Philadelphia High School Football

Hats Off to Stratts . . .

  George Stratts won two Catholic League football championships 18 years apart -- overall in 1982 at
Cardinal Dougherty, Red Division (higher enrollment) in 2000 at Cardinal O'Hara.
  George, a product of St. James, in Chester, coached for 25 total seasons in the CL -- four at
Bishop McDevitt (1970-73), 11 at Dougherty (1974-84) and 10 at O'Hara (1994-2003). His final
record was 147-104-10.

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Keith Rieser (12), usually Dougherty's star halfback, is shown here playing quarterback in the title
game win over Carroll. He needed to switch roles after QB Rich Ashby suffered an injury.

George Stratts . . .
As O'Hara's Principal in 2007

  Losses in Italics  
10 O'Hara 0
  CL North  
20 Kenrick 0
17 La Salle 10
17 Egan 14
7 McDevitt 9
10 Wood 0
28 North Catholic 7
21 Ryan 16
10 Judge 35
38 Egan 7
28 McDevitt 14
17 Carroll 14
6-2 League, 10-2 Overall
FIRST TEAM: John Incollingo, L
FIRST TEAM: Keith Rieser, RB
SECOND TEAM: Bill Wright, K
SECOND TEAM: Rodney Walker, DL
THIRD TEAM: John O'Brien, Rec.
THIRD TEAM: Harry Swayne, DL
FIRST TEAM: John Incollingo, L
FIRST TEAM: Keith Rieser, RB
SECOND TEAM: John O'Brien, Rec.
SECOND TEAM: Bill Wright, K
SECOND TEAM: Rodney Walker, DL
SECOND TEAM: Harry Swayne, DL
SECOND TEAM: George Cowden
FIRST TEAM: John Incollingo, L
FIRST TEAM: Keith Rieser, RB
FIRST TEAM: Bill Wright, K
FIRST TEAM: George Cowden
SECOND TEAM: John O'Brien, Rec.
SECOND TEAM: Harry Swayne, DL
SECOND TEAM: Rodney Walker, DL
  Losses in Italics  
49 Springfield Delco 0
38 Malvern 35
42 Pemberton (NJ) 14
  CL Red  
62 North Catholic 0
34 Ryan 7
21 Roman 26
27 SJ Prep 40
14 Bonner 13
48 Judge 0
27 La Salle 0
23 La Salle 21
35 SJ Prep 10
5-2 league, 10-2 overall
FIRST TEAM: Mike "Tuna" Bucella, L
FIRST TEAM: Mike Lomas, QB
FIRST TEAM: Kevin Jones, RB
FIRST TEAM: B.J. "Butch" Hogan, DB
SECOND TEAM: Mike Terenick, L
SECOND TEAM: Ryan Barksdale, Rec.
SECOND TEAM: Greg Watson, RB
THIRD TEAM: Frank Vinci, K
THIRD TEAM: Lamar Woodland
THIRD TEAM: Pat Murphy
FIRST TEAM: Mike "Tuna" Bucella, L
FIRST TEAM: Ryan Barksdale, Rec,
FIRST TEAM: Mike Lomas, QB
FIRST TEAM: Kevin Jones, RB
FIRST TEAM: B.J. "Butch" Hogan, DB
SECOND TEAM: Mike Terenick, L
SECOND TEAM: Greg Watson, RB
SECOND TEAM: Frank Vinci, K
SECOND TEAM: Lamar Woodland
FIRST TEAM: Ryan Barksdale, Rec.
FIRST TEAM: Kevin Jones, RB
FIRST TEAM: B.J. "Butch" Hogan, DB
SECOND TEAM: Pat Sweeney, L
SECOND TEAM: Ryan Cannon, DL
SECOND TEAM: Craig Haywood, DB

Cardinal Dougherty's 1982 Catholic League Football Champs
This story was written after George Stratts steered the Cardinals to the 1982 CL crown . . .

