Mike Pettine Jr of North Penn and Mike Sr after a game 11-05-99 >>>>>>>
C B West Helmet
Central Bucks West High School
Mike Pettine epitomized the old-school approach of coaching football.
He was a perfectionist, demanded every ounce of effort from his players, had an incredibly intense demeanor in practices and games, and had a Vince Lombardi-like presence.
With that no-nonsense style, Pettine turned Central Bucks West into a football dynasty. With several mythical state titles and four PIAA Class 4A state crowns, he set a high standard for other Southeastern Pennsylvania squads.
"He had a huge influence on coaches in this area," Pennridge coach Jeff Hollenbach said. "A lot of teams tried to follow what his teams did from an X's and O's standpoint."
Pettine, 76, who guided the Bucks to a 326-42-4 mark in 33 seasons, died of a heart attack while playing golf Friday morning near his winter home north of Tampa, Fla.
Outside of Pettine's immediate family, possibly no one knew him better than Mike Carey. He played for the legendary coach in the 1970s and was his right-hand man before succeeding him in 2000.
"He was a combination of a guy who I admired the most in this world and he was my best friend," Carey said. "That developed as the years went along. After he finished coaching, I talked to him every week."
Pettine, who was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2011, recently returned to the area to accept a lifetime achievement award in Harrisburg.
"I've never had anything happen in my life that was so unexpected," Carey said. "He was the picture of health, very sharp, in great shape. He had issues with his feet, but he was still playing golf, while using a cart, five days a week."
Under Pettine, the Bucks put together a 55-game unbeaten streak from 1984 to '88 and won 45 straight from 1996 through his departure in 1999.
"Aside from the wins, he had such a positive impact on so many kids," Carey said. "He taught so many life lessons that paved the way for success beyond high school.
"He made people so much better than they ever realized they could be. Nobody did that better than Mike."
The PIAA instituted state football playoffs in 1998. In 1991, with a 26-14 win over District 10's Erie Cathedral Prep at Altoona's Mansion Park Stadium, C.B. West earned the first of its four titles.
Since Pittsburgh-area teams had captured the first three large-school titles, it was a major breakthrough for the Bucks, District 1, and Eastern Pennsylvania.
"We were mythical state champs before that, but winning that first one on the field validated all the other great teams we had," Carey said.
Another one of the state's high school football coaching greats, Berwick's George Curry, died last April. He compiled a 455-102-5 record in 46 seasons.
"They were very much alike in terms of their game plan," Cam Melchiorre, Berwick's unofficial historian, said. "It was student body right, student body left, fullback up the middle, and quarterback keeper."
Pettine ended his career on a winning - and highly dramatic - note. In the closing minutes of the 1999 state final, Andrew Elsing's blocked punt and recovery for a touchdown, followed by Bob Tumelty's extra-point boot, gave the Bucks a 14-13 triumph over Cathedral Prep.
Carey said that his hard-driving mentor had a softer side that few outside his inner circle witnessed.
"Mike was a very caring person," he said. "He loved his kids and family so much. And when a game was over, he was a guy who liked to go out with friends, have a beer, and share some laughs."
Published: February 25, 2017 — 3:01 AM EST | Updated: February 25, 2017 — 5:55 PM EST
PIAA Executive Director Bob Lombardi
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Dr. Robert Lombardi, executive director of the PIAA, wanted to make something clear.
Tickets are still available for Saturday night's Class 6A boys’ title game between Reading and Pine Richland at the Giant Center in Hershey.
But not many.
One of the biggest crowds since the PIAA finals moved across the parking lot from the Hersheypark Arena to Giant Center in 2003 is expected.
Why? The easy answer is Lonnie Walker, the McDonald's All-American and Miami recruit, will be playing his final game and Reading is in the state finals for the first time since 1973, when it lost to General Braddock at the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg.
But an underlying reason is that for the first time since 2013 there will be no team from the Philadelphia Catholic League in the season's final game.
Philadelphia teams, private and public, are not the greatest draws in Hershey, even though it's no more than a two-hour ride from Broad Street to Chocolate Avenue.
What fills the seats and brings smiles to the faces of PIAA officials is when you have two public schools, particularly one with a rich tradition like Reading that hasn't won for a long time, showing up in Hershey.
