ROYERSFORD - Eight Pioneer Athletic Conference (PAC-10) football players and their coaches were honored during the 72nd annual Football Night held by the Spring City Forest of Tall Cedars of Lebanon No. 34 Wednesday evening at the Masonic Lodge here.
Muhlenberg College head football coach Mike Donnelly served as guest speaker. Bob Mull once again chaired the event for the Tall Cedars.
Spring-Ford was recognized for advancing to the District 1-AAAA playoff finals before falling to a Coatesville squad that will be facing North Allegheny for the state championship at Hersheypark Stadium this Saturday night at 6 p.m. Pottsgrove and Phoenixville were cited for reaching the District 1-AAA playoffs.
Honored senior players included Nick McMenamin, Boyertown; Matt Raymond, Owen J. Roberts; Robbie Thacker, Perkiomen Valley; Sean Hesser, Phoenixville; Justice Smith, Pope John Paul II; Tory Hudgins, Pottsgrove; Chase Waters, Pottstown; and Zameer McDowell, Spring-Ford.
Spring-Ford head coach Chad Brubaker spoke about McDowell, a star 6-5, 220-pound defensive end/tight end who has quickly adjusted to early season success in basketball as well.
“Zameer had an amazingly successful senior season and he was a big reason we had the success we did,” said Brubaker.
Brubaker feels McDowell has a bright future ahead in either basketball or football. McDowell has already met the Wall of Fame criteria at Spring-Ford after only starting half the games last season. He has been nominated for the Spring-Ford Wall of Fame but will have to wait until five years after graduation in order to be officially inducted.
Owen J. Roberts head coach Tom Barr brought with him Raymond, a star wide receiver/defensive back who also saw time on special teams.
Traditionally, the Wildcats have been a powerhouse running team. However, this season the Wildcats passed for more than 1,600 yards, according to Barr, and much of that success was due to Raymond’s ability to run patters and catch the football.
“It was mostly due to Matt and his dedication during the offseason to prepare the team to get ready,” said Barr. “He was the force that allowed us to be competitive in our passing game this year.”
Raymond made 31 receptions for 722 yards for an average of 23.3 yards per catch. He finished second in the league in receiving yardage, first in touchdowns and second in yards per catch. He achieved all this despite missing the final four games with a fractured leg and came to the banquet with crutches.
“He really came along from his sophomore and junior years,” said Barr. “He is an outstanding player and an outstanding student.”
Raymond has attained all “A’s” in Advanced Placement (AP) statistics, calculus and business as well as Honors English courses at Owen J. Roberts.
Raymond’s best performance for the Wildcats featured a contest in which he made four receptions for 179 yards and four touchdowns.
Pottsgrove head coach Rick Pennypacker, a 25-year veteran with the Falcons, talked about Hudgins.
Pennypacker said Hudgins originally wanted to focus on boys lacrosse as a sophomore because he felt he was too thin to play football, where he would be susceptible to injuries. He backed up Terrell Chestnut that year, and in one outing against Owen J. Roberts, Chestnut was injured so Hudgins got the nod. On the second play, Hudgins also went down with a shoulder injury.
“TWo years later as a senior he set records and became one of the most prolificj players we have ever had at Pottsgrove,” said Pennypacker. “He is also a great kid and a great student. He is a tremendous young man and is respected throughout the school.”:
He also did community service work that included feeding the homeless and cleaning up as well as coaching a Little League football team.
Hudgins has earned a football scholarship to attend Bucknell University, where he plans to study for a career as a physician’s assistant. Pennypacker’s son, Ross, is an assistant coach at Bucknell.
Perkiomen Valley assistant coach Tim Connolly spoke about Thacker, a starting right guard on offense who doubled along the defensive line.
“I can’t say enough about Robbie,” said Connolly. “He was undersized and went against some of the biggest kids in the league and gave it everything he had. He gave consistent effort and had a motor that kept going. He worked in the weight room and was a leader by example. He came to camp in shape and was able to outrun defensive backs, running backs and quarterbacks because he put in the time. He played with heart and wanted to play even when he was hurt. That was his character. He did not want to disappoint his teammates and coaches.”
Despite the shoulder injury, Thacker was consistently around the ball making plays. On offense, his pulling ability at guard helped the Vikings feature a potent rushing attack this fall.
Phoenixville head coach Bill Furlong was accompanied by Hesser, an undersized Phantom who played all over the gridiron. His positions included nose guard last year and cornerback, halfback and tailback this year.
“The reason I brought Sean is that he epitomizes everything we wish to be at Phoenixville,” said Furlong. “He is undersized, but he does everything.”
As a ninth grader, Hesser did not play much for a team that finished unbeaten.
“But Sean stuck it out and he is definitely one of the most coachable kids we have ever had,” said Furlong.”He just loves the game and he understands the game. He hardly came off the field.”
Hesser became the Phantoms’ leader in yards per carry. Hesser also excels in the classroom, where he carries a 3.6 grade point average.
Pope John Paul II head coach Mike Santillo was joined by Smith, a star linebacker on defense.
“He didn’t play offense, but he gave our offense fits as a two-year Scout Team Player of the Year,” said Santillo. “He wiped out our running backs and wide receivers. He served as a team captain and led the team in tackles.”
Smith, the son of Upper Merion head coach Hal Smith, is also a straight “A” student who takes Honors and AP classes. The three-year starter has his eye on Ivy League, Centennial Conference or possibly Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) colleges for playing at the next level.
Pottstown head coach Brett Myers spoke on Waters, who became a starting lineman on both sides of the football.
Waters came out for defensive tackle as a junior, but the Pottstown coaches were unsure as to whether he could handle the position. Waters was part of the rotation and then showed he could definitely shine as a starter during a week of practice in the gym due to rain. He punished teammates on the wooden floor to draw notice. The work paid off that weekend as Pottstown won its game with the interior line stopping a pivotal fourth-and-one play with Waters keying the defensive stand.
“As a senior he started both ways,” said Myers. “We didn’t know if he could do it, but by the end of the year he made all-league on both sides of the ball. He overcame every obstacle and is a special kid.”
A “B” student, Waters plans to study at a trade school and play football.
Boyertown head coach Mark Scisly brought McMenamin.
“His dad is in charge of our whole youth program,” said Scisly.
McMenamin has a perfect 4.0 GPA and is also an outstanding football player as a center.
“He was our most consistent lineman the last two years,” said Scisly. “He knew where everybody was on offense. He blocked for three different running backs who had 1,000 yards in two years. What sets him apart is he is a great leader. This year was not our best in terms of wins and losses, but he was positive and I could depend on Nick.”
McMenamin plans on playing football in college at the Division III level.
The Tall Cedars presented gifts to the players.