CHANGING TIMES: Social media feeds sports fans realtime results
By Frank Otto, The Mercury
Four or five years ago, if you didn’t go to the big Spring-Ford-Perkiomen Valley rivalry football game on a Friday night, you’d have to wait till Saturday to find out in that morning’s Mercury who won the game.
“When I went to school, somebody would have to go to the Spring-Ford-Perk Valley game and call somebody else,” said Pottsgrove School District Network Engineer/webmaster Jason Grubbs, a Phoenixville Area High School alumnus.
Within even just the last two years, that experience has changed.
“It’s complete interactivity,” Grubbs said.
Social media, especially Twitter, has made it possible for fans at the game, or even those sitting at home, to see not only the play in front of them but also check how PAC-10 threat Pottsgrove is doing in their game.
“As soon as I get home, I throw up Twitter and I start searching for the hashtag,” Grubbs said. “Literally, it’s like, ‘(Michael) Fowler, 25 yard run.’ I almost know what down it is.”
Lexis Shimkonis, a senior basketball player for Owen J. Roberts High School, said it’s exciting to see herself and her team in such tweets but mostly she likes following her competition.
“I often find it more exciting to see real time results from other games, especially close games and playoff games,” she said. “Updates can be tweeted as they happen in a game, almost like you are there.”
Twitter has changed the media habits in sports reporting, too. “In the old days, you had to call another paper and hope the beat guy was working,” said Mercury sports reporter Darryl Grumling. “Now, all you do is log on to the paper’s website or do a Google search and more often than not, you can easily find the info you are looking for.”
Grumling served as The Mercury’s main football writer this past season and has covered the game, among many other sports, for years.
He’s definitely seen a change in the way the game is followed and what his responsibilities are in light of that.
“Five years ago, when I was covering, say, a Wilson football game, I’d write a gamer or sidebar,” he said. “It would go on my paper’s website at 1 a.m. the next day, when everything was ‘dumped’ online and be in the next day’s print edition.
“Now, I will live tweet, send a photo or two and do a Tout video virtually from the time I arrive at the game, tweet scoring updates and highlights during the game – in addition to the old-school statkeeping, doing play-by-play and otherwise ‘covering the game’ – and my story will be online as soon as it is written/edited and tweeted out,” Grumling said.
“It’s a juggling act,” said Mercury Sports Editor Austin Hertzog.
Twitter drives demand for live coverage
The live coverage doesn’t stop at football. Virtually every high school sport gets the full treatment at some point, whether it was Spring-Ford’s girls’ heartbreaking overtime championship loss, from which Hertzog tweeted every attack, to sports reporter Sam Stewart’s coverage of Perkiomen Valley’s field hockey games.
Shimkonis said she follows on Twitter Mercury Sports, PAC-10 Sports, teammates, the coaches, who run the official team accounts, and her school’s student section, The Cat Pack (@OJRCatPack).
The Mercury’s “live” sports coverage began in 2012 with a Blogspot site called “Mercury Sports Live,” created primarily to provide links for editors to Tweet out during games.
Reporters took short videos with smart phones from the sidelines, sent them via email to an editor, who posted them on Mercury Sports Live, then Tweeted out the video from @PottsMercsports, the sports department’s Twitter account.
Moving forward, the innovation of instant video posting such as Vine and, eventually, Tout, made Mercury Sports Live and sites like it quickly obsolete. Reporters at the field could take a video and immediately put it up via Tout.
That’s how someone like Grubbs could see Fowler gaining 25 yards just a minute after it happened.
“I have gotten several thank you tweets from folks who couldn’t be at the game who are grateful for the live-tweeting/video/etc.,” Grumling said.
Many schools or teams have accounts that also tweet out scores, results or the minutiae of a high school sports event.
“We started the account because I saw a couple of other school districts had athletic Twitter accounts,” Grubbs said, who moderates the official Pottsgrove School District account as well as the athletic department account.
He said he started tweeting out schedule updates, rain delays and snow days, but “it just kind of ballooned into other things we could do.”
At the start, his target audience was parents.
“Then it completely changed,” he said.
Once athletes and other students got accounts and began following, Grubbs started retweeting media coverage and students’ accounts.
“Leave it to the kids to become more interactive,” he said.
Many schools, like Owen J. Roberts High School, Spring-Ford Area High School and Pope John Paul II High School, have Twitter accounts attached to specific sports.
Spring-Ford’s football account makes some basic announcements such as workout times, but also expands to notify “bigger things,” like a “contract to open up with State College (High School) next year as our first game,” said Spring-Ford head football coach Chad Brubaker.
“We are able to communicate with a broad audience about things that are happening within our program,” he said.
Spring-Ford also launched an app last year for smart phones that allows subscribers to get notifications about specific teams, like football.
Pottsgrove High School Athletic Director Gary DeRenzo said social media accounts can be a “great tool” and that some of his sports teams use closed Facebook group pages to set up communication between coaches, students and parents.
Students take the lead
Some Twitter accounts linked with schools aren’t even in the hands of administrators or teachers.
A few popular student-run accounts include the Pottsgrove Student Section (@PG_Student_Sect)and the Cat Pack.
“The OJR Cat Pack, new to Twitter this school year, is great to get updates from every sporting event that OJR plays in,” Shimkonis said. “The students who run the Cat Pack Twitter do a great job getting scores and big plays out to their followers so that even if you are not able to attend a game and cheer in the student section, you are able to keep up with the game and know how our teams are doing.”
Leading up to games, the accounts tweet out the times of games and instructions of what to wear (i.e. a white-out, black-out, etc.) as well as retweeting other students’ excitement.
The accounts are even active during games, ringing out in jubilation or consternation at the goings-on.
Shimkonis said she believes her student section is the best in the PAC-10 and how connected they are on Twitter plays into her views.
In the Owen J. Roberts football game against Phoenixville this year, everything came down to a final Hail Mary pass. If the Wildcats caught the ball in the end zone, they won. If not, they lost.
Wide receiver Kirk Hinrichs did catch the ball as time expired; however, the referee ruled Hinrichs landed with a foot out of bounds.
Almost immediately, the tweet of a student in the Owen J. Roberts student section was retweeted by the Cat Pack. It featured a picture of Hinrichs at the point of his landing, proclaiming him in.
“They’re Zapruder-ing this,” Mercury news editor Steve Moore said.
In response, The Mercury reporter covering a game who had the sideline angle on a Tout video of the same catch sent out a tweet to compare.
“I think we’ve done well in gaining the interest of the next generation of readers with social media,” Hertzog said.
Hertzog said such direct interaction with students and student-athletes is “outstanding.”
“I would say being on Twitter has definitely raised my profile among the area local sports following, especially with scholastic athletes,” Grumling said. “More often than not, when I covered a football game this fall, I could hear kids yelling my name (or Twitter handle) from the stands.”
Stewart, the newest Mercury reporter in the sports department, related hearing his name chanted by the Cat Pack as he covered an Owen J. Roberts soccer game only months after he began working and attributed it to his Twitter presence.
The interaction proves useful. One Friday night during football season a year ago, Grumling realized in his post-game stat tallying that he missed who recovered a fumble on one particular play.
With the newspaper print deadline ticking closer, he asked via Twitter for help.
Within minutes, one football player in the game replied with the player’s name to fill the question mark in Grumling’s stat book.
“I like the way that social media makes it person-to-person and tangible, rather than ‘the newspaper’ to person,” Hertzog said.
Shimkonis said she believes Twitter “gives students a chance to network about what they are interested in and it gets athletes more involved around the league.”
Twitter can also be used as a tool by some athletes to keep tabs on their competition.
“It definitely keeps things competitive,” said Kyle Dix, a sprint swimmer for Perkiomen Valley. “The more you know, the better it is going into the meet.”
Dix said he’ll use Twitter to check results of other teams in the area to get geared up for meets.
“Usually a couple of days after a meet, I find the results,” he said. “We can basically scout out and prepare.”
Bringing students together
Perkiomen Valley’s swimming program doesn’t have an official Twitter account, but Dix said he’s interested in maybe getting one going. His club team in Upper Dublin has one.
Describing the swimming community as “close,” Dix said everyone basically knows each other by the time they hit high school and he uses Twitter to interact with everyone.
“As a whole, it brings student-athletes together because they are able to root for or against a team, see how their competition is doing and get updates and articles that are about what they do on a daily basis,” Shimkonis said.
Although such direct access is usually a plus, there are some drawbacks. After a hard-fought loss against rival Spring-Ford early in the football season, Perkiomen Valley’s quarterback/safety Rasaan Stewart’s profile drew barbed tweets about some miscues in his performance in a game he otherwise played well.
Shimkonis said she hasn’t seen much ill will directed toward her team but has seen some generally directed at her school in other sports or at the Cat Pack.
Dix said that since swimmers know each other so well, any problems are usually dealt with offline.
“We’ve been swimming each other since we were, like, 8 years old,” Dix said. “Everyone in the PAC-10, we pretty much know all of them. It’s definitely competitive, but if we want to talk about something, we talk about it before the meet. It’s a respect thing.”
“We’ve had people trash talk or rub it in when we don’t win,” Brubaker said. “That just happened this year with the team we lost to in our last playoff game and it happened last year with how we chose to handle our game with Phoenixville when we had a playoff game versus Pennridge in the days following.”
“We’ve had some issues,” DeRenzo said. “I think every school has issues.”
DeRenzo said he talks to his student-athletes about the responsibility of social media usage. A specific story he tells them is about a coach who went for another job and eventually didn’t get it after the interviewer found a Facebook picture of her in college holding a beer.
“I don’t want to be naïve. Kids are going to take risks and they’re going to do things, and they don’t think they’ll get caught,” DeRenzo said. “Is it an epidemic problem? No. Is it something we have to take a look at? Yeah.”
Brubaker tries to let his players know that tweeting is open to the public and doesn’t completely fade.
“I think the biggest concern, as a coach, is that the players are using it properly,” Brubaker said. “We’ve had some situations where others took issue with what our players were tweeting. We try to emphasize to our players that everyone can see what they are ‘saying’ and it’s important to keep it above the board.”
“I talk to them to make sure they make sure that they understand that that just doesn’t go away,” DeRenzo said. “Electronic data is the same as just paper data in the ability to extract it. If something is negative, it can come back to haunt you.”
Although Brubaker does browse his players’ tweets occasionally and talks to them about social media, especially before big games, he said he has no desire to be a “Twitter cop.”
“If a person doesn’t speak civilly or doesn’t have the integrity to sign his or her name, then it doesn’t hold a lot of substance,” Brubaker said. “Being outside of our program, they have a fraction of the information that we have and have different goals and interests than we have. It’s easy to stand on a perceived hill and throw stones.”
DeRenzo uses the term “CC,” repurposed from “carbon copy” to a digital age term — “coward communicator.”
“With social media, you’re talking from afar and no one is around,” DeRenzo said. “It’s real easy to hit that send button.”
“I think people forget that students used to write notes in school that were less than appropriate,” Brubaker said. “The difference is that many of these social media avenues are open to the public. That hasn’t completely sunk in with some students.”
All the same, Shimkonis said she doesn’t feel spotlighted by having a Twitter account as an athlete.
“I have never been involved in a Twitter fight over sports,” she said.
Social media have opened up the ability of many more than in the past to have a voice heard by the masses. In cases like student section Twitter accounts, that can be good.
