Brian Gilbert has spent the last 6 1/2 months in charge of the Whitehall football program.
His official debut as the Zephyrs' coach should have him ready for the challenges of the Lehigh Valley Conference schedule when it arrives next week.
Don Seeley - The Mercury
Calling last weekend one of the wildest ever in the Pioneer Athletic Conference would be an understatement. Fortunately, none of the scoreboard lights blew out during or after the five games, which saw the teams combine for 340 points – far and above any previous weekend total in the league’s history. Unfortunately, Spring-Ford junior Jarred Jones – one of the running backs who contributed to the record-breaking offensive – went down with an injury that may restrict him to the defending champions’ sidelines for the next six to eight weeks. And if that isn’t bad enough news, over at The Hill School, head coach Gray Simpson may have to go the rest of the season without two-way starter Adam Regensburg – unquestionably as strong a candidate as anyone in the area for The Mercury’s Player of the Year honor. “You never like to hear about (the injuries),” said one coach – neither the Rams’ Chad Brubaker nor Simpson – who spoke off the record. “But (injuries) are part of the game. You deal with them, hope the rest of your team steps up, and move on.” For the Rams, it means their offensive line of Andy Cutler, Tyler German, Mike Gilmore, Justin Meals, Montana O’Daniel and R.J. Sheldon must step it up, and step it up immediately. It means running backs Yousef Lundi and Tate Carter, possibly even sophomore Mike Fuhrmeister, must step it up. And it means quarterback Hank Coyne, perhaps as poised as anyone in the Spring-Ford lineup, may have throw it up a little more than he’s accustomed to in hopes of keeping opponents honest on the defensive side of the ball. But no matter how the linemen or their teammates behind them do, the Rams’ offense will be a little less formidable without the explosive Jones. A year ago, Jones ran for 1,520 yards and 17 touchdowns to help the Rams make an unbeaten run through the PAC-10, earn a postseason playoff berth for the first time in the history of their program, and produce a school-record 448 points. And even though he sat out the second game this season with an ailing shoulder, Jones was averaging over 10 yards a carry (342 yards overall) with six touchdowns. He got 154 of those yards and half of those touchdowns in the first half of Saturday’s 56-31 win at Pope John Paul II, then took a seat for the rest of the day after a 29-yard run with just under five minutes left in the third quarter. Lundi is likely to get the added workload. A senior with an inch and about 10 pounds on Jones, is also averaging over 10 yards a pop (23 carries for 255 yards) and has found the end zone four times. Carter is just as valuable carrying the ball as he is catching it. The 5-foot-7 junior has run the wildcat offense and scored three times, and caught two touchdown passes. And, given the time to throw, Coyne is as proficient a passer as anyone in the PAC-10. It’s ironic that Brubaker’s postgame comments Saturday seem more appropriate for this week’s preparations for visiting Upper Perkiomen. “We have to find it in ourselves to ignore all the distractions and just go out and play,” he said.
Don Seeley - The Mercury
Last Week: Spring-Ford (0-0, 2-0) shut out Daniel Boone, 39-0; Pope John Paul II (0-1, 0-2) fell to Pottsgrove, 53-14.
Inside the lines: Spring-Ford showed plenty of offense (374 yards) in opener, then plenty of defense last week (limiting Daniel Boone to 101 yards with Kyle Hoffner’s fumble and Andy Lovre-Smith’s interception returns for touchdowns). Zameer McDowell and R.J. Sheldon contributed sacks, too. Injured running back Jarred Jones is still questionable, but Tate Carter (108 yards, 2 TDs) and Yousef Lundi (87 yard, 2 TDs) were proven backups last week. Quarterback Hank Coyne is 25 of 42 for 247 yards thus far. …Pope John Paul II needs to find a run game to help ease the pressure on quarterback James Bleming, who has accounted for all but 46 yards of the offense by completing 32 of 68 attempts for 524 yards and all five of the team’s touchdowns. Two-way starter Josh Bildstein is having another productive season on the front lines. Receivers Jamel Stinson, Tim Tadros and Eric Veisbergs will challenge the Rams’ secondary if Bleming has time to throw.
Notes: Spring-Ford leads the PAC-10 and overall series, 2-0. … Carter played six positions last week on offense, defense and special teams, and Jack Haney had a strong game on kickoff coverages. … Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker: “We need to continue to develop our consistency on offense, especially mentally. We also made positive strides defensively, flying around more and putting pressure on the quarterback.” … PJP head coach Mike Santillo: “I don’t sense any frustration with the kids. We all know we’re in a tough stretch in our schedule, but we’re continuing to work hard and giving a maximum effort on every play. We’re a young team looking to get better each week.”
—Compiled by DON SEELEY
By Darryl Grumling
Posted: 09/08/12 12:01 am
Updated: 09/08/12 12:02 pm
Photo by Darryl Grumling Spring-Ford’s Gary Hopkins dives for extra yardage while being dragged down by Daniel Boone’s Darius Hinton and Pop Lacey.
BIRDSBORO — A super defensive effort helped Daniel Boone hang tough with Spring-Ford into the second half of Friday night’s non-leaguer at Brazinsky Field.
But it was defensive performance that bordered on the supernatural that enabled the Rams to turn a grind-it-out battle into a 39-0 victory.
The Spring-Ford ‘D’ haunted the Blazers throughout the second half as the Rams improved to 2-0.
There was senior defensive end Zameer McDowell, making like Jason Vorhees at Camp Crystal Lake with a game-changing, crunching hit on Boone quarterback J.D. Okuniewski.
There was junior defensive end Mason Romano, tormenting the Blazers like Freddy Krueger did to the kids on Elm Street.
“We knew we had to put the game on our backs,” the 6-foot, 210-pound Romano said. “It was everyone’s effort; not one single guy. Everybody got fired up, that’s what happened. Everyone was playing hard.”And there was the duo of Andy Lovre-Smith and Kyle Hoffner, who were as active as Michael Myers on Halloween — each contributing a defensive score.
