Pottsgrove staying grounded after district title
It was a season of scrutiny … moreso, perhaps, than many of the 30 that preceded it.
Pottsgrove’s 2018 campaign was the first in several decades where Rick Pennypacker was not on the sidelines, directing the team in his longtime capacity as head coach. Pennypacker’s retirement in 2017, and veteran assistant Bill Hawthorne’s ascent to the post, fueled questions about whether the Falcon players and coaching staff could extend the winning culture instilled and refined by Pennypacker.
No worries. Pottsgrove matched — and in one notable instance, surpassed — its performance during Pennypacker’s farewell tour. And there was no doubt it could do that.
“We always feel high expectations,” Hawthorne said. “We deal with them in a businesslike way, doing the things we have to do to win games.”
The Falcons kicked off Hawthorne’s head-coaching tenure by going 5-0 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Frontier Division. They repeated as District 1’s Class 4A champion, then went two rounds into the PIAA-4A playoffs before seeing their 12-2 season ended at the hands of a Bethlehem Catholic unit that advanced as far as the bracket’s semifinal round.
Pottsgrove’s other setback was to Perkiomen Valley in the PAC championship game. It was the same situation as the 2017-18 season, the title game being its first loss of the campaign.
“Rick Pennypacker fixed up such a good culture,” Hawthorne said. “Pottsgrove kids understand they have to work hard but can have fun. As for expectations, how we respond to losses shows what we are as athletes.”
“We knew there was a lot of pressure on him (Hawthorne) following Rick Pennypacker,” senior running back Isaiah Taylor said. “Last year, we had a lot of new starters.”
In continuing the reputation for getting maximum performance from their roster, the Falcons come into the 2019 season looking to maintain their status quo. They will, however, have to perform without several key players who went the graduation route.
Behind center, Joe Silvestri will fill the vacancy left by the departed Jay Sisko. The senior will be called on to direct Pottsgrove’s run-dominant offense while utilizing a passing attack in complement to Pottsgrove’s traditional ground-pounding ways.
“I played a few minutes here and there last season,” Silvestri said. “I hope to bring a different dynamic.”
“Joe can put the ball in the air,” Hawthorne added. “He’s big, tall and athletic.”
Another big-name departure is Ryan Bodolus, a two-way standout at end. He was the PAC’s 2018 Defensive Player of the Year after recording 18 sacks as a junior.
“Losing players from 15 of 24 positions, we’ll be young and inexperienced,” Hawthorne said, “so we’re going to work on fundamentals.”
Darrian Seaman, a senior being looked to at offensive tackle and defensive end, should help tighten up the Pottsgrove line play,
“We expect him to be a leader on both sides of the ball,” Hawthorne said.
In the defensive backfield, Pottsgrove has seniors Ethan McMonagle and Narell Brown at the corners, with juniors Rylee Howard and JaDore Colbert at safety and linebacker, respectively. Help on the line figures to come from seniors Amir Mapp and Ahmed Moussa, and juniors Manny Allen, Gabe Flores and Ethan McHugh.
The vaunted Pottsgrove running game will be headed by Taylor, a senior about whom Hawthorne notes “his numbers speak for themselves.” He rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. In anticipation of being the Falcons’ principal go-to guy out of the offensive backfield, the senior has been busy since last fall.
“I’ve focused on off-season footwork 100 percent.,” he said. “I’ve also worked on my vision, and getting a feel for the offensive line.”
Colbert figures in at fullback, with sophomore Kayden White being looked to in the running game. The top receivers for Silvestri could be Brown, McMonagle and White.
“I like being part of a pass normal situation,” Silvestri said. “But we’ll rely on our running game.”
“We’ve always been a multi-dimensional running game,” Hawthorne added. “We want to improve on our putting the ball on the ground … cutting down on turnovers.”
Before it opens Frontier Division play with Pottstown (Sept. 20), Pottsgrove will undertake a substantial season-opening schedule against the likes of Souderton (Aug. 23), Academy Park (Aug. 30), Boyertown (Sept. 6) and Christ the King (Sept. 13). But Hawthorne feels his Falcons will be up to the challenge.
“We had a great offseason,” he said, “working out, lifting and doing a lot of activities that will bring us together as a team. Community service projects, for one.”
Pottsgrove 2019 Schedule
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH >> Joe Silvestri, quarterback replacing Jay Sisko as the Falcons’ primary signal-caller. It remains to be seen how the senior’s athleticism, skills and playbook proficiency will impact Pottsgrove’s traditionally high-octane offense in the team’s bid to remain a force in the PAC and District 1.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH >> Darrian Seaman, defensive end being looked to as a player filling the vacancy left by the graduation of Ryan Bodolus. Seaman will be looked to for stability in the Falcons’ line play, and as a cog in the program’s replacement of numerous graduated stalwarts.
OUTLOOK >> Having successfully made the transition from one head coach to another — and without skipping a beat in the process — Pottsgrove is guarded cautious about its prospects for the coming season.
“Offensively, we’re looking good,” Seaman said. “Defensively, we lost seniors who were key players. Our new players have to learn defense.”
“We have a very young team, but I think the guys will give 100 percent,” Silvestri added. “Isaiah will get our running game going, and we should do another great job this year.
“We’ll stick to playing Pottsgrove football.”
By Jeff Stover; email@example.com