Credibility is paramount
“The ability to almost instantly get the info out is nice, but a lot of times it is cancelled out by the lack of thorough reporting, rumor-mongering, et cetera,” Grumling said. “I also have a problem with the lack of accountability aspect, like most folks who chirp on Twitter won’t say the same thing to someone’s face.”
“I’m a big believer in accuracy,” DeRenzo said. “I think that sometimes, in haste, we make some mistakes that are basically avoidable and preventable.”
“I guess it’s a double-edged sword, but it’s definitely changed the landscape of our profession,” Grumling said.
Social media’s increasing presence in high school sports makes certain aspects of coverage better than ever, but the challenges facing the rest of journalism still have to be taken into account.
“Is (the digital coverage) sustainable? It seems that a person’s ability to take on more is ever-increasing,” Hertzog said. “Whenever you think you’ve hit your ceiling, you likely haven’t. But it would be foolish to think that something doesn’t suffer with staffs stretched too thin…the requirements of what it means to be relevant media have been reinvented in the last five years. The structure of an editorial staff and a reporter’s role needs to be reinvented to match.”
In the meantime, reporters, athletes, coaches, parents and everyone in between will have to grow together figuring out the new immediacy of high school coverage and, more importantly, enjoying it.
“Former players are saying, ‘This is great,’” Grubbs said. “’I really wish we had this when we were in school.’”
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.
‘It’s happening again’
by 21 January 2014
As he sat alongside his teammates on the turf of the newly renovated Student Pavilion, junior track thrower Justin Berg hadn’t the slightest clue what was going on.
An emergency meeting, called during the middle of a study day, was certainly out of the norm. But Berg, like many of the other student-athletes who were in attendance on that rainy December afternoon, was not at all prepared for what was next.
As Athletic Director Kevin Clark began speaking and reality struck, Berg’s body began to tremble. He had seen this before.
Surrounded by dozens of crying and confused student-athletes, Berg tried to keep his emotions together. But as his eyes met senior captain Gabe Pickett, and the two exchanged a hug, Berg lost it.
“It’s happening again,” he thought.
After his previous school, Millersville, cut its track program in 2012, Berg found a new home at Temple. He competed during the 2012–13 season, earning the Owls five points during the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship with his hammer throw. Now, with Clark’s announcement that Temple will cut seven of its sports – including men’s indoor and outdoor track & field – Berg must transfer again if he wishes to continue competing at the collegiate level.
One of the first courses of action Berg took after Clark’s initial announcement of the cuts was to find his coach, Eric Mobley.
“I told him, ‘I can’t stop competing,’” Berg said. “It’s the reason why I left Millersville and it’s the reason why I’m leaving here.”
Mobley said he told Berg to keep his head up, although the sixth-year coach was distraught over the news.
“It’s a shame that he had to go through this twice in a row,” Mobley said. “But Justin is a great student-athlete. I think he handled it pretty well. He’s not dwelling on it, he’s just looking toward the future and trying to do what’s best for him and the program for the remainder of the year.”
Berg said he wants to continue his track career at another university and is in the final stages of transferring to Penn State after the spring semester. Berg continues to practice with Temple, although he plans to redshirt this season to give himself an extra year of eligibility.
“In a different era, I would have experienced an uninterrupted career,” Berg, a math and computer science major, said. “This wouldn’t have been a problem. That’s what is happening today. But three universities … that’s incredible.”
Pickett describes his teammate as a guy that’s usually to himself, which made his hug with Berg on the day of the announcement a “strong moment.” Pickett, already a leader on the team, said Berg has shown guidance to other student-athletes in the aftermath of the cuts being announced.
“He’s been really strong throughout the whole thing,” Pickett said. “He’s been a guy that a lot of people could look to when they need someone to talk to or need some help, because he’s been in this situation. He knows how to deal with it, and he knows the best steps going forward.”
Berg said he has emailed the coaches of the other teams, offering his guidance. Many at Temple, at least initially, felt a great deal of anger after the cuts were announced. Berg said he doesn’t find such feelings helpful.
“Anger isn’t the way to go,” he said. “You can be frustrated. But letting it get to you is going to bring you down.”
The track program at Temple seemed, to many on the team, as headed in the right direction. Travis Mahoney earned three NCAA All-American titles during a five-year career from 2008-12, becoming one of the most decorated student-athletes in the team’s history. This season, the coaching staff grew to the largest it has been in five years. A renovated weight room and recently hired trainers also brought new attention to the team.
“It made me feel like we were going up,” Berg said.
Come July 1, the program will be eliminated a year shy of its 90th anniversary.
Berg was not recruited to Millersville, and he initially was forced to go through a tryout process in order to make the team. Former Marauders coach Scott Weiser said Berg showed some physical attributes and signs that he could be a valuable thrower on his roster during that initial tryout session – enough for the Phoenixville, Pa., native to join his squad.
Throughout his freshman campaign, Berg began to prove himself. He tossed the fourth-best distance in school history at the indoor conference championships, and placed seventh in the outdoor championships later that year.
Weiser, who now works in the construction industry, said he has reached out to Berg following the news of Temple’s athletic cuts, and hopes his former student-athlete continues his career elsewhere. Weiser describes his own experience of athletic cuts as “getting punched in the stomach and kicked in the balls.”
“It really stinks that someone who went through this already has to do it again, but he’s put so much into it and really deserves to have a good experience,” Weiser said. “You fight this much, for this long … I’d hate to see the kid give up.”
“He may look back 20 to 30 years and regret giving up – just because someone can’t keep their finances in order,” Weiser added. “And that’s really the mess of it. Someone can’t keep their finances in order, and so they cut the team.”
Having been through this before, Berg said he believes the cuts are an opportunity for the team to come together and perhaps gain a new perspective on competing in track & field. During every meet this season, Berg wants his team to never forget that this is the program’s final season.
“It really makes you grateful for every opportunity that you get,” Berg said. “You’re more humble. People want to talk about entitlement in sports. You might not even think about it, but you might feel entitled to having your sport.”
“That gratefulness and humbleness that it can be taken away from you really changes your perspective,” Berg added. “You see how important the sport really is to you.”
There are a number of similarities between the situation Berg experienced in Millersville and the one he’s dealing with at Temple. Berg said there was a lack of transparency in both schools – he discovered the news of the cuts at Millersville through email. With the Marauders, Berg said the student-athletes came together and tried, unsuccessfully, to save their programs.
Likewise, many Owls aren’t giving up hope either. Most recently, a group was formed called the “T7 Council” to try and convince the Board of Trustees to reconsider the cuts. Petitions have been created and flyers have been handed out. Some are placing duct tape over the Temple logo on their apparel.
“The kids going out and getting those petitions, that’s fantastic,” Berg said. “It’s bringing people together, and it’s bringing notice to our school to show what’s happening.”
“It’s great to see everyone come together and all of the attention,” Berg added. “But from my first time, it wasn’t going to happen. And it’s not going to happen here … That’s really disappointing.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.
Spring-Ford's Romano named Times Herald Defensive Player of the Year
By DENNIS C. WAY
ROYERSFORD — Mason Romano doesn't believe in shortcuts.
Which is why when the Spring-Ford High senior is not playing football or wrestling you'll most likely find him spending a large part of his free time in the weight room.
In fact, athletically, the only time Romano could be accused of cutting corners was when he was in sixth grade, and looking for a way to play organized football.
"All the football around was weight football,' he recalled, "and I couldn't make the weight.'
So Romano went around the end and played for the CMC, a local catholic group that was running a youth football league.
"That league had to do with age, not weight,' he said.
So Romano got to play football. And his first position — defensive end — became, with the exception of one season, his gridiron home for the next six seasons and the position at which he is The Times Herald Defensive Player of the Year.
At that post this year Romano was an offense disruption machine, racking up 69 tackles and eight sacks while adding an interception causing three fumbles and leading the team in hurries (9) and tackles for losses (17). In fact, Romano wound up setting Rams career marks for both tackles for losses (40) and hurries (31).
His size, speed and strength are his obvious weapons. But Romano said the key to his success is as simple as it is basic.
"I've just kept doing everything I'm asked to do,' he said. "When I started playing I didn't miss practice, I didn't miss workouts and whatever I was told to do on the field I would do.'
That philosophy has served Romano well as he has been one of the linchpins for a Rams football team that has been one of the Pioneer Athletic Conference's best in recent years and which reached the PIAA District One Class AAAA finals a season ago.
"(Romano) is very strong, and he's worked hard to make himself the player he is,' said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker. "He's a weight-room rat and he's actually lost weight since his freshman year.
"He's quick off the edge, and he has a motor.'
He also has a long-time emotional attachment to the Rams.
"I went to every game when I was younger,' he said. "I always looked up to the high school kids, and I always knew I was going to play for Spring-Ford.'
Romano got his chance to do that quicker than most, as Brubaker elevated him to the varsity as a freshman.
"I played ninth-grade ball in eighth grade,' Romano said, "but I stayed humble.
"Going up to the varsity in ninth grade was pretty cool. There was a big difference in game speed.'
Although he dressed for the varsity, Romano's varsity time was virtually non-existent, as he toiled for the junior varsity the entire season.
But the following year Romano was a sophomore starter for the varsity. And he was on the wrong end of a few welcome-to-varsity-ball moments.
"Everyone is faster and stronger than you,' Romano said, "and all I could do was try and get better and better.'
A plate of humility was served to Romano when the Rams played Coatesville.
"I got beat on a couple of end-arounds, and I was pretty embarrassed,' he said. "Watching the game film that week wasn't fun, but I took my yelling from the coaches and worked to get better.'
Romano was good enough to earn second-team All-PAC-10 that sophomore season. As a reward, he found himself in a new position to begin last year.
"Out of necessity, we had to move him inside,' Brubaker said.
So the career defensive end was suddenly a defensive tackle.
"It was different,' Romano said, "and it took some getting used to. Instead of rushing the passer and keeping containment, it was more of a clog-the-hole position.
"But our coaches told me that's where I was playing and I did the job to the best of my ability.'
The reward was a first-team, All-Conference slot, but more importantly a wild ride that found Romano and the Rams in the district final against Coatesville.
"That was an awesome feeling,' Romano said. "(Coatesville) had a lot of good athletes, but it was a cool feeling, a lot of fun to be around that atmosphere.'
The Raiders, however, would trample those feelings with a 59-28 win and a district crown.
Romano went directly into wrestling season with even more motivation for his senior football year.
"After wrestling I was right back in the weight room,' Romano said. "I love the weight room. To me, it's knowing you're going to kick the next guy's butt next year. That's my motivation.'
Back at end this year, Romano did his fair share of butt-kicking, saving some of his best work for the Rams' primary PAC competitors this year, Pottsgrove and Perkiomen Valley.
"Mason had tremendous games against both Pottsgrove and Perk Valley,' Brubaker said. "Pottsgrove ran away from him as much as possible and he still had nine tackles, a sack, a batted pass and a forced fumble.
"He had another sack, a batted pass and a forced fumble against Perk Valley.'
"The Pottsgrove game was like the Super Bowl,' Romano said. "All week it was hard focusing on anything but the game.
"Pottsgrove is so hard to play because they're so well-coached, everyone does their jobs so well and they have such good technique. And everything they run, they run it perfectly.'
The Rams played well against Pottsgrove, although they came out on the wrong end of a 14-7 score. By that time they already owned a win over Perkiomen Valley, by that same 14-7 score.
