Phil’s Blog: Tamaqua
PIAA DISTRICT 3 CLASS AAA FOOTBALL CHAMPIONS!
It Was A Great Day to Be a Spartan!
Saturday’s championship was exciting and satisfying. Wow, what a win.
This is the Spartans – and Coach Wolfrum’s – eighth district championship. That, friends, is tops in Berks County football.
• The Vibe: It just felt like a big game. Discussions I had in the press box with media from across eastern and central PA expressed the same sentiment – the game had a state championship feel. There was palpable tension and the pads were cracking. It was a great scene and feel. If you were not there, one question, fans…why not?!?
• Special Teams: Similar to the state title in 2012, the difference on the scoreboard was Aiden Cirulli’s field goal. As the radio guys who have done all of Middletown’s games commented, there was no way the Blue Raiders were equipped to attempt a field goal. Kick and punt coverage was fantastic and the recovery of Aiden’s game opening pooch kick fueled the team’s first drive. Special teams was a definite difference maker considering the talented skill kids on Middletown’s roster. To the younger guys coming up, it is an honor to be on special teams.
• Defense: A great effort against an explosive offensive team boasting a 6,000 yard career back in Jose Lopez. There were so many tremendous individual plays but let’s focus more on the squad. Roll call: Olexy, Fernandez, Brunner, another Brunner, Feightner, Niedrowski, Grabowski, Hurleman, Tranquillo, Carter, Thompson, Eberhart, Eisenhower.
• Offense: Workman-like and efficient. Middletown has athletes, that’s for sure, and they schemed well enough to contain Max and Jevin. That left it to Evan the fullback to pound away at the Blue Raiders defense to the tune of 113 yards. Jordan Auman also had two critical runs of 9 and 10 yards following his linemen and backs. Niedrowski lined up as a wingback and then pulling must have some opponents’ linebackers and d-backs briefly questioning their fall sport choice. An early 17 play, 9-and-a-half minute drive was vintage Wing-T.
• Coaching: Not to diminish any coach’s personal gratification from this win, but it had to mean a little extra to Coach Silveri who is in his 50th season and both Steve Brunner and Frank Ferrandino. Steve’s son Darren and Frank’s son Rocky are starters.
Thank you, Coach Mitchell!
Saturday, we recognized United States Marine Corporal Mike Mitchell, Sr as our veteran honoree. Corporal Mitchell served three years in the Marine Corps including fourteen months of combat duty in Vietnam. Mike was a three sport athlete at Collingswood (NJ) high school before matriculating to Kutztown State College and settling in the area. Spartan fans know him as Coach Mitchell as he directed the girls basketball team from 1994 through 2006. During which time he compiled 227 wins and is the girls program’s winningest coach. Mike and his wife Kath have been married for fifty years. There are three children: daughters Kristie and Alison and son Mike, Jr and ten grandchildren: Christopher, Courtney, Hannah, Sarah, Bella, Sophie, Mitchell, Ava, Michael, and Elenor. It was a pleasure honoring one of this school district’s great coaches and contributors.
On behalf of the Spartan football family, our country, and this school district, I offer “Thank you Coach Mitchell for your service.”
*Middletown’s Jose Lopez. It has been a pleasure watching him play. Losses are tough to handle but let’s not lose sight of a simple fact: the Jose Lopezes of the world are generational backs. 6,125 yards in a career is unreal. Perspective: if you take the top four single season Spartan rushing performances (Dice 1611, Anzalone 1442, Lord 1257, Manderbach 1249) and combine them, that’s only 5559 yards. And all the Spartans achieved those marks in their senior seasons. Lopez, of course, had a regular high school career to mature through. Best wishes and continued success, Jose.
*Tamaqua. Yes, their nickname is also the Blue Raiders.
*Underdog Spartans. Most central PA media-types had Middletown as favorites coming into Saturday’s contest. Understood. They were the three-time defending champs and seemingly had our number. No arguments there. However, one guy quipped “how many is this now 3? 15? 75?”
