to create a 42-21 spread. If it wasn’t over at that point, it was soon after when Isaiah Flamer picked off Coyne to set up Jon Bollenbach’s 27-yard field goal just over two minutes later that made it 45-21.
“At halftime we still thought we could come back,” said Carter, who had six catches for 71 yards and another score. “We thought we could keep on scoring. But after that (Worley 51-yard touchdown run) you could see some of our heads go down. It seemed like some of them gave up after that.
“(Coatesville’s) speed just outmatched us. That was the difference. We just weren’t good enough.”
Brubaker, like Carter and the rest of the Rams, knew the late first-half score hurt ... but not as badly as the next one.
“We didn’t feel at all like we were out of the game at the half,” he explained. “But then we come out and in two plays (Coatesville’s) in the end zone again. That’s kind of tough to recover from. I think if we held them at the end of the first half we would’ve felt better about ourselves, but then giving up that score right after (halftime) ... that hurt.”
Coatesville, the first Ches-Mont League team to win the AAAA title since Downingtown’s remarkable run in 1996, needed six plays to take a 7-0 lead. Hunt found Boggs from 11 yards out and Bollenbach added the first of his eight placements. Less than 90 seconds later, R.J. Sheldon pulled in a 12-yard pass from Coyne, but was stripped of the ball and Devonte Suber not only picked it up but returned it 38 yards for a touchdown that made it 14-0.
But Carter’s 91-yard return of the ensuing kickoff didn’t let things get entirely out of hand. And when Hunt sneaked in from a yard away on Coatesville’s next possession, a proverbial track meet began.
Spring-Ford responded with Coyne’s 14-yard strike to Carter; Coatesville followed with Hunt’s 22-yarder to Jones; Spring-Ford came back Coyne’s eight-yarer to Hopkins; and Coatesville finished the half with that confidence-crushing Hunt-to-Jones 14-yard touchdown pass.
The race slowed considerably after Worley’s long run and Bollenbach’s field goal. However, when Worley ran 11 yards and Hunt threw seven yards to Jones, it was 59-21 and invoked the running clock with 9:13 remaining.
Nowhere near enough time ... and way too much time to feel the effects of the Rams’ season running out on them.
“I know it sounds like a repeat of last year,” Brubaker said, referring to Coatesville’s very similar 60-28 first-round rout. “But we just needed that one play. This shows how far we’ve come this year, but Coatesville just played a great game. They’re a great team.”
“I’m proud of this team,” Carter added. “No one thought we’d beat Garnet Valley, and definitely no one thought we’d beat Ridley or Pennridge. But we played well. We really wanted to get here.”
Coatesville finished with 416 yards overall. ... Spring-Ford, which got its final six points (and fourth conversion from David Gulati) when Yousef Lundi pushed it in from three yards out, couldn’t get its running game unraveled. Lundi took five handoffs for 21 yards, and Jarred Jones was held to 39 yards on 15 carries — 12 of those yards coming on his final carry of the evening. ... The Rams, who were held to 31 net yards before the final drive against Coatesville back-ups, got a combined sack of Hunt from Mason Romano and Sheldon.
Spring-Ford vs. Coatesville matchup breakdown
By Nate Heckenberger
Special to The Mercury
It would be easy to see what Coatesville has done this postseason and assume the Red Raiders will be playing on the first Friday in December.
Whether it’s the 143 points they’ve scored in three postseason games or the 60 points they scored on Spring-Ford in the 2011 playoffs, the Red Raiders enter tonight’s rematch with those Rams in the Class AAAA District 1 championship game, seemingly, a solid favorite.
In the words of ESPN analyst Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.” No. 7 Spring-Ford is a hot team. The Rams, themselves, have scored 106 points this postseason and have beaten the No. 10 (Garnet Valley), No. 2 (Ridley) and No. 3 (Pennridge) seeds, all on the road.
Whatever the result ends up being, the winner will have earned it, as on today, the last day of November, these are the two best teams in District 1. Here’s some insight on what to look for in each phase of the game...
When Spring-Ford has the ball
The Rams offense is like the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s version of Coatesville’s.
“They definitely spread the ball around, like us, and run a different style of offense that District 1 is used to playing against this time of year,” Coatesville coach Matt Ortega said. “They have playmakers everywhere.”
Spring-Ford primarily lines up in the pistol formation, using two tight ends to muscle teams up or three wide receivers to spread teams out.
A trio of backs make Spring-Ford difficult to scheme against. Jarred Jones, who missed seven regular seasons games and half of last week’s contest against Pennridge, is the star of the group.