By Ted Silary
  There was 1977.
  That was the year Cardinal Dougherty High entered the Catholic League football final as a solid choice over St. Joseph's Prep and proceeded to look more sickly than an octogenarian with malaria and Rocky Mountain spotted fever while losing, 19-7.
  There was 1978.
  That was the year the Cardinals were poised at the Archbishop Wood 3 with 0:27 remaining in the Northern Division final, only to lose the ball - and the game, 21-15 - on a fumble that was about as well-received as ants at a picnic.
  There was 1980.
  That was the year the Cards scored a late-game touchdown to creep within 20-18 of Wood, again in the North final, and watched in dismay as the conversion pass was intercepted. Thereafter, school officials set up a watch for the coaches at the foot of area bridges.
  There was 1981.
  That was the year the Cardinals trailed Bishop Egan, 13-7, in a North semi and had first-and-goal at the 9 with 0:51 left. Two 4-yard gains placed the ball at the 1. The next play lost 8 yards. The last one gained back only 4.
  Armed with ammunition such as that, people began to whisper that Dougherty should change its mascot from a Cardinal to an apple, the variety that seems to get stuck in throats.
  However, some must have whispered in a voice that resembled a father's when he admonishes a son for trying out a crayon on the new wallpaper.
  Or else Coach George Stratts would have uttered a different first comment last night at Villanova Stadium after junior Bill Wright kicked a 23-yard field goal with no time left to give Dougherty a 17-14 win over Archbishop Carroll and its first championship since 1968.
  "All I know," Stratts said, " is that the team that chokes was down 14 points - without its quarterback - and came back to win . "
  Stratts, who has coached Dougherty for nine years, and coached for four before that at Bishop McDevitt, wasn't yelling when he made that statement. Nor was he poking a finger in anyone's chest.
  But make no mistake. The goings-on inside Mount St. Helen's on May 18, 1980, had nothing on the post-game goings-on inside George Stratts on Dec. 16, 1982.
  "If somebody says that winning the big one isn't important, don't believe it," Stratts said. "That's crap . . . It eats at you.
  "We feel we have a shot at winning the championship every year. Realistically, the 1977 team should have won. Last year's team should have won. One or two others could have won. When they didn't, I blamed myself first.
  "You think you're snakebit. But you keep doing the things you think are right, you keep working hard and, every year, you hope your program is improved. "
  Last night, it appeared the Cards were intent on losing the game at the start, perhaps because they had learned through lots of experience that losing close to the end is too painful.
  Keith Rieser, the North MVP, lost two fumbles (one led to a Carroll touchdown, Chris Olivieri's 6-yard pass to Jim Keenan) while playing halfback in the first 14 minutes.
  On the next two series, Rieser went from HB to QB to HB to QB as Richard Ashby suffered injuries to first his left knee (not bad), then his right knee (enough to knock him out for the duration).
  He also threw an interception, which made him suffer almost as much as Ashby.
  "I couldn't show anybody that I was down," said Keith, the Cards' captain. " It would have killed us.
  "The first time Richard got hurt, the coaches said he'd be back after a couple plays. The second time, they didn't say anything. I could hear him screaming in pain. I knew he wasn't coming back. "
  From one standpoint, losing Ashby was the worst thing that could have happened to Dougherty. From another, it was the best because it left Rieser (he will not be asked to replace the fella on "Saturday Night Live" who juggles bowling balls) with the knowledge he would be able to focus his attention on one position.
  When Rieser led the offense onto the field with 1:34 left in the half, Carroll owned a 14-0 lead, thanks to Keenan's 1-yard run. With 0:13 left, it was half of that because Rieser tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Lance Toomer, which came one play after he completed a 25- yard pass to Louis Ramos, which came two plays after he ripped off a 15-yard gain on a keeper.
  " I wasn't worried about Keith going south on me," Stratts said. " He doesn't go south. "
  Meanwhile, Carroll Coach Kevin Clancy ventured out on a limb with 3:08 showing and the score tied, 14-14, when he told up-back Dan Dinsmore to run out of punt formation on fourth-and-two from Carroll's 32. Linebacker Steve Hopkins stopped Dinsmore after a gain of a yard.
  "Before we went out," Rieser said, "(guard) Henry Endt came over and said, 'This is it for our senior year. ' Which was all I needed to hear. "
  On third-and-4 at the 14, Rieser kept for an 11- yard gain and the Cards called their second timeout.
  They called their third, at 0:04, after Vernon Smith was blasted by linebacker Joe Bello for a 2-yard loss . . . also after several observers and participants wondered if Stratts would signal for the players to call time in time.
  "Two times this year," Rieser said, smiling, " I called time out when he didn't want one. I caught heck for it. I saw the time running down and I almost did it again because I didn't know what he was doing. "
  Jim Gallagher was the snapper. Andy Garczynski was the holder. Bill Wright was the guy who pounded the ball deep behind the goal posts, then was almost buried by delirious teammates.
  "When the clock was running down, I was thinking he'd decided to go for a TD," Wright said. "The whole drive, I was thinking it would come down to me and that was the way I wanted it. I'd been hoping all year for a crack at a last-second, game-winning field goal. "
  For 13 seasons at two schools, George Stratts had been hoping to win a title.
  Last night, with no time left, the time was finally Wright.
  TITLE TIDBITS: Junior safety David Bond was the defensive hero of the last quarter. He forced a fumble ( Steve Lauch recovered) at Dougherty's 7 and made an interception at Dougherty's 33, tacking on a 23-yard return . . . The Cards' second TD was scored by Keith Rieser on a 4-yard run with 5:12 showing in the third quarter. A 25-yard punt return to the 9 by John O'Brien set it up . . . Carroll had to start the series on its 4 because George Cowden made a leaping effort to keep Bill Griffenburg's punt from the end zone and Henry Endt was there to down it . . . There were 10 turnovers . . . Rieser: " Two interceptions and two fumbles. That's not too hot. I just thank God we won."