I get it, he was playing off tradition and trying to be funny.
Okay, so here’s me being flipping hysterical: the decade of the 10s, Middletown has three district titles and no state championships. The Spartans also have three district titles and one state championship. The Blue Raiders finished the decade 77-41. The Spartans are still playing, of course, at 106-23. The five previous years? Middletown was 26-29; Wyomissing Area 49-12.
Do I need to go back 75 years or has this exercise been side-splittingly funny enough?
*Medal Ceremony. In case you were wondering, District 3 did away with the individual medal ceremony. Some games featured teams with 75-80 kids on their rosters, so the post-game ceremony to recognize both teams could get lengthy. This pissed off some cold fans and the on-field medal presentations have stopped.
A thought: you know, peeps, you don’t have to stand there and wait. You can leave. Most vehicle these days are equipped with heaters.
*A Respectfully Submitted Correction
No, it’s a GREAT day to be a Spartan.
District Championship Memories
Well, boys, you earned another tremendous accolade in Spartan football history by capturing the D3 crown. This is just the fourth Spartan team to win the district title as an undefeated squad joining 2001, 2006, and 2012.
Let’s meet the other seven district champions and allow a brief stroll down Memory Lane as we recall the title games.
The school’s first district championship was a 24-0 shutout of Holy Name in Class A. Played on a Black Friday afternoon at Governor Mifflin, the Spartans avenged an early season 15-14 defeat at the hands of the Blue Jays with a dominant defensive performance. The Spartan “D” limited the Jays to 33 total yards and just four first downs en route to the shutout. The defensive line was especially effective, spending much time in the Holy Name backfield, and were led by senior tackle and current Spartan coach Ty Smith who recorded three sacks. Halfback Drew Manderbach ran for 145 yards on just twelve carries and scored twice. Running mate Dave Christenson contributed to the team’s first score by taking a pitch from senior signal caller Mike Mitchell and tossing a 27 yard option pass to Jeff Binder. But it was the Spartan defense’s afternoon to shine as they allowed the Jays across midfield just once in the convincing shutout of rival Holy Name. The 1990 Spartans finished the season 12-1.
Mike Mitchell, Jr in 1990 D3 Championship win over Holy Name
(Uh-oh…two Mitchells pictured in one blog post. Let the ball busting begin)
In a season that, I think, helped shape the Spartans prominence in Berks County football, the ’91 team captured its second straight Class A title 21-0. After graduating 16 seniors, this squad helped define “reload” versus “rebuild” in the Wyomissing Area lexicon. Once again, the Spartans and Blue Jays met for a rematch with the championship on the line. Sophomore halfback Chad Eisenhower opened the scoring with a 48 yard run in the first quarter. Eisenhower would figure prominently on the Spartans second scoring drive, tossing a halfback pass to split end Jeff Binder to get the team into scoring position. Senior fullback Jeff Harenza finished the drive with a two yard plunge. Less than a minute later, quarterback Matt Lytle found tight end Jon Korczykowski for a 42 yard score to get to the final 21—0 margin as the first half ended. The Spartan defense slowed a talented Holy Name offense and stuffed them three times inside the 15 as they pitched their fourth shutout of the season. The 1991 Spartans finished 10-1-1 and gave Wyomissing Area a three year record of 34-3-1.
Hall of Famer Matt Lytle – Starting QB in ’91 & ‘93
This dominant Spartan team captured the 1993 District 3 Class A championship in a 49-12 win over York Catholic. After a slow start on another Black Friday afternoon game and only up 7-6, Matt Lytle, Chad Eisenhower, Bill Houck and company got the offense cranked up and then just ran past, over, and around the Crusaders. Eisenhower scored twice on runs of 21 and 54 yards and Jim Palmer added a one yard run and a 29 yard touchdown reception from Lytle to send the Spartans to the locker room up 28-6. The second half was much of the same as Bill Houck sandwiched touchdowns (26 run, 62 pass reception) around a Lytle TD gallop in the third quarter as the Spartans won going away. The offensive line of center Ben Shannon, guards Chris Flowers and Scott Ziegler, tackles Seth Roby and Brad Kauffman, and tight end Mike Korczykowski led the way to 416 yards of total offense in providing Coach Wolfrum his third District 3 Class A title in four years.
