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On the Trail With Ted
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 Observations, notes, etc., on games I've seen during the 2002 season . . .

 


DEC. 14
PUBLIC LEAGUE FINAL
Frankford 14, Washington 6
   They always say it's best to strike early on a muddy field. Frankford did that in this twice-postponed affair, then mostly played stellar defense and captured its first title since 1997. Washington went nowhere on the game's first series and Frankford took over just inside midfield. On second down, freshman RB Brandon Norris -- buy stock in this kid now -- zoomed 48 yards for a score on a sweep of left end. (He finished with 21 carries for 119 yards; he recently became the Pioneers' go-to rusher by default when the original guy was declared academically ineligible). About six minutes later, Washington lost a fumble on an attempted punt return and jr. Michael Washington recovered at the 25. Bang! On the first play, sr. QB Darrell "D.J." Turner (5-for-11, 93 yards) hit sr. TE Adam Hartman for an easy TD and followed with a conversion pass to jr. Arnold Mullins. The Eagles answered almost immediately after a nice 20-yard return by jr. Marcus Banks to the GW 43. Jerry "The Iceman" Butler (8-32), a highly promising soph who lives in Frankford, ripped off gains of 15 and 16 yards and sr. RB Larry Turner (9-42) burst 26 yards for a TD. Mullins exploded in from the right side and blocked the PAT. Frankford had three great chances to score before halftime, but none panned out. The Pioneers were stopped at the 2, 1 and 16 as Washington played great defense. Also, Frankford coach Tom Mullineaux left himself open for heavy second-guessing by never calling for a QB sneak on the first two missed opportunities. "I thought those three blown chances were going to come back to bite us in the butt," he said afterward. Neither team did much in the second half. A fumble recovery by jr. DE Jeremy "Talking Machine" Benson (hit by jr. DT Raymond Williams) gave Frankford the ball at GW's 40 late in the third quarter and a 36-yard completion to Mullins provided some life. But John Hanssens' 27-yard field goal attempt was pulled left on the first play of the fourth quarter and it was still a one-score game. Washington mounted a 15-play drive as Turner and Butler paved the way with running and catching. On first-and-10 from the Frankford 21, Benson dumped sr. QB Marcus Kennedy (7-for-16, 62 yards) for a 7-yard loss. Two incompletions followed and Kennedy could get just 11 yards on a fourth-down scramble at 4:35. Washington got two more chances. The first came when Norris fumbled a screen pass (hit by Banks) and sr. DL Steve Deacon recovered at the Frankford 16. On fourth-and-9, good pressure from jr. LB Joe Farina helped to force an incompletion to Turner (defense by Nash and Hartman). Washington coach Ron Cohen left himself open for heavy second-guessing on Frankford's subsequent series. The Eagles still had a timeout remaining, but let the clock run when Frankford faced fourth-and-9. Hartman got off a 24-yard punt and 0:37 remained as the ball was whistled ready for play at the 40. It resumed running, per PL rules, and Washington wasted more valuable time. (If the punt had been fair-caught, the clock would not have started until the snap.) The sequence that followed: incompletion, 8-yard pass to Butler (time out at 0:01), incompletion with defense by Nash and Hartman. With 0:01 left, Frankford championship T-shirts appeared on the sideline. Assistant Rasheen Braddock said he'd purchased three dozen to give to seniors and assorted VIPs. It was a little risky bringing them out with the outcome still in doubt, but 'Sheen got away with it. Frankford's defense, as coordinated by Bill Clausen: jr. Es Jeremy Benson and Isaiah Thompson, sr. T Ricky Rolon, jr. T Raymond Williams, jr. OLBs Ervin Hook and Michael Washington, sr. ILB Joselito Cruz, jr. ILB Joe Farina, sr. CB Sharif Nash and jr. CB Arnold Mullins, sr. S Adam Hartman. If you're counting, that's seven underclassmen on the starting defense. Some Frankford folks wanted to know whether the Pioneers would be the preseason pick for 2003. Hmmmm . . .

NOV. 28
THANKSGIVING RIVALRY
Frankford 41, North Catholic 12

        Covering this game many times through the years has mostly been a happy experience. But this tilt was mostly a clunker, folks, and created a drab atmosphere. The stands on Frankford's side were maybe one-third empty and though North's were pretty much filled, the game got out of hand early and prevented the Falcons' loyalists from becoming much of a factor. My DN story focused on sr. CB Sharif Nash, a star sprinter. He had two interceptions, knocked down four other passes and scored on a 5-yard return of a blocked punt by jr. OLB Michael Washington. "Wash" also opened the scoring with a 36-yard TD catch from sr. QB Darrell "D.J." Turner (3-for-7, 90). Frosh RB Brandon Norris ran 10 times for 76 yards and two TDs. For North, sr. QB Brian Mitchell was directly involved in 38 of the 45 plays, running 17 times for 56 yards and two TDs and passing 8-for-21 for 43. He got absolutely crunched a few times by Frankford's ends/OLBs, but kept popping up. He was involved in four picks -- threw three, got one. On Mitchell's 1-yard TD, he was pushed across the goal line by several teammates. That illegal maneuver is almost never, ever called, but Frankford coach Tom Mullineaux ran all the way down the field to complain. He talked and talked during a timeout and a North fan finally yelled, "Change your diaper!" Mullineaux laughed about it later, saying, "I am getting older. I'll need a diaper pretty soon." When Mitchell took a snap after getting drilled on the previous play, a Falcon fan yelled, "Run for your life!" Frankford's defense: jr. E Jeremy Benson, sr. E Ian Thomas, sr. T Ricky Rolon, jr. T Raymond Williams, sr. ILB Joselito Cruz, jr. ILB Joe Farina, jr. OLBs Washington and Ervin Hook, sr. CB Nash, jr. CB Arnold Mullins and sr. S Adam Hartman. Mullins also kicked off and zipped downfield to uncork two vicious hits.