"It was more difficult playing against Perk Valley because of trying to contain (PV quarterback Rasaan) Stewart,' Romano said. "With him you have to line up a little wider, and you have to be cautious not to attack him. You have to make sure he doesn't get outside.
"But I thought we all played well in that game. Everyone did their job.'
By season's end, the injury-plagued Rams ("We had three ACL tears in the some season,' Romano lamented) earned another district playoff berth, but saw their season end with a second-round playoff loss to eventual district-champion Neshaminy.
"We were happy with our season,' Romano said. "We all would have liked to get further, but we didn't play our best against Neshaminy.
"You can't say what if and you can't have regrets about it. That's what happened.'
Now involved in wrestling season, Romano will be taking his college visits soon.
"I'm going to play college football,' he said. "I just don't know where yet.'
As for his career, Romano is proud of his accomplishments and said he'll miss his days on the Spring-Ford gridiron.
And when it comes time to don his college colors, Romano's attitude won't change a lick.
"I'm a player,' he said, "wherever they want me to play, I'll play.'
Spring-Ford blanks Phoenixville in finale
FOOTBALL: Spring-Ford blanks Phoenixville in finale
By Barry Sankey
Posted: 11/28/2013 03:31:35 PM EST
PHOENIXVILLE — Spring-Ford's solid defense set the tone that generated another highly-successful football season for the Rams.
From the beginning of the season right up until the end on Thanksgiving Day against Phoenixville, the Rams' defense laid the foundation for victories. On Thursday morning, the Rams even took two interceptions to the house as part of Spring-Ford's 39-0 Pioneer Athletic Conference victory over the Phantoms at Washington Field.
Senior linebacker Andy Lovre-Smith returned one interception 14 yards for a TD that gave the Rams a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. Then defensive tackle Robby Varner rumbled 37 yards with another pick that helped give the Rams their 33-0 halftime bulge.
The two thefts were part of an overall convincing performance by Spring-Ford, which closed out the 2013 campaign with an 8-1 record in the PAC-10 (10-3 overall). The 10 victories enabled these Spring-Ford senior players to finish their careers with the best three-year team mark with 33 victories as opposed to just eight setbacks.
"They ended their career with 32 wins over three years, which is our winningest class,' said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker.
The Rams finished 10-2 two years ago, 12-3 last year and this year's 10-3 log accounted for that total. Also included were three trips to the District 1-AAAA playoffs, including last year's march to the district finals.
"They have a lot to be proud of,' said Brubaker. "The big thing about this group is their effort on the field. They gave a great effort all year. "
Spring-Ford senior running back Jarred Jones completed his marvelous career with 152 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He scored on runs of three and 51 yards. Cody Davis scored the first TD on a 41-yard scamper. Senior quarterback Zac DeMedio threw a 12-yard scoring pass to senior tight end Alec Vagnozzi.
"It was a great end,' said senior defensive end Mason Romano, who had a stellar day up front to close out his scholastic career. "Offensively and defensively, we played as a unit. We got huge turnovers. We had another trip to the playoffs. It was awesome. We had a good team. We played well. That is how we played every year. I couldn't ask for better.'
Spring-Ford's defense limited the Phantoms to 70 yards rushing and 83 yards of total offense.
"Defensively, we played really well all year,' said Brubaker. "Our defense set the tone for us this year. They were consistent and solid throughout the year. Throughout the year we won the turnover battle most of the time. Obviously, against Neshaminy (in the second round of districts) we didn't. But we did a pretty good job of getting the ball back to the offense. Today, they didn't give it back. They scored themselves, which is fine.'
Offensively, the Rams put up 251 yards rushing and 279 yards of total offense.
Despite the outcome, Phoenixville still closed out a decent season that included its third straight trip to the District 1-AAA playoffs, a first for the Phantoms. It was accomplished despite a lot of youth on the field and numerous injuries throughout the season.
Senior Justin McDougal was the Phantoms' top rusher with 51 yards on eight carries, including one 22-yard burst. Junior Donnie Jackson and senior Kyle Karkoska, who returned after suffering a broken bone in his leg midway through the year; divided time at the quarterback position.
Senior two-way lineman Colin Mea registered a sack in his finale, and fellow senior two-way lineman Paul Hossler also finished up with an active day. Matt Palubinsky and Tim Alati recovered fumbles for the Phantoms, and Vagnozzi pounced on one for the Rams. Sophomore Ian Brown pilfered a pass for the hosts.
"Early on we let them on the field, and turnovers put us kind of in a hole,' said Phoenixville coach Bill Furlong. "Between injuries and some young kids playing, some of our seniors kept with it. They keep plugging. They kept fighting.'
Cole Luzins boomed one punt 69 yards for Phoenixville and had to kick seven times in the game. Spring-Ford punted once. ... Spring-Ford won the coin toss, but Brubaker had the Rams defer. The Phantoms chose to take the ball, as he hoped they would; and the Rams were able to start the game with a strong wind at their backs instead of trying to move into the wind.
Keller-Williams of Limerick Gridiron
Neshaminy knocks off Spring-Ford in District 1-AAAA playoffs
By Sam Stewart
NESHAMINY — D'Andre Pollard ran for four touchdowns while racking up 37 carries to the tune of 178 yards as Neshaminy took advantage of six Spring-Ford turnovers en route to a 56-27 victory on Friday night in the second round of the District 1-AAAA football playoffs.
The Rams were plagued by turnovers throughout — with quarterback Matt Daywalt throwing four interceptions (two returned for TDs) — as the Redskins exploded for 48 points in the last 28 minutes of the game to give them the convincing victory.
"Who knows, if we didn't turn the ball over — who knows what could have happened,' Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker said.
The Redskins offensive line, which had been limited in the second quarter after producing a 14-play, 73 yard drive that consumed over five minutes on the team's opening drive, effectively wore down the Rams' defensive unit throughout the contest, allowing Pollard to break away with runs of 31 yards and 10 yards to give the Redskins a commanding 35-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
"They're big up front,' Brubaker said of the No. 4 seeds. "They opened up some big holes for him. They won the battle of the line of scrimmage just by wearing us down. But our kids played hard the whole time. You can never fault our effort.'
The Rams had built a 14-6 advantage courtesy of a Daywalt pass to Gary Hopkins in the first quarter and a 28-yard run by Jarred Jones on their next possession.
However, with three minutes remaining in the half, the lead — and the game — unraveled.
Having just witnessed Pollard and the Redskins storm down the field to tie the game at 14 with three minutes remaining, the Rams received the short end of the straw as a seemingly routine kickoff from Redskins' Dylan McDonald bounced in front of Spring-Ford's Connor Murphy.
Murphy, who is known as a sure-handed return man, played cat-and-mouse with the bouncing ball as he tried not once, but twice to corral the ball before it squirted away from him as he tried to pounce on it at the 15-yard line. The ball then rolled five yards down the field into the oncoming hands of a Neshaminy player who ultimately grabbed the ball at the 20-yard line before a mob of players swarmed on top of him.
"Sometimes you have those types of nights,' Brubaker said, reflecting on a series of unfortunate bounces throughout the game.
The Redskins made Spring-Ford pay on the next possession with a three-play, 20-yard drive capped off by a 9-yard run by Pollard, giving them a 21-14 lead heading into the break.
"The turnovers obviously hurt,' Brubaker said. "The one before the half on the kickoff really, really hurt. We had the momentum.'
The linchpin had been pulled — the Neshaminy explosion ensued.
After Pollard's two touchdown runs and a Daywalt touchdown pass to Tyliek Freeman brought the game to 35-20, the Redskins' defense got in on the scoring action as two straight drives ended in interceptions for the Rams.
With the score now 42-20 after a Blake Sullivan 20-yard touchdown run through the teeth of the Spring-Ford defense, Devon Brown became the first beneficiary of an errant Daywalt pass as he took the interception return 40 yards down the right sideline to give the Redskins a 49-20 edge.
The next possession yielded the same results as Matt Magdelinskas had the ball plop right into his hands after Daywalt's pass on a slant pattern sailed high. Magdelinskas ran 30-yards untouched to finish off the scoring for the home squad.
"The two interceptions for touchdowns we weren't on the same page,' Brubaker added.
Jones sealed off the scoring with a 33-yard touchdown run with four minutes remaining. Jones finished the game with 116 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.
Spring-Ford returns to action on Thanksgiving Day against Phoenixville.
"We're going to regroup and try and win that game,' Brubaker said. "(We'll) prepare for the offseason and work hard, try and get back here.'
Freeman led all receivers with 60 yards on three receptions. Daywalt finished the game 11-of-25 for 152 yards with two touchdowns. Neshaminy's Denny Lord had the game's opening touchdown with a one-yard sneak. Tyler Wombough finished the game 6-of-8 for 75 yards. Brown, who intercepted Daywalt and returned it for a touchdown also had an interception earlier in the game. Jake Leahy had the lone interception for the Rams
Running backs rule district matchups for PAC-10 trio
For the three area teams still remaining in the District 1 football tournament — Pottsgrove, Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley — the game plans for Friday night's contests appear to be simple ones.
Stop the run.
Then again, that may be easier said than done.
When the Falcons (11-0) play host to Academy Park in a District 1-AAA semifinal, the Rams (9-2) travel to Neshaminy for a District 1-AAAA quarterfinal and the Vikings (9-2) visit Central Bucks West in a District 1-AAAA quarterfinal, they will all be facing squads with a marquee ground-gainer.
Academy Park (8-2), the fourth seed in the 1-AAA draw, features Jerry Lanier, who has rushed for 1,870 yards and 17 touchdowns this year. He is coming off a 253-yard outburst in last week's 35-22 quarterfinal win over Interboro.
Neshaminy`s D`Andre Pollard (Photo by Gregg Slaboda) (Jackie Schear)
Neshaminy has the District 1 rushing leader in D'Andre Pollard (2,193 yards), a 5-foot-7, 167-yard dynamo who ran for 230 yards and four scores to help the Redskins rout Unionville 41-7 in their district opener.
And C.B. West can trot out its own game-changer in Marvin Todd, who put up 230 yards and a school-record six touchdowns in the Bucks' 50-28 first-round win over Plymouth-Whitmarsh.
Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker, whose squad is making its seventh straight trip to the district semis, is expecting to see a lot of Lanier and quarterback Brian Ingram.
"He's good,' Pennypacker said of the 5-10, 180-pound Lanier, who became Academy Park's all-time leading rusher last week. "He'll probably carry the mail about 70 percent of the time, and we've got to stop him. I'd say they'll run the ball about 80 percent of the time. The quarterback was a wide receiver last year, but he's developed into a good QB. He's not a (Perkiomen Valley quarterback Rasaan) Stewart, but he's athletic and can give you fits. They try to spread you out and create lanes for the running back and quarterback.'
Pottsgrove's offensive line has created plenty of lanes for senior tailback Marquis Barefield of late. The 5-8, 150-pound Barefield has amassed 721 rushing yards and 14 TDs over the past four weeks and ranks second in the area with 1,496 yards (and a 10.5 yards per carry average).
The Falcons' defense, led by senior linebackers Tyrone Parker and Jeff Adams, has allowed more than 200 total yards just three times this season.
And Pennypacker's squad is plenty motivated for their return to the district semifinal stage, where they fell to Henderson 31-28 last year. Henderson, incidentally, faces Glen Mills in tonight's other semifinal.
