Help us keep our content free!
Written by: Billy Splain on Friday, January 29th, 2021
Recovering magnificently from a devastating opening game defeat, the 1996 Downingtown Whippets roared back to complete a 9 -1 regular season, capture the District One title, and overwhelm three highly-touted opponents to win the 1996 PIAA AAAA state championship. Coach John Barr’s great team had a vast arsenal of weapons, used them with the precision of a surgeon, and averaged more than 45 points against the state’s best. These Whippets may have been one of the finest offensive teams in Pennsylvania history.
The 48-25 beating administered by the winged-T of Allentown Central Catholic served to motivate Downingtown through the rest of the 1996 season, as the Whippets then won 13 straight games, reaching the AAAA state title game for the second time in three years.
Playing in the bitter cold at Altoona’s Mansion Park Stadium, Downingtown faced 11-3 cinderella Woodland Hills, a huge jointure emerging as a WPIAL and state power. After an 8-8 first-quarter standoff, the Whippets blitzed the Wolverines for 27 second-quarter points, including a 24 yard masterpiece by running back Arlen Harris, a ten yard pass from Dan Ellis to Brian Hunter, a 58 yard punt return by Harris, and an Ellis to Jamie Kucera pass covering ten yards with ten seconds left in the half. Three straight
Woodland Hills QB sacks had preceded this final possession.
Downingtown went in to score again to start the second half and the game was effectively over and the championship theirs. The frustration of a narrow 17-14 loss to McKeesport in the 1994 championship game was forgotten.
Following the Allentown opener, The Whippets overwhelmed their remaining opponents, putting an exclamation point on the regular season with a 61-20 demolition of a talented West Chester Henderson team.
An awkward 37-25 win over Central Bucks East and star Feczko was followed by an epic District One title battle with Plymouth-Whitemarsh who had eliminated perennial power CB West. The game was tied 22 all at the half. Downingtown trailed by four when a leaping interception by Fran Gregor late in the third put the Whippets back in business.
Downingtown scored and scored again to lead 39-29. P-W did not give in and a 65 yard screen pass went for a score. The Whippets then controlled the ball for the final five minutes to secure the win 39-36.
In the state playoffs, Downingtown smothered Wilkes-Barre Coughlin 51-0, and then jolted unbeaten Parkland 27-14, holding the Trojans, a running team, to only 67 yards on the ground, and paving the road to Altoona.
Downingtown was blessed with many talents. Star quarterback Dan Ellis called his own plays, starting for the second year. He had been a regular linebacker as a sophomore and played in the McKeesport game. He passed and ran, often pitching the ball on the option to stellar running back Harris. Against P-W, his option runs were the key to running out the clock. His teammates referred to him as the “vampire” because of his intense on-field leadership.
Arlen Harris ran for 1965 yards in the 15 games, averaging ten yards a carry. He totalled 189 points and starred as a defensive back. Harris was a gamer, overcoming some hard hits to stay on the field.
Ellis passes went to tight end Mike Millard, split end Jamie Kucera, and flanker Brian Hunter – each a threat to gain big yardage after a reception. Kucera was particularly elusive.
Trent Chandler anchored the offensive line at center and played a strong game at defensive end. Millard played the other end on the defensive front. Fran Gregor, one of five Whippets to go both ways, was on the field at linebacker and complementary threat at running back
In addition to Ellis, Chandler, Millard and Gregor provided outstanding senior leadership.
Three Whippets – Chandler, Ellis and Harris – were named to the first All-State offensive team. Millard was a second teamer. Harris was also a first team selection in 1997.
This mighty Downingtown scoring machine scored a stunning 671 points in their 15 games and averaged 435 yards total offense.
Ellis went on to a fine career at Virginia. He has been offensive coordinator at Downingtown East, head coach at Springfield Delco, and is now head coach at West Chester East.
Harris also went to Virginia, then Hofstra. He emerged as a valued running back in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams.
Among others, Millard played at Richmond and Chandler at Delaware.
Coach John Barr was an intense and emotional head coach – and his 1996 squad responded. He stressed team unity. Raised in Springfield, Delaware County, he was a cornerback at West Chester University. After seven years as head man at Glen Mills, he coached Cheltenham for just one year before coming to Downingtown. 1996 was his ninth edition of Whippet football. After a stint at neighboring Coatesville, he is now an administrator in the Owen J Roberts District.
Great PA Teams – Downingtown 1996 3
Coach Barr comments today that his 1996 team was “ a special group – we had talented young people who bonded as a team”.
Downingtown’s dazzling offensive lineup:
2 SE Jamie KUCERA 5-11 170
74 T Dave EISENHART 6-2 265
54 G Sean CHIPMAN 6-2 230
76 C Trent CHANDLER 6-4 230
52 G Steve MENZEL 6-0 210
71 T John PENNINGTON 6-3 225
89 TE Mike MILLARD 6-4 220
17 QB Dan ELLIS 6-3 215
33 RB Arlen HARRIS 5-10 190
28 FL Brian HUNTER 6-0 190
3 RB Fran GREGOR 6-1 215
The 1996 Whippet defenders included:
76 DE Trent CHANDLER 6-4 230
61 DL Omar MONTALVO 6-2 290
72 DL Brian SIMS 6-2 260
89 DE Mike MILLARD 6-4 220
17 LB Dan ELLIS 6-3 215
56 LB Mike DENORSCIA 5-11 210
3 LB Fran GREGOR 6-1 215
87 DB Ty JONES 6-2 200
33 DB Arlen HARRIS 5-10 190
5 DB Jay WILLIS 6-1 185
7 DB Matt BARR 5-10 165
In addition, to his role on defense, Sims was part of the offensive tackle rotation.
The great Whippet comeback record:
25 ALLENTOWN CENTRAL CATHOLIC 48
49 ARCHBISHOP RYAN 7
49 ALTOONA 22
61 MALVERN PREP 7
41 CHICHESTER 19
49 SALESIANUM Delaware 14
42 WEST CHESTER EAST 14
42 BOYERTOWN 7
49 COATESVILLE 17
61 WEST CHESTER HENDERSON 20
DISTRICT ONE PLAYOFFS
37 CENTRAL BUCKS EAST 25
39 PLYMOUTH-WHITEMARSH 36
PIAA STATE PLAYOFFS
51 WILKES-BARRE COUGHLIN 0
27 PARKLAND 14
49 WOODLAND HILLS 14
In 2003 the school split created Downingtown East and Downingtown West. West remained the Whippets while East became the Cougars. Both teams kept the Blue and Gold colors.
Thanks to https://www.thehistoryofdowningtownfootball.com/ Check out the website for more on this great PA team
Follow PA Football News on Twitter @PaFootballNews
© Copyright 1997-2022 PA Football News. No portion of this website may be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of PA Football News.
Home | Advertising | Contact Us | Internships