Cardinal O'Hara's 2000 Catholic Red Football Champs . . .

By Ted Silary
  It was 6:43 p.m. and the tension was mounting.
  Cardinal O'Hara and St. Joseph's Prep were 17 minutes away from clashing for the Catholic Red football title, and there was O'Hara franchise Kevin Jones, trotting across the field with only his father, Tom, an assistant coach.
  As they passed within easy earshot of Prep's rabid rooters, the chanting started.
  "Ky-le's bet-ter. Ky-le's bet-ter. "
  And then a little louder. "Ky-le's bet-ter! Ky-le's better. "
  It might have been a good idea to stay quiet.
  Kyle is The Prep's Kyle Ambrogi, a junior and the city's No. 1 rusher in total yards this season. Jones is the No. 1 career rusher in Catholic League history and, before the season, he was anointed the consensus No. 1 prospect in the country.
  Last night, finally, in his very last chance, he carried his team to a championship.
  continued right below . . .

  Kevin Jones celebrates his TD catch . . . .
  Before an overflow crowd of 8,000 at Northeast High, Jones posted 196 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns as O'Hara (10-2) rolled to a 35-10 stunner, thus wrecking dreams of a perfect season for the Hawklets (12-1).
  Kevin acknowledged hearing the pregame chant.
  "I knew walking over that way that they were going to start talking . . .I don't want to cuss," he said, smiling. "I know I've got 'fans' everywhere. I just try to block them out and do the best I can.
  "I could care less what they say. I know who's best. "
  Tom said he and Kevin exchanged no words at that point.
  "We didn't have to," Tom said. "Everybody's always laying for Kevin. He took it like water over a dam. No big deal. Then he went out there and proved what people all over the country know - he's The Man. "
  Jones rushed for two scores, returned a kickoff 86 yards for one and made a leaping, end-zone reception of a Mike Lomas pass for yet another. That 34-yard TD, which came on the final play of the first half, handed the Lions a 21-3 lead and, in effect, rendered the second half meaningless.
  "A backbreaker," Prep coach Gil Brooks lamented.
  "That was a Hail Mary, plain and simple," said Lomas, who finished 6-for-12 for 137 yards, also throwing a TD pass - 32 yards to Ryan Barksdale - on the final play of the third quarter. " 'Kevin, go long, jump up, get it. ' "
  When asked about Jones' overall performance, Lomas briefly turned into an all-time babbler.
  "Unbelievable!" he yelled while holding aloft the championship plaque. "Words can't explain this kid! At least I can't come up with them!
  "There was speculation all year, 'Is he really the best? ' He proved it tonight! Great players play great in big games! That's exactly what he did! "
  Said Brooks: "I'm glad he's graduating. He's the greatest player ever in the Catholic League. "
  Jones was much more subdued. Oh, he beamed and slightly raised his voice when family, friends or schoolmates approached for hugs, etc., but with media members, his tone was mostly matter of fact.
  "I knew I was going to do this," he said. "I had faith in myself and I prayed to God all week that it would happen. . .My dad kept telling me, 'Get it done. ' I did.