In the last four games Jones has racked up 585 yards and four touchdowns, giving the Rams a scoring threat every time he touches the ball.
Fullback Yousef Lundi has 1,036 and 16 TDs this season, accumulating a large chunk of that while filling in for Jones as the feature back. Lundi’s carries may be down, but he is not pleasant to tackle and runs the counter well.
“It allows us to keep everybody fresh,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker of having Jones back. “Jarred adds the home run aspect to it. When Yousef gets in the clear he’s hard to catch, but Jarred makes people miss a little bit more.”
Tate Carter is the Rams’ version of Dre Boggs, but is utilized more. Carter leads the team with 32 receptions for 504 yards and four scores, and also has 711 rushing yards and nine TDs.
Senior quarterback Hank Coyne has passed for 1,880 yards and 23 TDs, with five interceptions. Gary Hopkins (30 receptions, 442 yards, seven TDs) is the deep threat and tight ends R.J. Sheldon and Zameer McDowell have combined for 32 catches for 489 yards and eight TDs.
“Our philosophy is to be as balanced as possible and to take what the defense gives us,” Brubaker said. “Coach Ortega has that same philosophy of trying to put people in one-on-one situations, and running the ball if they play over top. We have similar styles.”
Coatesville’s defense is best when teams are forced to run sideways, using its speed to string things out. But Neshaminy gashed the Red Raiders for 276 yards, doing much of it up the middle, including 82-yard and 54-yard TD jaunts.
Spring-Ford is a very good straight-ahead team, and its offensive line is big and physical. The Red Raiders will have their work cut out for them. And like many of its opponents, Coatesville won’t be able to load the box with a viable passing game threatening, also.
Turnovers only get more crucial this time of year, and Spring-Ford is plus-10 in turnover margin this season. Coatesville has created 22 turnovers this season and scored seven defensive touchdowns.
When Coatesville has the ball
Ultimately, Coatesville is going to try to loosen Spring-Ford’s physical line up by getting running back Daquan Worley involved early. Worley has paced the Red Raiders with 480 rushing yards and seven TDs this postseason.
“It all comes down to making (Coatesville) work for their scores,” Brubaker said. “They’re going to get some scores, but we have to make them work.”
The Rams situate with a 4-3 typically, using two safeties, which will help against Coatesville’s spread passing game. The Red Raiders will try to take one of Spring-Ford’s linebackers out of the box with twins and trips looks, giving Worley and his line a six-man front.
“We use multiple fronts and we’re not afraid to switch it up,” Brubaker said. “We prepare to be able to match up with what other teams are doing and take away what they have success with.”
The Rams’ strength is in their defensive line. Zameer McDowell, a 6-foot-5 senior defensive end, not only is a physical presence but a very athletic big man. His interception and touchdown on a screen against Ridley helped spring the Rams to that early 28-0 first-half lead. Mason Romano is another physical, tough kid in the middle.
Hunt is at his best when he has time in the pocket, which has been the case for most of the season. Teams have been reluctant to blitz Coatesville in exchange for more one-on-one matchups in the secondary. Don’t expect the same kind of time for Hunt and company tonight.
“Pressure is going to be huge,” Brubaker said. “We haven’t had a ton of sacks, but we’ve had a lot of hurries and been able to chase quarterbacks and put a lot of pressure and big hits on them. That’s affected a lot of our games. Our front four is quick with two defensive tackles that are quick and strong and defensive ends that are tall and rangy.”
With all the talk about Coatesville’s offense, and some strong words written against Spring-Ford, expect an inspired bunch opposite the Red Raiders.
“I don’t think we’ve been favored in any of our games,” Brubaker said. “The kids have to believe it’s achievable, and I think we do believe that. Coatesville is a very good football team with a lot of weapons. We’ve caused 14 turnovers in three playoff games and turned it over five times. Being plus-nine in three games is obviously a huge advantage. We have to protect the ball and put (Coatesville) into third-and-long situations and be able to make plays. Hopefully we can make them turn the ball over and give our offense a short field.”
Brubaker said teams have stayed away from kicking to Jones since he had two returns around 90 yards, one for a score, against Perkiomen Valley in the regular season finale. Coatesville would be wise to follow suit. David Gulati has become a pretty consistent kicker for the Rams on point after attempts.
Spring-Ford won’t have as much of a luxury kicking deep, as Worley and Boggs have both returned kickoffs for scores this season. Coatesville has four special teams TDs this year, with Jones adding a pair on punt returns, including one last week.