Spring-Ford got a 1-yard Wildcat touchdown run by Tate Carter — subbing for feature back Jarred Jones, who missed the game with a collarbone injury — with 5:28 left in the first quarter, and a 3-yard TD run by Yousef Lundi 1:53 before halftime to take a 12-0 lead to the locker room.
Then, on a second-and-7 play on Boone’s first possession of the second half, the 6-5, 220-pound McDowell came charging free from the blindside to unload on the 6-foot, 175-pound Okuniewski — forcing a fumble that Romano recovered at the Blazers’ 16.
Though the Rams didn’t score (fumbling in the end zone for a touchback) and the tough-as-nails Okuniewski returned a few plays later, momentum had swung to the Spring-Ford side for good.
“They’re big, athletic and the defending PAC-10 champs,” first-year Blazers coach Bill Parks said of the Rams. “They’re a great team. They’re very organized and they play hard. They hit a lot harder than they did last year, and they had a great team last year.”
After Spring-Ford forced a three-and-out after the touchback fumble and Carter returned the ensuing punt to the Boone 35, Rams coach Chad Brubaker went to the ground with Carter gaining all of the yards on a six-play drive capped by his 9-yard run that made it 18-0 with 4:12 left in the third.
Carter, 5-7, 170-pound junior, ran for a game-high 108 yards and two TDs.
“Our main player (Jones) wasn’t there, and I just went out there and did what I had to to,” Carter said. “I knew it would be a little of a struggle, but I just tried to put my head down, protect the ball and run hard.”
Lundi (12 carries, 87 yards) scored on a 3-yard run on the final play of the third quarter to make it 25-0, then the defense kicked things into overdrive.
First, Lovre-Smith took an interception back 25 yards for a score three plays into the final period, then Hoffner picked up a fumble and returned it 53 yards for a TD for the final margin with 8:38 left in the game.
Brubaker was just as pleased with his squad’s effort on special teams, something he felt set the tone for the defensive frenzy.
“We did a much better job in the second half,” he said. “We had a couple of big plays on kickoff returns where we held them deep inside (their territory) and we had guys flying around. The same thing happened on punt returns with a couple big blocks. Our special teams gave us the momentum going into our defensive series, and we fed off those kinds of things.”
Senior linebacker Ian Hare and senior defensive back Ben Schein were each credited with a team-high five tackles for the Rams, who held the Blazers to 101 total yards."
Our defensive front is our strength,” Brubaker said. “We’re inexperienced in our secondary, but we’re going to get better. Most of our returning players are on the defensive front.”
Senior quarterback Hank Coyne went 12-for-21 for 98 yards, with Gary Hopkins collecting a team-high five catches for 31 yards.
Boone’s tandem of Steve Seivers and Okuniewski was harassed into a combined 4-for-17 night. Sievers rushed for a team-best 30 yards for the Blazers, who got a team-best 9.5 tackles from Pop Lacey and 6.5 more from Ryan Bologa.
“I think we missed opportunities early,” Parks said. “Momentum gives you energy and we lost the momentum and had to use even more energy to get it back.
“We need to improve on everything we do. We need to condition better. We have to get better on what we’re doing, and we’re going back to the fundamentals.”
ROYERSFORD – Like fine wine, Jarred Jones seems to be getting better with age.
The Spring-Ford speedy running back, coming off a sophomore season in which he earned first team All-PAC-10 honors and compiled 1,457 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing, picked up right where he left off when the Rams opened their season last Friday with a 31-20 nonleague conquest of powerful Whitehall.
Jones racked up three touchdowns and 158 rushing yards on 20 carries to for the defending PAC-10 champions, who rallied from a 20-13 deficit with 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
“Jared is a special athlete,” said Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker. “We are working with three new linemen and two returning offensive linemen have moved positions. We knew there would be some growing pains. What Jarred provides is an ability to cover up some of those growing pains with his quickness and explosiveness.”
What Jones also provides is the ability to finish off drives, showing a special knack for finding the end zone. Jones’ three touchdown runs covered 4, 21 and 3 yards – with his 3-yard burst putting the contest out of reach for Whitehall. For his efforts, Jones is the pac-10sports.com Offensive Player of the Week.
“Jarred has the ability to make people miss and to take on would-be tacklers,” Brubaker said. “He has the ability to run away from people in the secondary.”
Jones is the final piece in a balanced offense that includes strong-armed quarterback Hank Coyne, a deep set of skill position players and an offensive line that is taking large strides to becoming a cohesive, productive unit.
“In the second half (against Whitehall), we got away from our zone series and started running right at them,” said Brubaker. “This gave our offensive line an opportunity to come off the ball and gave them better angles. Yousef Lundi did a nice job as a lead blocker.“
And Jones flourished, despite getting dinged up toward the latter stages of the second half. In addition to all the high-ceiling skills, Jones also proved to be equipped with a high degree of toughness.
“Jarred played most of the fourth quarter with a tweaked shoulder after injuring it on the last play of the third quarter,” said Brubaker.
It would apparently take more than a few aches and pains to prevent Jones from accomplishing his mission – getting Spring-Ford off and running in 2012.
Spring-Ford ran off 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter en route to a 31-20 victory over highly-touted Whitehall … Daniel Boone was hammered 40-7 by Cocalico in Coach Bill Parks debut
► Last season
The Blazers pulled out a 20-14 overtime decision
► Spring-Ford scouting report
The defending PAC-10 champion Rams have a bit of inexperience on the offensive line, but some serious breakaway potential keyed by pac-10sports.com’s Offensive Player of the Week Jarred Jones. Jones rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns as Spring-Ford utilized a balanced attack that rang up 374 yards of total offense (225 rushing, 149 passing). Senior quarterback Hank Coyne was efficient in the passing game, hitting 13 of 21 attempts for 149 yards and one TD without an interception. Gary Hopkins (4-66) and Tate Carter (4-38) combined for 8 catches, 104 yards and the touchdown. Defensively, Spring-Ford allowed 319 total yards (188 rushing). There were no injury updates provided by Spring-Ford.
