Five coaches to be inducted into the PSFCA Hall of Fame
Written by: Billy Splain on May 10, 2023.
On May 28 the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches association will add four new names to the PSFCA Hall of Fame. Gary Gouse, Rick Keely, Bob Palko, Jeff Weachter and Mike Ricci will be inducted at a ceremony being held just before the Big 33 football classic. The event will take place at 4pm in the Bishop McDevitt auditorium. It will also be live streamed right here on Big33.org. The members of the Hall of Fame can be seen HERE.
Let’s meet this years inductees!
A 1984 graduate from Susquehanna University, Mike Ricci took a job as an English teacher at Garnet Valley High School in September, 1984. After two years as a volunteer assistant, Mike was named the head football coach, a position he held until his retirement in June of 2022 (in 1990 he coached linebackers at Widener). Mike’s steadfast belief that “Football is the least important thing that we do” and the pyramid of principles (outlined with the words Selflessness, Hard Work and Character) he and his staff developed helped transform Garnet Valley from a small 2A team into a small 6A program that is widely recognized as one of the most successful and respected in the state. Over 35 years, he achieved 261 wins (2nd most in Delaware County history and, at the time of his retirement, top 40 all time in the state).
Since 2006, GV compiled an overall record of 164-32, a league record of 114-12, won 3 District Championships, 8 Central League Championships, and played for a State Championship. He was named the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Southeastern PA Coach of the Year two times, Eastern PA’s Big School Coach of the Year, Delaware County’s Coach of the Year, District One’s Coach of the Year, was the recipient of the National Football Foundation’s “Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football” Award, was named the 2021 Delaware County Daily Times “Sports Person of the Year,” and was inducted into the Delaware County and Pennsylvania Sports Halls of Fame.
An outstanding teacher as well, Mike also received the Franklin Mint’s “Excellence in Teaching Award.” Coach Ricci points out that he has been blessed to work with an inordinate number of incredible assistant coaches, a seemingly endless supply of fantastic, selfless players and families and an unwaveringly supportive school and community. He is especially appreciative of the support and sacrifices made by his parents, Len and Tesss, his wife, Connie, and his children, Jonathan, Matthew, Theresa and Natalie.
Gary Gouse is a 1975 graduate of Portage Area High School where he was a three-sport athlete, participating in football, track, and basketball. Gary was the captain of the undefeated 1975 football team. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and secondary social studies at the University of Saint Francis. Gary played four years of college football at Saint Francis and was captain of the team his senior year.
Gary returned home to become the assistant football coach of Portage Area under Charles McCabe. Gary also coached at Bishop Carroll for two years and was an assistant coach at Saint Francis University for one year under Gerry Gallagher. In 1991, he became the head football coach at Portage Area School District. He inherited a program that had back to back one win seasons and eventually led the mustangs to 24 winning records over 29 years by using the Wing-T offense. He led the Mustangs to 219 wins over his 29 years as the team’s head coach. The Mustangs reached the 2008 6-A finals and 2014 6-A title game but fell short to the eventual state champs, Bishop Guilfoyle, 28-14. Coach Gouse’s team produced nine conference championships, three undefeated seasons and a 49-7 record from 2005-2009. This includes three straight seasons with ten or more wins from 2007-2009.
Coach Gouse was inducted into the American Legion Hall of Fame in 2001. He was named Tribune Democrat Coach of the Year for 2008-2009. Also in 2008, he was named SAFCA Coach of the Year, and head coach of the Ken Lancey Football Game. In 2009, he was named Assistant Coach of the East/West Game. In 2014, he was named PSFCA Coach of the Year in District 6. In 2017, he was the assistant coach of the Big 33 Game.
Gary acknowledges the hard work and loyalty of his coaching staff and the many talented athletes he has coached throughout his career. Gary has touched the lives of over 1,800 players over his forty-year coaching career. He has made a profound difference in the lives of young athletes both on and off the field. He continues to volunteer with youth football programs at Portage Area. Gary is married to his wife Colette and together have two daughters, Meghan and Gabrielle. They have a total of five grandchildren: Emma, Elisabeth, Noah, Dominic, and Sophia. Without their sincere love, sacrifice, and devotion none of his success would have been a possibility.
Jeff Weachter began his coaching career in 1988 at his alma mater, Warwick High School. In 1993, Jeff was named head coach at Lebanon Catholic High School, where he led them to their first back-to-back winning seasons in 30 years. In 1998, he became head coach at Bishop McDevitt High School, where he amassed at 248-68 record, winning 11 District 3 Titles, 5 State Championship appearances, and a 4A State Championship Title in 2022.
