For Judge's Boice, late uncle an inspiration

Posted: October 01, 2012

APPROACHING 10 years later, Dennis Boice still can't believe Uncle Greg is no longer around.

He half-expects to get one of those come-on-over phone calls, then enjoy a spirited backyard game of pitch and catch.

It's never easy losing a loved one, especially at such a young age under tragic circumstances, but Boice has wonderful memories and they'll never, ever, come close to fading.

Boice, a 5-11, 198-pound senior, plays halfback/fullback and safety for Father Judge High's football team, and Saturday at Abraham Lincoln he made big contributions as the Crusaders edged Bonner-Prendergast, 25-24, in a nonleague sweetheart that came down to the very last play.

His late uncle, Greg Hennigar, brother of his father, Chris Hennigar, would have enjoyed it immensely. Who knows? Considering his love for the game, if not for the auto accident that took his life on May 31, 2003, Greg might have been watching from the sidelines as one of coach Tommy Coyle's assistants.

Hennigar starred at quarterback for Judge in 2000 and '01. Though each season was cut short by injury, he passed for a total of 1,879 yards and 14 touchdowns. He then opted for Penn State as a preferred walk-on and, after redshirting in '02, completed three passes in the '03 Blue-White game, even drawing some praise from coach Joe Paterno.

"I was up there for that game," Boice said. "That was awesome."

Despite the obvious age difference, Dennis felt particularly close with Uncle Greg.

"I love football. I mean, I love it. So I guess that had a lot to do with it," he said. "I always looked up to him because he was so good in my favorite sport. When you're a little kid . . . When he was playing for Judge, it was like he was in the NFL. And then he goes to Penn State. Really special."

When asked for one cool memory, Boice thought for a moment, then offered a doozy.

"The first time he came back from Penn State, we all got together," he said. "We were playing catch in the backyard and my cousin, Stephen Ciabattoni, was with us. Stephen ran a buttonhook and Uncle Greg threw him the ball. It was pretty hard. It went right through his hands and knocked him out cold!"

Speaking of that . . .

Boice and his teammates would have been seriously rocked if their victory had turned into a last-play defeat.

To set the scene: Judge went ahead, 19-18, on a 52-yard pass from Ryan Mackiewicz to Albi Arapaj with 7:01 remaining. B-P made it 24-19 on Jim Haley's 1-yard sneak at 1:49. Mackiewicz scrambled for a 26-yard score at 0:39. B-P fought back and had the ball on Judge's 29 with 0:03 showing.

"That was my worst fear, getting ourselves into that situation," Boice said. "I was thinking about how it was just like that Packers-Seahawks game the other day."

From the right hash mark, Haley lofted a jump-ball pass to the left corner and wideout Christian Summers, a newly added basketball player with height.

"That kid's good," Boice said. "He can really jump. Probably dunks a lot."

The ball was deflected. It fell into Boice's arms; he'd run over from the middle of the field.

"That play went like it was supposed to," he said. "We were mentally and physically prepared."

However, after making the pick, Boice circled out of the end zone and dropped the ball at the 9 yard line. Responding to much prodding from those nearby, Friar tight end Angelo Masorli picked it up and trotted into the end zone.

Had Boice stepped on the sideline? Had any of the referees blown a whistle? Had the play officially ended?

After a lengthy discussion well beyond the end zone, the play stood. Interception. Nothing more. Game over.

"It was a great way to come away from this," Boice said. "We knew it would be close. Coach Coyle did a great job."

On offense, Boice mostly served as a blocking fullback. But he also was given five carries, some as a halfback, and his production included two TDs along with 13 yards.

"I like offense a little better," he said. "But I like defense, too, because you get to hit people back."

Overall, hitting was pretty much a rumor. The teams combined for 818 scrimmage yards, with Mackiewicz and Haley accounting for 78.8 percent. Mackiewicz rushed 14 times for 76 yards and passed 10-for-15 for 216. Haley, who'll play baseball at Penn State, rushed 16-198 (two short TDs) and passed 10-for-19 for 153.

Boice, originally from Port Richmond, now lives in the house, a short walk from Judge on Cresco Avenue, where Greg Hennigar grew up. He hopes to play football in college, "but if that doesn't work out I'll still be all right." He's mulling a career in athletic training.

His eyes, meanwhile, are constantly on the Uncle Greg memorabilia that fills his bedroom.

"I have Uncle Greg's Penn State jersey and some armbands he wore," he said. "I also have a lot of pictures from that Blue-White game . . . A lot of those."

Every single one is treasured.

Contact Ted Silary at


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