For Mount Carmel graduate and head coach Carmen DeFrancesco, tonight's District 4 Class AA championship game is another homecoming trip of sorts, and it is one he will never tire of making.
Not only did DeFrancesco coach the Danville Ironmen, tonight's opponent, for five seasons (1995 through 1999), he lived in Danville for 11 years. After he left the Danville job for Shamokin, he continued to live in Danville, only finally moving (to Sunbury) after taking the head coaching job at Upper Dauphin High in Elizabethville.
DeFrancesco's first time back to coach against Danville came two years ago in the D4 AA semifinals. "They beat us, they had a heck of a team that year, and it was a good game," he said.
He recalled going to the Danville-Lewisburg final a week later and feeling bad for his former team. "Danville dominated that game. Lewisburg should have never won."
Now he comes back for another chance to beat the team that his former community holds dear.
"That was without question the best years of my life, and I mean that professionally and personally," DeFrancesco said about his time in Danville.
He said the one thing that kept the previous game at Danville and tonight's contest from being a problem for him emotionally is that the Ironmen no longer play in F.Q. Hartman Stadium, their home for his tenure there. Now they play at Danville Ironmen Stadium.
"It's a good thing F.Q. Hartman is gone. That was a special place. That's where I have so many memories, and that great run we had was all down by the river. So when I stepped on that field out there two years ago, it was just another football field and I was really happy about that. I had no emotional tie, and it was an easy transition."