By Barry Sankey
UPPER PROVIDENCE -- Spring-Ford senior linebacker Tim Vu received the prestigious David L. Freed Award during the Pioneer Athletic Conference Football Coaches Association 29th annual all-league banquet Sunday afternoon at the Rivercrest Golf Club.
Outside of being a starting linebacker and the Rams' play-caller on defense, Vu suffers from Type 1 Diabetes and is also a fine student in the classroom, sporting a 96.6 percent grade point average.
"This is the first time in my five years here that I have had one of my players win this award,' said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker. "Despite his stature, Tim prepared himself to becoming a varsity starter. He dedicated himself to getting stronger in the weight room, and he became one of the strongest players pound-for-pound that we have had at Spring-Ford.'
Vu received the award from Brubaker, who also detailed the criteria for receiving the Freed Award. It goes to a senior football player from the PAC-10 who epitomizes the fine character of the late David Freed, a former Spring-Ford lineman who died following a practice incident in 1975 with a blocking machine that is no longer manufactured.
Vu was ever-present even as he navigated the challenges of living with diabetes.
"We had to monitor him on the field and watch what he had for the team meal. But he only missed one day in four years,' Brubaker said.
Vu will study electrical engineering in college.
Other special award winners were: Brandon Barone, Spring-Ford (Joseph Edwards Scholarship); Seth Jonassen, Perkiomen Valley and Zach Dorsey, Spring-Ford (Bill Rogers Lineman of the Year); Conner Derrickson, Methacton (Offensive Player of the Year); Brett Capobianco, Perkiomen Valley and Brendan Zimmie, Spring-Ford (Defensive Player of the Year); Patrick Finn, Pottsgrove (Two-Way Player of the Year); and Michael Fowler, Pottsgrove (Most Valuable Player).
The All-Academic Team featured Boyertown's Dalton Hughes, Methacton's Ryan Hoehl, Owen J. Roberts' Nicolas Thomas, Perkiomen Valley's Darrell Philpot, Phoenixville's Tom Hammaker, Pope John Paul II's Matt Mesaros, Pottsgrove's Finn, Pottstown's Gary Wise, Spring-Ford's Vu and Upper Perkiomen's Jason Pirri.
Perkiomen Valley head coach Scott Reed gave closing remarks after his Vikings captured the 2014 PAC-10 championship with a perfect 9-0 record. It marked Reed's second title in 11 years of coaching the Vikes.
Notes -- Dave Reidenouer, a former Ches-Mont League football star at Pottstown High School and Bloomsburg University during the 1970s, served as master of ceremonies and introduced guests. ... Boyertown head coach George Parkinson delivered the invocation.
By Barry Sankey
ROYERSFORD -- Eight Pioneer Athletic Conference football players and their coaches were honored during the annual Tall Cedars Lodge Football Night on Wednesday evening.
Honored players included Patrick Finn, Pottsgrove; Shawn O'Donnell, Boyertown; Brendan Zimmie, Spring-Ford; Joshua Torrens, Owen J. Roberts; Andrew Narducci, Perkiomen Valley; Matt Mesaros, Pope John Paul II; Matt Palubinsky, Phoenixville; and Vaughn Bertoti, Pottstown.
Perkiomen Valley was recognized for its undefeated run in the PAC-10 and first outright championship in school history, all coming under the direction of head coach Scott Reed. Perkiomen Valley offensive line coach Jason Basile was the first to speak about his player, Narducci.
"Andrew was our center and is an excellent representative of our program,' said Basile. "He fought his way up. As a junior, he started four games at left tackle last year. This year he was our starting center. But he could have been our right tackle, right guard, left guard or left tackle. He was extremely versatile and stayed calm.'
Narducci carries a 3.2 grade point average and plans to study accounting in college. He is considering UConn, Delaware, Temple and Bloomsburg.
Boyertown head coach George Parkinson talked about O'Donnell, an offensive lineman for the Bears.
"Number one, he is a good student, an honor student, and he gives back to the community,' said Parkinson. "He played offensive line, but he wasn't the biggest guy. He used his intelligence and technique and (has a lot of) heart and desire. He has a great work ethic, and his enthusiasm is contagious.'
O'Donnell has also helped his father coach youth football for the last seven years. O'Donnell plans to major in history in college. He is deciding between Albright, Wilkes and Indiana.
Owen J. Roberts head coach Tom Barr talked about Torrens.
"Joshua was always a guy you could depend on,' Barr said of the offensive lineman. "This year we had guys go down in our offensive line. We never had the same five guys on the field at one time so we had to change people around. But he never questioned his role.'