► Daniel Boone scouting report
Coming off a 2011 campaign that produced a 10-2 record and a trip to the second round of the District 3-Class AAAA playoffs, the Blazers showed what a difference a year can make. Boone managed just 179 yards of total offense while giving up 354, and were held scoreless until the fourth quarter when Steve Sievers threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tom Pufnock. Sievers and Emmanuel Lacey combined for 65 rushing yards on 6 carries in the setback.
Chad Brubaker, Spring-Ford: “ We made a lot of correctable mistakes on Friday versus Whitehall. It was a big win for our program, but it only counts as one win. We need to challenge ourselves each week to get better and to correct the mistakes we made in previous games. Daniel Boone beat us in overtime in Week 2 last year. It was an important game for us because we needed those points for playoff (seeding). Our kids are highly motivated to avenge the loss from last year.
“Boone kids are tough and play hard no matter what the score may be. They run around and they hit. We are also playing on their home turf so that adds a dimension to their motivation.”
Last week: Spring-Ford won 31-20 over Whitehall; Daniel Boone fell 40-7 to Cocalico.
Inside the lines: Spring-Ford showed considerable poise in its comeback win over Whitehall, and while quarterback Hank Coyne (13 of 21, 149 yards, 1 TD) and running back Jarred Jones (158 yards, 3 TDs) were the headliners, they got a lot of help up front – especially from senior offensive linemen Justin Meals and Michael Gilmore. Zameer McDowell showed his ability to make the big play, pulling down the go-ahead touchdown toss in between two Whitehall defenders. … Daniel Boone got a very strong game from center-nose guard Rhett Glaser, and hopes to get a shot of confidence with the return of wideout-safety Austin Monteiro. Run game, spread out among seven ballcarriers, produced just 115 yards. J.D. Okuniewski looks to improve on a 3-for-10 debut without tight ends Pat Stone and Dan Downs (both out with injuries).
Notes: Daniel Boone leads the series, 1-0, after last year’s 20-14 overtime win at Spring-Ford. … Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker: “Last week’s win was huge for our program, but we need to execute better. We had extra-point kicks blocked, and our kickoff and punt return teams need to do a better job. Defensively we have to be more physical and fly around more to get to the ball.” … Blazers only had the ball for 34 plays last week, while Cocalico had it for 52. … Daniel Boone head coach Bill Parks: “Our big concern this week is tackling Jones and defending Spring-Ford’s receivers.”
Spring-Ford’s Chad Brubaker is The Mercury’s Coach of the Week.
Brubaker led the Rams to 18 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a come-from-behind 30-21 win over District 11’s Whitehall.
“This was a big win for us,” Brubaker said. “I’m very proud of the fact the kids didn’t quit and came back to win it. But this wasn’t the Super Bowl. It was just one game, a game we expected to win. We have to get ready for next week now.”
Whitehall's QB Nick Shafnisky (9) (left) looks for room to run past Spring-Ford's Jared Shoemaker (29) (right) during the second quarter at Coach McNelly Stadium Friday night. (KEVIN MINGORA, THE MORNING CALL / August 30, 2012)
ROYERSFORD, Montgomery County — As players on both sides of the field began to drop with cramps in the second half, Whitehall's momentum seeped away.
The breaks for player injuries were all that stopped Spring-Ford in the fourth quarter.
The Rams turned all three of their fourth-quarter possessions into touchdowns, scoring the game's final 18 points. The late flurry gave them a 31-20 win in the non-league football opener for both teams.
On a hot night at Spring-Ford, Whitehall headed north feeling steamed. The Zephyrs appeared in control in the third quarter, with James Wah's 9-yard touchdown run capping a long scoring drive that put them ahead 20-13. A series of Whitehall miscues the rest of the way helped Spring-Ford grab a victory in one of the marquee opening-night matchups involving a Lehigh Valley Conference team.
"The third quarter, we were moving fast," Whitehall coach Brian Gilbert said. "I thought we had the third quarter. They were bending over; they were tired in the third quarter. We had the momentum there. Then once the fourth quarter and all the cramping hit, I think it changed the momentum. I don't know if it gave them a chance to rest or what the case is.
"The cramping on both sides I would say was even, but for some reason it ended up helping them out."
Spring-Ford junior tailback Jarred Jones gave the Zephyrs trouble as expected, running 20 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns. His 38-yard gallop on the final play of the third quarter forced him to leave the game for a few minutes but also put the Rams in goal-to-go position.
Tate Carter capitalized two plays later with a 5-yard touchdown run that pulled Spring-Ford within a point, but Ryan Bonshak kept Whitehall ahead by stuffing Carter on his two-point run attempt.
Whitehall drove into Spring-Ford territory on its next possession but had its drive stall at the 34-yard line when quarterback Nick Shafnisky, one of the players plagued with cramps in the second half, threw incomplete twice. He finished 4-for-11 for 62 yards passing and ran eight times for 81 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown burst in the second quarter. Shafnisky did not play on Whitehall's final two offensive series.
Spring-Ford followed its defensive stop by marching 66 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. It came when Zameer McDowell outmuscled two Whitehall defenders in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass from Hank Coyne (13-for-18, 157 yards). The referees conferred for a few moments before deciding that McDowell had wound up with possession of the ball, leaving Spring-Ford with a 25-20 lead with 4:13 to play.
"Once they scored and took the lead, I feel like our momentum went down," Shafnisky said. "We can't have that. It [stinks]."