Jim Palmer rumbles into the end zone in win over York Catholic
In an eagerly anticipated Class AA final, the explosive 2001 Spartans shut out high powered Elco 28-0 at Cedar Crest High. The Raiders boasted an All State quarterback and Division I recruit but he was throttled by a quick and tenacious Spartans defense. Of the nine Raider offensive series, four ended on punts, one on downs, and four on interceptions. Split end/defensive back Nolan McCready produced a hallmark game with three interceptions and 194 yards receiving. The future Penn Stater also scored two touchdowns including a 59 yarder affectionately known as the “behind his back” touchdown that, well, you had to see to believe. The rest of the backfield wasn’t too bad either. Quarterback Jeff O’Hara was 8-12 for 194, fullback Jon Hart bulled his way to 127 yards, sophomore Andy Taylor tallied 100 yards on the ground, and halfback Billy Moser added a touchdown run to close the scoring. The 2001 team would be the first to enter the state playoffs and finish 12-1.
Spartan Hall of Fame SE/DB Nolan McCready
In a battle of two powerhouses, the Spartans faced defending District 3 champion Lancaster Catholic at Hershey. In a game with multiple momentum swings, the Spartans jumped to an early lead behind short touchdown runs by senior 1,000 yarders Gregory Lord and Pat McDonough. The Crusaders countered with a touchdown run of their own and the half ended 14-7 Spartans. Lancaster Catholic scored twice in the third quarter to take a 21-14 lead into the fourth stanza. The Spartans found the end zone again with just 2:18 remaining. And then it just got crazy. First, Coach Wolfrum eschewed the tie and went for two – as Michael Mancias hit Sean Nally for the successful conversion. 22-21 Spartans. On the ensuing kickoff, LC’s Jonathan Markley returned the ball to the Spartans 16. The defense stiffened and the Crusaders settled for a field goal. 24-21 Crusaders. Then it got really crazy. Faced with 76 yards and only 50 seconds and a time out on their side, the Spartans took over. Senior halfback Gregory Lord, the Spartans’ all-time leading rusher, split wide and ran past a Crusader defender – who got flagged with an obvious pass interference penalty. The Spartans now had 57 yards ahead of them and less than twenty seconds remaining. Running the same pattern, Lord again got behind the defender and Mancias threw the perfect pass. Result: a 28-21 Spartan win and the perhaps the best moniker in school history – “The Lord’s Prayer”. In one of the great performances by a Spartan quarterback, Mancias completed 15 of 18 passes for 231 yards and that clinching touchdown. Clearly this was the greatest finish of a Spartan district championship game – if not any Wyo Area game – ever. The 2006 team fell in the Eastern Final by a touchdown to the eventual state champs and finished 14-1.
QB Michael Mancias won 23 consecutive starts from late 2004-06
It may have been difficult to top the 1993 or 2001 performances as most dominant in a district title game, but 2012 certainly convinced the Spartan faithful. The team blitzed Bermudian Springs for four touchdowns in the first quarter, added a fifth touchdown and a Jonah Bowman field goal in the second stanza to affect the Mercy Rule on the “what just hit us?” previously unbeaten Eagles. The Spartans scored three times within the first six minutes of the game (Alex Anzalone 4 yard run, Justin Causa 53 yard burst, and Spencer Lloyd 22 yard reception from Joe Cacchione) and on each of their first six possessions. Anzalone would score twice more and finish with 119 yards on the ground while Causa had 112 rushing. The 2012 Spartans set a Class AA record with 27 points in the first quarter as well as a record for largest margin of victory in the title game at 44-0. A stout Spartan defense held the Eagle to just 40 yards rushing on 27 attempts. The Spartans, of course, finished 16-0 and captured the AA state championship.