“We really committed at the beginning of the year to being a very good special teams team,” Ortega said. “I told special teams coach Damien Henry we have a chance to be the best special team ever here. In order to be the best, we had to commit time to it, and we put 20 to 25 minutes in a day on special teams. I really feel it’s a difference maker for us.”
Jon Bollenbach has become one of the most reliable kickers in the area for the Red Raiders.
Underdogs, just the way Spring-Ford likes it
By Don Seeley
DOWNINGTOWN — There may not be a soul alive, at least anyone still breathing outside the Royersford, Spring City, Limerick and Upper Providence communities, who isn’t expecting to read Spring-Ford football’s obituary first thing Saturday morning.
No one outside the immediate Spring-Ford football family has given the Rams any hope at all in surviving tonight’s District 1-Class AAAA final against Coatesville at Downingtown West High School.
It isn’t exactly anything head coach Chad Brubaker, his staff or the Rams haven’t heard before, though.
Spring-Ford wasn’t exactly everyone’s choice when the postseason kicked off against Garnet Valley, hardly anyone’s choice the following week at Ridley, and few fans’ choice last Saturday at Pennridge.
“Have we been favored by anyone in these playoffs?” Brubaker asked following a midweek practice. “Our staff has all been in situations where the consensus was that we had no chance (to win). We love and embrace that.
“Coaching is easy when you have the ability to just line up and be better than the other team. We enjoy the film breakdown, the planning, the preparation, and the competition of games where no one gives us a chance. That’s the chess match.”
A year ago, or 55 weeks ago to be precise, Coatesville made all the right moves and had Spring-Ford in check not long after the opening kickoff. There isn’t a single player on the Rams’ roster, not even the sophomores who weren’t around for it, who hasn’t been reminded one way or another of the 60-28 carnage time and time and time again.
Getting into the postseason for the very first time a year ago was good, real good. Seeing it end after just one week wasn’t good enough, not nearly good enough.
The memories are still fresh in the Rams’ collective football mind. And sometimes, not always, memories can be motivational.
Perhaps that alone is what has driven them this season, what enabled them to work through the embarrassing and disheartening 26-0 loss to Pottsgrove in Week Five — a game everyone had circled on their football calendar as the Pioneer Athletic Conference Game of the Year.
Perhaps it is what gave them new life, because except for Thanksgiving eve’s fiasco — the use of non-varsity starters in a 49-0 mismatch againstvery good Phoenixville — they haven’t lost since.
A team some thought may have been on life-support following the setback to Pottsgrove, instead huffed and puffed and blew the doors in of five other PAC-10 rivals, including a very good Perkiomen Valley in Week 10. It was a team that sure had enough offensive, defensive and special team get-up-and-go in it to leave Garnet Valley, Ridley and Pennridge huffing and puffing.
“Obviously our players have to have the confidence in the plan and execute the plan for us to be successful,” Brubaker said. “I think our players sense the excitement, desire and competition in our coaching staff. I think they believe in us. I know we definitely believe in them.”
The confidence was evident from start to finish against No. 10 seed Garnet Valley — the program’s first postseason win and the PAC-10’s first in the AAAA bracket. The confidence was evident in the waning moments of the thriller down at No. 2 seed Ridley — a program that already owned two district titles and nearly as many postseason wins as Spring-Ford’s lump sum of non-league wins over the past 10 years. And the confidence, not to mention the execution, was evident throughout the win over No. 3 seed Pennridge — coming back from an early deficit, then putting an exclamation point on it with a game-ending drive that erased the final seven and a half minutes off the clock and denied the hosts any miracle comeback.
Now they have 12 wins — more than any team before them since Spring-Ford marched its first team out onto the former Washington Street Field in 1955.
Now they find themselves lining up for a very first District 1 title.
“It’s about being healthy, about peaking at the right time,” Brubaker said. “It’s about the desire of the players to continue playing and genuinely caring about the program and each other.
“Our kids want to play, they care, and they’ve embraced the underdog role. I don’t think we’ve been favored by a lot of people in any of our three playoff games, and that’s obviously the case (tonight). So be it. I just know our kids will be ready.”
That’s ready to play … ready to prove a whole lot more people wrong.
And ready, they hope, to breath at least one more week of life into one very lively season.
Don Seeley is the sports editor of The Mercury.He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring-Ford believes it belongs this time against Coatesville
By Don Seeley
DOWNINGTOWN — One glance at Coatesville, be it on paper or on the football field, certainly reveals just how good a team it is.