NOV. 24
CATHOLIC RED FINAL
SJ Prep 38, Roman 7

        Anyone get the license plate of that truck? The Hawks sliced and diced a pretty good Roman team and captured their second consecutive title while extending their winning streak to 22. On the very first play, sr. QB Matt Stefanski (8-for-14, 113) hit soph WR Steve Quinn in stride for a 59-yard TD. The rest of the night belonged to sr. RB-K Pat Kaiser. Using the fact that Roman's rooters teased him about a learning disability for motivation, Kaiser ran 18 times for 316 yards (a city playoff record) and four TDs (tying a city playoff record). Also, he scored a playoff-best 32 total points by adding five PAT and a FG; it was the 25th of his career and tied a mark. Kaiser broke the CL playoff mark of 272 yards with a 35-yard run with 4:19 left. He followed immediately with a 38-yard TD burst, vaulting him past Gratz' Tyree Watson (282, in a recent Pub quarterfinal). Kaiser now has over 2,000 yards on the season. The Hawks’ line featured sr. C John Brewster, sr. G Tom Noonan, jr. G Mike Buscaglia, jr. T Mike Robinson, sr. T Tom Bradley, sr. E Kevin Walker and jr. E Matt Parkhurst. The fullback was sr. Billy Addis; he and Bradley were filling in for injured players. Bradley was given a game ball in the post-game, on-field meeting by coach Gil Brooks. The defense received another strong performance from sr. DB Nate Egner (12 tackles, fumble recovery) and jr. DB Danny Jones (eight, interception). Also, Andrew Spross, a soph LB now starting in the middle because jr. stud Brian Tracz is out with a bad knee, had a pick and a fumble recovery along with seven tackles. For Roman, jr. QB Andre Sloan-El was masterful. It would be interesting to count how many steps he took while throwing/running. Ten thousand, maybe? (smile) He passed 20-for-35 for 230 yards and ran 16 times for 101. Roman ran 69 plays total. Jr. Charron Fisher, a star jr. DE and used almost never on offense this season, caught three passes for 105 yards. But he  fumbled at the 2 when the score was still 7-0. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Roman had scored. Prep has one game remaining, Thanksgiving vs. La Salle. It will be tough to come right back, but I can't imagine the Hawks will lose focus with so much at stake.

NOV. 23
CATHOLIC BLUE FINAL
Carroll 22, West Catholic 7
   Fans may be tired of seeing Carroll take Blue honors, but the Patriots aren't tired of doing so and the threepeat has been accomplished. Carroll outplayed the Burrs on both sides of the ball and has now won 34 of 36 league outings, including playoffs, since the Red-Blue setup was instituted for the '99 season. Carroll had many heroes. Sr. QB Pat Brochet had a spotty season, but he went a perfect 6-for-6 and topped 100 yards (102) for the first time since 2001. Brochet did his best work late in the first half, taking the Pats 87 yards in six plays for a TD that produced a 10-7 lead. He went 4-for-4 with completions to jr. Matt Reilly (21 yards), sr. Chaz Scott (15), jr. Ryan Stewart (10) and Scott again for a 32-yard TD. That drive followed a move by West coach Brian Fluck that raised eyebrows. Twice already the Burrs had shown brass, and had converted fourth-and-1s in their own territory. This time the situation was fourth-and-a-short-2 at the Carroll 45. West at first appeared ready to go for it. But then a timeout was called and sr. Jay McCarrie was called upon to punt. West did little on its first possession of the third quarter and Carroll set sail again. This drive covered 68 yards in 13 plays. Brochet went 2-for-2 for 24 yards and sr. FB James "Big Rig" Roderick (19-84) got the TD on a 4-yard run. A 38-yard burst by Stewart was the big play in the clinching drive, capped by Roderick from the 1. Carroll rolled to 318 yards behind sr. C Ryan Kelly, sr. Gs Mark Campetti and Andrew Lahage, sr. T Justin Faust, jr. T John Lachman, soph TE Pete Novak and Reilly and sr. Brad Baer at split end. (Huck and Puck kept track of tackles, so I'll post more on that later.) For West, star RB Curtis "Boonah" Brinkley ran nine times for 70 yards and a TD on his team's first series, but overall had "just" 121 on 24 rushes. He had a few almosts, but none of his patented cross-country jaunts. That was crucial. Sr. QB Matt Rodia did not throw a pass until late in the third quarter, when the Burrs were already down by 16-7. He made some nice plays while finishing 6-for-14 for 73 yards, but was intercepted twice (by Scott and sr. LB Mitch Yanak). West's Will Grant, a star two-way lineman, likely suffered a broken ankle in the first half. His presence was sorely missed. Carroll sr. Ryan McGoldrick opened the scoring with a 31-yard field goal, but later suffered a shoulder injury.

