BLUE FLAME KEEP PACE FOR CHANCE TO SNEAK INTO PLAYOFFS
By Bill Kenny
A group of Lodge 5 members have been using football to represent their city on a national scale this spring while raising money for charities including the FOP’s own Survivors Fund.
The Philadelphia Blue Flame roster also features several Local 22 firefighters and members of other public safety agencies from around the Delaware Valley who have already gone head-to-head against teams from Baltimore, Orlando, Roanoke and New York.
The lone blemish on Philadelphia’s won-loss record was an April 15 defeat to the nine-time league champion NYPD at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York – a game in which the Blue Flame helped pay tribute to an Army football player who recently lost his life in an auto crash. The victim, Brandon Jackson, was the son of an NYPD detective and former Army teammate of Blue Flame co-founder Joe Hansbury’s son.
Philadelphia is one of 22 teams competing in the National Public Safety Football League. It’s semi-pro style football with full pads and full contact, based on NCAA rules. Many of the players have college-level and even professional experience, although some didn’t even play high school ball.
The Blue Flame opened its campaign on March 25 with a scrimmage in Baltimore against the host Warhawks. Although scores and statistics were not recorded, Philly clearly dominated all aspects of play.
With a large contingent of new young players on the roster, head coach Chalie Szydlik’s team was hoping to mount a strong challenge to the powerful and deep NY Finest squad in their regular season opener. But the West Point game didn’t play out that way. Relying on their overall team speed and intricate passing attack, the NYPD toppled Philly, 42-13.
But the Blue Flame has been on a roll ever since.
On April 22, Philadelphia traveled to Central Florida and beat the previously undefeated Orlando Guardians, 30-9. Jamarr Leary, a former Olney High standout, rushed for 175 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown in the first quarter that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
Quarterback Trevor Pendleton, a former Cardinal Dougherty signal-caller, impressed in his first start for the Blue Flame with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Nick Lewis and rushing touchdowns of two and 42 yards. Lewis caught a touchdown and kicked two extra points.
Defensively, the Blue Flame began the game with a safety as Joe Rauchut and Ray Brook tackled an Orlando punter in the end zone. The shutout lasted until late in the third quarter when an Orlando recorded a safety. The hosts scored their lone touchdown on a pass play with five minutes left in the game.
On May 6, the Blue Flame routed the Roanoke Rampage from western Virginia, 34-8, in Philly’s first home game at Somerton Youth Organization field.
Tight end Edwin Vaughan emerged as the team’s newest offensive standout. He caught a 47-yard pass from Pendleton midway through the second quarter to set up the quarterback’s three-yard touchdown run that opened the scoring.
With about four minutes left in the first half, Pendleton found wide receiver Jesse Scott alone behind the Roanoke defense for a 57-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 Philadelphia lead.
Midway through the third quarter, Vaughan caught Rob Dougherty’s screen pass and rumbled 70 yards for a third Blue Flame touchdown. Leary’s touchdown runs of two yards and 16 yards ran the score to 34-0 early in the fourth quarter.
Leary totaled 125 rushing yards while Pendleton had 104 yards passing and 35 rushing. Dougherty, a former Bishop McDevitt signal-caller, passed for another 87 yards.
With a 2-1 league record, the Blue Flame still has a shot at qualifying for the NPSFL postseason, but will need some other results to go its way. Philly closed its league season at home on May 20 against the St. Louis Heat. Philadelphia’s final regular season game will be down the Shore on June 3.
The Blue Flame will host New York’s Strongest, a team of sanitation police, in Cape May County near Wildwood.