In 2022, he was named AP and PA Football News 4A State Coach of the Year, and District 3 Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2013. He was Head Coach on the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl winners, a game which featured numerous players who went on to the NFL. Jeff also served as an assistant coach in the 2014 Big 33 Game, and in the 2012 and 2016 under Amour All America Game.
Jeff was a featured speaker on the topic of the Bishop McDevitt offence, speaking at The University of Notre Dame Coaches clinic, among several other national clinics.
Jeff and his wife Andrea live in Manheim and have 3 children, Marisa, Vanessa, and Braden, and a son-in-law Brodie.
Bob Palko is a 1978 graduate of West Allegheny High School where he excelled as a three-sport athlete. He earned a scholarship to what is now known as Montana Technological University in Butte, MT where he was a 4-year starter at quarterback. Bob landed his first coaching appointment at IUP under legendary coach, George Chaump. Subsequent to IUP, he held coaching positions at Jeannette High School, Seton LaSalle High School, and Duquesne University before being named head coach in 1995 at his alma mater, West Allegheny, at the age of 35. Throughout twenty-four seasons at West Allegheny, he led the Indians to eight WPIAL titles, two state runners-up, and the 2001 AAA State Championship. Most recently, he held the position of head coach at Mount Lebanon High School for four seasons. The 2021 Blue Devils finished their season with a perfect 15-0 record giving Coach Palko his ninth WPIAL title, which ties him for the most in league history. He is also one of a select few to win two state titles at two different schools. Following the 2021 season, Coach Palko was selected as the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year. He has also coached in the Big 33 Game, East-West All Star Game, and the US Army All-American Game. Coach Palko was a former president of the PSFCA and a member of the Western PA Sports Hall of Fame. Bob has coached numerous student-athletes who continued their football careers in college and the NFL and went on to build successful lives afterwards which, to Coach, is life’s most notable achievement.
Coach Palk, as the kids called him, was not simply a football coach. He was so much more – a friend, a confidant, an advice-giver, a shoulder to cry on, and someone who was always there to listen. He did not only teach his student-athletes about the game of football, rather he taught them life lessons that would be useful long after their athletic careers were over. He and his staff invested countless hours to help mentor, shape, and enrich the lives of so many kids over the course of countless seasons. He was more concerned that his players would develop into polite, respectful, and productive citizens rather than just championship high school athletes. The process was more important than the results. Bob was fortunate to have collaborated with many amazing staff members, some coaching with him for most of his career, and the insights and knowledge they shared benefited every single player that came through the locker room doors. He also acknowledges he would have been less of a coach without these talented men beside him and is grateful for their sacrifices on and off the field. Bob and his wife, Sally, have been happily married for 40 years and are the proud parents of Tyler (husband of Tricia), Luke (husband of Megan), and his daughter, Amy. They are proud grandparents to six beautiful grandchildren – Aubree, Kaiden, Kasen, Otto, Shaylee, and Arlo – whom they love and adore.
Rick Keeley is a 1971 graduate of St. Pius X High School in Pottstown PA where he played football and baseball.
Rick was a two way player and captain at St. Pius. He played his college football at Kutztown State College. At Kutztown Rick was a 3 year letter winner as a nose-guard. He was first team all conference his junior and senior years. He was a team captain for the 1974 Golden Bears. Rick still holds the school record for blocked punts in a season. He was selected to the KSC all decade team of the 1970’s.
Upon graduation he was hired at St. Pius.
In 1978 Rick was hired at Holy Name High School in Reading PA. He served as an assistant football coach for 8 years. In 1986 Rick was hired as the head Football Coach at Holy Name. He left Holy Name to become Head Football Coach at Hamburg Area High School for 3 years 1998 to 2000. He returned to Holy Name in 2001 as the Head Football coach until 2010. In 2011 Holy Name joined with Reading Central Catholic to become Berks Catholic. Rick was again hired to teach and coach at Berks Catholic High School. He has been the head football coach at Berks Catholic from 2011 until the present. Rick has just completed his 47th year coaching.
Rick’s coaching record is 275-154-3 overall. He’s 113-35 at Berks Catholic. He has won 5 district 3 championships. Rick has won numerous coach of the year awards in Berks County and in 2015 was honored as the District 3 Coach of the Year. Rick has been married to his wife Sharon for 46 years. They have 4 children and 13 grandchildren.
Rick has also been inducted into the Holy Name HOF, the BCFCA HOF, the Tri-County and Berks chapters of PA jSports HOF.