2012 “O” Line: Connor Reedy (57), Wyatt Metzger (77), Cody Cox (66), Ben Wertz (72), Will Kroppe (62)
I am not sure “revenge” is a word that passes across Coach Wolfrum’s lips. Certainly there have been, shall we say, satisfying wins over arch rival Holy Name over the years. I am sure the 1990 title shutout after dropping a one-pointer in Week 4 was sweet. The same for 1991’s rematch to settle the 14-14 tie earlier that year. But the 2014 District 3 Championship was something special. With Berks Catholic and Wyomissing Area firmly establishing their rivalry as one of the premier in the state and with a cool nickname “Backyard Brawl” to boot, every matchup between these neighbors seems, well, special. Add to the mix some late game heroics by the Saints in Brawl I in a quickly anointed “instant classic” just three weeks prior, this game would test the mettle of the Spartan squad. BC was dominant early, marching down the field for a score, stopping the Spartans on their first drive, and then driving again until a Tom Paolini interception reversed fortunes. Brandon Workman ripped off a 63 yard touchdown run to bring the game to within one point and shift momentum slightly. The squad dominated the third quarter, sparked by a Mason DuGuay touchdown off Anthony Colon’s block of a punt. Tom Paolini scored on a 15 yard pass from Scott Kuczala and Sam Weaver broke a 73 yard touchdown run to put the Spartans ahead 27-7 at the end of the third. Undaunted, the Saints posted two touchdowns to get within 27-21 with 3:41 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Spartans responded with a Peter Geyer one yard burst and Weaver added a two point conversion just two minutes later to seal the victory 35-21. The Spartans would make the Eastern Final and finish 13-2.
All State performer HB/DB Tom Paolini
SPARTAN FOOTBALL TRIVIA
There are five dads whose sons are on the 2019 District Champion team who also played on previous Spartan football District Championship teams.
Name the five dads.
Okay, threw y’all a bone last week by listing the Oldster’s name a few sentences earlier. That was Chris McKeone, older brother of Dan, who was an All Berks Tight End in 1980. Chris was also an outstanding linebacker and wrestler. Our Youngster was Malcolm White from his 2011 All Berks team picture. Malcolm was a force as a defensive lineman and was named All State. He, too, was an outstanding wrestler. Kudos to frequent contributor Kurt Althouse for recognizing Malcolm and Gene Stoltzfus identifying Chris. Incidentally, Kurt was also a wrestler. Notice a theme?
Okay…where to go with this?
My Spartan Heart and Throat
If you recall, last week I was heartfelt admitting how special an opportunity to call a D3 final at the “A” Field was to me. Heartfelt, honest, sincere, earnest, uplifting, emotional…and almost did not happen. I woke up Saturday morning with NO. FREAKING. VOICE.
Do you realize how many times I said to myself – rather hoarsely – “are you f-ing kidding me”?
Roughly the number of yards Max has run for this season.
Anyway, after a little coddling and a lotta negotiating with God, I managed to check one off the ole bucket list. Thank you, very sincerely, to those who asked about me and seemed genuinely concerned.
Next Up: Tamaqua
Friday night 7 pm at North Schuylkill High School.
Directions to North Schuylkill: take 183 north and merge onto route 61. Follow 61 north through Pottsville until you feel thankful you don’t live here.
So, why North Schuylkill? Each year the state round flips between home districts. This year is D11’s turn so the game will be played at a site within their district. When you look at the state bracket that Scott has on this site, the team on the top of the bracket will be considered the home team and will have the game played in their district.
So, why a Friday night in December on a turf field? I don’t know.
Regardless, this is a nice opportunity to show your support for North Schuylkill’s injured Jaden Leiby. You can wear your shirt!
Whew, that was a lot of stuff this week. I need a nap.
That’s it for me behind the microphone. My 29th campaign is a wrap. I will continue to provide bathroom reading material with the Blog through this season.
Sneak preview – next week, I look at some of the great backs this program has faced over the years.
Thank you for the support, loyalty, and kind words.
The Voice of Spartan Football