NOV. 23
PUBLIC LEAGUE SEMIFINAL

Washington 29, Gratz 0
        My thought going in was that Gratz could hang around deep into the game if it avoided early blunders. Even with an early blunder, the Bulldogs were not out of it until early in the fourth quarter. This score is very deceiving. True, Gratz did very little on offense, and sr. RB star Tyree Watson was held to 63 yards on 18 carries; the rest of the offense produced 2 yards on 18 plays. But neither did Washington light things up. The Eagles rushed for 123 yards and 38 came on a TD run by a backup, soph Jerry Butler. So, why was margin of victory 29 points? Turnovers. Mistakes. Washington scored its first TD on a blocked punt as jr. Marcus Banks swatted the ball and sr. LB Jameel McClain recovered in the end zone. In the third quarter, sr. P Voncel Harrigan got off a 1-yarder and the Eagles had to drive just 35 yards. Sr. QB Marcus Kennedy hooked up with sr. RB Andre Odom for an 18-yard gain on a third-down screen and sr. Larry Turner (14-42) went in from the 2. On the ensuing kickoff, sr. Robbie "Beano" Spivey was popped by soph Dominique Curry and sr. Pete Sourovelis recovered on the 12. Turner went 5 yards on third down for the score. Butler's 38-yard TD was the only play of a "drive." Sr. NG Sean Kelly was in on six tackles, including a sack. (Amauro kept defensive stats, so if he sends along some more later, I'll make additions to this report.) For Gratz, Watson and jr. Stanley Sims had interceptions. Harrigan was the leading tackler. Gratz is having a red-letter season (a TG game with Edison remains) and I hope the players don't feel too upset about what happened in this one. The Bulldogs definitely had more juice than Central, the other semifinal loser.
   Here's defensive stuff from Amauro:
Gratz
Voncel Harrigan - 10 Tackles, 1 a Sack

Robbie Spivey - in on 9 Tackles, 1 for a loss
Brian "Gooch" Simpkins - in on 8 tackles with 1 for a loss
Dominic Bland - in on 7 stops, 2 for losses, 1 a sack.
Washington
Larry Turner - 7 Tackles, 1 for a loss, seemed to stop Watson every time it
looked like he was going to break one.

Brandon Peaker - in on 7 Tackles, 1 for a loss
Jameel McClain - 6 Tackles, 2 for losses

NOV. 23
PUBLIC LEAGUE SEMIFINAL
Frankford 53, Central 6
  Ouch! This was one was hard on the eyes. Frankford dominated the line of scrimmage early and often and rolled to an easy win. The Pioneers could have scored 70, even 80, if they had pressed the issue, but the play-calling was very conservative after the halftime score reached 41-6. The offensive line featured sr. C Joel Rodriguez, sr. G Ricky Rolon, jr. G Isaiah Thompson, sr. T Phil Wood, jr. T Henry Smith, sr. E Adam Hartman and jr. E Michael Washington. Sr HB Mikal Jones finished with 13 carries for 103 yards and TDs of 20, 22 and 4 yards. Jones produced 24 yards on his first rush and 15 three plays later. Sr. QB Darrell "D.J." Turner scored the first TD on a 1-yard sneak and hit Hartman for a 50-yard score on the Pioneers' second "drive" (it lasted all of one play). Sr. FB Joselito Cruz rumbled for 103 yards on 11 carries. His best play came on defense when, as a LB, he picked up a fumble (hit by Washington) and ran 58 yards for a score. In the fourth quarter, the lesser lights got some time. Frosh Brandon Norris, jr. Dwayne Shuford, soph Malik "Flip" Walker and sr. Cornelius Mosley all had gains of 10 yards or more and jr. QB Andre Mungin scored twice on sneaks. Washington added a sack (on a fake punt) and two TFL. Norris, jr. OLB Ervin Hook and sr. DT Louis Castro (on the last play of the game) added fumble recoveries and Norris had some unconscious hits on kickoff coverage. Central's only highlight was a 73-yard TD pass from jr. Marcel Quarterman to sr. Chris Williams. Williams stepped through the line of scrimmage and went uncovered. Frankford coach Tom Mullineaux took the blame, saying Frankford was trying to get away with an offbeat defense and got burned.

NOV. 21
NON-LEAGUE
Germantown 50, West Phila. 0
        I always try to use these "mess-around games," as I call them, as a chance to see a team or two I haven't seen earlier. This was a combo. I first stopped at King to take a photo of Lincoln's captains and then headed over to G-town to catch the Bears and Speedboys. Sr. L Shane Foskey and some other Speedboys have been faithful e-mailers all fall; I figured it would be nice to see them play. Foskey and two other srs., Darryl Watson and Dennis King, are big and active, but West is lacking in the skills department. It got moving only in the desperation part of the game. One highlight was a 27-yard pass from Sheldon Ford to Jamil Randolph, who happens to be website legend Amauro Austin's cousin. Cool! King had a fumble recovery (hit by Terrence Betsill) and Foskey made two tackles a significant distance from the line of scrimmage, showing good hustle/agility. The big matchup of the day had jr. CB Gerald Dove on G-town's star WR-TE, Akil Stokes. Stokes last week had four TD catches and the rumor was hot and heavy that the Bears were going to go to him early and often. Didn't happen. Stokes did catch four passes -- two counted; two came on conversions -- as Dove had a very respectable outing. He broke up four passes. Stokes made a diving catch in the left corner of the end zone for a TD with 1:40 left. (Dove argued hard that Akil dropped the ball). When a teammate busted Dove a little, he yelled, "What you want from me?! I've been sticking him the whole game!" Stokes and sr. QB Ryan Graves hooked up for a beautiful conversion. Under heavy pressure, Graves had to throw the ball from the 22. Stokes made the catch about 5 yards deep in the end zone, hanging over the sideline. Stokes' other conversion was a leaping snag in front of Dove. Sr. RB Taurean Filmore ran 10 times for 112 yards and three TDs. Graves (4-for-9, 70) threw two TD passes to jr. WR Christen Johnson (3-62). Soph Brandon Cuff (3-for-4, 57) threw the TD pass to Stokes. Jr. RB Marcus Walton carried seven times for 74 yards. Sr. LB David Roberson had a diving interception. The Fisher brothers, frosh Andre and soph Robert, have recently been promoted to the varsity. Each recovered a fumbled kickoff in the second quarter. While going in motion, jr. FB Omar McDonnaugh tripped and fell. He made the block from his knees and let everybody know it. "I still made the block!" The game ended in near-darkness. West's Anthony McClendon hurt his left ankle on the final play. The trainer was unavailable because she'd gone over to handle duties at King.