  "God blessed me with a lot of talent. I put it to good use. "
  In the teams' regular-season meeting Oct. 15, Prep triumphed, 40-27, as Ambrogi upstaged Jones with 322 yards and four TDs and even threw for a score.
  This time, the Lions pounced right away. The game's first scrimmage play yielded a 62-yard gain on a flip from Lomas to a wide-open Tom Convery. Jones then ran in from the 2.
  "We knew we could get them with play-action passes - we did it throughout he game - because of some things they did in the middle of the field," said O'Hara's George Stratts, who at 58 became the oldest coach to win a CL football title. He also won in 1982 at Cardinal Dougherty.
  "We scored there and never looked back! " Lomas roared.
  After he hit a 24-yard field goal with 4 minutes, 6 seconds left in the quarter, drawing Prep within 7-3, Patrick Kaiser sent a kickoff medium-deep.
  Pat Gallagher slipped and bobbled, and the ball rolled to the right. After some hesitation, Jones picked it up at the 14, hurdled some first-wave tacklers and dashed 86 yards to TD Land.
  Jones finished with 19 carries for 79 yards, two catches for 31 and the one return for 86. At safety, a position he didn't begin playing until after the loss to Prep, he was in on five tackles.
  "Also playing defense made me get in better shape," Jones acknowledged. "So I wouldn't get tired. "
  This season was not easy for Jones.
  He faced pressure on many fronts. Trying to live up to the preseason hype. Being stalked by numerous big-time colleges. Attempting to become academically qualified for freshman eligibility (that has not yet happened). Playing through an ankle sprain suffered in the first game.
  Jones finished the season with 194 carries for 1,268 yards and 18 TDs. His career rushing stats show 5,728 yards and 78 TDs. He notched 83 total TDs, four short of the city-leagues record set by 1998 Frankford grad Eddie Gaskins. Only Gaskins (6,122) is ahead of Jones in career rushing yardage.
  "Things were tough for Kevin mentally," his father said. "I told him if he could keep his faith and get healthy, good things would happen.
  "We finally got our heads out of the sand. We got Kevin outside and utilized him in passing situations. Nobody in the league can cover him. I saw it this summer in camps. All-American cornerbacks couldn't keep up with him. I told the coaches, 'If you want to put Kevin wide sometimes, do it. He's ready. ' "
  Kyle Ambrogi ran 21 times for 50 yards, raising his season total to 2,109. In CL history, only Judge's Bill Foley (2,116 in '68) has run for more. . .Linebackers Pat Murphy (10 tackles) and Andrew Wood split the job of spying on Ambrogi, half the field apiece. . .Said Murphy: "This celebration is so wild, because the team we beat was so good.". . .Cornerbacks B.J. "Butch" Hogan (interception, two deflections, six tackles) and Chris Gray (12 tackles) and safety Craig Haywood (seven tackles, interception, two deflections) also starred on defense. . .Prep QB Mike McGann passed 18-for-37 for 245 yards and a TD on a hook-and-lateral. Jim Lachman went 6 yards. Ambrogi went the last 17. . .Gil Brooks: "We had a helluva run. "


