For some players, it will be their final time playing organized football.
For others, it will be a bridge between their scholastic and collegiate gridiron pursuits.
And for a local non-profit, it’s the chance to receive financial support from area football fans.
The Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Senior Bowl will be played 4 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at Spring-Ford. The seventh installment of this annual contest, pitting the league’s graduating gridders against each other on drafted teams, will be part of a busy afternoon starting with a clinic for youth coaches between 1 and 3 p.m.
Coaches for the game are T.J. Miller (Boyertown) heading the Independence team, and Victor Brown (Upper Merion) leading the Freedom team.
“We want the guys to have fun,” said Brown, who was previously involved with the game in a capacity other than head coach. “That’s why we play the game. Make it a fun, positive experience. We’ll do everything we need to do to put the kids in the best position.”
Miller is also familiar with the game concept.
“In Berks Conference, I coached in a game like this,” he said. “We had a limited bunch of practices, played within confines. We wanted to give the kids a good experience.”
Miller noted how any senior who wanted to play was put in a pool. He and Brown then drew the players’ names for their teams.
“All Boyertown players are on my squad,” he said. “It’s nice to keep them together.”
“I look forward to have my kids on my team,” Brown added. “That’s one thing that makes it unique: You could be playing against someone that was on your team.”
In light of the circumstances faced by the game participants — a limited number of practice opportunities, some players participating in spring sports at their schools — the parameters for offense and defense follow a set pattern.
“Limited defense, sticking to certain fronts and man coverage,” Miller said. “On offense, you have certain formations you can run.”
“Keep it simple,” Brown added. “We know, and they know. Defense 4-3 front, man coverage, linebackers play inside box. Offense runs ball 60 percent of the time.”
Proceeds from the game will benefit Coming Home With Grace, a company based in Limerick that specializes in home renovations for people dealing with physical and medical issues that impact their ability to live independently.
The organization’s mission, as outlined on its website (www.cominghomewithgrace.com), is:
“Through custom home renovations and projects, people will LIVE gracefully, with the dignity they deserve, so struggles NEVER define them. Coming Home With Grace, Inc. recognizes that life unexpectedly changes and wants to support people as they navigate the unthinkable. The future of Coming Home with Grace, Inc. includes continuing to renovate and complete projects.
THROUGH HOME RENOVATIONS WE HELP NAVIGATE THE UNTHINKABLE.”
“People involved with the game contacted the company about being the beneficiary,” Dave Hertzog, a founder of CHWG, said. “We want to grow our roots with people and corporations.”
The company, which was started 1-1/2 years ago, undertook its first official project in 2017 and incorporated in 2019. It is currently working on a project for the family of Spring-Ford School District students Eli and Ella Vivian, both of whom are suffering from Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD). It is a rare, genetic, degenerative, neurometabolic disorder that affects approximately one in 40,000 people (primarily children) worldwide.
The project encompasses converting the lower level in a fully accessible bedroom for 13-year-old Eli (present and future needs) and 10-year-old Ella (present and future needs) – including flooring, handicap accessible closets and blinds, lighting, ceiling fans and décor specific to both.
“We hope to eventually purchase a property for children, emphasizing independence,” Hertzog said. “We’re hopeful to build or modify an existing home.”
As is the case in other games of this nature, the PAC Senior Bowl will have different meaning for players based on their future plans.
For Alex Washington, a running back and linebacker for Phoenixville, the game will be the last time he suits up for organized competition.
“It’s sad but it should be a good game,” Washington said. “It’s one more game with my closest friends. It will be fun playing with them.”
Connor Patania, a Phantom teammate of Washington’s who will be taking his game to Gettysburg College, will use the game as a bridge between his scholastic and collegiate gridiron careers.
“It’s a chance to have fun and play against the best,” Phoenixville’s graduating quarterback/punter said. “It’s an opportunity to play athletes and get experience.”
And Ayden Mathias, a quarterback/linebacker at Boyertown, will be looking at the game in the same vein as Washington.
“It’s a last ride … one last chance to get the rush of Friday night,” he said. “A chance to play one more time for the coaches.”
NOTES >> The Spring-Ford Touchdown Club will oversee the game, which is under sponsorship by Patriot Chevrolet of Limerick. … Players who attend practices will be eligible for four $500 scholarships to be awarded. A trophy will also be awarded to the most vocal student section in attendance at the game. … In addition to the practices, players will do “walk-throughs” on game day. “We want to make sure everybody knows where they need to be,” Brown said.
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