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Written by: Phil Myers on Tuesday, April 27th, 2021
The sun has set on spring football in PA, now we take a look back at the wonderful things we experienced.
The games were good, the people were good, the food was good, the experience was great. That sums it up in a nutshell. The Philadelphia Experience draws from the perspective of PA Football News (PFN) high school football writers and photographers who happened to take advantage of the opportunity to travel to The City of Brotherly Love to witness some spring high school football games. Those games featured teams that most of us had never seen play.
Many of the PFN media did not know what to expect as during the fall football season we all have our own districts to cover and some of us traverse the state in search of the top games and/or teams we never saw before. Philadelphia was not a place those of us who live in the western, central and northern regions of Pennsylvania as well as Ohio thought we’d ever get to. You hear stories and negative comments, then draw conclusions realizing you’ll probably not get a chance to see many District 12 teams.
Fels and Newcomer Vaux Big Picture were new to the site
Then the pandemic hit and many Philadelphia area teams, especially the public league, cancelled fall football in hopes of playing games in the spring. Billy Splain, owner of PAFootballNews.com, made the decision to cover as many spring games in and around Philadelphia as he and his staff could. A few writers and photographers volunteered to travel across the state or farther and some Philly locals came on board to report on the games. With various starting times of the games most people covering those contests would watch 3 or 4 every weekend. For those of us who love high school football it was a match made in heaven. We love high school football so much, we covered every game but two this spring, 77 out of 79 games!!!
Splain said, “I really didn’t know what to think when we got to Philadelphia. I just knew we had to cover football in the spring for those teams who did not get to play in the fall. When the teams found out we were coming to cover them they were excited because they don’t get much coverage in Philadelphia by the media. That became very apparent when we started receiving photo requests just minutes after games.”
When asked about things that were surprising in covering the games a few things stood out according to the PFN staff. Edison/Fels has a kid with a prosthetic leg who starts on defense and in one of their games he came up with an interception! Kensington has a girl who is a back-up cornerback, but gets playing time. She covers well and was in on several tackles in the games PFN witnessed.
Ja’Niyah Collins put the stick to several players
A fairly mutual comment was the observation that much of the city is not how it is portrayed. Although several stadiums, other than the supersites, were not in the greatest of condition, they had some real character. A few that come to mind were Frankford, Roxborough, Central, and West Philadelphia. Finally, the smile on the players’ faces when they took the field lit up the skies. It was rewarding just knowing how happy they were to step on the field. As each game progressed it was amazing to see how much fun the kids appeared to be having even if their team was losing. There were a couple exceptions of course, but isn’t having a good time while playing high school sports what it’s all about?
“I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve had from the schools, coaches, players and the school districts involved in spring football. I don’t think I had one single bad experience. I covered 26 games in 7 weekends, and they were all worth it,” stated Splain. He continued, “We made some awesome friends along the way, and we came away with some great stories not just of football, but of players and coaches.”
Three games were mentioned as ‘best games’ of all the games PFN covered. One was the Benjamin Franklin contest with Boys’ Latin Charter. The BF Electrons scored with under two minutes left to come away the victor, 18-14 over the Warriors of BLC.
Then there was the Olney Charter versus Martin Luther King game. It featured numerous turnovers and a goal line stand which kept the score deadlocked at zero into the fourth quarter. Early in the final stanza MLK punted the ball to the Olney two-yard line. The Trojans of Olney Charter mounted a 98-yard march, of all things, using up a lot of the quarter four clock and scored with less than 4 minutes left to top the Cougars 6-0.
Lastly, was the game between Frankford and Boys’ Latin Charter at Frankford. These two squads appeared about as evenly matched as any two teams could be. Each team scored a TD in the first half to send the game into the intermission tied at 6. Frankford’s Pioneers took the lead 12-6 early in the third, but the Warriors answered back to tie on their next drive. Then they converted the 2-point attempt to go in front 14-12. Nothing much else happened until late in the fourth when Frankford drove deep into BLC territory, but missed the winning field goal attempt in the waning seconds.