Whitehall managed one first down on its next possession with backup Jeffrey Charles (80 yards) guiding the offense but turned the ball over on downs at its own 31-yard line. Spring-Ford put the game away with four straight running plays that ended with Jones in the end zone after a 4-yard run.
Despite the result, Gilbert liked a lot of what he saw from the Zephyrs. Wah ran 17 times for 83 yards and two touchdowns to lead a ground attack that produced 204 yards. Zack Delp produced four sacks, and Nick Sommer caught 7 passes for 120 yards.
The mistakes — a holding call that wiped out a 45-yard pass play to the 1-yard line and a questionable pass interference call that preceded Spring-Ford's first touchdown among them — stuck out more.
"I was happy with the way we ran the ball," Gilbert said. "I was happy with the way we threw the ball. We tackled well at times. Their running back is really good. Their offense is really good, but I thought we played really good defense at times. We were just too inconsistent."
ROYERSFORD — Chad Brubaker’s two big concerns through Spring-Ford’s summer camp and scrimmages were his receivers and secondary.One game isn’t enough to convince the Rams’ third-year coach that’s all well, but Brubaker sure looked a bit less restless after Friday night’s come-from-behind 31-20 win over visiting Whitehall.
And for good reason.
Six different receivers, half of whom didn’t even get their fingers on the football a year ago, pulled in nearly everything thrown at them from veteran quarterback Hank Coyne. The biggest catch, and the last one of the evening, was the most impressive — Zameer McDowell grabbing an 18-yard toss in between two defenders for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:13 remaining.
The secondary, featuring corners Jared Shoemaker and Joe Bush and safeties Matt Daywalt and Ben Schein — none of whom were in those spots with any regularity a year ago — were aggressive coming up to stop the run and were disciplined in their coverage except for the waning moments when in prevent mode. And the biggest play from them came from the smallest of the foursome, the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Schein, who batted away a Whitehall pass to end the Zephyrs’ comeback hopes with 1:47 remaining.
Jarred Jones then put it well out of the guests’ reach when he ran three yards with just 1:10 left to click off the clock for the final TD.
“We feel we have the talent there (in the two areas),” Brubaker said. “But we have to get them in there, and get some experience in the meantime in order to move forward. “I thought our receivers did a good job, and it’s always good to spread it around. We had our top two tight ends go down with leg cramps, but we have a lot of players who can contribute.
“Our secondary made a couple of blunders, we got away with most of them. But we feel pretty good. The effort was there, and if the effort is there and the mistakes are correctable you have to be excited in moving forward.”
Coyne finished 13-for-20 for 149 yards, most coming in the first half. He went to Gary Hopkins and Nate Carter four times each, and Joe Sink pulled in a pair. Carter also ran the wildcat offense well for 38 additional yards. Yousef Lundi chipped in with 33 more in support of Jones’ 158 yards and three touchdowns.
Overall, the Rams amassed 374 yards, a number that could’ve been substantially more if not for Whitehall’s Zachary Delp — the team’s leading tackler of a year ago — who had four of the Zephyrs’ five sacks of Coyne.
But what Brubaker, his staff and the Rams had to be pleased with was the comeback, from a 14-13 different at halftime and from a 20-13 margin going into the fourth and final quarter.
“We just had to keep fighting,” said McDowell, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior. “We wanted to show we can play with anyone. It doesn’t matter who you are or what district you’re from, you have to come to play. We didn’t give up.”
“Just because you’re inexperienced doesn’t mean you can’t keep working hard and come back,” added Schein, who had a fumble recovery. “We’ve kept our focus all along. We came into this game expecting to win. We never expect to lose.”
Whitehall, ranked No. 2 in District 11-AAAA and also mentioned in several statewide polls, needed just five plays to get on the board. Quarterback Nicholas Shafnisky (4-for-11, 63 yards) found Nicholas Sommer on a 40-yard bomb to set up James Wah’s two-yard run just 1:38 into the game. Spring-Ford would tie it on its second possession when Jones skirted the left side from four yards out.
Spring-Ford then took a 13-7 when Jones went up the middle and cut to the outside for a 21-yard score five snaps into the second quarter. It took Whitehall one play after the ensuing kickoff to go in front when Shafnisky ran 50 yards and Tyler George added the point-after.
Whitehall upped its lead to 20-13 when Wah ran nine yards at the 7:11 mark of the third quarter, but that was pretty much the extent of the Zephyrs’ offense.
But not the Rams.
Two plays into the fourth quarter, Carter got in from the five to get the Rams within one at 20-19. After holding Whitehall, Coyne’s toss to McDowell capped an 11-play drive — apparently stalled twice by motion and holding penalties — and gave them the lead. Then Jones, who looked to have been done for the night seconds before the final quarter, did his thing to clinch it.
“We always emphasize playing that fourth quarter,” Brubaker said. “We emphasize that when we condition, that you have to go as hard in the fourth quarter as you do in the first quarter.”
“It was important to win this game so we can prepare for our next one and keep it going,” McDowell said. “We want to keep going in the right direction.”
Kathleen and Brian Clarke Sr., the parents of Brian “Deuce” Clarke, who while riding his bicycle was accidentally struck by an automobile and later died in July, served as Spring-Ford’s honorary captains for the game. The Clarkes, along with their other son, were presented a game ball signed by the coaching staff and a framed image of their son’s shield that the Rams, who signed it, will be wearing on their helmets this season. Brian Sr. handled the coin toss at midfield, where four doves were released, representing each member of the Clarke family. Schein: “We wanted to let everyone know we played this game for (Clarke). We’re proud to have won this (game) for him tonight.” ... There was also a moment of silence for another Spring-Ford student, Austin Purdue, who was killed in an automobile accident in August.
Follow Don Seeley on Twitter @DonSeeley1
By Don Seeley
Hank Coyne doesn’t mind passing the football.Tory Hudgins doesn’t mind running with it.
And Brandon Bossard doesn’t mind doing a little of both with it.
