Featured image: Tom Keenan
North Catholic may be closed, but the school’s spirit is alive and well. This was evident Sunday afternoon as a crowd of more than 300 assembled to celebrate the 6th Annual North Catholic Soccer Hall of Fame Induction.
Philadelphia Union defender Chris Albright served as the guest speaker at this year’s ceremony, which was held at Romano’s Caterers in the city’s Juniata Park section. As a child, Albright lived just a few blocks away. He joked with the audience about being a Penn Charter boy but clearly connected his success to North’s soccer alums, including his first coach, Jimmy Fallon, and his uncle and former coach, Larry Sullivan. Both are members of North’s Hall of Fame.
“Three of the most influential people in my career are here today: my dad, Jimmy Fallon and Larry Sullivan,” Albright said. “In fact, most of my foundation in the game is in this room today. And the career that I speak of, that took root across the street at Piccoli, had to be nurtured with certain qualities. Qualities that, at the pro level in Major League Soccer and the national teams, Philly players are identified with: character, hard work, honesty, loyalty, toughness, both mentally and physically. Those truly are what separates a Philly player from the rest. And believe me; they understand that at the professional level. And maybe that’s what gets us there in the first place. We’re often not as talented as the next guy, the kid that maybe had a little more growing up, but those characteristics allow us to overachieve.”
The 2013 North Catholic Soccer Hall of Fame inductees truly embody the qualities described by Albright. Below is a brief description of their accomplishments.
- Mike Wissman, ’65
Wissman grew up playing for Lighthouse Boys Club. He came to North and helped his team achieve a perfect record in 1962 (19-0-0) and win 3 Catholic League Championships (1962-64). He received All-Catholic, All-Scholastic and All-City honors. After high school Mike coached and served as one of the original board members at Philly Soccer Club.
- E. Michael Flanagan, ’67
Flanagan also played for Lighthouse Boys Club as a youth. His contributions at North helped secure two Catholic League Championships (1965-66) and earned him All-Catholic, All-Scholastic and All-City honors. At the club level, Michael played on the Lighthouse 49ers team that won the 1967 National Junior Cup. He went off to college at the US Naval Academy where he was a lead scorer and eventually served as an assistant coach.
- Jim Fallon, ’67
Fallon was another Lighthouse product. His contributions at North helped secure two Catholic League Championships (1965-66) and earned him All-Catholic honors. He went on to college and played for Temple University. Jim stayed connected to the sport as a coach and a referee. He played a key role in forming the Juniata Youth Soccer Association, a top quality program that produced a number of the city’s finest players.
- Dennis “Buff” Drumm, ’71
Yet another Lighthouse product, Drumm’s contributions at North helped secure the 1970 Catholic League Championship and earned him All-Catholic honors. His performance on the field was also recognized by the Old Timer’s Association. Dennis returned to North to coach the JV team and also coached at the college level. He ran programs at both Community College and Beaver College.
- Jerry Blaney, ’75
Blaney played for Lighthouse and later helped North secure the 1974 Catholic League Championship and earned him All-Catholic honors. Jerry also played in the majors for Lighthouse and the Ukrainian Nationals, seeing National Cup competition. He went off to college to play for Saint Joseph’s University where he eventually served as an assistant coach. Jerry served as a youth coach for 14 years and is a founding member of Lighthouse Soccer Club.
- John Friskey, ’79
Friskey played for the Kensington Ramblers as a youth player. He came to North and helped his team achieve two Catholic League Championships and two City Titles (1977-78). He received All-Catholic and All-City honors. He went off to college at La Salle University where he received Regional All-American and All-East Coast Conference and Soccer 7 honors.
- Jim Hooven, ’80
Hooven grew up playing in Juniata Park. He came to North and helped his team achieve two Catholic League Championships, two City Titles (1978-79) and a 36-game unbeaten streak. He received All-Catholic and All-City honors. He went off to college at La Salle University, where his team won 3 consecutive MAC championships (81-83). Jim returned to North to coach the freshman team and also coached at Lighthouse Soccer Club.
- Mike Schmanek,’84
Schmanek grew up playing for Lighthouse Boys Club. He was a key member of the Lighthouse Americans team earning State Select Team honors for helping his squad win the U16 State Cup. At North, he was a star defender. His contributions earned All-Catholic, All-Scholastic and Philadelphia Daily News All-City honors. After North Mike played for Spring Garden College and for the Ukrainian Nationals, where his team enjoyed multiple titles and Cup appearances.
- Tony Rod, Jr., ’98
Tony grew up playing for Kensington Ramblers. His performance at North earned him All-Catholic honors and the Catholic League MVP Award. He went on to play for Villanova University. He remains an active alum, serving on the North Catholic Soccer Hall of Fame Committee.
While Philadelphia’s soccer history is littered with great players and clubs, North Catholic Soccer will be forever recognized for blazing a unique trail in Philadelphia.
Albright’s remarks summed it up nicely: “Everything that soccer has brought me would not have been possible without the foundation that was forged by the people in this room and the ones that came before them. Benny McLaughlin, Larry Sullivan, Jimmy Fallon, Pat Farrell, Eddie Blaney, Michael Sullivan, Patty Morris.
“I could stand here all day naming guys with red jackets and guys that don’t have red jackets,” Albright continued. “But all those guys created a mold, an idea of what a Philly soccer player should look like, should act like, should talk like, should play like. The path for me was already made. I just had to follow it. And I’m very grateful for that.”