By Heather Mook, special to the Panther Press
Friday nights are usually celebrated as the unofficial start to the weekend. On Friday, July 12, the French Creek Valley Senior Legion team** (FCV) wasn’t rejoicing. FCV was on the brink of elimination after losing the opening game of the Crawford Venango American Legion (CVAL) league playoffs to Franklin, 4-2.
Despite a .500 regular-season record and with just one loss away from their season ending, the players pulled together with the relentless encouragement of manager Adam Bronson and coach Jeff Millin. FCV went on to defeat Titusville 9-2 and avenged their opening loss to Franklin, 13-3.
FCV faced CVAL foe Meadville Italian Civic Club (ICC) in the championship game. ICC had FCV’s number all regular season, beating them by 7+ runs, on three separate occasions, and they would have their number again, defeating FCV 15-5 to claim their first CVAL title in several years.
FCV knew they would meet ICC again in the Region 8 tournament.
In the Region 8 tournament, which was held July 19-23 in St. Mary’s, ICC had little trouble working its way through the winner’s bracket. On the flip slide, FCV endured yet another opening-round tournament loss to Fort LeBeouf, 4-0. But the FCV team had unfinished business. They rattled off three straight wins to get to the title game, but FCV would have to beat undefeated ICC twice to capture the Region 8 title.
For FCV, the fifth and sixth games against ICC did the trick. Behind two consecutive come-from-behind victories, 8-7 and 6-5, FCV captured their first Region 8 title since 2004. Four FCV players: Spencer Reiser, Levi Henderson, Peyton Hearn, and Walker Cunningham, were named to the Region 8 All-Tournament Team.
FCV advanced to the state tournament in Dubois and finished sixth. Despite two first-round playoff losses, team members clearly learned from manager Adam Bronson’s clear message to them: be resilient.
“They bought in, they grew together, they won a championship together, but most importantly, they stayed together. They’ve revitalized a program and reestablished respect within the community,” Bronson said. “To say I’m proud of these young men is a huge understatement. I’m honored to be their coach, their mentor, their leader, or whatever they need at any given moment.”
Team members include Spencer Reiser, Levi Henderson, Alex Wheeler, Austin Gabel, Peyton Hearn, Peyton Crays, John Woge, Foxx Mook, Asa Henderson, Trent Wheeler, Jaden Grubbs, Walker Cunningham, Brock Cunningham.
**French Creek Valley pulls from specific, designated townships within Crawford County. The majority of the players attend Cambridge Springs, Conneaut Area Senior High, Maplewood, and Saegertown.
Journalism Adviser, Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School