There was a time, and not too awfully long ago, when Coyne, Hudgins and Bossard — any high school quarterback, for that matter — would’ve gotten the next play from the sideline and knew exactly what they’d be doing before they situated themselves under the center to take the snap, too.
Simple enough … but a thing of the past.
The game has changed.
And no position on the field has changed anywhere near as much as it has at quarterback.
Most area coaches, especially those who played themselves back in the 60s or 70s, even some in the 80s, have seen — up close — how the quarterback position as well as the game has evolved, too.
Among them are Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker, who helped pave the way as an offensive lineman for Spring-Ford’s very first football championship in 1969; Owen J. Roberts head coach Tom Barr, one of the Wildcat workhorses out of the backfield for Hall of Fame head coach Henry Bernat from 1977-79; and Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker, who worked on getting receivers and a handful of great quarterbacks on the same page at Wilson for a dozen years before taking over the Rams’ program.
“The plays came in from the sideline and we ran them,” Pennypacker recalled. “I don’t ever remember any audibles. The play called was the play we ran.”
“The plays came in from the sideline, we ran them and that was it,” Barr added, nearly echoing Pennypacker’s exact comment. “I don’t ever remember hearing an audible.”
Now it’s rare when a quarterback doesn’t call an audible at the line of scrimmage.
Looking back at last season, three area coaches said their quarterback probably checked off upwards of 50 percent of the original plays called. Three others said that figure was around 40 percent. A couple more estimated the number was closer to 30-35 percent.
Quarterbacks — as well as their teammates — still memorize the playbook, which may be heavily edited from week to week to address the next opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. But the quarterback, perhaps as much as anyone (including the head coach and offensive coordinator), must know where everyone else should be lined up for every single play.
And if that isn’t enough, the quarterback must identify the defensive sets lined up to stop him right smack across the line of scrimmage — and then check off, or call an audible, before he even gets under center to take the snap.
“We ask a lot of our quarterback today,” said Methacton head coach Paul Lepre.
“There are greater expectations now,” added Brubaker. “(At Spring-Ford), every one of our kids has to know what everyone else is supposed to do, not just the quarterback. That’s an across-the-board responsibility. But the buck stops with the quarterback.”
In other words, the success (or failure) of an offense begins and ends with the quarterback.
It isn’t about just getting that play, taking a snap, and handing off or throwing the football anymore.
“It used to be everyone pounded the ball down your throat,” Pennypacker explained. “But the game has changed in that regard.”
“Offenses have become much more complicated, and the defenses show you a lot more sets,” added Brubaker. “Then you have teams show you some things they’re not accustomed to doing, things you haven’t seen before (or prepared for).
“So you need an answer for that, a quick answer. You must be more flexible and overcome that. That’s why your quarterback is like a part-time assistant (coach) on the field. He can help tell (the coaches) what he sees out there.”
How well, or how quickly, a quarterback recognizes what he sees across the line more often than not will determine if the ensuing snap evolves into a busted play or a big play, a turnover or a touchdown.
So a quarterback today must commit to hours of preparation, well beyond the after-school practice grind, too.
“Quarterbacks today have to be more knowledgeable because they have to recognize those fronts and coverage packages, and that takes time,” Barr said. “The quarterbacks may be more advanced, though, because they’re learning so much in junior high, doing a lot of what we’re doing (at the high school level).
“And technology has had a big impact on them, too. With all the films, they can sit down anytime, look at plays or a game, and break down everything.”
But even with all the technological advances, most coaches will continue to outline (or scheme) their offenses around the quarterback’s strengths.
“We take into consideration what our quarterback’s skill set is,” Brubaker explained. “We ask ourselves if the starting quarterback is able to do everything in our offense.”
Just a few years ago, Perkiomen Valley head coach Scott Reed had one of the most proficient passing quarterbacks in the history of the PAC-10 with Zach Zulli. For a couple of years, PV — long known to be a run-oriented program — became quite pass-happy.
“A quarterback’s skill set can often determine your philosophy,” Reed explained. “Zach Zulli was an amazing quarterback who could see the whole field, so we took advantage of his ability to throw the ball.”
For the last two years, Pope John Paul II head coach Mike Santillo had record-breaking southpaw David Cotellese and a slew of high-quality receivers … but virtually no running game.
“Our personnel dictated our offense,” Santillo said after watching the elusive Cotellese elude blitz after blitz and pick apart opposing secondaries, often finding a second, third or even fourth receiver on any given play.
Brubaker has had the luxury of having Coyne under center (not to mention Jarred Jones behind him to take handoffs). Coyne’s maturity from his sophomore to junior season was significant, as both his own numbers as well as the Rams’ drive to an unbeaten PAC-10 championship run indicate.
But instead of spelling Coyne in run-related or short-yardage situations as he’s done in the past, Brubaker may just go with his three-year veteran to answer those dilemmas this season.
“(Coyne) is up to 180 pounds or so now,” he said. “He’s bigger, stronger, and he’s improved his speed. So we’ll utilize him a little bit more as a running quarterback instead of what we’ve done in the past by bringing in someone else to run the football.”
Pennypacker, of course, has rarely strayed from running, running and running some more. He has had a long line of unsung quarterbacks who had the ability to check off when needed and execute. Just a few years ago, Terrell Chestnut proved it by guiding the Falcons to a District 1-Class AAA title. Last year, Hudgins duplicated that feat, and will in the lineup this fall looking to improve on his area-highs of 1,530 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns as well as guide the Falcons into the postseason again.
“Up to around 2001 we would call a play and just run it,” Pennypacker said. “But it’s evolved now to the point that our quarterbacks have the opportunity to call an audible on every play.”
“A lot of our kids, including Terry and Tory, have been very smart quarterbacks. They often audibled, often made the right calls.”
