Northeast Times

2014 High School Football Preview: Southeastern PA Annual Overview

Their own set of rules

Ma­jor col­lege foot­ball re­cruit­ers know what they want in blue-chip foot­ball play­ers. And only they know.

Ro­man Cath­ol­ic seni­or line­man Manny Taylor is yet an­oth­er ex­ample.

Taylor has yet to play a down on the varsity. Ro­man’s head coach Joe Mc­Court didn’t even men­tion him when he was asked to provide a pre­sea­son list of his top four play­ers on the 2014 team.

Still Taylor was offered and ac­cep­ted, with his verbal com­mit­ment, a full-ride schol­ar­ship to play for Rut­gers. His 6-6, 280 size and his ath­let­ic abil­ity was all that ma­jor col­lege foot­ball re­cruit­ers needed to see.

Taylor made sure they saw it on the col­lege foot­ball pro­spects spring and sum­mer camp cir­cuit.

“I wasn’t try­ing to hide him,” says Mc­Court. “You see something new every year. He hasn’t played a varsity down yet. He was a bas­ket­ball play­er. It’s only his second year of foot­ball.

“He’s raw,” adds Mc­Court. “He’s nev­er been in the trenches in this league. I’m look­ing for­ward to him get­ting his butt kicked. That should bring out the best in him.”

Iron­ic­ally, Taylor isn’t even the best of­fens­ive line­man on his own team. Mc­Court says Gav­in Wig­gins (6-3, ,250, Sr.) is one of the best line­men “ever” at Ro­man. “He’s up there with Jon Run­yan at The Prep,” says Mc­Court. Only FCS team Young­stown State has offered Wig­gins.

Taylor ini­tially played bas­ket­ball. He’s quick, fast, big and can move. Foot­ball tal­ent scouts love bas­ket­ball play­ers who move to foot­ball. The most re­cent ex­ample is Blooms­burg Uni­versity’s 6-foot-6, 250-pound DE Larry Web­ster, who was draf­ted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL draft by the De­troit Lions.

Web­ster, whose fath­er played for the Bal­timore Ravens, played just two foot­ball sea­sons for the NCAA Di­vi­sion II Huskies after he came to Blooms­burg to play bas­ket­ball. He first set the school ca­reer re­cord for blocked shots and then set the school sea­son re­cord for sacks. The Blooms­burg foot­ball web­site called Web­ster’s foot­ball suc­cess “a met­eor­ic rise on the grid­iron.”

A de­scrip­tion that fits Taylor as well.

“He went to all of the one-day camps and tore it up,” says Mc­Court. “I ex­pect big things from him. If he gets everything to­geth­er, he could play on Sundays. He’s our X factor. This could be one of the best of­fens­ive lines we’ve had here.”

Blue-chip re­cruit­ing shift

A scan of the lists of top re­cruits na­tion­ally and in Pennsylvania for this year’s seni­or class com­piled by the four ma­jor re­cruit­ing me­dia web­sites—ES­PN, Rivals.com (Ya­hoo), Scout.com (Fox) and 247s­ports.com (CBS)—clearly in­dic­ates where most of the top tal­ent is loc­ated in the Com­mon­wealth.

And it’s not where it has been found tra­di­tion­ally. South­east Pennsylvania has leaped over west­ern Pennsylvania.

“Just ask the re­cruit­ers,” says Mal­vern Prep head coach Aaron Brady.

On ES­PN’s list of top Pennsylvania ma­jor col­lege re­cruits, nine of the top 15, 12 of the top 20 are from SE PA. 247s­ports.com has nine of the top 15 and 10 of the top 20 from SE PA. Scout.com rates nine of the top 15 and 14 of the top 20 from SE PA. Rivals.com ranks eight of the top 15 and 12 of the top 20 from SE PA.

Ster­ling Jen­kins, an of­fens­ive line­man from the WPI­AL’s Bald­win, is the con­sensus top re­cruit in PA. He’s com­mit­ted to Penn State. Right be­hind him at num­ber two and three are St. Joseph’s Prep DB John Re­id and Arch­bish­op Wood OL Ry­an Bates, who is also headed to Penn State.