Seeing the Red Raiders, live or on film, can be downright terrifying.
Just ask Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker, who has played and replayed every available reel as well as viewed and reviewed just about every move the Red Raiders have made this season in preparation for tonight’s District 1-Class AAAA championship showdown at Downingtown West High School.
“This team is better than last year’s team,” Brubaker said without hesitation during a practice earlier this week. “They are able to run the ball, and they are able to take home run shots down the field. They also play great defense and swarm to the ball.”
Last year, Coatesville spoiled Spring-Ford’s postseason debut with a 60-28 win.
But there may be a difference, at least from where Brubaker will be standing this evening.
“I think the biggest difference this year is that our kids, going into the postseason, were positive they belonged here, and they’ve backed it up,” he explained. “Last year we weren’t so sure we belonged on this stage.
“Had we been able to stop Coatesville’s momentum at any one point in last year’s game, maybe our kids would’ve realized they could compete at that level, but it just never happened. Coatesville didn’t make any mistakes.”
The Red Raiders (11-2) have erred very little along the way this season. They lost their second game to Malvern Prep, 19-14, and their fourth game to Ches-Mont League rival Downingtown East, 35-34. That’s two losses by a combined six points.
Since that mediocre 2-2 start, though, they’ve run off nine consecutive wins — including three no-doubt-about-it, postseason wins. The most recent one was a 63-28 rout of Neshaminy in last Friday night’s semifinal.
“They’re a very good team,” said Spring-Ford middle linebacker Kyle Hoffner, who has four sacks among his 57 tackles this season. “We’re going to have to play our best game to beat them.”
Coatesville has an arsenal of weapons on offense, and a swarming defense that doesn’t exactly smother opponents but sure does disrupt them and corrupt their best-laid game plans.
Quarterback Emmett Hunt, who threw for 309 yards in the romp over the Rams a year ago, is reportedly not a scrambler. Then again, he hasn’t exactly been forced to scramble all that much this fall. He’s accurate, completing 64 percent (117 of 183) of his attempts with only two – that’s right, just two – interceptions. And is he ever productive with 2,525 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Hunt’s favorite target has been the swift Chris Jones, who has pulled in 55 passes for 1,293 yards and 20 touchdowns. Dre Boggs – who some call Coatesville’s “hybrid back” – has caught 27 passes for 695 yards and 10 touchdowns. And Vinnie Williams has 17 receptions for 326 yards and three scores.
The run game has carried its share of the offensive load, too. Daquan Worley has taken 167 handoffs for 1,279 yards and 15 touchdowns, with 480 of those yards and seven of the scores coming in the postseason. Boggs has contributed another 407 — an average of 12.7 yards a pop — and five additional scores.
“Their whole offense concerns us,” Hoffner said. “We absolutely have a lot of respect for their speed.”
“Coatesville presents a lot of match-up problems on both sides of the ball because of their athleticism,” added Brubaker. “They will take what they are given offensively.”
The defensive challenge falls on ends Zameer McDowell and R.J. Sheldon, who have combined for 101 tackles, including 12.5 sacks. Tackles Robby Varner and Mason Romano (five forced fumbles, three recoveries) have a combined 111 tackles and eight sacks.
“Getting pressure on (Hunt) is very important,” Hoffner said. “He’s like any other quarterback … they will mistakes when they’re under pressure.”
Linebackers like Hoffner inside and Ian Hare and Andy Lovre-Smith on the outside will be wary of Coatesville’s different looks and its ability to run or throw out of all of them. The pressure of covering Jones, Boggs and Williams falls on a Spring-Ford secondary that features corners Jarred Shoemaker (23 passes defended), Joe Bush and Joe Sink, and safeties Travis Daywalt and Ben Schein (team-high three interceptions).
“They don’t really remind us of anyone we’ve played so far,” Hoffner said. “But they do have the most offensive weapons. We haven’t played anyone who has that kind of speed or that ability to score at any time.”
“Coatesville is too good to expect us to shut them down, but when they make a play we have to make a concerted effort to break their momentum and remain focused,” Brubaker said. “They ride the momentum of success, and teams have been unable to dig in and stop that momentum.”
One way, of course, is to play offense … a lot of it.
Spring-Ford (12-2) did that throughout the semifinal win over Pennridge last Saturday. The offensive front may have been at its best, giving quarterback Hank Coyne (130 of 236, 1,880 yards and 23 TDs) time to throw and backs Jarred Jones (927 yards), Yousef Lundi (1,036) and slotback Tate Carter (711) space to run.