DOUGHERTY, 1982        
Keith Rieser 202 1097 7.4 10
Vernon Smith 139 638 4.6 3
PASSING C-A Yards Pct. TDs
Rich Ashby 52-105 842 49.5 5
Keith Rieser 24-47 476 51.1 6
Andy Garczynski 23 469 20.4 3
John O'Brien 22 402 18.3 7
Bill Wright 24 9 51  
Keith Rieser 10 1 62  
John O'Brien 7 0 42  
O'HARA, 2000        
Kevin Jones 194 1268 6.5 18
Greg Watson 134 861 6.4 9
PASSING C-A Yards Pct. TDs
Mike Lomas 90-143 1411 62.9 21
Ryan Barksdale 42 805 19.2 10
Tom Convery 18 294 16.3 3
Frank Vinci 52 2 58  
Kevin Jones 21 1 128  
Ryan Barksdale 12 0 72  


  Recaps of Dougherty's Playoff Games . . .

Dougherty 38, Egan 7

    Keith Rieser rushed for 200 yards and three TDs on 24 carries. Bill Wright booted a 34-yard field goal and five PAT.
At Veterans Stadium
Dougherty 28, McDevitt 14
    Richard Ashby passed 9-for-13 for 186 yards and one TD. John O'Brien caught two TD passes, one on a halfback option from Keith Rieser. McDevitt's Matt Kolen passed 14-for-27 for 194 yards.
At Villanova Stadium
Dougherty 17, Carroll 14
At Villanova Stadium
  Bill Wright kicked a 23-yard field goal on the final play of the game as Dougherty, which lost starting QB Richard Ashby (knee injury) in the second quarter, overcame a 14-point deficit to win its first title since 1968. Keith Rieser, playing halfback and QB, ran and passed for
scores and accounted for 161 yards total offense. David Bond was the defensive hero of the fourth quarter, forcing a fumble and making an interception. For Carroll, Dan Dinsmore rushed 29 times for 188 yards and Jim Keenan scored both TDs.

  Recaps of O'Hara's Playoff Games . . .



At Norristown
O'Hara 23, La Salle 21
   In an all-timer and then some, the teams combined for 18 points in the last 1:48 and O'Hara's Frank Vinci won it by kicking a 26-yard field goal with 0:06 left. For O'Hara, Mike Lomas passed 13-for-21 for 198 yards and a TD apiece to Ryan Barksdale (3-73) and Harry Dougherty (5-61), and Kevin Jones carried 30 times for 137 yards. For La Salle, Gabe Marabella passed 5-for-14 for 109 yards and ran for two TDs, including a 1-yard keeper with 0:51 left. Tom McCaffery's
PAT made it 21-20.
At Northeast
O'Hara 35, SJ Prep 10
  Capping a sensational career, Kevin Jones posted four TDs and 196 all-purpose yards as the Lions rolled to an upset victory. He ran for scores of 2 and 39 yards, returned a kickoff 86 yards for another and made a 34-yard reception of a Mike Lomas Hail Mary pass for yet another.
Lomas (6-for-12, 137 yards) also fired a TD pass to Ryan Barksdale. Prep entered at 12-0 and thus became the first team with a perfect record to fall in a CL title game since St. James in 1969. Kyle Ambrogi rushed for 50 yards and fell nine yards short of overtaking Judge's Bill Foley (2,116
in '68) for the No. 1 spot in CL one-season rushing. Mike McGann passed 18-for-37 for a game record 245 yards.