Jeff Blizzard has seen his fair share of success during 11-plus seasons as head coach of the Plymouth Whitemarsh Colonials. Positive outcomes include a share of the 2009-2010 Suburban One League Continental/American Conference title, five trips to the Eastern Pa. team regional tournament, and two 300 games (Chris Hammes in Feb. 2008 and Julius Selfinger in Jan. 2012).
However, PW hasn’t sent any individual or team to the state championships since 2006, the year before regionals existed. In 2005, Scott Petalcio (90th out of 165) and Dave Stufflet (118th) competed in the singles event in Pittsburgh. During the 2006 competition in Lancaster, the Colonials finished in 41st out of 42 teams and the singles event featured Stufflet (35th out of 188), Chris Lawler (38th), Anthony DeSante (50th), and Kevin Rexroth (84th).
Entering the 2015-2016 season, the Colonials seemed optimistic about their chances to qualify for not only regionals, but also states. Last season, PW finished fifth in the eight-team conference, yet it sent three individuals (Jake Gum, Dom Procaccino, and Jake Newell) and the team to regionals. Procaccino and Newell would return along with Matt Amadio, Sean Diorio, and John Hansel.
So far, the Colonials are 17-15 and 12-12 in Continental/American action while averaging 885.22 pins per conference game. During the first three conference matches, PW was 10-2 and outscored foes by an average of 924.33 to 833.77 a set. The following three matches had seen the Colonials go 2-10 and were outscored, 926.44 to 846.55 a game.
The Colonials don’t return to the lanes until Jan. 6 when they host Upper Dublin at Facenda Whitaker Lanes in East Norriton. Upper Dublin doesn’t usually receive 200s from a bowler or a team-combined 900 game. Including this contest, the Colonials have eight conference matches and a Feb. 4 nonleague tussle at Council Rock South (Brunswick Zone XL in Feasterville) remaining on the docket.
At this point, Newell leads the Colonials with 184.94 per conference game. Amadio gets 168.03, Diorio posts 178.38, Hansel notches 181.61, and Procaccino tallies 177.38. Jared Young had participated in the previous two matches since Amadio was absent, posting 152.5 a set.
If we compare this season’s statistics to the 2014-2015 top 12 individuals and six SOL teams, none of the Colonials or even the team would advance to regionals; postseason berths solely depend on conference results (nonleague matches don’t factor into qualifying). The conference’s 12th-ranked bowler last season had been North Penn’s Lucas Denton with 185.63. PW earned the sixth and final spot to team regionals by nine-hundreths of a pin (the Colonials averaged 903.98 a game while CR South had 903.89); the Colonials right now would be one spot below that CR South squad.
Seven Colonials will participate in this season’s SOL championships on Feb. 10 at Thunderbird Lanes in Willow Grove. The participants with the three highest series who don’t have a top-12 conference average will also move on to regionals. Newell advanced to the 2015 regional as a conference wild card after he was accidentally announced as one of the three additional qualifiers.
Procaccino hasn’t adjusted comfortably to the anchor role from his days as the four hole. Last season, he had 186.61 pins a set (11th in Continental/American) while PW three hole Josh Pierce rolled every ball at least 18 miles an hour en route to 169.94 a set. This season, however, has seen Procaccino as the Colonials’ speed demon, including being clocked at 20.1 mph and higher on every roll in a 3-1 loss vs. Upper Moreland on Dec. 16.
Perhaps the Colonials could improve their outlook by rearranging their lineup. SOL National member Pennsbury had adjusted its lineup with lowest scorer at leadoff and highest at anchor; the changes were done by bowler request and each Falcon posted at least 640 (out of 900) in a victory against Harry S. Truman on Dec. 16. Blizzard had Newell and Hansel swap spots in a 3-1 loss at North Penn on Dec. 23, and should entertain the possibility of moving Procaccino out of the anchor slot if he continues to struggle handling the pressure at that position.
Leisure Lanes in Lancaster plans on holding this season’s regional competition on March 4 (individuals) and 5 (teams). The top 12 individuals and six teams will advance to states, which is scheduled to take place on March 18 and 19 at North Versailles Bowling Center in Pittsburgh suburb North Versailles.
Qualifying for states can be a daunting task for each individual based on the results from the 2015 regional. The 12th state qualifier totaled 1,130 in a five-set series, meaning you needed at least 226 per game. At the state championships in Ephrata (222 Dutch Lanes), that 12th qualifier, Neshaminy’s Dave Moffitt, defeated Armstrong’s Jared Shaner in a roll-off to capture state gold.
Newell could potentially become a contender to qualify for states based on his best performance up to this point. During the Snowroller Showdown on Dec. 19 at Leisure Lanes, Newell posted a tournament-best 745 three-game series with nothing lower than 223. Hammes holds the PW high series record of 746 from Jan. 6, 2010.