Torrens played tackle, guard and center for the Wildcats.
"He knew what had to get done, and he really helped us out a lot,' said Barr. "He is a team player, and he stayed injury free by dedicating himself in the offseason in the weight room.'
Torrens wants to study metal fabrication and welding at Stevens College, and he would also like to play football there.
Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker talked about Finn, who also happens to be his nephew. Finn has been an outstanding student as well as an outstanding two-way lineman on the football field the last two seasons.
"Patrick is a special kid,' said Pennypacker. "We brought him up in ninth grade, and he was a skinny runt. Four years later he became a good football player. We like our players to have character, academics and skill. His character is beyond reproach. He never talks, but he lets his actions speak for themselves. He was voted our captain by 46 of 47 votes.'
Finn carries a 101.3 cumulative grade average in his schoolwork with honors courses in his curriculum. A member of the National Honor Society, Finn plans to study mechanical engineering in college on a scholarship to Bucknell University while also playing football. Finn also had big offers from Navy, Army, Villanova and Delaware to play college football.
Also an outstanding wrestler, Finn finished second in the state at 285 pounds during the PIAA Championships. However, he will not be wrestling this year. He plans to have surgery on his shoulder in order to prepare for his college football career.
Pope John Paul II head coach Rory Graver discussed Mesaros.
"I have known Matt since his freshman year,' said Graver. "He has really developed into a leader and always competes in school and in the community. He was voted our most outstanding player.'
Mesaros has a 3.9 GPA. He also gives back to the community as a CYO coach and Special Abilities Coach for Shooting Stars. Mesaros was moved from quarterback to wide receiver this year, but he maintained a positive attitude to help lead the squad as a team player. He was also willing to help out the Golden Panthers' younger quarterbacks.
Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker talked about defensive end Brendan Zimmie, who went from not playing football at all to becoming a standout contributor this season.
"It is a tribute to how hard he's worked,' said Brubaker. "He did not play football as a sophomore. He came out last year and played JV linebacker and on special teams. But he had a tremendous offseason, and he had a really good wrestling season. During the spring and summer, he developed in the weight room. The coaches felt ' we have to get this kid on the field'. We ended up moving him to defensive end. He has a motor and he plays to the whistle. Everything he's gotten, he's earned.'
Zimmie registered seven sacks and had six hurries this season in becoming an elite pass rusher in the PAC-10. He also excels in the classroom with a 96 percent cumulative grade average and a 1,310 combined score on the GSAT.
A quiet kid, Zimmie still knew how to lead his Ram teammates.
"He motivated kids,' said Brubaker. "He knew what buttons to push. He earns what he gets.'
Pottstown head coach Don Grinstead spoke about Bertoti, a 160-pound center on the Trojans' offensive line last year who also led the team in tackles.
Grinstead remembered when he took the job at Pottstown last year, he was looking for offensive linemen. Bertoti told him he was the center. Grinstead was skeptical due to Bertoti's size, but it turned out to be true and solid.
"It is because he was as tough as nails,' said Grinstead. "He did not play this year because he broke his leg on the second play in our first scrimmage. Football can be cruel, but we all love the sport, and it teaches us life lessons. He went through four hours of surgery. He got back to practice for our Thanksgiving Day morning game. But the hardest part I had to do was tell him he wasn't ready. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do as a coach, but he just was not ready. He would have been one of our best players this year. We missed him like crazy.'
Grinstead praised Bertoti and his parents for raising such a fine young man. Bertoti plans to enter a branch of the military for his future career.
Phoenixville head coach Evan Breisblatt brought along Palubinsky, an all-purpose junior performer for the Phantoms. Palubinsky was accompanied by his mother, Phoenixville assistant superintendent Dr. Regina Palubinsky, as well as Phoenixville principal Dr. Craig Parkinson.
"Matt Palubinsky is a great example for my own kid,' said Breisblatt. "He was the first-ever junior captain I've had, and I have been coaching for 19 years. We left it open, but we all agreed.'
Breisblatt said Palubinsky, like all the honored football players, does the right things as far as being a student-athlete, which may not be "cool,' but they do not care what other people think.
Palubinsky played wide receiver, tight end, running back and quarterback for the Phantoms, and he also doubled on defense. He also played on all of the special teams.
"He never came off the field,' said Breisblatt. "He did it all.'
The Tall Cedars continued a tradition that began in 1941 and has continued ever since. Bob Mull has been the longtime chairman of Football Night. The Tall Cedars also presented gifts to each of the football players.
