It's all in the Feifel family
Mike Feifel has been coaching high school football for 23 years, including the last six as the offensive coordinator at Southern Lehigh.
Feifel probably thought he had seen and done it all when it comes to game week preparations and distractions. Afterall, he had been part of the Allentown Central Catholic coaching staff in the 90s when the Vikings won a pair of PIAA State Championships.
But nothing during the near quarter of a century that Feifel has been coaching was quite like the opening week of the 2012 season.
That's because last Friday night, Feifel's Spartans opened the season against Northern Lehigh. Playing a team that has reached three consecutive District 11 championship games and has the reputation of being a defensive powerhouse is enough to keep any offensive coordinator awake at nights.
But Feifel has game planned against plenty of strong defensive teams in his coaching career. What he had never done until last week was game plan against his son.
That's right, Feifel's son Zach Feifel is a starting senior defensive tackle for the Bulldogs. Dad spent the enitre week trying to find the best way to attack his son and the rest of the Bulldogs.
"When we went against Northern Lehigh the last couple of years, Zach was on the team, but was limited to playing special teams," explained Mike Feifel. "With him starting on defense this year, it was a whole new experience for me.
"I can honestly say this was different than any other week of preparation I've ever had."
Feifel said a couple of the "unusual" circumstances he faced were watching his son on film as he was trying to devise a game plan to attack the Bulldogs, and sharing family time with Zach during the week after both teams had finished practice every night.
"In all honesty, as difficult as it was at times to have to be game-planning to beat your son, it was something we've been having a good time with since last year," said Mike. "We've had a lot of fun with it, talking some trash, getting on each other about who was going to win, that kind of stuff.
"Although when it got to game week, we really didn't talk about it. Usually we talk a lot of football during the course of the season. We talk about our games that week, about the previous week's game, about interesting things that happened at practice. But last week, dinner conversations kind of steered clear from football."
Among the big crowd on Friday night at Bulldog Stadium were a couple dozen members of the Feifel family. But there was no split allegiance.
"They were all on the Northern Lehigh side," laughed Mike. "None of them were cheering for me. Everyone was there to support Zach."
In the end, Zach Feifel and the Bulldogs had the upper hand on Mike Feifel and the Spartans.
Northern Lehigh scored a pair of touchdown before Southern Lehigh even ran an offensive play. The Spartan lost four fumbles in the game and were handed a 33-7 setback.
"I guess Zach now has bragging rights forever," said Mike.
Zach said he cut his dad some slack immediately following the game.
"We drove home from the game together and I could tell he wasn't very happy so I didn't really say too much, Zach recalled. "But I definitely got some digs in over the weekend.
"I was waiting for this for awhile. Not only was it my first game as a starter, but for it to be against the team my dad coaches made it really special.
Zach said it's already back to normal at the Feifel house.
"I hope things go well for both of us the rest of the year," he said. "As long as we can win the league championship, he can be second."
I'm not sure, but I think Zach just got in another dig.
SUPER START ... You can't start a season any better than Northern Lehigh did on Friday night.
Against Southern Lehigh, the Bulldogs' Darien Middaugh returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown.
In the past 20 seasons (including this year), this is the sixth time a TIMES NEWS area player started the season by returning the opening kickoff for a TD.
The last player to do it was Jim Thorpe's Craig Zurn, who began the 2004 season with a 92-yard return against Tamaqua.
Others who accomplished the feat include:
Marian's Vito Digilio (2003, 87 vs. PM West)
Northwestern's Austin Bleam (2002, 88 at Notre Dame)
Northwestern's Jon Suter (1997, 80 vs. Palisades)
Northwestern's Steve Pagan (1993, 85 at Hamburg)
QUITE A CATCH ... In Friday's game against Tamaqua, Jim Thorpe's Khaaliq Lynch caught 11 passes for 185 yards.
Lynch is just the fourth TIMES NEWS area player since 1993 to catch more than 10 passes in a game.
Last year, Lehighton's Jacen Nalesnik also had 11 in a game against PM East.
Lehighton's Shane McEvoy did it twice during the 2007 season, finishing with 11 receptions against both Stroudsburg and Northwestern. The Olympians' Josh Hontz also had 11 catches in a game during the 2007 season. Hontz, like Lynch, accomplished the feat against Tamaqua.
A HANDFUL OF PICKS ... Tamaqua intercepted five passes on Friday night against Jim Thorpe.
Since 1993, this is the 11th time a TIMES NEWS area team has picked off five passes in a game.
The last time it happened was Oct. 10, 2008 when Northwestern had five interceptions against Notre Dame.
The Tigers also did it in 2006 and join Lehighton (2003 & 1995) and Panther Valley (2008 & 1998) as the three teams to have accomplished it more than once over that time frame.
Other TN teams to achieve five picks in a game include Palmerton (2005), Pleasant Valley (2004), Jim Thorpe (2001) and Northern Lehigh (1996).
One of the five Tamaqua interceptions was returned 97 yards for a touchdown. Dalton Nunemacher's return was the longest by a TN player since Northern Lehigh's Matt Sutjak brought a pick back 100 yards for a score back on Sept. 17, 2004.