"The big thing is that our kids want this game,' Pennypacker said. "The (semifinal) game last year left a bad taste in their mouths. They want to get this one and hope they get another shot at Henderson.
"We have our work cut out for us. I think we can match up pretty well speed vs. speed, but if you make a mistake Lanier will run wild on you. On defense, they're a blitzing team and they're very quick. Their athleticism makes up for some of their size. We'll really have our hands full.'
As will the Rams and Vikings in their respective AAAA quarterfinals.
Fourth seed Neshaminy (10-1) opened the season 9-0 and was considered by more than a few to be the class of the district before being walloped 31-3 by Pennsbury in its regular season finale. Last week, the Redskins found themselves tied 7-7 with 13th seed Unionville before Pollard put on a second-half show.
"Pollard allows the play to develop in front of him, and he has an ability to break tackles in the secondary,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "He can go the distance at any time.'
Those traits also apply to the Rams' Jarred Jones, who ran for 231 yards in last week's 43-21 victory over No. 5 seed Downingtown West to surpass the 4,000-yard career rushing mark. Jones, a 5-11, 195-pound senior, is averaging a phenomenal 177 rushing yards per game and 10.8 yards per carry and ranks second in the area with 1,593 yards.
Since falling 14-7 to Pottsgrove in Week 5, Spring-Ford has won six straight and is averaging 43.8 points during that span. Quarterback Matt Daywalt went 10-for-13 with one touchdown and 136 yards in his first start last week, while wideout Gary Hopkins has caught a TD pass in five of the past six games.
An active defensive front keyed by Robby Varner and Mason Romano has set the tone for a defensive effort responsible for a plus-17 turnover margin for the year.
"We emphasize protecting the ball and practice stripping the ball, and stress it over and over in practice,' Brubaker said. "That was a big part of our run last year, and we have to win that are of the game Friday to be successful.'
The Vikings, who defeated No. 2 seed Bayard Rustin 26-6 in the first round for their first AAAA playoff win in program history, will need continued strong play from their defense — whose average of 6.4 points allowed per game ranks first in District 1 and fifth in the state.
That said, they'll be hard-pressed to limit the Bucks to that number. C.B. West (9-2) is averaging 32.2 points per game and has put up 95 points over the past two weeks.
The Bucks have gone 9-1 since losing in Week 1.
Todd, a 6-1, 192-pound senior who transferred from Harry S Truman prior to this season, has rushed for 1,275 yards and 20 TDs in nine games.
"It all starts and ends with him, no doubt about it,' Perkiomen Valley coach Scott Reed said. "Everything they do is based off him. You get too focused on him, and they'll get people behind you with play-action.'
Like PV, C.B. West runs a no-huddle offense, with quarterback John Fitz throwing for 1,350 yards and 14 TDs so far.
The Vikings counter with their own high-octane attack led by senior quarterback Rasaan Stewart, who threw for 225 yards and three TDs last week to break the 4,000-yard career barrier. Clay Domine had season-bests of nine receptions, 112 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Rustin, while fellow receiver Dakota Clanagan is expected to be OK after suffering an ankle injury in that game.
"It's going to be about getting defensive stops and scoring when we have the opportunity to score,' Reed said. "I think their offense is very good, so we're going to have to find ways to get them off the field. Rustin was more of a come-at-you team, these guys are more like us — lead option, throw the ball around. But if they can run (Todd), it's going to be as simple as that.'
DISTRICT 1 DOINGS
Pottsgrove resident Henry Miller is the starting safety and also plays running back for Delco Christian, which takes on Bristol for the District 1/12-A championship Saturday at Plymouth-Whitemarsh at 1 p.m. ... In the District 1/12-AA final, Imhotep faces West Catholic Friday at Germantown High. ... In the two other District 1-AAAA quarterfinals Friday, top seed Garnet Valley (11-0) plays host to eighth seed Abington (9-2) and No. 3 seed Pennsbury (10-1) plays host to No. 11 seed North Penn (8-3).
AROUND THE STATE
Malvern Prep outlasted Springside Chestnut Hill 63-50 last Saturday in a wild one. Troy Gallen ran for 327 yards and six touchdowns for Malvern Prep, while Paul Dooley threw for 491 yards and seven touchdowns for SCH. ... In a District 3-AAAA quarterfinal Friday, Hempfield (8-3) — guided by former Boyertown head coach Ron Zeiber — visits second seed Cumberland Valley (9-2).
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Another round of upsets?
By Dennis Way
12th-seeded Spring-Ford (9-2) is looking at advanced lessons when its travels to Heartbreak Ridge to take on No. 4 Neshaminy (10-1) in another quarterfinal matchup.
The Rams, fresh off upsetting Downingtown West in the opening round, will get their football IPod shuttle stuck permanently on "Variations on a Handoff' when they line up with the Redskins, who like the power running game — even if it doesn't get immediate results.
"Even if you do stop them, they're still going to run the ball at you until you break,' said Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker. "Last week, Unionville held their running game in check in the first half, and they came out and kept running until it worked (to the tune of a 41-7 win).
"They do what they do. They say, ' Here we come, stop us.' And that's not our forte. We're not particularly big, and we haven't been good against teams that run at us.'
Neshaminy's primary weapon is running back D'Andre Pollard (208 carries, 2,190 yds., 28 TDs), although quarterback Tyler Wombough (47-for-88, 670 yds., 8 TDs) and fullback Denny Lord (34 carries, 233 yds.) also get into the act.
"They're primarily a downhill running team,' Brubaker said. "We're going to have to hold up to that continuous pounding for four quarters.'
Making that even more trying is the Rams' season-long trouble with injuries that has cut into their depth.
"What we've lost with our injuries is the two-platoon aspect of our game,' Brubaker said. "But we can't get caught thinking about it, we have to play with what we have.'
And should Spring-Ford add another pelt to its string of upsets, the Rams will take another step toward their goal.
"We want people to consider us an elite program,' Brubaker said. "Neshaminy is one of those elite programs, and what we've heard all week is that Neshaminy should win because of its tradition.
"But we've told our players that we're not playing their tradition, we're playing the 2013 Neshaminy team.'
The Keller-Williams Gridiron - Week 2 Playoff Edition
PAC-10 impresses in first week of districts
By Darryl Grumling
It wasn't all that long ago that the Pioneer Athletic Conference was less respected than Rodney Dangerfield among District 1 football circles.
Friday night's impressive performance by the league in district tournament opening-round action may have signaled that, as Bob Dylan might say, the times they are a-changing.
Highlighted by Perkiomen Valley's 26-6 victory over previously unbeaten No. 2 seed Bayard Rustin in a 1-AAAA opener, the PAC-10 collected three first-round wins.
That also included Spring-Ford's 43-21 win at No. 5 seed Downingtown West in Quad-A action and Pottsgrove's 49-7 victory over fellow league squad Phoenixville in a Triple-A opener.
"I think Friday night was a step in the right direction for our league,' PV coach Scott Reed said.
"It was a great night for the PAC-10 in terms of getting respect,' echoed Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker.
The Vikings had showed what they were capable of back in Week 1, when they took apart eventual 1-AAAA No. 10 seed Plymouth-Whitemarsh 33-0.
Though losses to both Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove thwarted their hopes of a league title, they bounced back with a first-rate effort in their "second season.'
Quarterback Rasaan Stewart went 20-for-32 for 224 yards and three touchdowns — all to Clay Domine, who racked up nine receptions for 112 yards — and also ran for a team-high 89 yards as PV (9-2) notched its first Quad-A district victory.
Ryan O'Donnell (61 yards), Mark Bonomo (47) and Kurran Holland (35) also made key contributions to a ground attack that amassed 241 yards and Dakota Clanagan had five receptions for 58 yards to help the Vikings rack up 466 total yards. The PV defense, meanwhile, held Rustin (which had averaged 37.9 points over the previous nine weeks and had rung up 60 against Octorara in the regular season finale) to a season-low point total.
"The big difference was that we had nothing to lose,' Reed said. "It actually feels good going into these playoffs as an underdog. It truly feels like we have nothing to lose, which allows us to play fearless. We made big plays, got some great stops by our defense and took advantage of two turnovers.
"It was very exciting for our kids. The Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove games were very disappointing losses, but playing both of them made us better prepared to take on Rustin. The (Rustin) win gave us a little bit of redemption and validation that we do have a good football team. When you stop and think about it, we've lost two games this season, but, man, we were defeated by two very good football teams.'
Spring-Ford got the District 1-AAAA ball rolling last year with a memorable run to the district final, where the Rams fell to eventual PIAA runner-up Coatesville.
After not having won a district game in program history prior to last year's tourney, the Rams are now 4-2 in District 1 play under fourth-year coach Chad Brubaker.
"Our kids were not intimidated by the stage,' Brubaker said. "I think that's where being there before and having some success helps. We really felt like our kids were ready to play. We held back on a lot of new ideas over the final weeks of the season, so our kids were excited by the new things we were planning to do.'
No. 12 seed Spring-Ford (9-2) got a 231-yard, five-TD outburst from senior tailback Jarred Jones, a super starting quarterback debut from Matt Daywalt (10-for-13, 136 yards, 1 TD) and a 35-yard TD grab by Gary Hopkins on offense, while linebacker Jake Leahy and corner Brandon Barone each collected interceptions and the defensive front of Mason Romano, Robby Varner, Alec Vagnozzi and Tim Rudderow got consistent pressure to disrupt the Whippets' high-octane hurry-up offense.
"We were most happy with the effort of our kids on both sides of the ball,' Brubaker said. "Our kids were exhausted after the game; the past three weeks they had played one series in the second half. We were worried about conditioning, but there was no letdown in terms of effort.'
There was certainly no letdown for the PAC-10 champion Falcons (11-0), as Marquis Barefield ran for 116 yards and four touchdowns, Mike Fowler hauled in a 28-yard scoring strike from Riley Michaels and linebackers Tyrone Parker and Jeff Adams led a defensive effort that allowed just 103 total yards and forced three turnovers.
"Our kids are never happy just being here; they want to win it all every year,' Pennypacker said. "That is the expectation of the players and coaches. It's a one-game season, and we approach it that way every week.'
Phoenixville, which has qualified for the 1-AAA tourney for the past three years, Methacton (7-4) — which enjoyed its winningest season since 2000 — and Boyertown (7-4), whose hurry-up offense set a plethora of records this fall, are also part of the PAC-10's gridiron resurgence. Take into account that the Warriors' four losses (to Rustin, Perkiomen Valley, Pottsgrove and Spring-Ford) were to teams with a combined mark of 39-5, with three of those losses occurring when those squads played each other.
AROUND THE AREA
Spring-Ford's Jarred Jones went over the 4,000-yard career mark in Friday's win, but a large share of that credit goes to the offensive line of Chase Stine, Josh Boyer, Zach Smiley, Tyler German, Mason Romano and Robby Varner. ... After catching just 17 passes through the first eight weeks, Perkiomen Valley's Clay Domine has exploded with 21 catches over the past three games. ... Speaking of racking up huge receiving numbers, Hill School's Grant Smith finished the season with area-bests of 66 receptions and 1,078 yards. ... Perkiomen Valley quarterback Rasaan Stewart is 75 rushing yards shy of 1,000 for the season. ... Owen J. Roberts' junior defensive end Will Dawson has five sacks over the past five weeks and six overall. Spring-Ford's Mason Romano leads the area with 8.0 sacks, with Boyertown's Tyler Zilen at 7.5.