The guest speaker for the evening was West Chester University head football coach Bill Zwaan, who has been directing the Golden Rams to success in the Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) for the past 12 years. Zwaan was a star quarterback at Archbishop Carroll High School before graduating in 1972, and then went on to become a standout quarterback at the University of Delaware.
By Jeff Stover
ROYERSFORD - It was a time for Spring-Ford High School to recognize the senior members of its football team, cheerleading squad and marching band.
The gridders from the Class of 2015 accepted their accolades prior to Friday's game with Owen J. Roberts, then spent 48 minutes repaying their fans while fashioning themselves an indelible memory for the years to come.
On the occasion of their final regular-season game at Coach McNelly Stadium, the Rams seniors headed a 49-13 victory on their neighboring Pioneer Athletic Conference rivals. They did it by scoring 35 unanswered points after trading touchdowns at the start, securing the running clock for the entire second half and being recognized once more as they came off the field as the game wound down.
"We were trying to get around to all our seniors,' head coach Chad Brubaker said afterward. "This was their last game on the field, and we wanted to make sure to recognize them ... how they progressed in their time here. They deserve it.'
Brandon Leacraft was at the forefront of Spring-Ford's senior showcase, throwing three TD passes and catching a fourth in the course of his team's 35-point run. Classmates Brandon Barone and Danny Matthews were on the receiving end of respective 23- and 1-yard strikes from Leacraft, who then pulled in a 13-yard toss from Stone Scarcelle to cap a double-reverse play that put the Rams (6-2 league, 6-3 overall) up by a 35-7 count with little more than seven minutes left in the first half.
Leacraft then closed out the first half's offensive surge by connecting with Ted Dylinski on a 20-yard toss inside the five-minute mark. That put the second half's action on fast-forward, the clubs trading touchdowns over the final 8:30.
"He's having a great year, making great decisions,' Brubaker said of Leacraft, who completed 13 of 16 passes for 164 yards, to a stable of five different receivers. "He has one more game to go, and he may be setting some records.'
A number of other Spring-Ford seniors got their names called prior to taking their final bows before the hometown crowd.
Along with Barone (67 yards) and Matthews (55) having three-catch nights, Alec Welsh (two receptions, 16 yards) and Brett Conway (one for 11) were part of the six Rams targeted by Leacraft during the night.
"We have a number of good receivers,' Brubaker said, "and we wanted to utilize them.'
On the defensive side, Connor Crawford had a fumble-forcing sack of Owen J. quarterback Mitch Bradford — one of four mishandles the Wildcats (1-6, 1-8) sustained during the game, three of which were recovered by the home team.
"One thing we said to them at the half was, we can't make mistakes against a team like that,' Roberts head coach Tom Barr said following the Wildcats' sixth straight defeat. "But we didn't want the kids to quit. We wanted to still go after them.'
Owen J's second-half resolve was highlighted by a 15-play, 85-yard march after recovering a Spring-Ford fumble. Bradford (8-for-16, 59 yards) finished the drive with a 14-yard TD pass to Tony Thomas with 8:29 left.
"We came out in a ' Wildcat' for the first series, then went into a two-minute offense,' Barr explained. "We weren't going to quit as a staff ... we wanted to make something happen. I was happy with the way we responded, the way we played in the second half.'
The ' Cats recovered another Rams fumble two plays after the ensuing kickoff, getting to the Spring-Ford 37 before turning the ball over on downs. Selwyn Simpson then covered the distance to the end zone on two runs, the second a 29-yard burst through left tackle for a final touchdown with 20 seconds remaining.
"It's tough when you're struggling through injuries,' Barr said. "But the kids have had a good attitude in practice, picking themselves up. They're not quitting on each other.'
In complement to the seniors' show, a number Spring-Ford underclassmen also contributed to the home-field swan song.
Sophomore Matt Gibson rushed for 110 yards, to include touchdowns of 15 and nine yards bookending Bradford's 12-yard TD rush for Owen J. in the first quarter. Simpson, another 10th-grader, finished with 76 yards on eight totes.
Brubaker, outlining the Scarcelle halfback-option pass Leacraft called: "We've practiced it for a while. We wanted the kids to have some fun.' ... The Rams' high-octane offense resulted in just one punt for the game, which didn't come until their first series of the second half. The home team ended up getting the ball back immediately, Welsh recovering the fumble. ... Barr confirmed Owen J. will be looking to schedule a contingency game, between next week's meeting with Pope John Paul II and its traditional Thanksgiving Day finale with Pottstown. He noted the possibility of bringing in Northampton, coached by former Boyertown field boss Mark Scisly, if scheduled opponent Upper Moreland ends up in the District 1 playoffs.