“Our offense helped us a lot against Pennridge,” Hoffner said. “The long drives kept (Pennridge’s) offense off the field.”
Coatesville’s defense is much like its offense — big and fast.
Junior middle linebacker and Division I recruit Tyler Burke anchors the alignment, sandwiched in between Devonte Stuber and Steven Pawling. The front four, led by run-stopper Dylan Morgan and sack-master Mike Boykin at the tackles, also includes Joe Phillips and Clinton Leslie at the ends. Behind them are corners Jason Totoram and Worley and safeties Jay Stocker and Isaiah Flamer — who’ll come up as an added outside linebacker in certain situations.
Overall, that’s a gang that has limited opponents to an average of just 131 yards rushing — including six under 100 — and 98 yards passing. They’ve also come up with 22 turnovers that converts into a plus-eight in takeaways.
“Like I said, they play great defense,” Brubaker remarked.
Great offense, great defense…
“But we’re very confident,” Hoffner said. “We’ve been playing at a high level in the playoffs. (Coatesville) is very good, but we think we’re very good, too.”
Coatesville leads the overall series against Spring-Ford, 18-10-2. … Before last year’s playoff game, their previous meeting was in 1985 — which the Rams won, 20-12, en route to a second-place finish in their final year in the Ches-Mont League. … Coatesville’s second-round win against Wissahickon was reportedly its first postseason win at home in 19 years.
Rams need a quick, productive start
By Don Seeley
DOWNINGTOWN — Getting off the ball on offense and getting to the ball on defense, or getting off to a good start, is very important for any team in any game.
It will be imperative for Spring-Ford tonight when it lines up against Coatesville in the District 1-Class AAAA final at Downingtown High School.
The Rams (12-2) used a little bit of both to get by Garnet Valley and Ridley, and just the right mix of both to pummel Pennridge in what has become an unprecedented three-game ride through the postseason thus far.
There’s no question they’ll need a whole lot of both, as well as equally stable special-team play, to slow down or even stall a very fast and very aggressive Coatesville … if they intend on winning their first district title and extending their extraordinary playoff journey into next week’s state semifinals.
It doesn’t quite matter who you talk to, either. Their answers are brief, to the point … simple.
“We have to play our best game to win,” head coach Chad Brubaker said, not hesitating a bit with his response.
Senior offensive tackle Mike Gilmore and center Montana O’Daniell both uttered the same response, so did senior linebacker Kyle Hoffner. And if you’d go up and down the entire Spring-Ford roster, everyone else is likely to say the same thing.
The Rams will need the kind of start they got — and used — to get an upper hand on Garnet Valley, Ridley and Pennridge. They outscored the three 61-25 in the first half, using a balanced offense for the start against Garnet Valley; using a flurry of big defensive plays in the first half against Ridley; and then creating opportunity after opportunity on both sides of the ball to get by Pennridge.
Or just enough to make up for a seven-point deficit (52-45) in the second half of the three games.
“We have to remain focused,” Brubaker said.
Focused as they were in a 21-point burst to open the second half against Garnet Valley; focused as they were by not losing their poise during Ridley’s 26-point, second-half rally; focused as they were after immediately after regaining the lead in the second quarter and never surrendering it against Pennridge.
“Our kids will be ready,” Brubaker said. “They’re aware, as we all are, that nobody is giving us much of a chance (against Coatesville). But they won’t be intimidated.”
The Rams’ offensive statistics in the postseason are close to their 11-game, regular-season norms. They are for points scored (35.3 playoffs to 33.7 regular season); yards rushing (200.7 to 200.9); yards passing (165.0 to 139.6); and total offense (365.7 to 340.5). Their defensive numbers aren’t all that similar — points allowed (25.7 in playoffs to 18.2); yards rushing allowed (182.3 to 159.2); yards passing allowed (220.0 to 95.9); and total yards allowed (402.3 to 255.1) — skewed a bit by the use of non-varsity starters on Thanksgiving eve against a very good Phoenixville offense and defense and, of course, facing considerably better offenses in the playoffs. … The Rams, a plus-six in takeaways during the regular season, are a plus-four in the postseason.
Coatesville has outscored its three postseason opponents — Unionville, Wissahickon and Neshaminy — by a 143-70 spread. Overall, that scoring margin opens up to 501 (38.5) to 191 (14.7), also a bit misleading considering a few lopsided scores, running clocks and backups. … The Red Raiders are averaging 202.7 yards rushing, 183.7 yards passing and 386.3 yards overall in their three playoff wins.
