LOWER POTTSGROVE -- Phoenixville will meet the best St. Pius X football team the Winged Lions have fielded when the Phantoms travel to Coach Mich Stadium for a 1 p.m. contest this afternoon to kick off the 24th season of Pioneer Athletic Conference (PAC-10) gridiron games.
St. Pius X is off to a fast start at 2-0 with a one-point victory over Simon Gratz from the Philadelphia Public League and then 26-0 at Jenkintown last Saturday. Phoenixville has played well much of the time in its first two outings but has dropped both games to Great Valley in overtime and then 23-9 to Unionville at Washington Field last Friday night.
The Winged Lions are in their 50th season in Lower Pottsgrove Township. Next year, Pius X is merging with Kennedy-Kenrick to form Pope John Paul II in Upper Providence Township. The sports teams will still compete in the PAC-10.
"They (Winged Lions) are farther along than they have been the last three years," said Phoenixville coach Bill Furlong. "The (Cole) Parkinson kid is as good an athlete as there is in the league. He is fast and elusive and makes plays when they are not there."
Cole Parkinson is a 6-2, 175-pound senior who can play quarterback, running back and defensive back. He is the son of head coach George Parkinson, who is in his fourth season at the helm of the Winged Lions.
Pius X rushed for 326 yards against Jenkintown, and Parkinson picked up 140 of those stripes while 5-9, 165-pound senior Mike Matthews had 137 yards. The Pius X defense limited the Drakes (0-2) to 100 total yards and made some big plays to protect the shutout. Cole Parkinson rushed for 83 first-half yards against Jenkintown.
The Winged Lions feature some quality linemen with size up front this season. They include senior two-way tackle Josh Rogers (6-2, 220) senior offensive tackle/defensive end Martin Shields (6-4, 255)
senior offensive tackle Kevin Pence (6-1, 200), senior offensive guard Matt Raymond (5-10, 250). Senior defensive tackle Mike Furey goes 5-10, 255. Senior Tyler Pollick (6-2, 185) plays fullback and defensive end.
Other two-way players up front include junior Conor Myers (6-0, 165), senior Matt Kendra (6-0, 170), senior George Lockbaum (5-10, 195), who man the linebacker spots along with sophomore John Cherneskie (5-7, 170).
Phoenixville scored all of its points on three field goals by junior soccer player John McInally last week from 32, 30 and 29 yards away.
"We had a few key breakdowns," said Furlong. "We didn't play bad. They (Unionville Indians) are a good team. It was such a momentum game. We played really well at times, but it came down to a couple key things at the end."
Phoenixville will have senior running back/linebacker Ricky Yenchick and sophomore defensive end Ernie Knight back playing after injuries kept them out last week. Senior tight end/linebacker Vince Ciaverelli is still sidelined. Furlong figures that depth should help his rotation of two-way linemen like offensive guard/defensive tackle Ken Cenci and two-way tackle Marcus Stokes. Senior linemen Brandon Johnston has come on, and senior tight end/defensive end Greg Porter has adjusted to playing a full game with Ciaverelli sidelined.
The Phantoms will rely on the running of Sam McQuiston, Yenchick, Ducky Ryan, Travis Andrews and quarterback Tom Romano. Romano is also a solid passer who needs more consistency from a basic different crop of receivers than last year.
Furlong and the Phantoms are not taking the Winged Lions lightly.
"They really seem sound," said Furlong. "They have no weak spots. We will have to play our game and play without mistakes. We need to play a better game than we did the first two weeks.We have to continue to improve. to accomplish something and hope that takes us to a win. We just have to play better."
Defensively, the Phantoms have been opportunistic in the early going. They have eight takeaways in the first two contests against Great Valley and Unionville.