Wyomissing (3, 15-0)Written by: Josh Funk on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
The year 2012 had been circled on many a calendar in Wyomissing for the past several years.
No, not because of the Mayans. Rather, a talented class of athletes was ascending through the Spartans’ football ranks. And 2012 was the year when it was all going to come together.
That talented senior class is reaping the fruits of its labor and hard work and has taken the Wyomissing football program to a place it has been before – Hersheypark Stadium – but in a game it has never been in before, that is, until Saturday.
Wyomissing (15-0), winners of 26 of their last 27 games and 35 of their last 40, will make their inaugural PIAA championship game appearance facing 15-time WPIAL champion and Beaver County powerhouse Aliquippa (15-0) in the PIAA AA championship game at Hersheypark Stadium Saturday afternoon, with kickoff set for noon. Wyomissing will be facing an Aliquippa team which has won an impressive 81 playoff games in its program history and 648 games overall.
Truth be told, like AAAA rep Coatesville, Wyomissing has found itself in quite the stretch of uncharted territory. That’s not to say the Spartans have been devoid of an impressive tradition within the confines of District 3, where they’ve hoisted six District 3 titles, split evenly between classes A and AA. It’s just that deep, deep runs into the PIAA playoffs hadn’t happened frequently.
The 2010 and 2011 seasons saw Wyomissing reach the District 3 AA championship game, falling to Trinity and Lancaster Catholic respectively, to end seasons of 9-4 and 11-1. The Spartans’ senior-laden team were sophomores in 2010 and juniors last year.
It was all about unfinished business in 2012. And, for seniors who comprise 20 of Wyomissing’s 22 starting positions between offense and defense, it wouldn’t be a successful business transaction to end the season with anything less than state gold.
Prior to Saturday’s victory over Imhotep Charter, Wyomissing had only one previous PIAA semifinals appearance – 2006 – when Wyomissing stunned Lancaster Catholic on a last-second Hail Mary pass to claim D3 gold before advancing to face eventual PIAA champion Wilson Area, falling 21-13 to the Warriors. Wyomissing’s trio of District 3 A championships, won in 1990, 1991 and 1993, were during the time the PIAA used a point system to determine its playoff participants.
The Spartans not only won their first ever PIAA semifinal and are making their initial PIAA finals appearance, they also became the first Berks County program to advance to a PIAA title game since 1989, when Wilson-West Lawn, led by quarterback Kerry Collins, faced Upper St. Clair in Hershey, falling 12-7. That’s a span of 23 years. Wyomissing could potentially bring Berks County its first PIAA football championship.
Here’s a bit of history which bodes well for the Spartans – District 3 small school teams (classes A and AA) are undefeated in PIAA championship games, sporting a combined 7-0 overall record. D3 has four PIAA A titles and three AA crowns to its credit thanks to Camp Hill (1988), Scotland (1992), Steelton-Highspire (2007-08), Bishop McDevitt (1995) and Lancaster Catholic (2009, 2011). A Spartan victory could push D3’s small school record to 8-0 in PIAA finals. District 3’s big school PIAA finals record, however, is 3-8.
The Spartans’ 35-point outburst against Imhotep Charter helped the team become the first-ever 600-point squad in Berks County history. The previous county record for a football team’s overall season scoring output was 595, set by Wilson-West Lawn in 2008.
Wyomissing is the 32nd different AA program to play for a PIAA championship. Teams making their initial PIAA finals appearance since 2001 in the Class AA game, however, are just 2-10 overall, with the two victories coming from Lansdale Catholic in 2004 and Lancaster Catholic in 2009.
The Spartans’ head football coach, Bob Wolfrum, is a seasoned Berks County coaching veteran and has held a presence on the Wyomissing sideline since 1986. In all, Wolfrum has notched a career record of 242-65-1, to go along with the aforementioned six District 3 championships and two berths in the PIAA semifinals. Since the start of the 2000 season, Wyomissing has an overall record of 130-30 (.813).
Wyomissing runs a Wing-T offense, and it’s not like your typical Wing-T attack in some respects. The Spartans have chewed up 4,688 yards of terra firma in 2012 – 312.5 yards per game. The Spartans rarely pass the ball, averaging only 5.9 attempts per game and 57.5 yards through the air. Yet they’ve pounded, pounded, run over and pounded the opposition for an average of 40.8 points per game.
Another reason Wyomissing’s Wing-T isn’t typical is how the team jumps on its opponent in the first quarter. Wyomissing has outscored its opposition 239-14 in the first quarter this 2012 season. Include the 2011 edition, which finished 11-1, and Wyomissing has outscored its opponents 436-21 in the first quarter over the last two years, an average score through 12 minutes of 16.1-to-0.8.
Four Spartan ballcarriers have supplied the majority of the team’s rushing yards, but are by no means the only pieces which make the ground game click. Senior Alex Anzalone, a Notre Dame recruit who will enroll early at South Bend and play linebacker, is the team’s leading rusher, with 1,404 yards on 151 carries, and has scored 30 total touchdowns for Wyomissing between rushing, receiving and defense/special teams. Justin Causa has rushed 99 times for 816 yards and scored 13 total touchdowns; Mason Smith 768 yards on 60 carries with 10 total touchdowns; and Brandon Gonzalez 629 yards on 88 totes with nine total touchdowns. Reserve Scott McAvoy averages nearly 9.4 yards per carry and has six touchdowns.
Joe Cacchione began the season at quarterback, and piloted the Spartans’ ship for the first 13 1/2 games, throwing for 664 yards and nine touchdowns. But senior Corey Unger, a transfer from Fleetwood who recently regained PIAA eligibility after missing the bulk of the season, has played the last 1 1/2 games for Wyomissing, and he’s completed 8-of-12 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. Unger is a career 4,252-yard passer.
Anzalone is the anchor of a defensive unit which has limited opponents to 9.3 points per game, holding 12 of 15 opponents to 13 points or less, with five shutouts, including two in its last three games.
Can Wyomissing join Lancaster Catholic and Steelton-Highspire as the only District 3 programs to complete a 16-0 season? Or will Berks County have to wait a while longer for its first PIAA football championship?
Find out Saturday.
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