Pottsgrove High School football coach Rick Pennypacker works with linemen, including Patrick Finn (70), on the opening day of fall preseason Monday. (John
Pottsgrove High School football coach Rick Pennypacker works with linemen, including Patrick Finn (70), on the opening day of fall preseason Monday. (John Strickler/ The Mercury)

No Pioneer Athletic Conference football team has won three straight outright championships since the league was formed in 1986.

This season, Pottsgrove will try to make history by continuing its historic run.

The two-time defending PAC-10 champ Falcons, who have won a record 23 straight league games dating back to the 2011 season, are attempting to join Lansdale Catholic (which won the 1996 league title and shared the title in both 1997 and 1998) as the only previous squad to pull off a PAC-10 three-peat.

And despite some heavy graduation losses, coach Rick Pennypacker's crew still rates as the team to beat.

The Falcons return arguably the PAC-10's best player in two-way standout Mike Fowler, a shutdown corner as well as big-play receiver. They also welcome back stalwart two-way lineman Patrick Finn, like Fowler a first-team All-Area selection.

What Pennypacker and Co. must rebuild is a defense that graduated nine starters.

"We lost a lot of players,' the 6-foot, 171-pound Fowler said. "We have a lot of people that have to step up to the plate and work hard.'

Hard work has helped the Falcons win four PAC-10 crowns over the past six seasons, and compile a gaudy 51-3 league mark (as well as 68-11 overall record) during that span.

Last year, Pottsgrove reeled off 11 straight wins (for the second straight season) before falling 27-26 to Academy Park in the District 1-AAA semifinals.


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Though they'll have to replace several key skill players, most notably graduated star tailback Marquis Barefield (1,587 yards, 23 TDs), the Falcons have several potentially promising new faces, including running backs Devon Fink and Terrell Barr and the quarterback combo of Torin Verdone and Deyon Doctor.

"We have our work cut out for us,' Pennypacker said. "This year will be a great challenge for us, but we feel our young kids have worked hard and most have gotten stronger over the year. We have some talent but are just so inexperienced and it will take time for our kids to jell. How long it takes them to mature will determine how we will do this year.'

"I think the biggest thing is just keeping the same work ethic and coming out and working hard every day,' said Finn, a 6-3, 251-pounder. "Last year's team got at it every day in practice. Between the lines we were serious, but off the field we were like a good family. And we have to keep that bond going.'

Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.