When asked to name favorite team uniforms, the West Philadelphia Speed Boys garnered the most votes. “The blue and orange were incredible in the daylight,” was one quote. Other uniforms that made an impression included Martin Luther King and South Philadelphia.
West Philadelphia Speed Boys in blue and orange.
Opinions on the quality of the games varied, but it was pointed out that these teams had limited practice time, plus because of the emergency co-op passed by District 12, some teams had 3 or 4 other high schools participating. The amount of work to field a team that never played together before is a testament to all the coaches in Philadelphia. Overall, the quality may have been better than expected. One writer observed, “Philly Central appeared to have as good of defense as any I saw this spring, holding an opponent to minus yards for one of their games!” Another thing everyone noticed was that every team had some very good and athletic players.
The question came up among the staff, ‘how were you/PFN received?’ “Unbelievable, the MLK coach knew who I was and that I represented PFN when we first met,” was one comment. “Kids thanked us, gave us fist bumps, and wanted pictures,” was another. All the coaches and kids were appreciative that PFN was out in full force because they do not get much coverage in the fall and had practically nil from the Philadelphia media in the spring. To say the red carpet was rolled out for PA Football News is an understatement. “The experience was so good, many of my staff have requested a ‘blanket the city’ weekend in the fall. We are going to make that happen,” declared Splain.
When asked for any other comments they’d like to make, the staff had a plethora of reflections. “One thing I really noticed was the great job the referees all did over the 7 weeks. They too fought adversity such as late buses, games that didn’t have a clock manager, some stadiums didn’t have a working clock, several times there weren’t enough people to man the chains, etc. But they made the games happen for the kids. Not only that, there were many times I saw them give on field instructions to help the players better their games.” Kudos to those men in stripes who, more times than naught, get an undeserved bad rap.
Another media person said, “Shout out to Philly for being so welcoming. Seems Philadelphia is much better than their image as seen outside its’ border.” On person stated, “Philly has some of the most passionate coaches I have seen outside of a few other major cities I’ve been to.” Some others were impressed with the old stadiums that “probably were quite loud and rocking in their day.” “Even the referees got to know us and if the clock wasn’t working, they made sure we knew how much time was remaining in the quarter when somebody scored.”
Splain added, “the people in Philly were all extremely friendly. From the waitress who fixed me up with some Advil for a severe shoulder pain to the fans and parents along the fences who were more than happy to talk about their city and players. I can say I didn’t meet one single unfriendly person.”
Some of the staff managed to locate a couple of fantastic eating establishments. The food was exquisite at Scoogis Italian Kitchen and Bar in Flourtown. Items eaten varied from delectable Italian cuisine to scrumptious seafood to a thick, juicy rack of lamb. And the desserts, oh the desserts, were to die for. Phil and Jim’s Steaks and Hoagies in Brookhaven outside of Chester and near Widener University hosted PFN after the Chester-Harry S. Truman United X championship game Saturday. Boy, those Philly cheesesteaks and french fries charmed the taste buds to say the least.
An assortment of Scoogis’ desserts.
It wasn’t easy at times. Covid still had an influence on the season and nearly laid to rest one of the games everyone was waiting for, the United X title game, which was to be held April 17 between Chester and Truman. However, the football Gods were good and we got to end the spring season with a championship match, won by Chester. They’ll be the only team to ever hold that title.
Many thanks go out to the Courtyard by Marriott on President Boulevard for giving PFN a good deal on rooms each and every weekend. The accommodations were second to none and those thick mattresses were pretty darn comfy.
Billy Splain, who is in the process of building PA Football News into a one-of-a-kind media outlet for Pennsylvania high school football, had one final comment, “I have to thank my staff. They came from all over the state and beyond to help cover the spring season. We only missed a couple games, and we missed a few that had to be cancelled, but what a job they all did! We’ll leave the spring season with more reporters and photographers than we started with and that’s a good thing. We’re in Philly to stay.”
To see just how great the football was, head to our galleries: https://pafootballnews.com/category/game-photos/
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