This week, for the profit-centristic print version of Washington City Paper, I wrote about Bernie Dancel, who gives a lot of money away to do-gooder efforts all across the region. My story focused mainly on the money Dancel’s given to the football program at Our Lady of Good Counsel, which heads into the 2010 season as the top-rated prep squad around here. (The ESPN networks recently announced they’d put a Good Counsel game, against St. Xavier of Cincinnati, on national TV.) Pick up a paper, read the column, shop with our advertisers, save the whales.
I’ve been intrigued by Dancel’s gridiron giving penchant ever since Good Counsel changed the name of its home stadium to Dancel Field. I told Bernie Dancel he reminded me of Joe McCoy, a character in “Friday Night Lights” who’s spent tons of his own money on the Dillon Panthers. And Dancel, like McCoy, happens to be the father of a star quarterback: Zach Dancel of Good Counsel is ranked as the top rated QB in the state of Maryland for the class of 2011, while J.D. McCoy (pictured here) is the blue-chip prospect for the Panthers.
I didn’t have room in the column to go over all the local references that have shown up on “Friday Night Lights” since the show debuted on NBC. The Panthers’ wild and crazy fullback in the early days of the program was named “Riggins,” and clearly modeled after John Riggins of the Redskins. And when Riggins puts together a highlight reel to send to college scouts, it includes a clip of him bowling over an opposing safety downfield, and he and his buddies and his buddies agree it looked like “Brandon Jacobs running over Laron Landry.” And then there’s Coach McGregor, a character billed as a high school coaching legend while he served as Coach Taylor’s brief replacement at Dillon a couple season ago; around here, we’ve got DeMatha’s Bill McGregor, who has long been ranked among the best prep coaches in the game. One sign of the real McGregor’s standing: Nine of his former players at DeMatha were on NFL rosters last season, something no other high school coach or team in the country could claim. The Riggins, Landry and McGregor similarities aren’t an accident: “Friday Night Lights” executive producer Peter Berg is pals with Dan Snyder, and sits in the Redskins owner’s box at FedExField on game days for years.
Any relations between the Dancels and McCoys, however, are coincidental. The McCoy story line already appeared onscreen before Zach Dancel threw a pass for Good Counsel.
I also didn’t have enough column inches to get too much into how heated the Good Counsel/DeMatha rivalry has gotten since Zach Dancel led the Olney school to its first WCAC football title last season, capped by Good Counsel’s 14-7 win over DeMatha in the conference championship. What a drama!
DeMatha backers, who are only used to finishing seasons with titles, were crushed to find out after the game that Zach Dancel had been getting personal quarterback training from Chris Baucia, DeMatha’s longtime offensive coordinator, who runs a side business with football camps and one-on-one tutelage of QBs. ‘Course, Baucia had also been teaching kids from schools all over the area. But the rancor was such that Baucia, as I reported in the column, was banned by the school from helping Dancel or any QB from another WCAC school. Applications to the recent summer camps run by Baucia’s training school, called the QB Factory, included the following disclaimer: “No Player may be accepted or attend this program if they attend a WCAC Private School. DeMatha Catholic HS has deemed this a conflict of Interest and will not allow Coach Baucia to train a player that attends a WCAC high school.” Among the things I didn’t get into, however, is that since the loss to Good Counsel, DeMatha’s followers have come up with all kinds of theories on why they didn’t come out on top this time. Everything is on the table. My favorite rumor is that the WCAC title game was fixed. Yup, some Stags fans are actually convinced that money exchanged hands and caused their team to not have a fair chance at beating Good Counsel on that November day in Annapolis.
Wowie! I’ve been a big high school football fan for a long time, and I’ve never heard anything quite like that before; “Friday Night Lights” writers have never concocted a story line so wacky as a fixed high school football game. Then again, Good Counsel and DeMatha now play high school football at a level that I know very little about. Who needs NBC’s fictional football show when we’ve got this kind of theater being played out on fields in our own backyard?
The next episode of the Good Counsel/DeMatha football rivalry/soap opera comes on Friday, October 8, under the lights at…Dancel Field.