Nobody will ever be able to tab Philadelphia athletes, whether amateurs or professionals, or local sports enthusiasts with being noncommittal to their tasks. While clunkers happen, the overall body of work leaves us with plenty to commend. Such was certainly the case in South Philly this year, as a blend of newcomers and established figures helped the present to be a nice bridge to respecting the past and anticipating the future.
Let the blood and sweat continue to cause ample tears for their opponents in 2017.
The boys’ basketball team at Girard Academic Music Program has always enjoyed a reputation as a give-it-our-all bunch. With the addition of Point Breeze resident Quadir Hargrove, a transfer from Cardinal O’Hara High School, the Girard Estate squad gave fans January joy by dumping Maritime Academy 62–44, thanks to 25 points and 14 rebounds from the senior big man.
A terrific 2015 season on the gridiron and constant commitment to his classroom tasks helped Deen Whitaker to win a Mini Max High School award. The senior at The Academy at Palumbo led the Griffins in rushing attempts, rushing and receiving yards, touchdowns, and points scored to join Penn Charter’s Kenny Bergmann and St. Joe’s Prep’s Joe DuMond, both of Whitman, as local honorees.
Building on its admirable relationship with South Philly, Soccer Shots wilted winter woes with a program at the Edward O’Malley Athletic Association. The Saturday program bettered the footwork and friendship-making abilities of 2- to 7-year-olds in enhancing local ties that include sessions at Marconi Plaza.
No matter their record, the Eagles can always count on play-by-play radio announcer Merrill Reese to provide a standout performance. His wonderful work in boasting of the Birds’ prowess helped him to score the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s inaugural Bill Campbell Broadcast Award.
Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree has literally been a huge part in helping the boys’ basketball team at Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School to excel for the last three years. The 6-foot-8 center, who will head to Villanova University next year, collected 21 points and 11 rebounds in a 91–75 win over Archbishop Ryan that improved the Saints’ league mark to 11–0.
The female hoopsters at Neumann-Goretti are equally commendable dream crushers. As the two-time defending league champions, the coach Andrea Peterson-led athletes grew even more dangerous by adding sharpshooter Morgan Lenahan, a transfer from Haddon Township High School. During the season, Lenahan became one of four Saints to sign with a Division-I school, choosing Wagner College.
Passyunk Square resident Rudy Mezzy has long followed sports, particularly local action, passionately. Through 20/20 Visual Media, based in Queen Village, he and his peers established a successful production company and used the beginning of the year to generate funds for “SportsTown,” an analytical series that looks at fans’ devotion to teams’ efforts.
December 7, 1941 is a date that will live in infamy due to the attack on Pearl Harbor. In local circles, February 22, 2016 might go down as an equally disturbing occurrence, as The Palestra served as the site for losses by Neumann-Goretti in the girls’ and boys’ Catholic League basketball title games. The ladies’ setback to Archbishop Wood ended a 53-game winning streak, while their male counterparts dropped their second-straight championship tilt to Roman Catholic.
Locals spent a lovely Saturday evening at the Rally4Rizzo through which they endowed Rizzo Rink with the financial means to consider the creation of a replacement space. The establishment of a new Pennsport facility, according to recreation leader Anthony DiFlorio III, has no definite timeline, yet it would occur before the disuse of the present destination.
Thanks to his 195-pound class victory in the District 12 3A championships, where he received the outstanding wrestler of the tournament honor, and runner-up status in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association 3A Northeast Regional, South Philadelphia High School’s Miles Lee earned a trip to the state finals. He did not place in the Hershey-held gathering but has begun his senior year strong with an 8–2 record.
Calling on the sting of the Catholic League championship losses to serve as motivation, the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams from Neumann-Goretti captured the Class AAA and Class AA state crowns. The ladies’ 65–28 win over North Star brought the Saints their second-straight title, while the boys’ 99–66 romp over the Mars Fightin’ Planets gave the program its third-straight Hershey celebration and sixth in the last seven seasons.
Just ahead of the start of their season, the Philadelphia Phillies staged a 5K run to benefit their benevolent arm. More than 6,000 registrants helped the sixth annual event to secure a shade over $300,000 for Phillies Charities, Inc.
In “The Last Tycoon,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “There are no second acts in American lives.” Through MBG Training, Michael Gillespie, who experienced some troubling moments in his mid-20s, has proven the author wrong. The Grays Ferry resident helps to mold the minds and bodies of local sports enthusiastics and high school athletes, including registrants at Neumann-Goretti and Prep Charter.
Founder Ed Snider, the face of the Philadelphia Flyers franchise since its 1966 founding and the start of play the following year, left a huge void, succumbing to bladder cancer at age 83. For his amazing work as a pioneer, Mr. Snider earned enshrinement in, among others, the Hockey, United States Hockey, Philadelphia Jewish Sports, Philadelphia Sports, and Flyers halls of fame.