Lepre has been blessed to have Bossard, an Eastern Michigan University recruit who has the ability to effectively run as well as throw the football. A senior, Bossard is within reach of finishing his career at Methacton with well over 3,000 yards passing and 2,000 yards rushing.
Most important, Bossard — like Coyne and Hudgins — made giant strides from his sophomore to junior season a year ago. He made the right reads, the right calls and became an integral part of the Warriors’ success last fall, helping produce their first winning season in the PAC-10 and first overall winning season since 2000.
That transition, or maturity, is what Reed hopes to get from Rasaan Stewart, a junior, this season.
“As a quarterback gets older the speed of the game gets a little slower,” Reed explained. “The learning curve isn’t as great.
“Rasaan is getting into deeper concepts now. He did a lot last year on instinct, and he had some success because of his athleticism. But he’s matured a lot, and now he’s developing into more of a quarterback. How he has a better feel for (the defenses) he sees, a better feel for the coverages he sees.”
Other coaches around the PAC-10 hope to see that maturity, that development, from their own quarterbacks, too … like Boyertown’s Griffin Pasik; OJR’s Jarrad Pinelli; Phoenixville’s Chris Demey; PJP’s James Blemming; Pottstown’s Sage Reinhart; and Upper Perkiomen’s Dylan Wesley.
“There are good quarterbacks all around our league,” Brubaker said.
“And the big thing is that a quarterback, with all the challenges and responsibilities he has now, can’t worry if he’s doing something wrong as much as he has to be concerned about what he can do to help his team,” Reed added.
“The quarterback is the focal point of every team,” Lepre said. “(The quarterback position) is where everything starts.”
And it takes, as one coach said, “a certain breed” to be a quarterback.
It has nothing to do with his weight, height, strength or speed, either.
“We all know that a quarterback has to know the plays, has the ability to recognize defenses, make sure everyone is lined up in the right place, and know his progressions,” Lepre said.
“But just as important, if not more important, he has to lead by example, and that’s with his efforts on and off the field. He has to be a leader, the player who demands respect from everyone on his team.”
By Don Seeley
A year ago, the consensus among Pioneer Athletic Conference football coaches was either Pottsgrove or Spring-Ford running off with the title, and everyone else taking shots at one another for third or whatever place, perhaps even a postseason playoff berth.
Spring-Ford went unbeaten, Pottsgrove lost just once and, as predicted, the remaining eight teams did little to separate themselves from one another. Parity, perhaps, but it was the first time in the 26-year history of the league that four losses separated the No. 1 and No. 3 teams (and Methacton, Perkiomen Valley and Phoenixville actually shared that third spot with identical 5-4 records).
Last week, following a question-and-answer session during a tour of all 10 summer camps, the consensus was once again very, very similar … with an expected twist or two, of course.
“Everything goes through Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove, in whatever order you want,” said Pope John Paul II head coach Mike Santillo. “You have to go through those two (teams), at least until someone changes it, to win this league.”
“Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove have earned the right to sit on top of this league, at least until someone is able to say something differently,” added Methacton head coach Paul Lepre. “Both (teams) work very hard to maintain their level of play, too.”
“I still think Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove are in a class by themselves,” said Phoenixville head coach Bill Furlong, who got as good a look at the Rams and Falcons as anyone last November – falling to Spring-Ford on Thanksgiving Eve and then to Pottsgrove a couple of days later in the District 1-Class AAA final.
“Both of those teams have a lot of players back, good players, too. After that I think it’s pretty even. There are a couple of teams that could compete (for the title), but I still think a lot of teams are going to be beating each other up, and it could be pretty much like last year.”
Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove actually mirror one another, at least on paper.
The Rams have Hank Coyne, in his third year at quarterback with an opportunity to go beyond the 5,000-yard career mark in passing; Jarred Jones, arguably one of if not the best running back in the area; a defense splattered with experience and expertise … and an intense desire to repeat and advance in the postseason.
The Falcons have Tory Hudgins, who could run for more than the 1,530 yards and 28 touchdowns he amassed last year; a healthy and bigger Mark Dukes, who was on pace with Hudgins last fall before an injury ended his season nine weeks in; a defense that has speed and savvy in getting to the ball … and an intense desire to get back on top in the PAC-10 and win another district title.
Of course, neither Spring-Ford’s nor Pottsgrove’s coaches – that’s Chad Brubaker and Rick Pennypacker, respectively – care for the preseason compliments, nor do they think their teams are better than anyone else.
“This year is a little different for me,” Brubaker said. “My first two years, I kind of knew who was coming back, or what everyone had. But there’s a lot less of that now.
“I hear everyone saying Pottsgrove (is going to win the title). They’re going to be good. But beyond that, it’s hard to say at this point. I definitely think it’s going to be interesting.”
“For the last two years our kids were reading all the press clippings about how we were going to win this and win that, but we didn’t win (a PAC-10 title) either year,” Pennypacker said. “Sure, we have a lot of kids who played before, who played last season. But (experience) doesn’t necessarily translate into wins. We could be good, but we could also be average.
“This is a crazy league. I feel there are three or four teams capable of winning it this year, and I think there will be a lot of upsets like most years. And, like most years, it could come down to the last game of the season.”
The three teams that shared third a year ago – Methacton, Perkiomen Valley and Phoenixville – actually went toe-to-toe with both the Rams and Falcons, especially Methacton.
The Warriors, who finished over the .500 mark for the first time since coming into the league in 2008 and closed with its first winning record overall since 2000, had the Rams on the ropes before falling and lost by a mere two points to Pottsgrove. Lepre, who has reversed the program’s woes in just two seasons, has a couple of big-play defensive gems in Kyle Lowery and Cooper Given, yet another reliable kicker in Jose Holland, and – don’t forget – veteran quarterback Brandon Bossard, who has thrown for 2,365 yards and run for 999 more in his 2-1/2 seasons guiding the offense.