NOV. 18
CATHOLIC BLUE SEMIFINAL

Carroll 21, Conwell-Egan 14
        OK, so there were no fireworks along the lines of 55-48. And the first half 18 minutes were kinda bland. But by the end of the night, no one could complain about the overall quality of the game and Carroll, after pulling a rabbit out of its hat, was dreaming of winning a third consecutive title. The Patriots trailed, 14-7, as the fourth quarter began, but drove 62 yards in 13 plays and tied the score with 3:29 left as sr. FB James "Big Rig" Roderick" (15-140) rumbled seven yards for his second TD. C-E went nowhere on its series as Roderick, a DT on defense, made assisted tackles on runs on first and second down and posted a 10-yard sack on third down (raising his tackle total to 11). The punt by jr. Matt Fischer carried to the C-E 40. Jr. Ryan Stewart caught the ball on the left side and scored in the right corner of the end zone -- after backtracking a step or two beyond midfield! Carroll kicked the ball short and C-E took over on its 41. A third-down pass to jr. TE Anthony Caranci (4-46; also an interception) picked up 12 yards, but the Eagles only went backwards from there. My DN story focused on Roderick, who opened the scoring with a 54-yard run midway through the second quarter. He's much faster than you'd imagine because he wasn't caught from behind even though it appeared a couple guys could have. Roderick's main help on defense came from jr. OLB Will Bradley (12 tackles). Sr. DL Chris Hall also had some key stops. For C-E, soph RB Steve Slaton carried 25 times for 140 yards and two TDs. However, none of those runs came in the waning moments of the first half after Slaton ran 17 yards to the 1. The sequence: spike to stop the clock, no gain for sr. FB Mike Smith, no gain for sr. QB Derrick Savage, 20-yard loss as time expired. The Eagles rushed their field goal unit onto the field, but the snap went awry and when holder Dan Quinn gained control, he flipped backward to Fischer. The ball squirted free and C-E lost a golden opportunity to take big-time momentum into the locker room. Sr. LB Rob Biernat made eight tackles and forced a fumble. As the game wound down, some West Catholic players were walking in front of C-E's stands and some fans made a concerted effort to wish them well vs. Carroll. It was a nice gesture, especially since the C-E folks, no doubt, were feeling badly stung by the loss.

NOV. 15
CATHOLIC BLUE SEMIFINAL
West Catholic 55, Neumann 48
        Yes, that score line is correct. The final was indeed 55-48. The 103 points are the most ever scored in any game involving city teams, surpassing the 99 rung up this year when Germantown Academy, of the Inter-Ac, took a 55-44, non-league decision over Hun, of Princeton, N.J. The teams combined for 788 yards from scrimmage and 264 on returns (1,052). The total at halftime was exactly 600! I can appreciate a classic defensive struggle, but I much prefer offense and this one was a flat-out dream game. When I got back to the office, my pulse was racing just typing the boxscore into the computer system. Fifteen TDs! Can heaven be any better? (Not that I'll ever get to find out.) West soph Chris Diaferio took the opening kickoff 67 yards for a score and the ch-ch-ch-chinging was on! The Burrs -- surprise, surprise -- were led by sr. RB Curtis "Boonah" Brinkley, who carried 26 times for 240 yards and four TDs. Sr. FB Chester Roebuck added  54 yards and a TD on eight carries while sr. WR Jonathan Jackson even got into the rushing-TD act with a 25-yarder. My DN story focused on sr. Matt Rodia, who starts at cornerback and had to play QB in this one because the starter was removed from the team for school-related reasons. He turned his one carry into a TD, added a conversion run and completed a 33-yard pass to Jackson during a drive. Best of all, Rodia took the snaps uneventfully and showed team-leader body language. For West's defense -- yes, some D was actually played -- sr. CB Robert Ramsey had 11 tackles and a fumble recovery and broke up three passes and Jackson had 10 stops. Freshman LB Wayne Donahue had a sack and TFL among five stops. For Neumann, sr. FB Jimmy Porreca ran 24 times for 159 yards and three TDs and caught a 10-yard pass from jr. QB Jon Brady (15-for-29, 236) for a fourth. Brady’s other two TD tosses went to sr. WR Jack Hatty (6-99). Hatty's 7-yard TD catch with 2:50 left moved Neumann within 49-41. The PAT by soph Kenny Brown was good, but the refs ruled that West encroached right before the snap. Neumann used its last timeout while planning to go for two (a cruciual development) and Porreca's run failed. Brinkley’s 55-yard burst with 1 minute, 24 seconds left gave West a 55-41 lead, but the Pirates stormed downfield on Brady’s passing and Porreca scored from the 2 at 0:30. Porreca’s onside kick was recovered by Dave Fitzgerald. Brinkley this season has rushed for 2,514 yards and 26 TDs. A little inside-the-newspaper story: My plan was to write stories about both playoffs. But at 9:05, with the game still in the third quarter, I phoned the office on a cell phone and said it would be flat-out impossible. Luckily, Bob Cooney said he'd be glad to help out. He took game details from Tom "Hockey Puck" McKenna and wound up interviewing Prep wideout Steve Quinn over the phone. Ed Barkowitz took the boxscore and stats from Puck, also over the phone, and somehow it all came together. You might have seen Bob and Ed on Daily News Live. I thank them a million times for the hustle. They really stepped up! (They both hate that phrase -- smile.)