The Healthy Kids Running Series proved a wonderful addition to the amenities at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. South Philly added to Pennsylvania’s seven-year presence in the series by helping pre-kindergarteners through eighth-graders to “adopt a healthy and active lifestyles, help increase their self-esteem, and make new friends.”
Philadelphia Performing Arts String Theory Charter School has drawn numerous South Philly residents to its Center City-based campus. Many of those locals, including catcher Jason Della Valla, helped the baseball team to crush Freire Charter School 15–0 in Division C action at Citizens Adjusters Park.
Stefan Thompson proved a reliable shooter and motivator when playing basketball for GAMP. The Alvernia University alumnus and Marconi resident has continued his love for hoops by establishing Precision Player Development, which oversaw a successful coed camp at Guerin Recreation Center.
Jimmy Kerrigan was a perennial spark plug for the Neumann-Goretti baseball team. The 2012 alumnus continued to inspire peers as a member of the Virginia Commonwealth University squad, with his motivational vigilance helping him to win the Hammer Strength All-American Award.
After a rough start in league play, the Neumann-Goretti Saints baseball team caught fire at the right time, scoring four straight victories against Catholic League foes. Thanks to a two-run single from senior Nicky D’Amore, the final triumph, versus Archbishop Carroll at McNichol Field, earned the Saints the fifth seed in the playoffs.
Foes have been keeping track of Neumann-Goretti’s Sydni Townsend, but nobody has perfected the means to triumph over the track star. She and the Saints solidified their school’s reputation as an athletic behemoth by winning the District 12 AA City championships at the Germantown super site.
For the fifth time in eight seasons, the Neumann-Goretti baseball team emerged as the league champion. The club fought its way to a 3–2 win over St. Joseph’s Prep, with then-sophomore Aidan Baur scoring on a wild pitch.
Stephen Pagano proved that baseball is definitely the national pastime by penning “30 by 30.” The book documents the decision by the Marconi resident and three friends to visit each Major League Baseball Stadium before they turned 30.
Greg Grandelli capped his Catholic League baseball career by playing in the Carpenter Cup at the Urban Youth Academy and Citizens Bank Park. In the parochial unit’s opening-round win over Burlington County, the Whitman dweller and Roman Catholic High School graduate, who now attends Immaculata University, drew a walk, knocked in a run, and took part in a triple play. The team advanced to the championship tilt, losing 3–2 to SOL American/Continental at the Phillies’ stadium.
To play for the Neumann-Goretti baseball team is to have a chance to be a part of history each game. On June 16, the Saints earned permanent placement in the program’s annals by winning their first state championship. They emerged as the Class AA conquerors by beating Bishop McCort 3–0 at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Louis Cerino Jr. has been a lover of lacrosse for more than half of his 27 years on this earth. He saw more of the third rock from the sun by joining the Boston Megamen for their involvement in the Ales Hrebesky Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic. The club ended up falling in the quarterfinals.
The EOM Athletic Association has generated a strong reputation for producing softball standouts. The 11 members of the 8-and-under club at the Pennsport facility joined other legends by winning the Garden State-based Summer Classic.
Frank Sorrentino used to struggle to maintain a healthy body. Fully committing himself to bolstering his frame and resolve, the Lower Moyamensing product, who now calls New Jersey home, continued his transformation by winning three trophies in the Allentown-situated Ultimate Physique Championships.
The Irish Pub’s 29th annual Tour de Shore had a very distinctive South Philly feel to it. Friends Marisa Campagna and Tina Pierandozzi, of Girard Estate and Lower Moyamensing, respectively, and Marconi native Kathy Murphy participated in the 65-mile bicycle ride that secures financial assistance for children in need and the families of fallen first responders in the Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey areas.
Ryan Howard long wowed Phillies fans with his prodigious home run blasts. Before completing his tenure with the club, the Big Piece showed his altruistic side in a huge way, helping the Marian Anderson Recreation Center to celebrate the opening of his eponymous training center.
In a year rife with tension, Pokemon GO ended up being one of 2016’s most celebrated diversions. The Packer Park-situated Martial Arts Hero Factory joined the fun by overseeing a hunt for the augmented reality characters in Marconi Plaza.
Since its 2011 inception, the South Philadelphia Tennis Association has sought to align itself with local entities to promote the sport of a lifetime. South Philly Review Readers’ Choice Award winner Bryan Hughes secured a huge benefactor through its connection with the Friends of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. The latter helped the SPTA to promote its seasonal programming, including the scorching Summer Sizzler.
The green space also helped residents to beat the oppressive summer heat through Wheel Fun Rentals options. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation teamed with the overseer to enable locals and visitors to enjoy various bicycle selections and aquatic opportunities at The Lakes.
Two Catholic League titles and a state championship made Kevin Schneider an appealing candidate for the Immaculata University baseball program. The former Passyunk Square product chose to depart from Neumann-Goretti to lead the Colonial States Athletic Conference club.