Of the 24 teams in Hershey this weekend, only eight represent public schools. The other 16 in the newly expanded six-classification setup are either private or charter schools.
PHOTO GALLERY: District 11 champion Bethlehem Catholic defeated Villa Maria 46-27 to win its first PIAA championship on Thursday at Giant Center in Hershey.
(CHRIS KNIGHT / SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL)
On Friday, Lebanon Catholic and Sewickley Academy, both non-public schools, were the afternoon winners in the Class A girls and 2A boys respectively. The crowd was 3,836.
The building came much more alive at night when the Boyertown girls played in the 6A final against North Allegheny. There was a large roar every time the Bears scored en route to a 46-35 victory.
Boyertown boosted the evening doubleheader's attendance to 4,932, which is close to what the Thursday doubleheaders drew combined.
Meadville, despite coming from the northwest corner of the state, had more fans than Archbishop Wood in Friday's finale, but they were quieted during the 5A boys’ title game since Wood rolled to a 73-40 win.
Wood is one of those dreaded PCL schools that can attract kids from a large swath of real estate with kids allegedly even crossing state lines to attend.
Schools such as Archbishop Wood, Neumann-Goretti, Imhotep and Constitution often garner gold at Hershey, but also draw the ire of fans.
There has been bickering and barking about uneven playing fields and recruiting accusations since 1972, when the state legislature approved a bill that allowed members of the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association to opt into the PIAA.
Certainly, our area has had more than its share of tension over the years as accusations of recruiting have been thrown around like baseballs at a spring training complex.
In fact, we lost the original East Penn Conference in 1997 because of the distrust, allegations and general nastiness between school officials with the battle largely drawn along private/public lines.
At the PIAA level, the private vs. public issue intensified with the arrival of the Philadelphia schools and the increasing number of charter schools. Mix in the AAU influence of kids and parents attempting to build all-star teams and you have a steady drumbeat of discontent.
The groaning always builds to a crescendo at state championship time.
Lombardi and the PIAA staff have heard the complaints and questions for years.
Why don't you have separate tournaments like New Jersey and Virginia?
Why don't you make private schools and charters play at the highest classification level?
Why do you allow kids to move from school to school so freely?
Lombardi has said in the past the PIAA is about inclusion, not exclusion. He also said that since the state Legislature passed the original bill, it might have to pass another one if so many public school supporters are going to get their way.
Parents with lawyers have long been a detriment to officials blocking the movement of kids and the PIAA has been reluctant to incur extensive court costs.
Now, however, some action seems to be afoot. Lombardi said a committee has been formed to look into the competitive balance and fairness issue.
It won't satisfy all the complainers immediately. No changes would be made until the new classification cycle starts with the 2018-19 school year, but for many, it's a start in the right direction.
"On Wednesday our board of directors established a competition committee, the first one we've ever had," Lombardi said. "This committee will look at how we classify, at competitive advantage, look at competition and the formulas used in other states to see how they move teams up in class depending on success, and also the transfer rule to see if there are some tweaks and turns we can use. Is there something we can use to make it better?"
"I think that's unprecedented to be so proactive and to have the foresight and courage to say let's have a discussion. The first meeting was held on Thursday and we had great dialogue. We're going to have another meeting in May."
Bob Hartman, the Whitehall athletic director and District 11 chairman, is on the committee.
"It may not be a giant leap forward, but it's a positive first step," Hartman said. "There are a lot of multilayered issues to discuss. We met Thursday morning and while it was only an hour-long meeting, it was a good discussion where we found consensus on a lot of things."
Hartman said he doesn't know where the discussions will go. He concedes transfers will always be part of the landscape and it's not just the public to private switches that are of concern.
"We want to look at all the transfers that aren't for the right reasons," he said. "Some of the things that will come out of this competition committee may act as a deterrent."
Maybe some of the movement will stop, and, maybe so will the griping.
But as Hartman, echoing Lombardi, said: "It's not a public versus private school problem, it's a success problem. When people are successful, people are always looking for reasons why. When they're not, nobody cares how they're getting their kids."
Copyright © 2017, The Morning Call
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Coming in August
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