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Mercury Week 5 Review: Revitalizing Methacton ‘last stop’ for Kennedy

Brian Kennedy figured he was finished with coaching.

Retired from teaching and having finished a stint as an assistant coach at Penncrest High School in 2018, Kennedy was content to sit back and watch the next generation – some of whom he’d coached – take the reins of local high school football programs.

But when a call came from Methacton late in the spring of 2021, he realized something.

“I wanted to be a head coach,” he said. “I wanted to see what that was like, and the stars aligned.”

Could they be aligning for the Warriors as well? Saturday’s 49-14 win over Norristown has the team above .500 and well-positioned for a playoff run in their new 5A classification just as they reach the meat of their schedule in Kennedy’s second season at the helm.

Kennedy acknowledges that he’s somewhat of an anomaly in local high school football.

“You don’t see too many 59-year-old, first-year head coaches,” he said. “But when the Methacton job came open, some people encouraged me to apply. They gave me a shot.”

The circumstances surrounding the pandemic meant Kennedy didn’t have as much time with his new team as he would have preferred in 2021. “The buzzword is always culture, changing the culture,” he said. “I’m an old-school football kind of guy – we try to ground it out and pound as best as we can.

“I think it’s a metaphor for life too, and we want to teach those lessons as well. Sometimes when you’re in your 20s, your 30s, you’ve got to continue to ‘ground it out’ finding your way through life.”

The Warriors are taking the on-field lesson to heart already, averaging 240 yards rushing per game during their current three-game winning streak. Saturday’s contest saw the team add an explosive element to its game, scoring touchdowns of 50 yards or greater on a run, a pass, a kickoff return, and a pick-six.

Throughout more than 40 years in local high school football, Kennedy’s made stops at Abington, Conestoga, Pope John Paul II, and other spots on his way to Methacton – but there’s one school with a special spot in his career, and they were lined up across the field on Saturday.

“I can’t thank Roger Grove enough,” Kennedy said of the longtime Norristown coach, who led Kennedy’s own 1979 squad toward the beginning of his 27-year tenure and later brought Kennedy onto his staff.

“He won over 200 games and coached for 27 years,” Kennedy said of Grove, who was a career 209-98-6 before retiring in 2003. “That’s not something you see too much anymore.”

Grove, a Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame inductee, passed away in 2016, but his legacy and connection with Kennedy continues – his grandson, Ben, is a junior running back and free safety at Methacton.

But in the PAC Liberty Division, Kennedy’s found some like-minded head coaches. Spring-Ford’s Chad Brubaker is in his 13th season at the school, while Owen J. Roberts’ Rich Kolka (8th year) and Perkiomen Valley’s Rob Heist (7th year) have sustained tenures at their schools as well.

About to join that group is Norristown’s Joe Milligan, who is currently in his fifth year leading the Eagles and played for Kennedy when he was part of Grove’s staff at Norristown. “Joe’s a great coach, he’s doing a great job with their program,” said Kennedy.

The relationship between Kennedy, Milligan, and the two programs allowed Norristown’s staff and administration to help the Warriors out of a tough spot earlier this season. A positive development – more kids than expected coming out for football – turned into an issue at Methacton when they realized they didn’t have sufficient helmets for their 9th-grade program.

“We’re up by about 15-18 kids just in our varsity program, and we just didn’t have enough equipment,” said Kennedy. “Trying to get helmets right now isn’t easy.

“I put out the word to a number of local programs. Lo and behold, Joe [Milligan] and Tony Palladino, Norristown’s athletic director – they stepped right in and provided us with helmets. I called Tony one morning and we had the helmets that afternoon.”

The equipment is getting some good use so far this fall, as the Warriors have rebounded from a tough, one-score loss at Pottsgrove in their opener and an 0-2 start to accumulate a winning record and a victory in Saturday’s PAC opener. Things get tougher starting Friday with the Battle Axe game against defending PAC champions Perkiomen Valley, but the Warriors have bought into their coach’s philosophy of ground-and-pound and ball control.

In turn, Kennedy’s fully committed to making continued progress at Methacton, hoping to yield the school’s first District 1 playoff berth since joining the PAC in 2008. He says he’s at a good place in life – retired but still teaching preschool gym classes three mornings each week, playing his share of golf, and coaching football.

“There’s no ‘next stop’ for me,” he said. “This is it. There is no bigger, better thing anywhere. I’m happy with the Methacton program, the kids, the administration. The only thing that would make me happier is winning more games.”

Around the Area

It was a two-way race for Game of the Week, the first nominee coming at Owen J. Roberts where the hosts rebounded from a 20-0 deficit to give themselves a chance to tie – or win – their conference opener against defending champs Perkiomen Valley.

A last-second Hail Mary pass landed just out of bounds, preserving the Vikings’ 20-13 win. But OJR announced themselves as a legitimate threat in the Liberty Division, while the Vikings demonstrated what makes them so formidable with eight quarterback sacks in the first three quarters and a strong, multi-faceted running game led by Jake Stewart’s 84-yard evening.

The other contender came from King of Prussia, where Phoenixville’s Ahmid Spivey took a kickoff 55 yards to the end zone to snap a 20-all tie with about six minutes left in giving the Phantoms a big victory over Upper Merion, 27-20. Sam Moore had 123 rushing yards and a touchdown for the victorious Phantoms (3-2, 1-0 PAC Frontier) as the divisional race began to take shape.

Of course, it appears everyone’s lining up for a shot at Pope John Paul II, the area’s lone unbeaten (5-0, 1-0 PAC Frontier) after another convincing win, this time 42-14 over Upper Perkiomen. Braden Reed added to his area-leading interception total with another pick, adding a TD reception on offense as just one contributor to the area’s most explosive unit. Boyd Skarbek added two more rushing touchdowns and an interception on his own before earning an early vacation with a 42-0 halftime lead.

Pottsgrove gets the next shot at the front-running Golden Panthers after taking down crosstown rival Pottstown, 27-7. Gabe Rinda fired a pair of scoring passes to Riley Delp, while the Falcons’ defense held the Trojans off the scoreboard after Pottstown’s opening drive yielded a Nahzier Booker touchdown run. In all, the Falcons (3-2, 1-0 PAC Frontier) yielded only two first downs and 75 yards of offense.

PJP comes to Pennypacker Field at 7 p.m. Friday.

Boyertown’s resurgence hit a roadblock at Spring-Ford as the Rams dominated from the start en route to a 42-0 victory. Spring-Ford got their running game going with a 265-yard outing – 217 of those coming from Will Fish (142) and Mike Bendowski (75 yards on only six carries), while limiting Boyertown’s powerful ground game to just 3.5 yards per carry and bottling up PAC leading rusher Cole Yesavage to the tune of 27 yards on 13 carries.

The Rams (3-2, 1-0 PAC Liberty) visit Owen J. Roberts this week.

Daniel Boone (1-4, 0-2 Lancaster-Lebanon 3) ran out of time about 35 yards from the tying score in a 28-20 loss to Ephrata. Hill School fell 27-13 to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in their last nonleague tune-up before starting Mid-Atlantic Prep League play this weekend.

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