DISTRICT 1 DOINGS
Is there a hotter team in District 1-AAAA than North Penn? The Knights defeated defending district champ Coatesville 31-0 in Friday's first-round game, improving coach Dick Beck's record to 11-0 in district openers. North Penn has won eight in a row since an 0-3 start and will visit third seed Pennsbury (10-1) in a quarterfinal that will seem more like the District 1 final. ... In the other three 1-AAAA quarterfinals, top seed Garnet Valley plays host to Abington, Spring-Ford travels to fourth seed Neshaminy, and Perkiomen Valley visits seventh seed Central Bucks West. ... In District 1-AAA semifinal action Friday, top seed Pottsgrove plays host to Academy Park and third seed West Chester Henderson visits second seed Glen Mills.
St. Joseph's Prep defeated La Salle College High 30-20 Saturday to win its first Philadelphia Catholic League title since 2005. ... Former Boyertown coach Ron Zeiber guided Hempfield to a 17-7 victory over Central Dauphin in Friday's District 3-AAAA tourney opener. ... Former Pottstown coach Brett Myers guided Middletown to a 6-4 mark this season. ... South Fayette's Brett Brumbaugh threw for a WPIAL single-game record 472 yards in Friday's 31-7 win over Seton LaSalle. ... Aliquippa's Terry Swanson and Dravon Henry became the first WPIAL teammates to eclipse the 4,000-yard career rushing mark Friday.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Clay Domine, Perkiomen Valley
Senior wideout put up season-highs of nine catches, 113 yards and three touchdowns to help the No. 15 seed Vikings knock off No. 2 seed Bayard Rustin 26-6 in Friday's District 1-AAAA Tournament opener. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Domine had TD grabs of 35, 9 and 21 as PV opened a 20-0 lead after three quarters.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Scott Reed, Perkiomen Valley
Directed the Vikings to a 26-6 victory over No. 2 seed Bayard Rustin in Friday's first round of the District 1-AAAA Tournament for the program's first Quad-A postseason victory. The PV offense rolled up 466 total yards, while its defense held the previously unbeaten Golden Knights to a season-low point output.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Friday Night's Big Ticket
Spring-Ford's Jake Leahy rises above tragedy
Spring-Ford's 43-21 victory over Downingtown West in Friday's District 1-AAAA Tournament opener game was an emotional one for the Rams, who successfully returned to the scene of last year's season-ending district championship loss to Coatesville — Kottmeyer Stadium — and flipped the script.
For Rams senior Jake Leahy, it was oh-so-much more.
On the night of last Nov. 30, as the Rams exited their team bus back at school after the 59-28 defeat to the Red Raiders, Leahy was confronted with a loss far more devastating.
His older brother, Anthony, had died earlier in the evening at the age of 20 of a heroin overdose. And suddenly, losing a football game was put in harsh perspective.
* * *
Leahy was pretty much a role player for the Rams last season, playing on special teams and seeing token time at defensive end and fullback for a squad that went 12-3 and won its first three District 1 Tournament games in school history.
Anthony, who had struggled with substance abuse issues, had been living in a halfway house but was making progress, according to his father James.
"We were all together for Thanksgiving and he looked the best he'd looked for the past few years,' James said.
Eight days later, however, James got the tragic news of Anthony's passing shortly after the district final kicked off — and fainted near the Rams sideline.
After being helped up by his sister, niece and nephew, James made the decision to wait until after the game to tell Jake.
"I felt so bad for him, because he had worked so hard,' the elder Leahy said. "It was the district championship, and I didn't want it to distract him.'
Leahy subsequently received a postgame text message from his father.
"He was like, ' When you get home, call me right away, it's a family emergency,'' Leahy recalled. "I didn't really think anything of it at first, but when I got off the bus, he was there with my grandfather (James Sr.) and told me the news. I didn't believe it at first, but then I saw the look on the face of my grandfather, and knew it was real. That will always stay with me.'
* * *
Needless to say, the holiday season didn't afford much cheer for the Leahy family.
"It was devastating,' Jake said. "Christmas was coming up, and it wound up being the worst Christmas I ever had. The first couple weeks after the funeral, it was bad. And it got worse over time. Me and my dad were hit hard. I'm still messed up about it.'
Thankfully for Leahy (whose mother, Heather, lives in Florida) and his father, the outpouring they received from Spring-Ford and the football program made things easier.
"They were very supportive of our family,' James said. "The coaches were phenomenal. Coach (Chad) Brubaker really wants the best for the kids, and the support from the team was tremendous. A lot of players' families brought food over and were very comforting. They were there for us 24/7 every day.'
"My teammates have all been there for me,' Jake said, specifically mentioning the quartet of Gary Hopkins, Jarred Jones, Connor Murphy and Jack Haney.
Brubaker had run into similar situations of team members losing loved ones when he was an assistant at Wilson, and in his four years at the helm of Spring-Ford the squad has been hit with its share of tragic circumstances — including the death of Rams player Brian Clarke in 2012.
"We always want to win, but that's not really what this is all about,' Brubaker said. "What's important is how the kids on our team turn out as individuals, and they've taught me a lot of how resilient they are. I have a younger brother, and I can't imagine what Jake is going through at the age of 17 or 18.'
* * *
On Aug. 21, Anthony's birthday, Leahy and his family held a memorial at nearby Victory Park.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Leahy has dedicated his final season to his older brother, and over the past 11 weeks his play has been plenty purposeful on both sides of the ball.
"I know it's been difficult at times on Jake, but he's been playing better and better for us,' Brubaker said.
When Jones missed Spring-Ford's Week 5 showdown with Pottsgrove, Leahy stepped in an rushed for a career-best 96 yards.
Defensively, he has been an emerging force at linebacker and has totalled 60 tackles, second only to Robby Varner's team-high 62.
And he was recently honored by the Lower Perk Longhorns, who put Leahy on their Wall of Fame.
"When he puts his mind to it, he's capable of anything,' James said of his son. "He's shown a lot of resilience. I'm extremely proud of him; I can't tell him that enough.'
"I just want to give the whole team everything I have,' Leahy said. "I want to let everything out there; this is my last year of high school football.'
Friday's game may have been Leahy's most shining moment on the gridiron.
He spearheaded a bend-but-don't-break defensive effort with a couple of defining plays — a third quarter interception of Whippets' QB Nick Pagel and fourth quarter, fourth-down sack of Pagel.
He also ran for 35 yards and caught one pass for six yards as the No. 12 seed Rams (9-2) advanced to this weekend's district quarterfinal at No. 4 seed Neshaminy (10-1).
"It (Friday's game) was really emotional for me,' Leahy said.
And therapeutic, as Leahy attempts to cope with a tragic loss that resonates far beyond the football field.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Jones-powered Spring-Ford takes down Downingtown West
By Darryl Grumbling
DOWNINGTOWN — The last time Jarred Jones and his Spring-Ford football teammates visited Downingtown West's Kottmeyer Stadium, in last year's District 1-AAAA championship, the Rams saw their dream season end in a nightmarish 31-point loss to Coatesville.
When the Rams made the return trek for Friday night's district tourney opener against Downingtown West, they did so with plenty of purpose.
"It was all about redemption,' said Jones, the Rams' scintillating senior tailback. "We came in here with a bad taste in our mouths. After what happened last year we had to rectify that.'
Thanks to a monster 231-yard, five-touchdown outburst by Jones and a gaggle of big-time performances from the rest of the Rams, that mission wound up being accomplished in emphatic fashion as Spring-Ford came away with a 43-21 victory.
Matt Daywalt enjoyed an outstanding starting quarterback debut by going 10-for-13 for 136 yards and a touchdown and Jake Leahy was a strong factor on both sides of the ball as the 12th-seeded Rams (9-2) advanced to next week's quarterfinal at No. 4 seed Neshaminy (10-1), a 41-7 victor over No. 13 Unionville.
"The effort on both sides of the ball was tremendous,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "Just a tremendous effort on everybody's part.'
That included the defensive front of Robby Varner, Mason Romano, Alec Vagnozzi and Tim Rudderow (taking Daywalt's spot on the D-line), which was able to pressure Whippets QB Nick Pagel enough to disrupt coach Mike Milano's hurry-up attack.
Linebackers Leahy and Andy Lovre-Smith did yeoman work, with Leahy and corner Brandon Barone each collecting an interception as the Rams survived a 27-for-42, 274-yard barrage from Pagel.
When push came to shove, however, Jones was simply the difference-maker as he cracked the 4,000-yard career rushing barrier.
He provided arguably the play of the game midway through the third quarter, after the Whippets had cut what was once a 16-point lead to 23-21 on Pagel's 19-yard TD run.
One play after Barone took the ensuing kickoff to the Spring-Ford 22, Jones received a handoff from Daywalt and bulled his way off left tackle before shedding a would-be tackler and bouncing it outside. Jones shifted into another gear to gain the edge, then somehow managed to stay inbounds before racing down the sideline for a highlight-reel 78-yard scoring run.
"It was a simple zone (play), reading the block,' Jones said. "Somebody (on the line) came in on the linebacker and once I started moving out, I just took off and it was over.'
"What a tremendous run,' marveled Brubaker. "I think he broke two tackles. We really couldn't get the defensive end (blocked) on that play; he got inside of us. But Jared bounced off him and got to the end zone. What can you say?'
That TD put the Rams up 29-21 with 7:38 left in the third after the point-after failed.
Spring-Ford's defense then kept answering every Downingtown West challenge. First, Leahy came up with an interception to blunt one drive. Then, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Leahy sacked Pagel on a fourth-and-3 play with 7:37 left and Daywalt hooked up with Gary Hopkins (three catches, 70 yards) for a 35-yard scoring strike that made it 36-21.
Jones sealed the deal with a 13-yard TD run with 2:26 left set up by Barone's interception.
"The difference tonight was that our offense came to play,' Jones said. "We wanted to come out and make a statement.'
That message was loud and clear from the outset.
Spring-Ford drew first blood on a 4-yard TD run by Jones with 3:11 left in the first quarter, then Tim Vu blocked a Downingtown West punt on the ensuing possession to set up Dave Gulati's 23-yard field goal that made it 10-0.
The Ches-Mont National Division champ Whippets, who had a seven-game winning streak snapped, got back into it with a 13-play, 81-yard drive capped by Jake Barr's 2-yard TD run with 8:07 left in the second quarter.
The Rams answered as Daywalt hooked up with Cody Davis for a 35-yard gain and Jones ran it in from 18 yards out to make it 17-7.
Then Lovre-Smith stuffed Jimmy DiSantis on a fourth-and-2 run to give the ball back to Spring-Ford, which needed just two plays — a 34-yard completion from Daywalt to Hopkins and a 6-yard scoring run by Jones — to extend the lead to 23-7 — before Pagel's 11-yard TD run got Downingtown West within nine at intermission.
"What a gutsy job he did tonight,' Brubaker said of Daywalt, who had thrown just eight passes all year. "He's a gritty kid and a tough kid, and he just played that way tonight.'
"For him only practicing (at QB) this week,' echoed Jones, "to execute like that was beautiful.'
And integral to an impressive return to the District 1-AAAA tourney.
