|Quarterback Chris Demay, center, and head coach Bill Furlong, far right, helped Phoenixville pull off a big win last weekend against Exeter. (Photo by Barry Taglieber)|
By Don Seeley
PHOENIXVILLE — Bill Furlong liked to think this year was like most other years when camp opened back in mid-August ... a meet-and-greet with a handful or so of veterans and a lot of newcomers.
Huddled in the Washington Street Fieldhouse were five returning lettermen from the offense, four more on defense, and a kicker. But don’t let the numbers fool you, either, because five of those nine were actually the same players — as in Cole Luzins, Ryan Pannella, Ryan Yenchick and Tom White, along with punter-placekicker Ian Harrigan — were double-duty starters last season.
“I don’t really know if (preseason) was any different for us,” Furlong explained. “We felt we had some certain anchors to build on what we accomplished last year (in getting to the District 1-Class AAA final). But we also wanted to establish who we were, too. So to a certain extent, I guess we were looking for our own identity.”
The Phantoms may have established exactly who they are — or what type of team they’re to be reckoned with — after last Friday night’s 28-20 win over Exeter. That sure helped make up for the season-opening setback to Great Valley, especially knowing Delaware-bound Kyle Yocum was under center for the Eagles, who are expected to contend for a Berks Football League section title this fall.
“I don’t think we played that badly against Great Valley, which I think is going to be a pretty good football team this year,” Furlong said. “We had opportunities to win that game, but we just didn’t play within ourselves, within our confines, within our system. I think the guys were just trying to do too much.
“Against Exeter, we played with more passion, more enthusiasm. I think that certainly contributed (to the win).”
Furlong, as well as the Phantom faithful, have come to expect consistent play from the veteran gang. Luzins surfaced as one of the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s top underclassmen a year ago; Pannella is an outstanding tight end and is quite adept at getting to the ball on defense; Yenchick’s talent mirrors Pannella’s on both sides of the ball; White is the reliable but unsung lineman every team needs; and Harrigan’s kicking is arguably the most consistent of anyone in the area.
But what Furlong and his staff has gotten thus far, and especially last weekend, is performance and production from a number of others who saw a little time last season or ample time due to injuries.
Among that group are Zack Gallow, Sean Hesser, Brian Hyland, Donnie Jackson, Kyle Karkoska, Brian Madden and Colin Mea, a mix of linemen and skill people. And then there’s new quarterback Chris Demey. Even though he’s gone up top just 14 times thus far, the senior has completed 10 of them for 237 yards with one interception and two touchdowns. For the record, that translates into an off-the-chart 237.2 passing rating.
“Those guys add to our core,” Furling said. “Our older kids really worked extremely hard during the offseason and in camp, and our younger players saw that, saw that was expected of them.
“Our seniors want to continue what we’ve done, and I think because of that, because of their leadership, they’ve gotten the attention of our underclassmen. They’ve all bought into what we expect of them, and the youngers have been stepping up.”
That was evident during the win over Exeter ... a particular win that could go a long way in defining this week’s game against visiting Methacton, and quite a few others that follow.
“Right now I think we’re on the edge,” Furlong said. “The win will help, definitely help our confidence. But we also don’t want to get over-confident, either. We have to continue to play within our selves, within our system.”
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Speaking of quarterbacks, Pottstown’s Sage Reinhart is the area’s passing rating leader (154.2) after two weeks of play. The Trojan quarterback is 21 of 32 for 298 yards with two touchdowns against one pick. Owen J. Roberts’ Jarred Pinelli (141.3), Pope John Paul II’s James Bleming (the area’s runaway leader in yardage with 524 and touchdown tosses with five), Spring-Ford’s Hank Coyne (116.8) and Boyertown’s Griffin Passik (114.1) are second through fifth, respectively, for quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts through the two games. Only two quarterbacks (Bleming and Pinelli) are averaging over 150 yards a game right now. ... The Mercury’s complete weekly leaders chart begins next Tuesday.
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It seems as though there are way too many high school football rankings anymore ... and do some ever reveal contrasting opinions as to who’s who in the respective leagues, regions and state. Locally, Pottsgrove is sixth and Spring-Ford is 11th in Channel 69’s Big School Top 15. Pottsgrove is the only area team appearing in any statewide rankings — listed sixth in AAA by Pennsylvania Football News and 10th by the Harrisburg Patriot News (our personal choice for accuracy or accountability).
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A salute and standing ovation to both Phoenixville and Upper Perkiomen programs for honoring members of the U.S. armed forces last Friday night, and to Methacton for its fund-raising effort Saturday that will benefit local families with financial difficulties as a result of their battle against cancer ... just a few more reasons why you gotta love (and hopefully support) high school football.
Don Seeley is the sports editor of The Mercury. His high school football column appears Tuesdays through Thanksgiving. He can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.