Rick O'Brien: New GA coach close to home

Matt Dence takes the reins of GA's football program.
Matt Dence takes the reins of GA's football program.
Posted: January 29, 2012

With each coaching job he takes, Matt Dence moves a little closer to his roots.

In what is his eighth assignment, the Holmesburg native and Father Judge graduate is the new head football coach at Germantown Academy.

Dence, 35, comes to Fort Washington after guiding Valley Forge Military Academy, which has postgraduate players, for a season.

"This was too good of an opportunity for me to pass up," he said. "Growing up in Northeast Philly, you hear a lot about GA and its top-notch sports programs. And I have a great deal of respect for [athletic director] Jim Fenerty."

After playing tight end for Whitey Sullivan at Judge in the early 1990s, Dence played the same position at King's College, a Division III school in Wilkes-Barre.

Dence took over at VFMA after serving as a wide-receivers coach at Georgetown. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator at Bates College in Maine, and worked with the tight ends, wide receivers, and special-teams units at Yale.

His other stops were Amherst (linebackers coach) and Springfield (offensive line), both in Massachusetts. He started as a defensive-backs coach at King's.

"I've been wanting to get back to the Philly area," said Dence, who earned his master's degree in physical education at Springfield. "That's why I took the Valley Forge job."

Dence met with the GA players Friday. "I want to be very visible in the community, establish a good relationship with the middle-school programs," he said.

Last season, playing a competitive schedule, VFMA, with 12 postgrads on the roster, posted a 1-6 mark.

"I don't think the record indicates the type of team we had," Dence said. "And we played some very good teams."

If he has the personnel at GA to do it, Dence plans to direct a no-huddle, up-tempo offense.

"I think the kids will have a lot of fun being part of it," he said.

The Radnor resident replaces Luke Harris, who stepped down after six seasons. The Patriots went 3-6 overall and 0-5 in the Inter-Academic League last year.

Dence says he can't wait to become an active participant in the storied GA-Penn Charter rivalry. Last season, in the 125th meeting between the teams, the Quakers romped, 54-7. Penn Charter leads the series, 81-33-11.

"To me, it's the high school version of Yale-Harvard," he said. "The game means so much to so many people."

Recruiting. Dence said VFMA's Dion Shaw, a wide receiver and defensive back from Ridley, is considering Maine, Temple, and Massachusetts. He is projected as a cornerback or safety in college. . . . Garnet Valley's Kyle Keyser, a slotback and defensive back, has committed to Holy Cross. Jaguars teammate Justin Pyle, a 1,745-yard rusher last season, is headed for Shippensburg.

John Bradford, a two-way lineman for Inter-Ac champion Malvern Prep, is visiting Brown this weekend. The 6-foot-1, 280-pounder, expected to play center at the next level, is also considering Davidson and Johns Hopkins. . . . Four area players are ticketed for Coastal Carolina: Unionville two-way back Richard Sampson, Monsignor Bonner offensive lineman Dom DiGalbo, West Chester Henderson defensive lineman Max Perisse, and West Catholic wide receiver Bruce Mapp. The Chanticleers, a Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) program, are coached by Joe Moglia. The 62-year-old is the chairman and former chief executive officer of TD Ameritrade.

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com,

or @ozoneinq on Twitter.

Read his blog, "The O'Zone,"

at www.philly.com/ozone

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