Former Spring-Ford star Andrew Scanlan, now a redshirt freshman receiver at Northwestern (which has a bye week), was in the stands to cheer on his alma matter. According to Brubaker, Scanlan and other former Rams such as Hank Coyne, R.J. Sheldon, Matt Glowacki, [Zameer McDowell], Mike Gilmore, Yousef Lundi and Ty Yuzijain taped motivational messages for the squad. ... Downingtown West finished with 430 total yards, getting 11 receptions from Barr and nine catches for 93 yards from Thomas Mattioni. ... Spring-Ford had 424 total yards. ... Jones has 1,593 rushing yards and 25 TDs for the season and 4,030 career rushing yards.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.
Jones stars as Spring-Ford thwarts Whippets
By NATE HECKENBERGER
DOWNINGTOWN -- Sometimes what makes coaches great can also come back to bite them.
Downingtown West coach Mike Milano has won a lot of games with his aggressive, gambling style. Friday, against visiting No. 12 Spring-Ford, Milano's No. 5 Whippets dealt with a sloppy first half and were stopped twice on fourth-and-shorts in their own territory, leading to their demise.
The Rams walked out of Kottmeyer Stadium 43-21 victors, ending West's season a week after winning its first outright Ches-Mont National Division title.
Spring-Ford (9-2) scored two touchdowns in three combined plays on drives following West's fourth-down tries at its own 39 and 44, respectively.
"We've always done that,' Milano said. "That's who we are. We're not afraid to go for it on fourth down.'
Despite the 22-point margin, the contest was tight for 40 1/2 minutes. The Rams went ahead early on the first of five touchdowns by Jarred Jones. A blocked punt gave Spring-Ford the ball at the West seven the following possession and a 23-yard field goal gave the Rams a 10-point lead.
The Whippets (8-3) put the ball on the turf five times in the first half, and though they didn't lose any, they struggled to get anything going in the first quarter.
"(Spring-Ford) is a very good football team,' Milano said. "I just wish we could have played a better football game. I don't know if it was the last three weeks of big games, but we were flat early. We were emotionless. We played hard, but we were emotionless, early.'
West responded with a Jake Barr TD run and had a recovery on a well-placed kickoff squirt right through the hands of Kyle Goodrich. Spring-Ford made it hurt, scoring four plays and 70 yards later on Jones' second score to go up 10 again.
On the next drive, Jimmy DiSantis was stopped for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-two, and the Rams went 38 yards on two plays to take a 23-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
"Those (fourth-down stops) were huge,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said. "Early in the game, I was a little surprised they did that. They have a lot of confidence in their quarterback and we were able to get pressure from our front four all night.'
Pagel, who passed for 298 yards on the night, scored the final TD in the first half, and the first in the second half, making it a 2-point game.
But like they did all night, the Rams swung the momentum right back on the next offensive play with a 78-yard TD by Jones, who finished with 186 yards.
"The first play after we got within two, they run a zone play and we couldn't make a tackle he goes (78) yards,' Milano said. "He's a great back and we didn't do enough things right.'
West reached Spring-Ford territory the next drive but a sack on first down led to an interception on third. On its first drive of the fourth quarter, West had a fourth-and-three at its 44, but Pagel was sacked for a nine-yard loss.
The next play Rams' quarterback Matt Daywalt hit Jake Leahy for a 35-yard score with 7:31 to go and the game was all but over at 36-21.
"We didn't come out with the same level of emotion as the previous two weeks against Downingtown East and Coatesville,' Milano said. "We maybe ran out of gas, I don't know.'
The Whippets outgained the Rams 451-420, and had 23 first downs, while giving up just eight. But Spring-Ford was able to make key plays on both sides of the ball at just the right times, and it will be the Rams traveling to Neshaminy next week.
Pagel's 298 passing yards were the most since Bret Gillespie cracked the 300-yard mark in 2009. The senior signal-caller finished his season with 1,213 yards and nine TDs on the ground and nine more through the air.
"It hurts right now, but this team accomplished a lot.' Pagel said. "The Ches-Mont title, that's ours and we'll always hold that with us.'
Thomas Mattioni, who didn't have a reception coming into the game, hauled nine passes for 106 yards, while Barr caught 10 for 87.
PAC-10 quartet set for District 1 tourney openers
In the early part of Rick Pennypacker's 25-year tenure as Pottsgrove football coach, qualifying for postseason play was a big deal for the Falcons.
"Some people are just happy to be there, and that's the way it used to be here when we first started making the playoffs,' Pennypacker said.
In recent seasons, however, the Falcons have had more of a big-picture approach.
"This is our ' second season,' and they know that,' Pennypacker said. "We want to go there and do well. Now, it's a one-game season every week.'
That season begins Friday for the Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Falcons as well as fellow league squads Spring-Ford, Perkiomen Valley and Phoenixville.
Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker during pregame. (Photo by John Strickler/The Mercury)
Top seed Pottsgrove (10-0) plays host to eighth seed Phoenixville (4-6) in a District 1-AAA quarterfinal, while in District 1-AAAA first-round games No. 12 seed Spring-Ford (8-2) visits No. 5 Downingtown West (8-2) and No. 15 seed Perkiomen Valley (8-2) travels to No. 2 seed Bayard Rustin (10-0).
The Falcons, who were ousted by Henderson in the district semifinals last year, won District 1-AAA titles in 2009 and 2011 — and are hoping the odd-year motif can continue.
"Our kids have been there before,' Pennypacker said. "They know how it works and understand it. To be honest, this week has been one of the best weeks of practice we've had.'
Pottsgrove features a rock-solid defense led by the linebacking duo of Jeff Adams and Tyrone Parker and corners Mike Fowler and Marquis Barefield.
On the other side of the ball, Barefield has rushed for a team-high 1,380 yards (second in the area) to go along with an area-best 22 total touchdowns. Fowler has been a playmaker at wideout, with eight of his 12 receptions going for touchdowns, with fullback Sene Polamalu providing a powerful between-the-tackles rushing presence. Quarterback Riley Michaels has thrown sparingly (16-for-32 on the season), but made them count with 10 touchdown passes.
"We are trying to win and move on,' Pennypacker said. "But at the same time we want to improve in practice and get better every day.'
The Phantoms have shown improvement of late, despite a season-long slew of injuries that has made things difficult for coach Bill Furlong's crew.
Junior Donnie Jackson stepped in at quarterback for Kyle Karkoska, who was injured against Boyertown four games ago. And there is a promising sophomore contingent led by emerging linebacking force Matt Raniszewski, versatile two-way threat Matt Palubinsky and lineman Mike Vargo.
"We have a lot of kids playing now that weren't when the season started,' Furlong said. "They're young and working hard, and hopefully it's going to pay off. We have a bright future, and we have to take advantage of every opportunity we get. It's a great opportunity to make the playoffs and play Pottsgrove. We're trying to focus on those positives and play better.'
That said, it will likely be an uphill struggle against the Falcons, who defeated the Phantoms 52-14 three weeks ago.
"Obviously, they're a good team, but what we have to worry about is us,' Furlong said. "We need to play better, cut down on mistakes and do a better job of executing. If we block everyone we're supposed to block and stay on them until the whistle, that will give us a chance.'
In the 1-AAAA field, Spring-Ford is hoping its memorable experience of advancing to the district final last year will give the Rams a chance to take down Downingtown West.
The Rams feature one of the most dynamic backs in all of District 1 (and the state as well) in senior Jarred Jones, who has rushed for 1,380 yards and 20 touchdowns despite missing two games. Jones has eye-popping averages of 172.5 rushing yards per game and 10.8 yards per carry, and didn't play in both of his team's losses (a 37-21 Week 1 setback to Whitehall and 14-7 Week 5 loss to Pottsgrove). The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Jones is 203 rushing yards shy of 4,000 for his career.
Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker has had somewhat of a revolving door at quarterback, and indicated senior Matt Daywalt (who spent most of the year on the defensive line) will get the starting nod against the Whippets.
"At this point of the year, you have to be able to go down the field,' Brubaker said. "Matt gives us the best chance to do that.'
Spring-Ford's defense, led by down lineman Robby Varner and Mason Romano and linebacker Andy Lovre-Smith, has given up just 17 total points over the past five weeks, and has a plus-16 turnover margin over the past six games.
"Our mantra has always been that we go on the field expecting to win,' Brubaker said. "Our coaching staff isn't married to anything in particular; we're going to do what we feel it takes to win the game. We've been telling our kids that District 1 is wide open, and they're excited for the opportunity. If you protect the football and play good defense, you're always going to have a shot.'
Downingtown West has won seven straight games since a 1-2 start, including a 24-7 victory over defending 1-AAAA champ Coatesville last week that secured the Ches-Mont League's National Division title. A defensive effort led by the front four of Pat Coyne, Mike Withka, Brandon Peterson and Eric Stanko held the Raiders' high-octane attack to just 180 total yards.
"You watch them on film and you can tell they just play with passion,' Brubaker said. "They're not a huge or physically imposing team, but you never see guys taking a play off. They're a very sound team, and it's going to be a real challenge.'
That will also be the case for Perkiomen Valley, which is making its first district playoff appearance since 2007 (and just the second in coach Scott Reed's 10 years at the helm).
Since defeating Methacton 14-6 in its opener, Rustin hasn't had a game closer than 13 points. The Golden Knights feature workhorse back Terry Loper — the leading rusher in the Ches-Mont League with 1,658 yards and 22 touchdowns — on offense and linebacker Sean Steinmetz on defense.
"They're not fancy,' Reed said. "They line up, and it's like, ' Here we are, can you stop it?' That's always our challenge, because we're not overly big on the defensive side of the football. It's going to come down to our ability to run to the ball and tackle, and to use our speed to be able to contest their big offensive linemen.'
By the same token, Rustin will have to deal with a multi-faceted PV offense quarterbacked by star Rasaan Stewart, who has completed 99 of 168 passes for a PAC-10 high of 1,451 yards and 19 touchdowns while also rushing for 836 yards and 11 TDs. For his career, Stewart has 3,821 passing yards and 40 TDs and 2,582 rushing yards.
Senior Mark Bonomo has rushed for a team-high 842 yards and nine TDs, with the receiving tandem of Clay Domine (29 catches, 485 yards, seven TDs) and Dakota Clanagan (29-405 yards, nine TDs) providing a dose of double trouble for opposing secondaries.
"We're going to need to make plays, get first downs and attack the entire field,' Reed said. "We were knocking on the door last year and just missed it (the district tourney), so we're very excited.'
As are the other three PAC-10 squads as they prepare for district tourney action.
AROUND THE AREA
Spring-Ford assistant coach Steve Schein was inducted into the Bristol Township School District Athletic Hall of Fame last weekend. ... The mind-boggling 88 plays run by Boyertown last week against Pottsgrove gave the Bears 647 in PAC-10 play, shattering Perkiomen Valley's record of 562 set last year. The Bears' 3,713 total yards fell shy of PV's record 3,840 of last season. Speaking of Boyertown, senior running back Cody Richmond's 46 carries against the Falcons established a Berks County single-game record. ... Methacton (6-4) can notch its first seven-victory campaign since 2000 with a win over 0-10 Norristown Saturday.
Coaches share memories of playoffs past
With five local teams in action this weekend in the opening round of the PIAA District One Class AAAA football playoffs, there will be no lack of interest among area fans, who would all like to see their favorites snake through to the bracket's final horizontal line.
Of the five schools in action, all are coached by gentlemen who have dipped their toes into the district pool before.