“We feel good about (the turnaround),” Lepre said. “We’re seeing a lot of good things, seeing how the kids respond to minor adversity. They’re not hanging their heads after something bad happens like they did before. That’s a thing of the past. They have risen above that now in game situations.
“I feel that’s a result of how our leadership has developed over the years. The kids before them were dedicated to turning this around, and there’s a lot of positive energy. They feel they can compete skill-wise now, and because of their dedication in the offseason they feel they can compete strength-wise.”
Lepre is also aware of some lofty expectations for the Warriors.
“We’re climbing a mountain, and right now we’re at the base looking up,” he explained. “We’ve heard some people are looking at us as the team to beat. Well, we’re going to have to work even harder to even be mentioned in the same breath as Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove.”
One team sneaking under the radar – or “keep an eye on them” as a few coaches have pleaded – is Perkiomen Valley.
Scott Reed was as optimistic as ever a week into camp, mainly because of the experience he’s working with, the execution he’s getting during drills, and the performance he saw during the Vikings’ first scrimmage.
“This is the first time in three or four years we actually have a good number of starters back,” Reed said. “We’ve always had our share of seniors, but a lot of them made their way up through the junior varsity. This is the first time we’ve had more returning starters than non-returning starters.
“The big thing about that is it helps make that learning curve a little easier. It’s easier to conceptualize things, easier to get into the deeper realm of things. It makes the teaching aspect easier, especially with the older kids helping each other out. But it doesn’t guarantee anything, either.”
Furlong has his share of returnees, too, especially up front with three-year starters Ryan Pannella at tight end, Ryan Hyland at tackle and Tom White at center. Pannella may also be as good as anyone in the PAC-10 at linebacker, and the same can be said about Ryan Yenchick at safety.
“We have a good frame to build on, but we’ll need some young guys to step up,” Furlong said.
Both Pottstown and Boyertown have some rather big frames up front, too. But both most get support from untested casts behind them.
The Trojans boast Mike Magyar at center, Jaloni Hutchinson at tackle and Darrell Bookard at tight end, a trio returning quarterback Sage Reinhart should sure like to work with. Reinhart scrambles well and threw for 1,266 yards and 15 TDs last season, but the run game needs a significant boost following the graduation of Malik Brinkley and Corey Baker.
“Our kids are committed, and they’re excited about this season,” said head coach Brett Myers.
Boyertown’s challenges are very similar. The Bears have outstanding talent up front with center Nick McMenamin, tackle Austin Jacobs and tight end Corey Long. But head coach Mark Scisly lost three other very good linemen and a trio of backs – Max Marcus, Jon Neiman and Jared Von Dohren – who combined for 3,221 yards and 41 touchdowns carrying the football.
“We’re very young, so how well our young players adjust to varsity football will determine how successful we’ll be,” said Scisley, who may have only six seniors on the entire roster when the season kicks off.
Upper Perkiomen has a lot of new faces – including head coach Steve Moyer, who previously directed the program from 1986-97. The Indians lost more than 20 senior lettermen and return just two starters on defense and offense, which could move the ball well behind veteran quarterback Dylan Wesley, who threw for 1,474 yards and 13 touchdowns last fall.
“You have to have good kids, kids who want to play, kids who want to plug in to what you want to do,” Moyer said. “We have to get back to the basics. But the kids have been good … very good.”
That good attitude and approach has both Owen J. Roberts head coach Tom Barr and Pope John Paul’s Santillo upbeat throughout the preseason, too.
Barr and the Wildcats went winless in the PAC-10 for the first time, and had just one win overall – the fewest in Barr’s 15 previous seasons and fewest by any OJR team since 1995. And even though he greeted a lot of newcomers in mid-August, Barr still has excellent talent in tight end-linebacker Jay Thomas, quarterback-safety Jarrad Pinelli, and linemen Nick D’Angelo and Brad Trego.
“Their attitude is good, though,” Barr said of his young gang. “We were pleased with what we saw during the offseason with the majority of kids showing up for workouts. And their approach in practice is very positive. They have enthusiasm. They’re excited.”
Santillo, despite losing record-breaking quarterback David Cotellese and four very good receivers, was also impressed with the Golden Panthers’ offseason routine. He has three of five starters back from the offensive line – guards Josh Bildstein and Chris DiLeva, and tackle Jake Kopchuk – and it’s no surprise his concern is getting a run game together for new quarterback James Blemming.
“Hopefully we can run the ball,” Santillo explained. “That’s a priority for us, to see how much we can get it going. I wish I could run the ball 80 times a game, but you have to go with what you have. Last year, because of our personnel, dictated we throw the ball. But we’d like to change that around a little this year.”
Almost as much as everyone, other than those at Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove, who would like to rearrange the upper echelon of the PAC-10.
Brian Gilbert has spent the last 6 1/2 months in charge of the Whitehall football program.
His official debut as the Zephyrs' coach should have him ready for the challenges of the Lehigh Valley Conference schedule when it arrives next week.
While several LVC teams will open the 2012 season against opponents they have pounded in the past, Whitehall will trek to Royersford today to face a Class 4A program that won a league championship last year. Spring-Ford has plenty of talent returning from its 2011 team that won the program's first outright PAC-10 title since 1995.
Gilbert, who took over at Whitehall in February after Tony Trisciani left for a job at Villanova, witnessed the Rams' prowess in a scrimmage against District 3 power Wilson-West Lawn. He said Spring-Ford played Wilson even, affirming that the Zephyrs will have their hands full in Week 1.
Two Spring-Ford players stand out from its roster. Hank Coyne, a 6-2, 180-pound senior quarterback, enters his third year as a starter coming off a junior season in which he threw for over 1,900 yards. His top receiver from last season graduated, but Jarred Jones returns with Coyne in the backfield.
Jones, a 5-10, 190-pound junior, has already received Division I interest, according to Gilbert. He ran for 1,455 yards last season.