NOV. 14
PUBLIC LEAGUE QUARTERFINAL

Gratz 30, Bartram 0
        Now that the Bulldogs are part of postseason action for the first time since 1955, might as well have some fun, right? Fun? Led by sr. RB-CB Tyree Watson, these guys partied hearty! In the last two games, I have seen Watson run for 603 yards and eight TDs. Hay-zoos!! His numbers in this one were 16 carries for 282 yards (a city postseason record) and scores of 64, 43 and 90 yards. His 43 and 90-yarders started and ended "drives." His 64-yarder came on the second play of a drive. Bartram often had eight men at the line of scrimmage and it still didn't matter. Gratz' linemen -- C Lamont Lee-Edgefield, sr. Gs Kyle Hatch and Dominic Bland, sr. Ts David Williams and Brian Simpkins and sr. E Robbie "Beano" Spivey and jr. E Art Johnson -- did a great job of getting Watson early daylight and 'Ree did the rest. A shake of a hip, a dip of a shoulder and he was off! It's truly amazing to see how Watson leaves guys behind, sometimes far behind, even though he appears to be barely jogging. I can't imagine anyone being this fast while seeming to expend so little energy. There was a bad sign early as a bad snap caused a 23-yard loss and gave Bartram the ball on the Gratz 27. No sweat. On the third play, the Maroon Wave tried trickery with sr. RB Chironn "Goober" Davis doing the throwing and Watson intercepted in the end zone. LB Spivey is usually 1 or 1-A with Watson when it comes to importance to the team, but he was merely good in this one (in part because he banged up a shoulder). Sr. LB Voncel Harrigan had a big-time outing. He made 11 tackles and two came on kickoffs, when he booted the ball and zipped downfield to pummel people. Also, Harrigan kicked a 31-yard field goal right off the ground (no block involved) as well as a PAT. Both were tipped. The PAT banged in off the right upright. I can't say too much good about Bartram, honestly. Sr. Randall Eggleton (nine tackles) appeared to be the only Brave to maintain game-long fire. In the last minute, sr. FB Marvin Snipes ran 47 yards to the Gratz 7 and it looked like Gratz was going to have to surrender its shutout. But no! Sr. DE Marcus Howard, a deep sub and fan favorite called  "Mutombo" 'cause that's who he looks like, made a first-down tackle at the 3, then Hatch, Lee-Edgefield/Simpkins and Hatch made tackles at the 1, 1 and 1 AGAIN to get the blanking. Outstanding. Charles Lotson, who coached Gratz coach Leonard Poole back in the day with the Bulldogs, was in attendance and visited the locker room afterward. Poole credited Lotson and John Chaney (then Gratz' basketball coach) with keeping him focused. It was a nice moment.

NOV. 9
CATHOLIC BLUE FIRST-ROUND PLAYOFF
Neumann 14, McDevitt 9
   All you ever want from a football game, especially a playoff, is to have the outcome in doubt in the waning moments. That happened here and Neumann held on as all those in attendance at Northeast held their collective breath. Might as well start with the end, right? McDevitt took over on its own 15 with 5:20 left. Sr. QB Robert Dougherty (114 yards total offense) made two big plays, scrambling for 13 yards on third-and-12 and completing a 33-yard sideline bomb to sr. WR Ryan Gara on third-and-10, moving the ball to Neumann's 41. (Gara, little used for much of the season, made a great catch while twisting his body!) Soph RB Lamar McPherson (23-108) and sr. FB Brandon Edwards, seeing rare rushing duty, made hard, tough runs for first downs and the Lancers had first-and-goal at the 9 with 0:51 left. McPherson made runs for 1 and 3 yards (sr. DL Ed McDuffie was in on both tackles), then Dougherty passed incomplete while being spun around (perhaps by jr. LB Frank Baldino?? maybe someone can help me on that part). Then on fourth down from the 5, Dougherty rolled to his right and flipped a pass in the right flat to sr. DB Demetrius Oliver. The ball went in and out of his hands at 0:12 (a tackler was in the vicinity) and Neumann only had to execute one kneel-down to end it. This one didn't follow Neumann's usual pattern. Sr. FB Jimmy Porreca (16-80) ran for an early, 49-yard TD, but did not dominate thereafter. It was the defense, really, that provided the other TD as soph DT Marques Slocum, already a major factor, recovered a fumble and returned it 2 yards to the 34. An immediate interference call provided a boost and the TD came on an 8-yard run by jr. RB Richard McMickens. Just before, jr. WB Billy "Please Call Me Hollywood" Canady had made a 16-yard catch on a pass from jr. QB Jon Brady. Sr. LB Dan Concannon had 11 tackles. Baldino (nine), Slocum (eight), sr. LB Tim McGinn (eight), jr. LB Darryl Gillard (seven, three for losses) and McDuffie (six) had strong performances. McDevitt's defensive leader was Edwards, an OLB, with 14 tackles. Nine were solos and four went for losses. Jr. LB Sterling Williams had six tackles with two for losses. If McDevitt had won at the end, Neumann likely would have done some serious squawking, perhaps with justification. When Dougherty got spun around on his third-down incompletion, it appeared his pass was backward and, thus, a lateral. The ball skipped out of bounds at about the 20 and could (should?) have been placed there. It became a moot point, of course.

