TOWAMENCIN — It's being billed as the upstarts vs. the establishment, the new kids on the block vs. the old guard, the young punks trying to spit in the eye of the rich old fogey.

But Friday's night's PIAA District One Class AAAA football playoff semifinal between Perkiomen Valley and host North Penn is really a tale of two success stories, a generation or two apart.

Sure, North Penn can legitimately be depicted as the deadly old dragon in this set-to, a beast that has been through the wars but that's still capable of breathing fire, especially when the battle is at its most dangerous.

And the proof is in the history books.

Since 1997, the Knights are an astounding 179-43 (.806) with six District One championships, nine appearances in the District One finals and two appearances in the PIAA finals, with the memorable 15-0 record and PIAA championship in 2003.

But the fact is, prior to that incredible run of success, the Knights were the poster children for mediocrity, amassing a 113-116-5 record between the years of 1976 and 1996, with a single league title to hang their hat on, the Bux-Mont League crown in 1983.

It was during those days that North Penn, the school with the growing enrollment and lackluster success on the gridiron, was referred to as, "the sleeping giant.'

"If the right guy gets a hold of that team, look out,' was the prevalent line of the times.


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That right person turned out to be Mike Pettine, Jr., who took over the Knights in 1997 and went 45-15 in five years as head coach.

Pettine, naturally, was the son of Central Bucks West coaching legend Mike Pettine. And utilizing many of the methods learned from his father, along with an innate attention to detail and an unerring knack for breaking down game film, he lifted the Knights to a new level of success.

The younger Pettine began the meteoric climb of the program, with the crowning achievement the now-infamous District One championship game of 1999 when Pettine's Knights took on his father's Bucks team with the district crown in the balance. Central Bucks West prevailed that night, but the Knights were on their way to the district stratosphere.

Pettine's right-hand man throughout his five-year stint was another CB West alum, Dick Beck, who was an All-Big East selection as a center at Temple, and who joined the younger Pettine at North Penn after a short stint coaching at West.

When Pettine left North Penn to pursue a career in the National Football League, where he is now as the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills, Beck took the football and ran with it.

In his first season as the head man at North Penn, the Knights went 10-3, shared a Suburban One League championship with Neshaminy, then blew out top-seeded Downingtown West en route to a District One championship.

That 10-bell entrance into the District One postseason was a suitable warning shot from Beck and his Knights.

Since, the Knights have been the most successful Class AAAA program in the district. Under Beck, North Penn football has gone 134-28 (including this year's 9-3) with a half-dozen District One championships and eight District One finals appearances.

Meanwhile, if it took North Penn a few decades to finally grab its gridiron version of the brass ring, Perkiomen Valley had long been saddled with a hideous lead weight.

When 26-year-old St. Pius X and West Chester grad Scott Reed took over the program in 2004, the Vikings were looking back at a recent history that wasn't exactly glowing.

From 1983 through 2003, the Vikings were a paltry 77-148-1 (.340). And while there were brief flirtations with success, an 8-3 mark in 1989, 17 wins and back-to-back playoff appearances in 1998 and 1999, Perkiomen Valley was not exactly on anyone's must-see list. They were the personification of the 97-pound weakling. And whether it was the Bux-Mont League or the newly formed Pioneer Athletic Conference, which PV moved to in 1986, the Vikings seemed destined to be forever wiping a beach full of sand off their thick-rimmed spectacles.

In fact, in their first three seasons in the PAC, the Vikings had a total of five wins.

But Reed, by his own admission, was an obsessive workaholic, determined to move the program into the area's elite.

It wasn't easy.

The Vikings were a sub-.500 team in Reed's first three seasons, then broke through in spades in 2007, sharing a PAC title and securing the program's first AAAA playoff berth. That playoff game was a bust, a loss, at home, to Glen Mills. But instead of being a laughingstock, the team was finally a contender.

It took Reed until his sixth season for the team to hit the .500 mark (33-33), but the Vikings have had only one losing season since. And over the last three seasons, including this year, the Vikings are an impressive 24-10.

Did the population explosion in the Collegeville area help the program, as the boom in Lansdale helped North Penn in the 1980s and 1990s? Sure, but the rise in enrollment also put the Vikings, a long time Class AA program, in with the big boys.

But like the pimply-faced, nerdy little girl with glasses who was once made fun of until time turned her into a jaw-dropping fox, the Vikings are now the district's hottest property, the team everybody wants to see and read about.

And now it's time for the fox to take on the grand old dragon.

EXTRA POINTS: The two programs, once Bux-Mont League foes, have not met since 1985 when the Knights took the measure of the Vikings, 27-0. In fact, the Knights own eight straight wins over the Vikings, with six shutouts, and hold an 11-4 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools, although the last game between the two was played a good decade before any of this year's participants were born.