Some, like North Penn High's Dick Beck, are old hands at district play, while Perkiomen Valley's Scott Reed has coached in just one district playoff game, and that was way back in 2007.
But all have vivid memories from their times in the scholastic coaching spotlight.
Beck, who has guided the Knights since 2002, has a district coaching resume that would humble Knute Rockne.
In his 12th season as head coach, Beck has already watched his Knights claim six District One titles, while his record in district-playoff action is an eye-popping 29-4.
Still, when it comes to memories, Beck's most memorable came in his first district playoff game as a head coach.
It came in 2002, when the 8-2 Knights found themselves as the lowliest team in the eight-team bracket of what was then a sub-regional that District One shared with Districts Two and Four.
"We got in by a miracle,' Beck recalled. "Three teams lost in the final week that had no business losing, and that put us in against the undefeated, No. 1 team in the state, Downingtown.'
Downingtown was in its final season as a program before the district split into what are now Downingtowns East and West.
Their stadium was brand new and their fans were rabid, anticipating an easy blowout win.
But it wasn't to be.
"We were lucky to get in,' Beck said, "but we were pretty good. Most of the players on that team came back the following year and helped us win the state title.
"We had lost two of our first four games, to a real good team from Colorado in our opener and then later in the season to Neshaminy.'
And when they got to Downingtown, the Knights weren't concerned about stadiums, rankings or fans.
Beck said the turning point in the game came with North Penn up, 14-7.
"We had a fourth-and-goal from the 18,' Beck said, "and our quarterback, Justin Wutti, threw and out-and-up to Deanco Oliver for a touchdown. And that was it.'
North Penn would go on to win, 35-12, and two weeks later the Knights would bring home their first district title under Beck.
Some playoff memories are not about ends of games and seasons, but about beginnings.
Like Beck, Plymouth Whitemarsh head coach Dan Chang's vivid playoff memory came at the beginning of his first playoff coaching experience, and involved a quarterback from Central Bucks South High School named Matt Johns.
"His ability to control that offense, and his arm were just unbelievable,' Chang recalled. "That was just at another level for us.
"You can see his ability on film, but when you see it in person, it's different.'
The Colonials would drop that contest, 52-24, and Johns would do his part to aid in PW's demise, throwing for 218 yards and a pair of scores.
"Just watching him in warmups and how easy that ball came off his hand,' Chang said, "is something I won't forget.'
And there's a performance that Perkiomen Valley's Reed won't soon forget. It was in his first and only district playoff coaching experience, and it happened in the 2007 playoffs with Reed's seventh-seeded Vikings playing host to 10th-seeded Glen Mills.
"What I won't forget is watching Bernard Pierce running the ball against us,' Reed said of the Temple product and current member of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, who had 159 yards rushing and a touchdown in the Battlin' Bulls' 36-26 win. "He had a good night, (Glen Mills) made a couple of big plays and beat us.
"It was a close game, we were up 10, then they went up 10,' Reed recalled. "But I won't forget watching (Pierce) run.'
For Spring-Ford's Chad Brubaker, his vivid memory was the most recent, coming from last year's District One semifinal matchup with Pennridge, won by Spring-Ford, 35-24, to propel his team into the District One final against Coatesville.
"We had had a real tough game against Ridley the week before,' Brubaker said. "We got up big, let them back in the game and had to hold them off at the end.
"Going into the Pennridge game, we were confident. And what I remember is what a great atmosphere it was for a playoff football game. It was a Saturday, cold and it even snowed, and it was a great win.
"There were a number of great memories from last year, but that Pennridge game was a good one.'
A good one for Upper Dublin head coach Bret Stover came in the first of four playoff games in which he has guided the Cardinals, and it came in a first half that no one could have expected.
"The knock against Upper Dublin was that we were the team that had never been to the playoffs,' Stover said, recalling the Cards' 2007 meeting with Neshaminy. "We knew we were going up against a great team in Neshaminy, but that's what happens to small squads when they get into the playoffs.'
Surprisingly, however, Upper Dublin was anything but small in the first half against the Redskins, holding them scoreless until the final play of the second quarter.
"They scored on the final play of the half, and it really could have been scoreless at halftime,' Stover recalled proudly.
Neshaminy would go on to win easily, 42-7, but the Cardinals gave their coach a lasting memory.
"We're trying to get beyond that now,' Stover said. "We want to start winning playoff games and get the program to the next level.'
The Keller-Williams Gridiron
Spring-Ford pounds Pottstown 49-7, shifts focus to districts
ROYERSFORD — For Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker, a 49-7 victory over visiting Pottstown didn't offer the silver lining that the score may have indicated.
For the fourth-year head coach, going forward became his mantra post game as he saw parts that needed to be adjusted and schemes that needed to shored up before the Rams head off into district play next Friday.
"We were just trying to execute (tonight),' Brubaker said. "We learned some things on what we need to do going forward.'
Jarred Jones — who Brubaker had called "white-out' the week before due to his play-making ability that can masquerade missed assignments on the O-line — ran for a game-high 135 yards on 11 carries and, at times, looked to be unstoppable as he carried Trojans defenders with him on nearly every carry.
"You have to give their offensive line credit (for Jones' performance), "Pottstown first-year head coach Don Grinstead said. "He's a heck of a back. He's one of those guys that can make all the cuts, do a bunch of a different stuff.'
For Brubaker, however, despite the 348 yards of total offense put forth in the 42-point win, there was room for improvement. "Our offensive line did a decent job,' Brubaker said. "There were a couple of plays where there was some leakage. We've got to correct that going forward.'
For Grinstead — he saw the silver lining in the score. The numbers on the scoreboard meant nothing. Facing adversity all season while suiting up only 23 players for Friday's game, Grinstead was ecstatic about the team's performance.
"I'm so proud of these kids. I can't even look at the scoreboard I'm so proud ... I'll go to any game with that 23-24 kids. I just love them. They've been through a lot, we just move on. We're going to move on from this and get ready for this week.'
Similar to last week's victory over Owen J. Roberts, the Rams' defense was rattled a bit in the early going. Following Jake Leahy's 18-yard touchdown run and a Zac DeMedio interception on the Rams next possession, the Trojans submitted their highlight of the night as Denzel Harvey, who was working against man-to-man coverage, broke free of his defender and hauled in a strike from Gary Wise. With full momentum going forward, Harvey broke a would-be tackler before sprinting to the end zone for the 42-yard touchdown, tying the game 7-7.
"I was disappointed in our first drive,' Brubaker said. "The turnover was disappointing, it wasn't the right read. They caught us in man coverage and picked a good matchup and they executed on that. The kid (Harvey) made a nice move down the field.'
"Everyone of one of them came out and practiced hard,' Grinstead said of the Trojans. "They came out and played hard. We gave them everything we had for the first quarter.'
After the first quarter it was all Rams.
Spring-Ford struck for four second-quarter touchdowns, highlighted by a Brandon Barone 48-yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter. Barone, who was trying to get to the left edge, received a bone-crunching block from Connor Crawford allowing him to sprint down the field in front of his elated home crowd.
"Connor Crawford — he'll be on the awards board this week,' Brubaker said.
With a running clock in the third quarter, the Rams struck again midway through the frame as Leahy scampered for a 30-yard touchdown run — their sixth touchdown in six possessions since the second-drive interception. Their defense kept up the blistering pace from the end of the first, holding the Trojans to 26 yards of total offense in the half.
"We're going to build off what we did in the first quarter, what we did in practice this past week. I think it's going to carry us next week. We're playing a good team in Great Valley and it's a good opportunity for us to keep getting better,' Grinstead said.
For Brubaker and Spring-Ford, it's all about going forward.
"Everyone (in districts) is going to be good going forward,' Brubaker said. "We can't allow those lapses going forward.'
Spring-Ford honored the life of Brian Clarke, as his parents were made honorary captains for the coin toss. Clarke was struck while riding his bicycle on Township Line Road in July 2012. In honor of Clarke, the Rams played their first play from scrimmage with 10 players. Spring-Ford utilized two quarterbacks in the game as Matt Daywalt and DeMedio both saw a significant number of snaps. Brubaker said that "he wanted to get both quarterbacks as much playing time as possible.' DeMedio finished the game 7-for-15 for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Daywalt had one touchdown on 1-for-3 passing and also ran for two touchdowns. Pottstown's Wise was 4-for-9 for 54 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Keller-Williams Gridiron
Jones' 4 TDs carry Spring-Ford past Owen J. Roberts
Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker calls running Jarred Jones white-out; a running back who's ability allows him to cover up a mistake that a teammate may have.
Owen J. Roberts might have a different nickname for him — Houdini. Yes, Jones performed his best now-you-see-him-now-you-don't routine in Spring-Ford's convincing 47-3 victory over Owen J. Roberts on Friday night as he transformed would-be losses into masterful runs en route to a 184-yard performance, racking up four touchdowns.
"He does everything we ask him to on the field. He's a player,' Brubaker said.
"We gave up too many long runs from Jones,' Owen J. Roberts senior running back Wyatt Scott said.
For Scott, his senior night started promising as the Wildcats, aided by a fake punt on the team's first fourth down, took the opening drive and marched down the field 53 yards, prompting a timeout from a frustrated Brubaker.
The Rams held their ground, forcing two straight incompletions from Mitch Bradford, prompting a 29-yard field goal by Matt Dinnocenti to give the Wildcats the early 3-0 advantage.
"We should have converted seven points at least, we were pretty happy picking up three,' Scott said. "That was a pretty long kick from our sophomore kicker, so it was good for him — a good confidence booster.'
"We were upset defensively,' Brubaker said. "From there on we played a little bit better.'
Boy did they ever.
After holding the Wildcats to a three-and-out on its next possession, the Rams began to get their offense in gear. Throughout the next 42 minutes the Rams offense became unstoppable — scoring on eight of their nine possessions throughout the game.
Highlighted by Jones' 46-yard run where he swept right, broke a tackle in the backfield, broke two more in the mid-level before breaking off down the right sideline for his third touchdown, the Rams built a comfortable 24-3 cushion with five minutes remaining in the half.
Things then got unlucky for the Wildcats.
After seeing their last drive end with a Scott fumble, the Rams took possession with 21 seconds left in the half. As two Zac Demedio passes fell harmlessly to the turf, his last, a 47-yarder to Gary Hopkins was the proverbial back-breaker. Demedio's pass had hung in the air long enough for an OJR safety to get a hand on it, but the tip landed right in the hands of Hopkins who then proceeded to drag another OJR defender into the end zone with him as time expired, giving the Rams a 37-3 lead entering the half.
Scott and the Wildcats offense tried to make a game of it in the second half as the senior added to his 111 yards on the ground, but a fumble and a turnover on downs after an 11-play, 74-yard drive negated any shot of a comeback.
"We were moving the ball on them,' Scott said. "We turned the ball over too many times and they converted on those.'
A DeMedio quarterback keeper at the 10:23 mark of the fourth quarter culminated the scoring for the Rams who still hold out hope for a shot as co-champion in the PAC-10 depending on Pottsgrove's outcome next week at Boyertown.
"We were a little inconsistent on the defensive front. We weren't consistent in our techniques and fundamentals,' Brubaker said. "We played well over the last three games, but they did some nice things like getting 6-7 yards a carry. That's something we need to address.'
Spring-Ford's David Gulati hit two field goals on the day, one a 24-yarder, the other a 42-yarder that clanked off the upright and in. Brandon Leacraft was excellent through the air throwing for 126 yards on 6-for-8 passing. Brandon Barone led the team with 47 yards receiving as six different receivers caught passes for the Rams. William Dawson led the Wildcats with a game-high two sacks.
