A. C. Cain

Finding the major stories in the minor leagues

Tag: BCIAA

Twin Valley Raiders’ season ends with County Tournament loss

On February 6, 2016, the Berks Catholic Saints defeated the Twin Valley Raiders in the BCIAA Girl’s Basketball quarterfinals by a score of 51-23.

The Twin Valley Raiders played the Berks Catholic Saints in the quarterfinals of the BCIAA Tournament at Exeter Township Senior High School. (Photo: Ariane Cain/Full Sail University)

The Twin Valley Raiders played the Berks Catholic Saints in the quarterfinals of the BCIAA Tournament at Exeter Township Senior High School. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The Raiders appeared to be easily overmatched. At halftime the Saints led by 18 points, and scored the first 14 points of the third quarter. The Saints Devon Merritt was the leading scorer for the game, despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter.

Twin Valley’s bid for the championship ended quickly, while the Saints are projected to go deep into the tournament. Twin Valley was the 7th seed in the tournament, out of 8, while Berks Catholic was seeded 2.

The Raiders didn’t have a bad season, with a league record of 5-5 and an overall record of 14-9. They finished third in their conference, behind Berks Catholic with a 10-0 league record and 17-4 overall record, and Conrad Weiser.

The Raiders' bench watches the game as Berks Catholic scores again, increasing their lead. (Photo: Ariane Cain/Full Sail University)

The Raiders’ bench watches the game as Berks Catholic scores again, increasing their lead. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

The Saints seem to have been the Raiders weakness all season, winning both regular season games. The first game was tight, with a final score of 31-27. The margin grew in the second meeting, with a final score of 56-36. The story between the two teams culminated on Saturday afternoon, with the Saints winning by their largest margin yet.

Despite being overmatched and outplayed, the Raiders kept fighting. Mark Morrow, the Raiders’ coach, refused to let them give-up, searching for anyway to motivate the disheartened team.

Raiders' fans look on as Mark Morrow attempts to rally his team before the fourth quarter begins. (Photo: Ariane Cain/Full Sail University)

Raiders’ fans look on as Mark Morrow attempts to rally his team before the fourth quarter begins. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

Despite a lack-luster student section, the Raiders continued to compete through the entire game, lessening the Saints’ lead during the fourth quarter when all of the starters had been replaced. They drew fouls from the Saints’ second-string, and slowly chipped away at the insurmountable point margin.

The Twin Valley student section watches the second half of the game. (Photo: Ariane Cain/Full Sail University)

The Twin Valley student section watches the second half of the game. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

When the game finished the team was understandably upset, unable to see the pride they should have. The odds were stacked against them, but they were able to make their season last long enough to qualify for the County Tournament, a tournament only 8 schools were able to participate in. Twin Valley’s season may have ended sooner than they wanted, but it lasted longer than many other teams. Only one team can end the season with a win, and maybe the Raiders will soon be able to say that they lost to the County Champions.

A Twin Valley player prepares to leave the court immediately after the game.

A Twin Valley player prepares to leave the court immediately after the game. (Photo: Ariane Cain)

Exeter’s athletic success causes the community to pay attention

On January 29th the Exeter Eagles defeated the Wilson Bulldogs to win the school’s first County Wrestling title. For a school that, until recently, was never known for its athletics, the maiden championship seems to be a symbol of the school’s recent successes. As far as Exeter is concerned, winning is certainly contagious.

The front of Exeter Township Senior High School with its signature eagle.

The front of Exeter Township Senior High School with its signature eagle. Photo: Ariane Cain.

In 2014 the girl’s tennis team won the schools first district title in the sport, and repeated as District III champions in October.

The football team won the Berks County Championship, and hosted the school’s first home district playoff game in November.

In the past few years Exeter has begun to emerge as an athletic threat, and the effects are being felt throughout the entire community.

William Cain has been the principal at Exeter Township Senior High School for five years, after joining the district as an assistant principal in 2007. He has had a front row seat for the athletic transformation. In his first two years at the school the football team had a 1-19 record.

The trophy cases outside of the senior high gym celebrate all of the school's athletic accomplishments. Photo by Ariane Cain

The trophy cases outside of the senior high gym celebrate all of the school’s athletic accomplishments.
Photo: Ariane Cain

“It’s really amazing when you look at it,” Cain said. “What the tennis team has done, and the football team, and now the wrestling team. It’s great.”

According to the 2010 US Census, Exeter Township has a population of 25,550. It is a large community, and boasts the 4th largest school district in Berks County. Exeter Township Senior High School has just over 1,400 students, with a senior class of 388 students according to the 2015-2016 school profile.

Exeter Township School District Athletic Program supports 14 different sports and boasts 67 different teams within these 14 sports. According to the 2014-2015 Interscholastic Title IX Disclosure Form, the high school alone has 757 student athletes.