"Those two, they're really good," Gilbert said. "They could be one of the best tandems, quarterback-running back, that we see all year. They have a defensive end-tight end who is 6-5, 220. They've got a lot of good skill."
Playing against a team of Spring-Ford's caliber could prove advantageous should Whitehall win. The Rams are again among the favorites in the PAC-10 and could pile up victories in their league this year. Whitehall would receive bonus power points for every Spring-Ford win if it were to beat the Rams.
After falling 10 points shy of a spot in the Districts 2-4-11 Class 4A playoffs last season, the Zephyrs don't want to enter the final day of the regular season with other teams deciding their fate again. Senior running back/defensive back James Wah was among the Zephyrs prodding his teammates Monday to focus on prepping for the Rams.
Given top billing on the LVC's opening-week schedule, Whitehall doesn't want to miss out on the chance for an early statement win. Especially when it could pay dividends into November.
"We know they're a good team," Wah said. "They know we're a good team. We've played against good teams before, and our coaches really know what they're doing. We're just going to try to follow our game plan and do what we think is best to win the game."
The new QB crew
Plenty of new faces will line up behind center this weekend, as six LVC teams will open the 2012 season with new quarterbacks.
If anyone is going to struggle deciding what game or games to attend this weekend, it’ll be Jim Mich, Sr.The still sprightly, spirited and entertaining-as-always former coach at St. Pius X High School may have to flip a coin.
Mich and his wife Helen — who, for the record knows a little about the game as well — could head out to District 3, where grandsons J.D. Okuniewski, Tom Pufnock and their Daniel Boone teammates will be kicking off their new season at Cocalico. He could head down to Spring-Ford, where his son (Jim, Jr.) is the co-defensive coordinator, to watch the defending Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Rams go up against the District 11 ranked Whitehall Zephyrs. Then again, he could stop on his way to Royersford to catch the Schuylkill Valley-Pottstown game at Grigg Memorial Field, where a couple of his former players (Schuylkill Valley head coach Jeff Chillot and Pottstown defensive coordinator Tim Hughes) will be strolling both sidelines.
Whew ... get out the GPS and buckle the seat belt.
Saturday will be a lot easier for Mich. He’ll be standing (or sitting) on one of the Pope John Paul II hills watching the Golden Panthers host Berks Catholic, which is led by head coach Rick Keeley, another of his former standouts at Pius.
“It’ll be a busy weekend, that’s for sure,” said Mich, who got a little pumped up for the new season less than a week ago when Okuniewski threw a touchdown pass to Pufnock during the Blazers’ scrimmage against Boyertown.
Driving to Cocalico or Spring-Ford would be the obvious choice (if there was just one game to choose, of course), being that both games involve family,
But throughout all those years guiding the Pius program, the Mich’s “family” sure expanded.
And among the clan was Chillot, whose father Lew, incidentally, assisted Mich for most of those years with the Lions.
“Jeff was always very analytical as a player,” Mich said of his former wideout-defensive back. “He understood the game. You knew then if he wanted to be a football coach that someday he’d probably be a good one.”
Chillot has proven to be just that, at the high school (Pottstown) as well as college (Albright and Kutztown) levels. He got his first head coaching position at Schuylkill Valley and now, in just his fourth season, has helped the Panthers become a Berks Football League Division II contender.
Mich has often recalled how Chillot provided him with one of the biggest plays of his coaching career — returning a punt (through the snow, rain and mud and Pottsgrove defense) for the decisive touchdown in the Lions’ 13-7 Thanksgiving Day win over the Falcons back in 1983.
“Jeff is a football coach in every sense of the word,” Mich said. “He’s very dedicated, and has done nothing but a good job wherever he’s been. He’s a very astute young man who is very much into the game.”
Keeley, meanwhile, is closing in on Mich’s longevity on the sidelines.
A 1971 graduate of St. Pius X, where he was an offensive lineman and nose guard for Mich, Keeley spent most of his career at Holy Name before the merger with Reading Central Catholic. He was the Saints new head coach when they kicked off their program a year ago. This is his 27th season overall, and rarely a month goes by he doesn’t chat with Mich.
“Rick is just a class act,” Mich said. “I have so much respect for him, and like him so much as a person. He is such a positive person. He’s always been upbeat, from the time he was a kid up to today. He’s never changed in that regard.”
Keeley does have that engaging personality, and a smile that never seems to goes away. But he kind of left those characteristics in the locker room before heading out to the field for Mich.
“Rick was as good a nose guard as anyone I ever coached,” Mich said. “You just couldn’t block him. He had that great intensity. And boy, did he ever play to win.
“But he always was, and still is, nothing but a gentlemen.”
If Helen Mich decides to rest Saturday, don’t think her husband will be alone at PJP. He could be joined up on one of those hills by Dave Psota, John Sengia and John Welding, all former Pius teachers who are now substitutes at Berks Catholic — perhaps even Ed Dobry, another of Mich’s longtime assistants and teachers at Pius who now works for the Intermediate Unit at Berks Catholic and serves as the head track coach at Pope John Paul.
“Could be a gang of us old-timers there,” Mich said, breaking into a laugh
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Preseason Ranking of the Top 10 Running Backs in Southeastern Pa.
Player School Ht. Wt. Yr.
1. David Williams Imhotep Charter 6-1 200 Sr.
2. Mike Class Pennridge 5-10 175 Jr.
3. Kyle Mayfield North Penn 6-0 205 Sr.
4. Eerin Young Imhotep Charter 5-10 175 Sr.
5. Daquan Mack Pennsbury 6-1 255 Sr.
6. Mark Dukes Pottsgrove 6-0 180 Sr.
7. Dimetri Kelly Roman Catholic 5-11 180 Soph.
8. Jarred Jones Spring-Ford 5-11 185 Jr.
9. Devon Brown Neshaminy 5-11 170 Jr.
10. Eric Neefe Penn Charter 5-10 215 Sr.