Having helped track and field athletes to frustrate foes at Neumann-Goretti, Lincoln Townsend, familiar with the club through assistant coach duties, assumed the head position for the institution’s football team. Despite great expectations, a dwindled roster and relative inexperience led to the suspension of the season, leading even to the cancellation of the Saints’ typical tilt with South Philadelphia High School on Thanksgiving.
Ahead of the NFL’s opening weekend, the South Philly Review looked at how well the Eagles were preparing under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The season began promising thanks to a 3–0 start under rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, but the Birds, who will host Dallas at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day, will miss the playoffs. They enter the matchup with the league’s 18th-ranked defense.
Rugby has gained exceptional acclaim in the sporting world lately, including the sevens version’s initial inclusion in the Rio Summer Olympics. Regi Mendoza showed that the game has local appeal, too, by playing for the Philadelphia Gryphons Rugby Football Club, which uses Columbus Square Park and Vare Recreation Center as practice sites.
Point Breeze residents were certainly at a loss two years ago when the City of Philadelphia, in conjunction with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, shut down DiSilvestro Recreation Center. Thanks to an extensive commitment to the health and wellness of locals, the entities opened an adjacent health center, revamped the Free Library’s South Philadelphia Branch, and gave the green space a complete overhaul, with Pennsport’s Steve Jacobs overseeing operations.
While enjoying the present, many often look to the future, especially when considering who might foster their fascination with sports. For baseball fans, the Phillie Phanatic has proven that reliable encourager since 1978, and when the franchise ponders future occupiers of the costume, it should consider Riley Marciante. The Marconi resident captured Fan of the Year honors by portraying the Mini Phanatic, even riding a red four-wheeler to fans’ delight.
The Salvation Army and the Police Athletic League united at the Grays Ferry PAL Center to celebrate the opening of the city’s 18th such haven for recreational and educational pursuits. More than 100 youths were on hand for the dedication, which ended PAL’s two-year absence from the neighborhood.
With just four wins in its first two seasons combined, the football team at The Academy at Palumbo had not struck much fear in anyone’s hearts entering this season. However, thanks to dedicated instruction from coach Scott Pitzner and commitment to becoming more responsible individuals, the Griffins began to show signs of vast improvement, including their 36–8 league throttling over Roxborough at the South Philadelphia Super Site.
Bill Werndl has logged five decades in the sports industry, with that impressive run helping him to make many South Philly-based ties through his devotion to the city’s professional teams. The 70-year-old immortalized many of his experiences through “No Curveballs: My Greatest Sports Stories Never Told,” which he promoted through an event at Chickie’s & Pete’s.
Generoso “Jerry” Rullo, the last surviving member of the 1947 Philadelphia Warriors, who won the inaugural championship in the Basketball Association of America, the precursor to the NBA, died at 94. The respected product of Grays Ferry went on to have a commendable career with the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department following his professional hoops journey.
The Philadelphia Flyers celebrated their 50th anniversary season by holding a posthumous ceremony for founder Ed Snider. The renowned businessman helped to build the clubs that won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and ’75.
For the second time in three seasons, the girls’ volleyball team at The Academy at Palumbo emerged as the Public League champion. Coach Erik Goldstein and his Hawthorne-based bunch downed Masterman 3–2 at Community College of Philadelphia to win the title.
Mike “Zoom” Zolk gave his all when playing for the Neumann-Goretti baseball team, which he helped to win the 2011 Catholic League championship. The proud alumnus, who also starred for the University of North Carolina, will return to South Philly as the Saints’ new head coach.
Because of the cancellation of the rest of Neumann-Goretti’s gridiron slate, Southern squared off against the Academy at Palumbo on Thanksgiving. The latter won the contest 8–6 at the South Philadelphia super site to secure its first winning season.
Neumann-Goretti star Quade Green committed to play basketball for the University of Kentucky. The dynamic guard will join a storied program that has won eight national championships and that has, under coach John Calipari, become a pipeline for molding players for the NBA.
Professional wrestler Lio Rush has come a long way in only 22 years. The former All-American track star has become a Ring of Honor star, and he headed to Whitman’s 2300 Arena to tape competition with other stars in the wake of their employer’s Final Battle pay-per-view event.
Santino Nave and Aidan Welch, of Packer Park and Whitman, respectively, have proven amazing contributors to the Roman Catholic High School baseball team. The hurlers made Cahillite Country proud by committing to Lock Haven and Millersville universities, respectively.
The 2300 Arena again appealed to fans of high-flying action by welcoming the House of Hardcore to town. Tommy Dreamer has long proven a star in the wrestling community and promoted a successful celebration for House of Hardcore’s 22nd event and seventh in Philadelphia.
Karamo Dioubate used to cause fits for quarterbacks and running backs when playing for West Passyunk’s Prep Charter. Having committed to Penn State University, he changed his mind and opted for a local opportunity, joining the Temple University squad. The Owls ventured to Annapolis to face Wake Forest in Tuesday’s Military Bowl, falling 34–26. SPR
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org.