Powel brothers set for first meeting as head coaches

WEST NORRITON >> It won’t have the pizzazz of a District One playoff game, or even a Philadelphia Catholic League playoff tilt, but the Powel Bowl is front-page news in Norristown.

The inaugural Powel Bowl, an end-of-the-year meeting between Archbishop Carroll High head football coach Joe Powel’s Patriots and Norristown head coach Jason Powel’s Eagles, slated for high noon Saturday at Norristown High School, is not without its suspense.

The brothers have only coached against each other once, and that was when Joe, the older brother, pitted his Archbishop Wood program against Jason’s Kennedy-Kenrick team. But Jason was only an assistant at Kennedy-Kenrick, so it wasn’t a true Powel Bowl.

This time is different, and the bragging rights are a prized commodity.

“I think I know his tendencies,” Jason said. “I know his mind well enough.

“He’s going to play the game the way it should be played.”

“We’re brothers first,” Joe said, “and that won’t change. But we have jobs to do, and we’re going to do them.”

Joe was the first Powel brother to throw his hat into the coaching ring, but it wasn’t a life-long ambition.

It was more like love at first experience.

“I really got into it right after college,” Joe said. “Joe McNichol had come over from Archbishop Carroll to coach Bishop Kenrick and he made me the freshman coach.

“I really got into it, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

Joe made the most of his opportunity, eventually enjoying coaching stints at Kenrick, Harriton, Ursinus and most notably at Archbishop Wood, where he created the blueprint for what is now a scholastic football juggernaut.

Joe eventually got his younger brother into the coaching fray.

“Joe was really an innovator, and he was doing a lot of good things,” Jason said. “If you look at the people he’s had on his coaching staffs, people like Mike Santillo, who went on to coach Pope John Paul, Mike McKay, who’s coaching at Father Judge, Mike McTamney, who coached at Kennedy-Kenrick, and a lot of coaches who he worked with at Ursinus have gone on to become head coaches.”

Jason soon found himself pulled in to the coaching web, and while there was always brotherly respect between the two, sometimes there was a conflict or two, also.

“Early on, when we were at Harriton,” Jason said, “I was running the defense and I blitzed with 15 seconds left in the half and the running back for the other team went 60 yards for a touchdown.

“I heard about that at halftime.”

More often than not, however, the duo has been simpatico – with a treasure chest full of memories.

“Jack Shannon was our defensive coordinator,” Jason recalled, “and I was the defensive line coach. But Jack had to miss a part of a game and Joe let me call the defense.

“We were playing Hatboro-Horsham and they had a running back named Brian Flowers who was pretty good, and we had done a good job of stopping him for a half.”

Shannon joined the team at halftime, but his first few defensive calls weren’t good, so Joe went back to me and we wound up upsetting Hatboro-Horsham.”

The brothers have mostly coached together, at Harriton, Kennedy-Kenrick and even Upper Merion, but there have been times when their coaching careers have taken different paths.

“When we coached together at Ursinus, I was the defensive coordinator and Jason was the defensive line coach,” Joe said. “Those were fun times. And then, when Jason went to coach at Del-Val, I was real excited for him to do well there.

“Football has always been our common denominator. When I was at Wood, I’d always have him come over and work with our defensive linemen.”

But now, the duo is on opposite sidelines as head coaches. And both are eagerly awaiting the challenge – along with a large contingent from the Powel family.

“We’re going to have a big party after the game,” Jason said. “We’ll have a lot of people coming up for the game. I don’t envy my mom and dad, they’re going to have to figure out what (team colors) to wear and who to root for.”

As for strategies, both coaches were predictably close-mouthed.

“It’s going to come down to how much (Jason) wants to show Upper Merion for their (Thanksgiving Day) game. I’ll give the advantage because Norristown has a better record and they’re playing at home.”

“I’ll say we’re the favorites,” Jason said, “but we’ll only be favored by two-and-a-half points because we’re the home team.”

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