Whether it means anything or not, the combined season-ending records of Spring-Ford’s three postseason opponents was 31-6, while Coatesville’s were 25-11.
Ben Schein coming up ‘big’ for Spring-Ford
LIMERICK — It’s somehow fitting that Ben Schein is one of the key contributors on the Spring-Ford High football team this season.
For as unlikely as it is that the Rams find themselves playing for the PIAA District One Class AAAA football championship this Friday night, it’s equally unlikely that Schein is a big reason for the team’s success.
Primarily because Schein is not — big, that is.
In fact, the senior defensive back/receiver, and the son of Spring-Ford co-defensive coordinator and former Upper Merion High head football coach Steve Schein, has spent most of his young life being told he was too small to play football.
A fixture on the sidelines while Schein coached at Upper Merion and a ball boy when his father began coaching at Spring-Ford, Ben developed an itch he was deemed incapable of scratching.
“I’ve been on the sidelines of high school football games since I was seven years old, and I’ve probably been going to games since I was three,” Ben said. “And watching Upper Merion games was probably when I first experienced the thrills and emotions of high school football and how important it is to the community and the school.
“That instilled in me the desire to play.”
But being on the small side did not illicit much in the way of encouragement from his peers.
So Ben had to be content playing soccer, although he was not very content doing so.
“He loved to play football,” father Steve said, “and everybody told him he was too small.”
“We never forced him to play (football). In fact, we told him he couldn’t play football until he was 10. But on the day of his 10th birthday, the first thing he asked was, ‘Can I play football?’”
So in fifth grade, at age 11, Ben began his football career, playing for the 100-pound weight team, although he weighed a robust 60 pounds.
“I got the ‘You’re too small, you’ll never be successful speech,’” Ben said, “but I wasn’t discouraged. Tell me I can’t and I will.”
“I’ve always been undersized, whether I was playing football or Little League baseball.”
While his son was being reminded about his lack of size as it related to football, Steve did nothing but stand behind him.
“My dad has encouraged me in whatever I’ve done,” Ben said. “Baseball, wrestling, football, he’s been there, always telling me how much hard work pays off.”
When Ben reached high school there was no doubt he was going to be a Rams football player, even though his chances of actually playing for the varsity were slim and none.
“That never discouraged me,” Ben said. “It just motivated me.”
While Ben got on the varsity field a few times last year, on special teams and smattering of offensive plays, he was bound and determined he was going to play meaningful minutes. Already a tireless worker and student of the game, Ben punished himself preparing for his senior year.
“I wanted to be on the field so badly, I was willing to do anything it took,” he said.
As his dad had promised years before, Ben’s hard work paid off when he earned starting positions on both sides of the football.
And nepotism had nothing to do with the coaching decisions.
“I don’t even coach Ben,” the elder Schein said, “but I’m very proud of all he’s accomplished and how hard he’s worked to get here.”
And Ben lived a lifelong dream on opening night when the Rams played Whitehall.
“That first time, running out on the field against Whitehall was probably the most exhilarating experience of my life,” he said. “Plus, I was a captain for the game. From that first snap, I was really in a zone.”
But Schein’s opening-night experience was only the beginning. From that game on, the 5-foot-9, 150-pounder has been a prominent member of the Rams, especially on defense where he’s registered three interceptions and demonstrated a knack for being around the football.
“I think a big aspect of me getting on the field was knowing the game so well,” Ben said, “knowing my assignments and knowing the playbook inside and out.”
“I know where everyone is supposed to be on the field.”
“And it definitely gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing I have an effect on the game. It feels great, waking up the morning after a game and reading about our success in the newspaper and knowing I was a part of it.”
“What we’ve done this year just didn’t happen by chance. Our coaches and my teammates have put in so much work this year. We’ve always believed in ourselves and that we had the capabilities to do this.”
While Ben’s dad has had the dual experience of enjoying the Rams success as well as his son’s.
“It’s been so much fun having the opportunity to be around him,” the coach said. “Off the field, we never talk about football. Our last game will be his last game. And what I’m most proud about is that he’s such an outstanding young man. He’s No. 2 in his class (academically) and the class treasurer.
“I’m very lucky.”
