PHOENIXVILLE - Ryan Pannella has found a home to extend his football career that is also located close to home.
Pannella, Phoenixville’s star inside linebacker and tight end, has accepted a scholarship to attend West Chester University, a Division II school that is part of the highly competitive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).
Pannella will be lining up at a strong safety position for head coach Bill Zwaan’s Golden Rams. Pannella, a 6-1, 180-pounder, made his decision final Wednesday on National Signing Day. He chose West Chester over East Stroudsburg in the final running.
“West Chester is the true fit for me,” said Pannella. “I will be at home for me, and they were my number one school so I made my decision.”
Pannella was accompanied by Phantoms head football coach Bill Furlong, Phoenixville Principal Dr. Craig Parkinson, his parents, Steve and Chrissie Pannella; as well as his younger sister, Kylie; and two younger brothers, Travis and Dylan.
Pannella, a first team All-Pioneer Athletic Conference player on offense and defense this past fall, was also voted the PAC-10’s Defensive Player of the Year after recording close to 200 tackles for the second straight season.
He also received the Sportsmanship Award from the Norristown Chapter of Officials as well as a Maxwell Club Mini-Max recipient as a student with a 3.7 grade point average in the classroom.
A three-year starter for the Phantoms, Pannella served as a team captain for two years. This past fall the Phantoms recorded a 6-3 PAC-10 record (7-5 overall) and advanced to the District 1-AAA playoffs for the second straight year. The Phantoms fell to Interboro in the first round after reaching the district finals the previous season before being beaten by fellow PAC-10 member Pottsgrove.
West Chester defensive coordinator Mike Furlong (no relation to Bill) told Pannella he will be playing a rover position, much like an outside linebacker in the 4-2-5 system that the Golden Rams recently adopted.
“It comes off the edge in coverage like an outside linebacker and safety,” explained Pannella. “They said I fit the mold well with my speed and size and tackling ability.”
Pannella said the proximity to home played a big part in his decision so that his close family and friends will be able to come watch him play on Saturdays.
“In the next couple years they want to win the PSAC,” said Pannella. “They have always been a contender and plan on taking the title and making the playoffs.”
Former Phoenixville star defensive lineman Travis Ford-Bey enjoyed a fine career at West Chester and he also served as an assistant coach with the Phantoms this past fall. That, too, helped influence Pannella’s decision to go there.
“A couple times I went to watch a game and Travis was still there,” said Pannella. “I had the focus of a player telling me about his experience. That made it more desireable to go there.”
Pannella thanked his family and the Phantom coaches, especially Bill Furlong and defensive coordinator Don Jackson, as well as all the teachers and friends who supported him during his stellar career at Phoenixville.
Pannella plans to study exercise science in college with a possible medical career with sports medicine, injury rehabilitation and athletic training as possible options.