La Salle College High School's Drew Gordon, the first Philadelphia Catholic League coach from a major sport to win a PIAA state championship and one of the winningest coaches in the history of Philadelphia area high school football, died Sept. 4 at the age of 73. The longtime resident of Glenside coached at the Wyndmoor high school from 2006 to 2014, compiling a record of 91-26.
Gordon guided the 2009 Explorers to a 14-1 record and the Class 4A state football title with a 24-7 victory over State College High School. Gordon and La Salle made it back to the 2010 state championship game, falling to North Allegheny, 21-0, after defeating North Penn, 38-35, in the PIAA semifinals.
Anthony Cognetti, a linebacker on the 2009 state championship team, said last week, “Coach Gordon instilled in all players the qualities of discipline, hard work and dedication to the team.”
Tim Wade, who was on the 2012 La Salle team, added, “Coach Gordon defined what La Salle football is all about: hard work, discipline and caring about those around you. He was a hell of a leader on and off the field. He pushed us to our full potential and taught life lessons that I've taken with me in my college career and in my life.”
An All-Catholic quarterback himself at Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote in 1966, Gordon played college ball for Villanova University, where he set the school's single-game passing record with 395 yards in a 1970 Thanksgiving victory over Temple. His son Brett, a 1998 La Salle grad, broke the record 32 years later in 2002 with 460 passing yards in a 2002 'Nova win over Delaware.
Gordon is also a member of the Villanova University Hall of Fame and the Bishop McDevitt Hall of Fame. His father, Andy, was also a quarterback at Villanova in the 1940s and coached at St. Joseph's Prep in the 1950s.
Gordon won four consecutive District 12 (City) Championships (2009-2012). His 2009 team was ranked as one of the top teams in America. In fact, in 2009 he was named Nike Coach of the Year and U.S. National Guard Coach of the Year.
In addition to his coaching, Gordon was the owner and president of Gordon Truck Leasing, which he started in 1978 and sold in 2008. He had a bachelor's degree in psychology, and prior to starting his business, he worked in banking and pharmaceutical sales. He married Bernadette Valera, and they had children Brett, Caroline and Jaclyn. They later divorced.
Matt DiGiacomo, a member of the 2010 La Salle team, said, “He was a second father to me. He was always holding people accountable, including himself. I have taken that lesson into my life.”
Gordon is survived by his children: Brett Gordon, Caroline Dalton and Jaclyn Kerns; grandchildren Brooke Dalton, Kate Dalton, Luke Gordon, Ryan Kerns, Jameson Kerns, Gavin Kerns and Grace Gordon. And siblings Denise Davis, Debbie Hirlehey, Lori Finn, Jim Gordon, and Tom Gordon.
More than 1,000 relatives, friends, former teammates and admirers attended visitation services on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Glenside. A Funeral Mass followed on Sept. 13 at St. Luke's. Burial was at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cheltenham Township.
Memorial donations may be made to the Travis Manion Foundation, 164 E. State St. in Doylestown, PA 18901, or to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.
Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org