World-class foot­ball

Aaron Brady has yet to coach a down as the new coach at Mal­vern Prep. But he was busy in Ju­ly coach­ing the USA.

Brady was head coach of the Un­der-19 USA foot­ball team that traveled to Kuwait City and won the In­ter­na­tion­al Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­ic­an Foot­ball cham­pi­on­ship tour­na­ment, which is played every two years.

The USA team, com­prised of small col­lege and ju­ni­or col­lege play­ers largely from Texas and Cali­for­nia and some high school play­ers such as Mal­vern Prep line­man Hay­den Ma­honey, won all four games it played to win the cham­pi­on­ship.

The USA de­feated Mex­ico 49-14 on Ju­ly 7, Ger­many 54-0 on Ju­ly10 and Ja­pan 43-0 on Ju­ly 13 to reach the cham­pi­on­ship game where it de­feated de­fend­ing cham­pi­on Canada 40-17 on Ju­ly 16 in Al-Nasr Sta­di­um. All of the games were played in Kuwait City, Kuwait late at night to avoid the op­press­ive day­time desert heat.

“It was pretty crazy play­ing that many games in 15 days,” says Brady. “The world is get­ting bet­ter at Amer­ic­an foot­ball.”

The trip in­cluded much more than foot­ball for the 43 play­ers and coach­ing staff. They vis­ited a United States Air Force base just 65 miles from Bagh­dad. Many of the fans in the stands sup­port­ing the USA team were mil­it­ary per­son­nel.

“The whole ex­per­i­en­ce was just in­cred­ible,” says Brady. “Just their cul­ture is very dif­fer­ent than ours. Play­ing with USA on your chest is spe­cial.”

Re­mem­ber Gus Feld­er?

Glen Mills as­sist­ant coach Robert “Codi” Hall does.

“He was my team­mate,” says Hall, who was a run­ning back for Ber­wick in the mid-1990s.

Feld­er was named As­sist­ant Dir­ect­or of Strength and Con­di­tion­ing for the Uni­versity of Geor­gia foot­ball team in Feb­ru­ary.

A little his­tory re­call about Feld­er, a former stu­dent and head coach at Gratz.

A line­man who played at Penn State, Feld­er was sur­roun­ded by con­tro­versy dur­ing his high school play­ing days.

When he ap­peared as a star play­er for Ber­wick on the cov­er of the Pennsylvania pre­sea­son high school foot­ball pub­lic­a­tion Foot­ball Fever (pub­lished by SPORTS­fever) it caught the eye of then Gratz foot­ball coach Rich Kozlowski, who told a loc­al Phil­ad­elphia re­port­er that he thought Feld­er, who had last played at Gratz be­fore land­ing in Ber­wick in 1996, had ex­hausted his eli­gib­il­ity to play high school foot­ball.

Ques­tions were raised about his eli­gib­il­ity to play in 1997 for Ber­wick—then a state power­house in the mid-1990s.

At first it was ruled that he was in his sixth year of high school and there­fore in­eli­gible to play. It meant that Ber­wick was forced to for­feit eight games and was dis­qual­i­fied from play­ing in the PI­AA State play­offs.

That first rul­ing was over­turned al­most im­me­di­ately by the PI­AA and the Bull­dogs went on to win their fourth-straight PI­AA State AAA cham­pi­on­ship in 1997.

Hard to be­lieve he’s gone

Car­din­al O’Hara head coach Danny Al­geo was only 49-years old when he died sud­denly from a heart at­tack on Ju­ly 3.

Al­geo was al­ways close to his play­ers. They and his coach­ing staff knew him to be fight­er and hard work­er, side-by-side with them. He had es­tab­lished great re­la­tion­ships with col­lege foot­ball re­cruit­ers and his play­ers be­ne­fit­ted from those ties.

“Coach Al­geo was known to start open­ing up the weight room the Monday after the last game of the sea­son to start work­ing on next sea­son,” says in­ter­im head coach Paul Strus, who was an as­sist­ant to Al­geo.

“To lose a guy like that who worked side-by-side with them, there is a lot of tears and heartache. It’s very emo­tion­al time for the kids.