SEELEY: Rams cashing in on Coyne’s value
By Don Seeley
There isn’t a soul on the current Spring-Ford roster who was born when Lance Viola was taking snaps from center Jerry Hoff and terrorizing the opposition with his throwing arm (and that seemingly always perfectly timed quarterback draw) from 1971 through 1973.
Come to think of it, there aren’t many (if any) parents of players on the current Spring-Ford roster who were even born when Viola led the Rams to the Ches-Mont League title his senior season.
Viola was good … really, really good. And what made Viola so good was his poise, his ability to throw accurately with a defender or two hanging on him, his knack for turning a game around, if not dominating it … his confidence.
He also owned practically every Spring-Ford passing record, too, at least until Trevor Sasek broke a few before his final season in 2009, and Hank Coyne erased all of them since, or up through last Saturday afternoon’s District 1-Class AAAA semifinal win at Pennridge.
“He’s good,” the now 56-year-old Viola said shortly after being introduced to Coyne on the sidelines Saturday and wishing him luck in this week’s district final against Coatesville at Downingtown West High School.
“(Coyne) throws a nice ball. He looks good out there. Just make sure he doesn’t break my interception record.”
If there is one entry in that record book Coyne won’t break it is Viola’s interception mark, and Viola – who laughed about his remark — would prefer it that way because turnovers don’t necessarily lead to wins. And Viola wants nothing more than for Coyne to keep lighting it up and the Rams to keep winning.
If there has been one specific aspect of the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Coyne’s game that has been overshadowed by his otherwise glowing numbers it’s his maturity, his awareness, his confidence … all of which add up to fewer and fewer mistakes, fewer and fewer interceptions, and fewer and fewer losses.
Coyne threw for 1,750 yards and 21 touchdowns as a sophomore, numbers tainted somewhat by 14 interceptions. With the presence of a running game last year, he still threw for 1,840 yards and 16 touchdowns, and cut his interceptions in half — down to seven — in helping Spring-Ford to the Pioneer Athletic Conference title and the program’s very first postseason appearance.
This season, Coyne is up to 1,880 yards with 23 touchdowns ... and just five picks. He went the first four games of the season without one, and was on another four-game roll before getting intercepted during the second-round upset of Ridley.
He also threw another in last Saturday’s semifinal — on his second attempt of the afternoon — and it was returned for a touchdown.
But he responded by completing 10 of his remaining 12 attempts for 193 yards and two touchdowns — one a perfect loft-it-deep, 61-yard bomb to Gary Hopkins in the second quarter to give the Rams the lead for good, and a 25-yard strike to Zameer McDowell in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.
“Hank is very hard on himself,” said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker. “I got on his case for the interception, then went back to him and said, ‘Let’s go…forget about it.’ We also called a few plays to get him going again. His first completion after the interception he took a huge shot, but put the ball in between three defenders on a completion to McDowell. His next throw was the touchdown to Hopkins, again a perfect pitch-and-catch.”
That’s also when Brubaker, and more importantly the Rams, realized who had the upper hand.
“I forgot about it,” Coyne said. “I didn’t get down. None of us got down at all.”
“We knew Hank was back,” Brubaker said, “and the rest of the game he exuded confidence, not only in his throws but in trying to get us into better run plays.”
Coyne may actually have been at his best after teammate Travis Daywalt’s interception in the end zone with 7:38 remaining in the game. He completed a pair of third-down passes to keep the possession alive and eat up every last second on the clock.
That’s the kind of execution Coyne and the Rams will need Friday night.
“We’re very confident with Hank (at quarterback),” Brubaker said.
So much like former head coach Merle Bainbridge was with Viola a long, long time ago.
Coyne, 26 of 48 for 477 yards and five touchdowns in the Rams’ three postseason games this month, goes into the district final within reach of two Mercury area all-time career records. He needs three completions and seven attempts to break Perkiomen Valley graduate Zach Zulli’s respective marks of 374 and 680. Coyne’s 5,470 passing yards are second only to Zulli’s 5,844, while his 60 touchdowns are fourth and total net yards (5,388) are eighth on The Mercury charts. … Coyne has won more games (31) than any other Spring-Ford quarterback, and helped the Rams set a single-season school records for wins (12)) and points scored (477).
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Don Seeley is the sports editor of The Mercury. He can be reached at email@example.com
Spring-Ford’s O-line a big reason for success
By Don Seeley
When Spring-Ford opened camp back in August, head coach Chad Brubaker had, or at least thought he had, an offense that could present quite a puzzle for opposing defenses this season.
