Those of you who know me from my early days in the journalism field know that I’m deeply connected emotionally to my hometown area known as the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania. There’s no better place in America for high school sports. I know that will draw some raised eyebrows, but seriously, I’ll put the area up against any other area in this great county – no matter what sport!
With that as the backdrop, it was with a heavy heart that I heard that the smallest school in the area, Pius X High School in Roseto, is closing its doors at the end of the 2014-15 school year. The reason for the closing is declining enrollment and a growing operating deficit, according to the Archdiocese of Allentown.
Not only are the Pius X Royals one of the smallest schools from the area, they are also one of the smallest teams in the state and nation. Head coach Phil Stambaugh had a roster of 31 players last year, which is almost half of the total number of boys in the school. Stambaugh estimates that school’s total male enrollment was between 65 and 70 boys.
Those numbers didn’t prevent the Royals from being a darn good football program. Pius, which won the Pennsylvania District XI championship in 2014, will finish with an overall record of 365-242-15. Overall, the Royals won five district titles.
In 2010 and 2011, I spent a lot of time in Roseto developing a documentary on the tiny school that was doing big things for its kids on-and-off the field. In many ways the team was the town and the town was all about the team.
When I text Stambaugh, who also graduated from Pius before going-on to Lehigh University, NFL Europe and then the NFL, to tell him how sorry I was to hear about the closing, he responded exactly how I though he would, “Awful news, very sad and depressing.”
I’ll write more about the program over the weekend, but for now, below is a behind-the-scenes look at Stambaugh’s first game as head coach back in 2010. In the video you’ll see current Syracuse starting quarterback A.J. Long, who started as a freshman and flourished under Stambaugh’s mentorship.