A Thanksgiving Day Game With A Family Flavor The Father Helps Coach One Team. The Son Is The Quarterback For The Other.

Posted: November 25, 1993

BROOMALL — Harry Gicking will spend his Thanksgiving morning at the Marple Newtown- Conestoga football game, and he'll be a nervous wreck.

He will watch the Conestoga players he has coached all year try to stop his son, Marple Newtown quarterback Chris Gicking. He will watch his son, who has passed for more than 1,500 yards this season, try to carve up the Conestoga defense.

Conestoga coach Bob Novotni has excused Gicking from his assistant-coaching duties for today's 10:30 a.m. game. Gicking will be in the stands struggling with conflicting emotions. It should be a tougher battle than struggling with the schemes of the opposing team.

"After we played Penncrest (on Nov. 13), Bob told me he didn't want me to coach in this game," Gicking said. "He didn't want to put me in a position where I would be coaching against my son. That was very kind of him. He knew I would have torn loyalties in this situation."

Would a tie be the best outcome?

"Yes," he said. "That might be the best way for it to end."

Chris Gicking, seated on the couch adjacent to his father at their Broomall home, did not answer. But the look on the face said it all. He wants more than a tie in the last game of his sensational sophomore season.

*

Because of his son, Harry Gicking decided not to continue as an assistant coach under Bill Manlove at Delaware Valley College this year. A former head coach at Conestoga and assistant at Widener, Gicking wanted to watch his son play this season.

"It's been a lot of fun," said Harry Gicking, who consented to coach at Conestoga this season if he could watch his son even when the Pioneers and Tigers were playing at the same time. "I've only been able to see a few of his games the last couple years. I miss working with Bill Manlove and his staff at Delaware Valley, but I'm glad I did what I did."

Chris Gicking's outstanding performance has something to do with Harry Gicking's enjoyment. The 5-foot-10, 150-pounder became the first Marple Newtown sophomore to pass for more than 1,000 yards since his quarterback coach, Joe Barr, did it in 1985. Gicking has transformed a team that went 2-10 last year into a team that carries a 7-3-1 overall record into today's game.

"I've had good quarterbacks," said Jim Smith, in his seventh year as Marple Newtown's coach. "But the touch this kid has, and the maturity he has, puts him ahead of everybody."

Chris Gicking, 16, has played football since he was 7. He played running back in his first year for the Marple Junior Tigers youth team before he broke a foot. He switched to quarterback the next season and has played the position ever since.

Harry Gicking, of course, played a big part in his son's development as a football player, although he never forced his son to take up the sport. Chris' mother, Suzanne, also made sure that her son developed more than a passing interest in the game.

"She has been very supportive," Harry Gicking said. "On days when I was coaching, she'd throw the football with Chris in the back yard."

Smith did not witness those backyard exhibitions, but he saw enough of Gicking at Paxon Hollow Junior High to realize that he had a star quarterback waiting in the wings.

"I've been watching him since the eighth grade," Smith said. "You could see the poise. You could see that he was a good athlete."

Even Smith is surprised by the sophomore's performance, however.

"I knew he'd be good, but the chance of a sophomore passing for over 1,000 yards is something I never expected," the Marple Newtown coach said.

Gicking tries to deflect the attention. He praises his receivers, he praises his offensive line, and he talks about team accomplishments.

"All of the kids have helped me," he said. "If I throw a bad pass, they'll tell me to forget about it."

Gicking forgets about bad passes, and he doesn't worry about individual statistics.

"I don't set goals for myself," he said. "I just want the team to have a successful season."

Harry Gicking listens to his son answering questions and sees his own personality coming through. The elder Gicking is not a boastful person; his son does not seek the spotlight, either. The elder Gicking was an outstanding high school and college player; the younger Gicking appears to have a bright future.

"Football makes us closer as a father and son," Harry Gicking said. "Not all families have that sort of relationship. It's been very enjoyable with Chris."

"We talk about games," Chris Gicking said. "But this week is different."

This week is Conestoga-Marple Newtown. Harry Gicking, coach, and Harry Gicking, father, will struggle internally in the stands while Chris Gicking and the rest of the Marple Newtown Tigers struggle with Conestoga on the field.

"It's not a fun thing, only because you feel an attachment to your son and to the team you coach," Harry Gicking said. "And you know somebody is going to win and somebody is going to lose."

Unless, of course, the game ends in a tie. Harry Gicking would not mind that result. Chris Gicking hopes the Tigers fare a little better.

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