NOV. 9
INTER-AC LEAGUE
Penn Charter 35, Gtn. Academy 21
   Are runners better than ever lately? Or tacklers worse than ever? Or is just a coincidence that the 300-yard barrier has been reached five times this season? For the second day in a row, The Club welcomed a new member as PC won the I-A title at 4-0. Tyree Watson, say hello to Tony McDevitt. Watson, of Gratz, yesterday rushed for 321 yards vs. Central. McDevitt, a sr. RB (and also an excellent LB), scorched GA for 328 yards and four TDs on 26 carries. He is the third PC rusher to top 300 vs. GA, following Brandon Shepherdson (344 in '93) and James Berry (346 in '98). How'd you like to have a 300-yard game under your belt and be only No. 3 in your school's history? McDevitt's scores covered 61, 38, 48 and 22 yards. He could have had, and probably did have, a fifth TD, but the referees ruled he fumbled before breaking the plane on a second-quarter run (sr. DL Mike Techtmann recovered in the end zone). McDevitt has signed with Duke for lacrosse, but might also play FB. West Catholic's Curtis "Boonah" Brinkley had the first three 300-yard outbursts with 306, then 304, then 337. Three have come within the last eight days. Amazing! PC's line: soph C Colin Hitschler, sr. Gs Chris "Chips" Johnson and Jarrod Williams, sr. T Mike Boles, jr. Ts Eric Feinschil and Richard Bryan (the Ts rotate), soph E R.J. Hollinshead and sr. E John Samuel. The blocking FB was soph Paul Sweeney. The Quakers' final score came in the last minute when Hitschler batted a pass at the line, gathered in the ball and raced 9 yards. Very nice play! McDevitt won the Geis Memorial Award (game MVP) and was in on seven tackles. Boles (two sacks, one TFL) and Williams wreaked havoc along the DL while jr. DB Sean Singletary had two interceptions. As predicted by a GA loyalist at halftime, the Patriots were merely worn down. Losing star jr. WR Justin Holiday to a knee injury didn't help, either. Jr. QB Sean Grieve finished 12-for-24 for 145 yards and two TDs and is now the I-A's season passing leader with 1,821, surpassing 1,810 by PC's Larry Storm in '95. (GA's school record was 1,690 by Coley Murphy in '93). Grieve also posted two TD passes, while upping his I-A record to 25. With sacks counted, he carried 18 times for 29 yards. Jr. RB Tyler Yerk rushed 19 times for 119 yards and caught three passes for 35 (all early, for some reason). GA scored on the ol' hook and lateral with 3.5 seconds left as jr. Peter Vernon received credit for a 4-yard catch and Yerk went the last 43 with the lateral. It was that play -- everything counts as passing yardage -- that gave Grieve the record. This was the teams' 116th meeting. It only SEEMS like I've covered about 70 of 'em (smile).

NOV. 8
PUBLIC LEAGUE
Gratz 47, Central 20

        The Bulldogs not only earned a postseason appearance for the first time since 1955. They did so in STYLE! Sr. RB Tyree Watson, showing quick, darting moves to go along with easy-as-pie speed (he runs so fast in what appears to be effortless fashion), carried 21 times for 321 yards (the No. 3 total in Pub history) and five TDs. Watson and jr. TB Vondell Parson (17-138, two TDs) frolicked behind the blocking of soph C Lamont Lee-Edgefield, sr. Gs Kyle Hatch and Dominic Bland, sr. Ts David Williams and Brian Simpkins and sr. E Robbie "Beano" Spivey and jr. E Art Johnson. Fourteen of Watson’s carries went for 10 or more yards. Seven of Parson’s did. Incredible, huh? Gratz finished with 472 yards total offense. Central did not have what I like to call the "hunger factor" on its side. The Lancers were already in the playoffs and five players (some starters) were sidelined because of excessive latenesses (for school, not for practice). Central had some early juice, but did not sustain its intensity and showed some very suspect tackling. It'll be interesting to see how the Lancers regroup for next week's quarterfinal at Bok; Gratz will host Bartram. I'd heard a lot about Spivey's play at LB and guess what, he is VERY good. On Central's first 12 plays, including a kickoff return, Spivey had eight tackles. Good enough for me. Later, he roared from behind to keep the speedy sr. Chris Williams (10-135, TD) from running 55 yards for a TD. "If there's a better linebacker in the city than Robbie, I want to see him," Gratz coach Leonard Poole said. There was a great atmosphere with a decent fan turnout. Some of the fans even knew the city record for rushing yards in a game (379) and implored Poole to let Watson make a bid in the last 4:04. Didn't happen. Gratz' Voncel Harrigan had an unconscious hit on a kickoff. An example of how well Gratz studied Central: WE/slotback Jordan Anderson was dropped for losses three times on counters/reverses. He is quite dangerous, and did have two catches for 61 yards and a score. He also kicked a late PAT. Just before the game, a TV cameraman was shooting Gratz' get-hyped session when someone yelled, "Yo, don't point that camera at the stands! I'm supposed to be at work! I don't wanna get fired!"