These student athletes have recently brought their community together to support the athletic program and the schools.

Now when one drives down Rt. 422, the central road in Exeter, signs of the school district’s presence are everywhere.

The Exeter Dairy Queen sign congratulating the wrestling team on their recent championship. Photo by Ariane Cain

The Exeter Dairy Queen sign congratulating the wrestling team on their recent championship. Photo: Ariane Cain

The electronic sign outside of the local Dairy Queen boasts of recent athletic accomplishments and honors specific student athletes each week. Every team that wins a championship is honored on the Dairy Queen sign, as well as specific athletes being honored each week. The restaurant’s owner, Hamid Chaundry, donated a new video scoreboard for Exeter’s Don Thomas Stadium over the summer.

The local Giant grocery store has a spirit wear display, where it offers Exeter Eagles merchandise alongside Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies merchandise. With the recent rise in success, the community of Exeter has found new home teams to rally behind.

The rack at the local Giant selling Exeter spirit wear. Photo by Ariane Cain

The rack at the local Giant selling Exeter spirit wear.
Photo: Ariane Cain

Abigail Rutt, Exeter’s girl’s tennis assistant coach and an Exeter alumna, has noticed the impact the athletic success has had on both the community and the students.

“It gives them a sense of belonging, of being part of something,” Rutt said. “For all of them it provides a shared experience that gives them a connection to each other, to the school community, to the athletic community, the list goes on.”

The Reading Fightin’ Phils have hosted “Exeter Night” for the past two seasons, and will again this coming season, to recognize the school’s athletic accomplishments. Residents are offered free tickets, and it has become one of the busiest nights each season.

“It has even been more unifying within the school community,” Cain said. “It has brought together all different groups to support each other and share the success.”

This past season, for the first time, the high school had to pre-sell football tickets in order to eliminate a backup at the gates on game night. The athletic program’s recent successes have given the community something to brag about, and all of Exeter Township intends to make the most of it.

For local scholastic athletes, community recognition helps

Nearly every professional athlete, at some point in his career, thanks the fans and the city for contributing to his success, but is the connection between a community and a player or team really that important?

Many studies answer yes, and a quick look at the Exeter Township Senior High School Girls’ Tennis program shows that the relationship between a team and the community is a lot more important than one might expect.

When Abigail Rutt began coaching Exeter’s girls’ tennis team as an assistant coach, the team was far from the best. Now, 9 years later, the team is division, Berks County, and District III Champions for the second consecutive year.

For several years the team played at the community park across a creek from the school. Their matches were sparsely attended, and many other teams overlooked the small program.

When the on-campus courts were resurfaced, the team relocated to its original home next to the football field. Suddenly every team knew when the team had matches. The football team walks past on the way up from the practice field and doesn’t hesitate to clap and cheer for a good point or a concluding match.

Suddenly, the team had once again become a part of the school community, and as their success began to grow, so did the community’s awareness.

ExeterGirlsTennis

Graphic created by Ariane Cain. Graphic created using easel.ly. Data gathered from PennLive and Berks Game Day.  Graphic shows each tennis season and the team’s record for each year.  Years the team made the playoffs show an individual regular season record, which excludes any county, district, or state tournament results.

In 2014, after becoming the first Girl’s Tennis District Champions in the school’s history, the team was honored during halftime of a football game. Coach Rutt, who served as head coach from 2010-2013 before switching back to assistant coach, references the moment as the time the team began to notice the community’s support.

“Using one of the biggest athletic programs to bring attention to one of the smallest really created a sense of belonging and community within the student-athlete population, and gave the girls a wonderful experience of being recognized and supported by their peers.”

The football game was the first, but not the only, major recognition the girls have received.

The team’s accomplishments have been recognized at school board meetings multiple times. For the past two years the Reading Fightin’ Phils have recognized the team’s accomplishments on the field at FirstEnergy Stadium during “Exeter Night.” The tennis team, along with other Exeter teams, will be honored again this June.

The rise in community attention has had a large impact on the team. Rutt says the support gives the girls great motivation, and the recognition gives them a sense of pride and achievement. They work harder every year to be able to share more accomplishments with the community.

“Their interest in following our program has grown,” Rutt says, talking about the community. “We’ve certainly gotten more recognition as a program, and I like to think the popularity of our sport is growing, all due to our achievements over the past few seasons.”

The girls have done their part to foster the growing relationship between the team and the community. Rutt says the girls have not only helped to expand the high school program, but have also encouraged interest at the younger, developmental levels with a strong presence as volunteers and instructors at local camps and clinics.

Hopefully the success and recognition will prevent the program from fading back to the forgotten team it once was. The smiles that fill the girls’ faces at each event prove that the increased community support has meant a lot to each member of the team. For Rutt, everything is captured by the first public recognition at the football game.

“Walking back into the stands with the girls and watching them being stopped and congratulated by complete strangers was really a thrill.”

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