“He was a tough guy. We ex­pec­ted him to fight through it. We thought he could.”

Al­geo won two Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ships—one with O’Hara in 2004 and with Ro­man Cath­ol­ic in 1999.

NFL Blood­lines

There’s a lot of names of cur­rent and former Na­tion­al Foot­ball League play­ers and coaches pop­ping up on SE PA high school foot­ball teams. Here’s some of them:

La Salle QB Kyle Shur­mur; Fath­er is Phil­ad­elphia Eagles of­fens­ive co­or­din­at­or Pat Shur­mur.

Cal­vary Chris­ti­an QB Josh Reichen­bach; Fath­er is his head coach and former NFL and Eagles line­back­er Mike Reichen­bach.

Ken­nett DT Lee Woodall, Jr; Fath­er was line­back­er Lee Woodall with the 49ers.

St. Joseph’s Prep OL Jon Daniel Run­yan; Fath­er was Eagles OL Jon Run­yan.

Up­per Darby OL Scott Rucci; Uncle was NFL OL Todd Rucci.

Ne­sham­iny head coach Mike Fre­d­er­ick was a NFL play­er for the Ravens and Ti­tans and Gar­net Val­ley as­sist­ant coach Joe Valerio was a OL for the Kan­sas City Chiefs.

Year of the Quar­ter­back in SE PA

Check out the list of Ca­reer State Lead­ers head­ing in­to the sea­son. There’s 21 quar­ter­backs throughout SE PA who have im­press­ive num­ber of passing yards in their ca­reers. On the list are two ma­jor col­lege foot­ball re­cruits in La Salle’s Kyle Shur­mur, who’s headed to Vander­bilit, and Mal­vern Prep’s Alex Horn­ibrook, who has com­mit­ted to Pitt. West Chester East’s Jon Jon Roberts and Im­hotep’s An­dre Dreuitt-Parks top the list each with more than 3,000 yards pass

ing. An­oth­er ma­jor col­lege foot­ball re­cruit, Brandon McIl­wain of Coun­cil Rock North is a dual-threat QB who is also on the list of top ca­reer rush­ing yards.

State play­off pre­dic­tions

Only one team has won back-to-back PI­AA AAAA state cham­pi­on­ships. That was Cent­ral Bucks West, which won three in a row from 1997 through 1999. De­fend­ing state cham­pi­on St. Joseph’s Prep stands to have the best shot since the Bucks to do it. La Salle should also be con­sidered a ser­i­ous con­tender along with North Penn and Penns­bury. All four of these teams face tough non-league op­pon­ents. They may suf­fer losses Not to worry. One of these teams will win the state cham­pi­on­ship.

In AAA, only Ber­wick (1994-1997), Strath Haven (1999-2000) and Thomas Jef­fer­son (2007-2008) have won back-to-back state cham­pi­on­ships. De­fend­ing state cham­pi­on Arch­bish­op Wood is the fa­vor­ite to join that list of elite teams. Wood de­feated Bish­op McDe­vitt of Har­ris­burg for both of its state cham­pi­on­ships in 2011 and 2013. The Vik­ings are ready to take on McDe­vitt yet again and win again.

Now that Im­hotep Charter has bumped up to AAA, the path is cleared for West Cath­ol­ic to make it to a state cham­pi­on­ship game in AA. Win­ning the state cham­pi­on­ship is al­ways a tough task be­cause the WPI­AL has a strong field of AA teams. Bris­tol and Spring­field Twp. are sol­id teams in Dis­trict 1. In AA, it only re­quires a blue-chip QB to be a ser­i­ous state con­tender. The Burrs have him in An­t­wain Mc­Col­lum.

And with Bish­op McDe­vitt now clas­si­fied as a Single-A team, the pos­sib­il­ity now ex­ists for the Cath­ol­ic League to sweep the PI­AA State cham­pi­on­ship games. McDe­vitt will face stiff A com­pet­i­tion from the Scrant­on area and should it get to Her­shey, the WPI­AL A teams are al­ways very strong. McDe­vitt should ad­vance to the state quarter­fi­nals. All bets off after that.

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