NOV. 7
PUBLIC LEAGUE
Mastbaum 16, King 0
   This could have been the year the PL playoffs took place without The Mighty 'Baum. Coach John Murphy's squad has just four senior starters, and it's nowhere as big or strong as in most seasons. But for the 14th consecutive season, the Panthers are headed for the playoffs and this impressive win made it happen. Heroes were many. Soph QB Markies Tavares passed 10-for-18 for 125 yards. Soph RB Ifen Onwodi carried 11 times for 61 yards before suffering a serious knee injury early in the fourth quarter. Jr. WR Jovan Pratt made five catches for 36 yards (and shook off a big-time pop from sr. QB Dion "Flea" Whittington while playing safety). On defense, the Panthers held King to 150 yards total offense and dropped guys for losses 10 times. Mastbaum’s defense included jr. E Mark Brighter, sr. E Will Martin, sr. T Derrick Knight, jr. T Damien Waller, sr. NG Jose Perez, soph OLBs Perrell Jones and David Pough, sr. ILB Nate Nixon, soph CB Sherrod Evers, jr. CB Steve Gilbert and jr. S Jovan Pratt. Pough, who has a very strong leg, converted a 22-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. Tavares passed 4-for-4 for 77 yards on that drive with gains of 42 and 18 yards to Evers. In the third quarter, 'Baum slapped together a 14-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by Tavares from the 1. Nixon had three big plays: a 10-yard run for a first down out of punt formation (as the "up" man), a 12-yard catch and an 8-yard run. My DN story focused on Perez, a two-way starter in only his second year of FB (he formerly attended Franklin Learning Center). He was in on four sacks and one other TFL. For King, Kenneth "Jeff/Dirt" Barnes ran 11 times for 47 yards. Whittington ran for his life all day, and especially so in the fourth quarter (sacked five times). On defense, Whittington (at safety) and sr. LB Kevin Snyder were the only reliable hitters/tacklers. It was soph OLB Cyril Woodland, though, who had the hit (hard and low) that knocked Onwodi out of the game. King assistant Jody Stanley, brother of head coach Mike Stanley, was hit with a 15-yard penalty when he was too far out on the field and was smacked into by the line judge. Jody and the other coaches had been warned several times about moving back. Onwodi remained in reasonably good spirits while awaiting the medical personnel. When the Mastbaum people were kidding him, and describing primitive treatment methods he'd supposedly receive at the hospital, Onwodi said, "C'mon, man, this ain't the 1800s anymore."

NOV. 2
CATHOLIC BLUE
Neumann 26, Conwell-Egan 20
   "Fairy Tales Do Come True." That was one of 10 signs hanging on the railing in front of C-E's stands, in anticipation of a division title for the formerly downtrodden Eagles. Maybe magic will happen in the playoffs, but on this night the Pirates proved to be big-time party-crashers. (Neumann assistant Steve Smith kept bellowing in pre-game drills, "Let's make it so they have to use those signs as toilet paper!") I'm a big believer in the hunger factor in sports. It didn't work this time. C-E could have earned a week off and the No. 1 seed. Neumann was locked into a first round playoff with McDevitt no matter what. Neumann even trailed at halftime, 14-0. But with great intensity and focus, the Buccos roared back to claim the win with two TDs in the last 6:26. Sr. FB Jimmy Porreca, after an unproductive first half (17 yards), finished with 146 and three TDs on 19 carries. Guys always look faster at night than they do in the daytime, but Porreca appeared to be VERY quick. He did some serious motoring, most of it on gives right up the middle. Jr. QB Jon Brady was sometimes a shade off on location, but he showed good velocity. He went 9-for-16 for 158 yards, laargely to 6-4 sr. WR Jack Hatty (4-70) and jr. WB Billy Canady. Sr. TE Al Meacham, a D-I prospect, also inhaled a pass for a 20-yard gain. Porreca's third TD came with 6:26 left, but sr. DB Dan Quinn broke up the conversion pass and Neumann trailed, 20-18. Some nice running by jr. RB Steve Slaton (17-98) and sr. FB Mike Smith (11-75) moved the ball downfield, but on third-and-2 from the 17, C-E opted for a pass and sr. QB Derrick Savage dropped the ball while dropping back. A 9-yard loss resulted and Slaton then gained just 1 yard on a screen as jr. LB Frank Baldino and sr. LB Dan Concannon combined on the tackle. A 29-yard pass from Brady to Hatty highlighted Neumann's ensuing series and Canady ran 9 yards for the winning score at 1:52. A 45-yard KO return by jr. Marty O'Hara gave C-E renewed hope (he earlier had a 76-yarder for a TD) and a great sideline catch by sr. WR Dan Acevedo put the ball on Neumann's 28 with 1:04 left. Four incompletions followed. Cancannon was in on 11 tackles. Sr. Ed McDuffie (6-4, 310), also a D-I prospect, and soph Marques Slocum (6-5, 315), who would receive a big-time scholarship right now, were monsters in the middle. Sr. LB Tim McGinn jarred some chins. For C-E, sr. LB Rob Biernat made six tackles worth 18 yards in losses! Acevedo had an interception. Jr. K-P Matt Fischer had an interesting evening. On a PAT, he took a flip from holder Quinn and dashed to the right corner of the end zone for an apparent two-pointer. But the refs negated the play, saying Quinn's knee was on the ground. Later, Fischer, a strong-armed catcher, was ticketed to throw out of punt formation, but he could find no open receivers and wound up being tackled for no gain. Right before the game, PA man Rich Papirio made an announcement asking me to report to the press box. I was on Neumann's sideline and didn't feel like running all the way across the field and up through the stands to the box, figuring the game would start and I'd miss a few plays. The Neumann guys were kidding me. Anyway, I finally went up there at halftime and Rich told me that the guys doing the game on radio were frantic because they thought maybe I mistakenly picked up their packet of notes on the game. I'd been in the press box about 45 minutes before the game doing my website report on Malvern-GA. "Anyway," Rich said, "it was right here the whole time. On this ledge. I picked it up and said to them, 'Is this what you're looking for?'" It'll be interesting to see how C-E rebounds in the playoffs vs. Kennedy-Kenrick. Also to see how Neumann fares against McDevitt. McDevitt won the first battle, 35-28.