Schein to go into Hall
By Karen Sangillo Staff writer
Posted on October 24, 2013
Steve Schein has been coaching football for 39 years. And he got his start in Levittown.
The 1969 Woodrow Wilson graduate is one of 10 slated to be inducted into the Bristol Township School District Athletic Hall of Fame.
“It’s a long time ago, but it’s a great honor. I’m very humbled and surprised about it, especially with all people I know in there,” Schein said. “There are so many really good coaches and players from the past, and I’m very happy to be among them.
“I had some great coaches at Wilson and in addition to helping me as an athlete they also helped me formulate my coaching philosophy.”
Other inductees include Thelma Finney-Johnson (1957 Delhaas, field hockey, basketball, softball); Sherry Polk VanCleve (1959 Delhaas, field hockey, basketball, softball); Jack Watts (1971 Woodrow Wilson, football); Michelle Terry Reitz (1977 Woodrow Wilson, basketball, softball); Matt Given (1985 Harry S. Truman, football, wrestling); Jody Sleppy (Harry S. Truman 1990, soccer, volleyball); Chad Bailey (Harry S. Truman 1991, wrestling) and Tyrone Lewis (2006 Harry S. Truman, football, winter track, baseball).
Also being inducted is the late Henry Johns, a teacher and coach who served in the district from 1974 until his death in 1999. Johns is the distinguished service honoree.
Schein was a standout in football, basketball and baseball for the Golden Rams. After graduation, he played four years of football at West Chester, where he majored in health and physical education and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
He taught at Spring-Ford, where he coached football, track and wrestling. After 10 years at Spring-Ford, he was named the head football coach at Upper Merion, where he coached for 17 years.
He retired from teaching in 2008 but continues to coach, currently serving as an assistant football coach at Spring-Ford.
He and wife Stephanie live in Royersford. They have one son, Ben, who graduated from Spring-Ford and is now at Miami majoring in physical therapy with a minor in health care management.
An induction ceremony and reception dinner will be held at Georgine’s Restaurant, 1320 Newport Road in West Bristol on Nov. 2. The program will begin at 6 p.m. and the dinner at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $30 per person. Reservations must be made by this Friday, through Rebecca Compton at 215-757-2408 or RCompton@BTSDUS.
Make checks payable to Bristol Township Athletic Hall of Fame and mail to Rebecca Compton at Harry S. Truman High School, 3001 Green Lane, Levittown, PA 19057.
If you have a seating preference at the banquet include that with your check.
In addition to the ceremony at Georgine’s Restaurant, the inductees will be introduced at the football game this Friday night. The game is also Homecoming, and the opponent is Suburban One League National Conference rival Council Rock North. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Gridiron - October 21, 2013
' Big Three' separating themselves from PAC-10 pack
By Darryl Grumbling
The Miami Heat has LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Pioneer Athletic Conference football has Pottsgrove, Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford.
For the past two seasons, the PAC-10's version of the "Big Three' has broken away from the rest of the league pack on the gridiron — and the disparity seems more apparent than ever this fall.
When the Falcons (7-0 PAC-10, 8-0 overall), Vikings (6-1, 7-1) and Rams (5-1, 6-2) have locked horns with each other, the games have been veritable Instant Classics.
That was the case in Week 3, when Spring-Ford held off Perkiomen Valley 14-7, and in Week 5, when Pottsgrove gutted out a 14-7 win over Spring-Ford.
It will likely be more of the same Friday night, when the defending league champ Falcons visit the Vikings in a showdown that is brimming with title implications.
When the threesome has faced the rest of its PAC-10 foes, however, the meetings have been one-sided affairs in which about the only drama has been when the mercy-rule running clock will be invoked.
Pottsgrove, Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford have outscored their opponents 746-90 in those contests this season. The average score has been 46.6-5.6, with the closest game being the Falcons' 28-7 win over Methacton in Week 4.
Pottsgrove, under veteran coach Rick Pennypacker, has been the standard bearer for the terrific trio, posting a 65-10 overall mark since the start of the 2008 campaign. The Falcons are 49-3 in league play during that time frame, and have won 21 straight PAC-10 regular season contests since a 49-35 loss to Spring-Ford in 2011.
The Rams, meanwhile, have compiled a 37-10 mark since Chad Brubaker took over as coach in 2010. They won the league title in 2011 and reached the District 1-AAAA final (and PIAA quarterfinal) last season. Spring-Ford is 24-3 in its last 27 PAC-10 games.
Perkiomen Valley has come on strong over the past two years, putting together a 15-4 overall mark. Coach Scott Reed's crew is 13-3 in its last 16 PAC-10 games, with those losses coming at the hands Spring-Ford (twice) and Pottsgrove (once).
THE ROCK SHOW
One big reason for Perkiomen Valley's ascension has been the presence of star quarterback/safety Rasaan Stewart — a.k.a "Rock' to his teammates.
The 6-foot-1, 176-pound Stewart earned All-Area Player of the Year honors last year as a junior, when he threw for 1,636 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for 1,210 yards and 21 scores.
Those are hard numbers to top, but through eight weeks Stewart has continued to generate eye-popping stats despite rarely playing all four quarters. He has thrown for 1,059 yards and an area-high 16 touchdowns (with just four interceptions) and also run for 742 yards and 11 more TDs.
Stewart's performance in Friday's 48-6 victory over Boyertown, when he passed for 201 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 133 yards and two more scores, may have been his best of the year.
Lost in those gaudy figures is the dynamic effort Stewart brings at the defensive end, where he's been a huge part of a unit that's posted four shutouts and is allowing an average of 4.3 points per game.
Spring-Ford defense stifles Pope John Paul II in 47-0 win
UPPER PROVIDENCE — Most likely, the Spring-Ford defense did not really know every play that Pope John Paul II was going to run before it happened in Saturday afternoon's first half. But it sure did seem like it at times.
The well-prepared Ram defense executed its plans well and was quick to the ball while holding the Golden Panthers to a net total of one yard before the halftime break. The Spring-Ford offense wasn't bad either as it rolled up 40 points by the break en route to a 47-0 Pioneer Athletic Conference win.
The shutout was the second in the last three games and the third of the year for the Rams (5-1, 6-2), who have allowed an average of just seven points per league outing. Jarred Jones led the winning offense, that accumulated exactly 600 yards (361 rushing, 239 passing), with 199 yards and four touchdowns on 12 carries and quarterback Brandon Leacraft went 8-for-12 through the air for 160 yards and two scores.
"They were well-prepared,' Spring-Ford coach Chad Brubaker said concerning his defense that yielded just 74 yards for the day. "Our coaching staff prepared them well and picked up on a couple tendencies. They executed and recognized some things and got in the right formations. You take away one play from Methacton (which had scored on the first play from scrimmage the week before against Spring-Ford) and we've had 12 straight shutout quarters.'
"That's what our goal is every week,' Ram senior middle linebacker Andy Lovre-Smith said concerning the zeros on the scoreboard for the opposition. "And we take a lot of pride in that. You want to keep the zeros.'
Spring-Ford forced six straight punts in the first half and Pope John Paul II (1-6, 1-7) did not gain its initial first down of the day until a 15-yard penalty on the Rams with less than three minutes remaining in the half.
Then the Panthers moved the sticks again on a 16-yard run by John Bildstein to the Spring-Ford 40 yard line. PJP advanced to the 28 on that drive and nearly scored on a pass try down the middle from Matt Mesaros to Bildstein, but Joe Bush knocked it away at the last second to preserve the shutout.
Meanwhile, the Rams were forced to punt after three plays on the first possession of the game, but scored six times in a row after that — Jones on a 51-yard run, Gary Hopkins on a 27-yard pass from Leacraft, Jake Leahy on a 57-yard carry, Jones on a 10-yard run, Joe Sink on a 43-yard bomb from Leacraft, and Jones on a 40-yard rush.
"We were just working as a team together today,' said Leacraft. "Nobody's getting on anybody. If they made a bad play, we kept them up.'
The junior quarterback also appreciated the efforts of the defense.
"It helps out a lot,' he added. "The defense helps the offense even though we're not playing. It takes a lot of the pressure off the offense if it's a close game.'
Leacraft began the day with two incomplete passes. In fact, the first successful pass for the Rams came on a 37-yard toss from Matt Daywalt to Hopkins on a flea-flicker play. But Leacraft was nearly perfect the rest of the way.
"He started out a little hesitant,' said Brubaker. "We tried to get him comfortable. Once he completes a couple balls, he's fine.'
But the Ram defense seemed comfortable from the start and dropped PJP for losses nine times on the day.
"They had everything timed and they bring the house and we couldn't block it,' said Golden Panther coach Mike Santillo.
"We play as a team,' said Lovre-Smith. "We trust each other to do each other's jobs. You've got to play as hard as you can. You know someone will make the plays. It's a team effort.
"We prepare well every week. The big thing is stopping them, and we've done that.'
Brubaker made a point of mentioning all of his defensive coaches — Steve Schein, Jim Mich, Jr., D.J. Fox, Bob Swire, and Mike Holland — for the way they get the team ready to play.
"They just prepare our kids well,' Brubaker said. "We watch a lot of film during the week. They've been doing a great job all year.'
The Rams averaged better than 11 yards on their 32 rushing attempts. ... Danny Matthews had three receptions for Spring-Ford, good for 58 yards, and also intercepted a pass. ... Kirk Cherneskie caught two passes for PJP, including one for 16 yards that equaled the hosts' longest gain of the day. ... The Rams' punt on their first series was their only one of the game.
For one Spring-Ford family, a number's roots run deep
POSTED: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2013, 10:11 AM
Dean Vagnozzi never said anything to his kids. It was just something they did on their own. And that, he said, is what has made it so special.
Vagnozzi, the patriarch of an athletic clan in the Spring-Ford school district, was surprised when his son, Alec, came home a few years ago with a football jersey bearing 42, the same number he wore as a college football player. When his daughter, Gabrielle, a promising soccer player, struck a deal with a teammate to claim the number, he knew a full-blown family tradition was born.
And it’s one that won’t be dying soon. The two younger Vagnozzi children, 13-year-old Mitchell and 10-year-old Felicia, also wear the number for their travel baseball and soccer teams, respectively. Gabrielle is one of the area’s top sophomores and is likely to play in college.
“All their teammates know: hands off, that’s the number they’re wearing,” Vagnozzi said.
The No. 42 didn’t have any initial significance to the family. Vagnozzi selected the number randomly when his high school number was already taken at Albright. But now, the number has claimed a life of its own.
“To see them running around with the same number I had, it’s flattering,” Vagnozzi said. “It’s kind of neat, like a piece of me out there with them.”
With Alec, a two-way lineman and all-purpose player for Spring-Ford’s football team, set to graduate this year and unlikely to continue playing, the family wanted to capture the moment. Vagnozzi’s wife, Christa, recently commissioned a family portrait of everyone wearing their 42 jerseys. Vagnozzi’s still fit, albeit a little snugger than it did in the late 1980s when he was a three-year starter at fullback and punted for Albright.
The family posted the picture on their respective Facebook pages, and it generated hundreds of likes and comments.
“Normally, the kids fight us on everything,” Vagnozzi said. “But when we got that picture done, they were proud of it.”
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