Few could argue, because quarterback Hank Coyne, fullback Yousef Lundi and tailback Jarred Jones — who accounted for just under 3,700 yards and had a hand in a combined 42 touchdowns a year ago — were all back. So was tight end R.J. Sheldon. So were linemen Justin Meals and Mike Gilmore.
After two days of practices, though, a couple of potential starting linemen opted to leave the team.
Suddenly, Brubaker had a puzzle of his own to resolve.
“I think we knew Meals and Gilmore would be our tackles, but we weren’t too sure who our interior three would be,” Brubaker recalled Tuesday afternoon.
Finding a center and two guards — the guts of an offensive line — isn’t quite as easy as it may sound. But Brubaker not only found three, but three who were just the right fit … or more than good enough to help lead the Rams to where they are now.
And that’s in Friday night’s District 1-Class AAAA final against Coatesville at Downingtown West High School.
“What makes a good offensive line is everyone moving in concert with each other, communicating, and trusting each other to do what they’re supposed to do,” Brubaker said.
Montana O’Daniell, a 5-foot-11, 245-pound senior, got playing time on the defensive line in his sophomore and injury-shortened junior seasons. Brubaker moved him to center. Josh Boyer, a 5-foot-11, 245-pound junior, was on the junior varsity a year ago. Brubaker promoted him to guard. Zach Dorsey, a 6-foot-1, 275-pound sophomore, was on the ninth-grade team a year ago. Brubaker penciled him in as the other starting guard.
Meals, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound senior who started at guard a year ago, was moved out of left tackle. And Gilmore, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior who started at left tackle last year, was shifted over to the other side of the line at right tackle.
A lot of changes … and a lot of questions.
But the five — along with unsung and very versatile backup Andy Cutler, a 6-foot, 230-pound junior — provided some answers.
They may not have been all that convincing answers at first, mind you, but the five grunts up front did get acquainted, and get acquainted rather well, to their new positions.
“Coach just told me to get in there and snap the ball,” O’Daniell explained. “It was a big difference for me. The technique was entirely different. At tackle it was all about being aggressive, getting to the ball. But as the center, technique is important, knowing what you’re supposed to do, and where you’re going.”
“Moving from one tackle to the other was different, but at the end of the day I realized it’s a more important job,” Gilmore said. “It’s more important because of the pass protection, protecting (Coyne’s) blind side. It took a couple of weeks for me to get adjusted because every play called was a switch for me. But I still think every position on the offensive line is as important as the other.”
As do O’Daniell, Boyer, Dorsey and Cutler.
“It took them a while to adjust to each other,” Brubaker said. “To effectively communicate. On a lot of plays early on it seemed four guys were okay and one guy was going off on his own.
“But they really had a good game against Pottstown, and a good game the following week against Perkiomen Valley. Their communication, as well as their effectiveness, improved. And they’ve been improving ever since through the playoffs.”
Ironically, both O’Daniell and Gilmore felt the Rams’ turnaround point of the season was the Week Five loss to eventual Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Pottsgrove.
“That may have been (the offensive line’s) best game of the season,” O’Daniell said.
“I thought (the offensive line) played well, too, but we were disappointed to walk away with a loss,” Gilmore added. “It was an eye-opener for us. After watching the film, we knew we couldn’t let (the loss) sit on our shoulders, that we had to brush it off and move on.”
Which is what the Rams did — stringing together five straight PAC-10 wins to get into the district playoffs and earn the No. 7 seed. They responded with two more wins, 43-27 over No. 10 seed Garnet Valley and 28-26 over heavily-favored No. 2 seed Ridley. Then, after handing over the Thanksgiving eve game chores to the non-varsity starters for the league finale against Phoenixville, the Rams came back last Saturday afternoon with yet another impressive showing in a 35-24 win over No. 6 seed Pennridge.
“Our main goal was to win the PAC-10, to meet the expectations of last year when we won the title,” O’Daniell said. “In the beginning we weren’t concerned about districts, but now that we’re here, because of what’s happening, we want to keep going and going.”
“I think we really started to mold together in the Garnet Valley game,” Gilmore said. “I think that’s the game we all started coming together.”
They’d all like to stick together for another few weeks, too.
Even if the critics, fans (even some of their own) and the media feel it will all come to end Friday against a very big, very aggressive, very fast and very, very good Coatesville.
“We’re all aware of the doubters,” Gilmore said. “But at the end of the day, it just fuels the fires. As a team, we’ve been together a long time this season … and we’re well aware of what we’re capable of.”
Don Seeley is the sports editor of The Mercury. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.