NOV. 2
INTER-AC LEAGUE
Malvern 43, Gtn. Academy 13
   They say it all starts at the line of scrimmage. It STAYED there in this one. The Friars' linemen mauled their counterparts early and often and helped their team roll to a surprisingly easy victory. Malvern's line included sr. C Kevin Talecki, jr. G Brian Umile, sr. G Michael Meehan, sr. T Stefan Niemczyk, sr. T Tom Coyne and sr. TE Rob McGarrigle. Malvern generated 459 yards total offense as sr. rushers T.J. Cascio (15-122, two TDs) and Duke "Dooooook!" McKeeta (11-116) led the way. Also, sr. QB Dave Moore passed 6-for-8 for 123 yards and two TDs to sr. WR Mike Melvin (3-91). Guess what? The Friars were even more impressive on defense. Yes, GA jr. QB Sean Grieve finished 12-for-24 for 193 yards and a TD to sr. WR David Walsh (3-85), but man did he pay a price. Grieve, showing himself to be the very definition of a tough cookie, was powdered again and again by Malvern's grunts. He was sacked eight times for 59 yards and took hard hits almost every time he threw. Everyone watching could easily feel his pain. He also played defense and delivered some good pops there. I'd love for somebody to go through the game tape and count the number of hard hits on/by Grieve. Cascio, at DE, was in on three sacks and forced a fumble. Meehan, at DT, recovered a fumble, returned an interception 21 yards for a TD and was in on dropping Grieve for a safety. Sr. LB Kevin Lilly was in on two sacks and maintained game-long energy. Jr. LB Greg Brown was quick and active on the outside. Soon, we might have a Psychic Sells Network. When he got a look at how GA's defense was aligned right before a play, assistant Joe Sells exclaimed, "This is a touchdown! This is a touchdown!" Sure enough, Moore hit Melvin for a 42-yard score. There were fumbles on three consecutive first quarter plays, with recoveries by GA's Tyler Stampone and Walsh sandwiching one by Meehan. Malvern's PA announcer when Grieve slipped and fell for a loss: "On a broken play, Sean Grieve decided to fall down." This was Malvern's final home game of the season and, who knows, possibly the last home game of Gamp Pellegrini's 25-year stint. As he has after every recent season, The Gampster will think about retiring. With his usual touch of humor, he said, "My wife has been after me to step down for a while. I don't do it 'cause I like hissing her off." We'll see. On their way out of the field, Penn Charter's coaches took some razzing from Malvern fans. "Come back and play us on Thanksgiving," one of them said. "Ask Gamp. He'll make it happen." The coaches laughed it off. PC visits GA next Saturday. PC wins the title outright with a victory. A GA win creates a triple tie. The league's last triple tie occurred in 1959.

NOV. 1
PUBLIC LEAGUE
Central 28, Germantown 26
   What a crazy 2-plus hours! The action on the field matched the weather, which went from very sunny to very cloudy to rainy with bone-chilling cold and back again . . . with a rainbow, and even the hint of a second rainbow, thrown in. Thirty-two points were scored in the first 12 minutes, 49 seconds and Central appeared safe at the half with a 28-18 pad. But G-town, spurred by the throwing of backup QB Brandon Cuff and the acrobatic receiving of sr. Akil Stokes, drew close with 4:33 left and came within a last-play, end-zone interception (by sr. DB Ambrose Darko) of pulling out a miracle win. Where to start. Well, Central depended on the inside running of jr. Quindel "Milky" Ladson (17-80) and sweeps by the dual wings, sr. Chris Williams (13-77) and jr. Jordan Anderson (5-81, two TDs highlighted by a 65-yarder). He's a former WR with very impressive skills. Jr. QB Marcel Quarterman ran for a score and passed to Williams for one. He'll be hard to handle next season as well. I especially like how he pays attention to the small details. Ballhandling, for instance. He's very good at selling his fakes. The interior line: sr. C Matt Sender, sr. Gs Sirage Yassin and Kyle Scott, sr. Ts Sam Do and Michael Worthy. The wideouts were srs. Michael Yeiter and Eric Heisler. On defense, sr. LB Masai Lord was in on 13 tackles. Sr. LB Dominic Glover-Williams had nine. For G-town, jr. Omar McDonnaugh led in rushing (23-133) and was helped by sr. Taurean Filmore (8-76, TD). McDonnaugh has the knack of always turning what should be a 5-yard gain into 8, or 8 into 11, etc. He is one relentless kid and his most impressive work came in pass-blocking. G-town's QBs, sr. Ryan Graves (4-for-8, 61, two TDs) and Cuff (6-for-22, 93), a soph, were not sacked once. Stokes made three catches for 76 yards. Sr. Tyree Jones made five for 76. He made two others on successive plays -- one was a beauty, as he juggled while falling and held on -- that were wiped out due to penalties. Here's G-town's last drive, starting at its own 48: incomplete, incomplete, intentional grounding with the ball moving back to the 36, 29-yard pass to Jones on fourth-and-22, spike, incomplete to Stokes at the 10 (though I thought he had one foot inbounds), McDonnaugh for 8 yards on a run, pass to Jones for 8 yards to the 20, spike, incomplete, incomplete (broken up by Quarterman), end-zone pick by Darko. Phew!! G-town sr. David Roberson had a vintage hit on a kickoff. On the second of his two TD catches, Stokes leaped over a defender to suck in the ball. Outstanding! Jim Rogers, Temple training guru, saw his first game at Central's field in 35 years. The last time he was there he was a student-teacher at Central. G-town coach Mike Hawkins had to be at the airport for an 8'clock flight to New Orleans. His daughter attends Xavier Univ. there and was part of a special show.