Tkach happy to be back in the area doing TV games

The former Northern Lehigh coach is adjusting well to his new role, even if it means some long rides.

Jim Tkach now lives in Milford, Del., but his heart is still in the Lehigh Valley.

That's why even though there's a drive involved, he's happy to trek back into the area every Friday night to work high school football games as an analyst for Blue Ridge Cable.

"I love it. I've been all over the place," Tkach said. "A couple of weeks ago, we went up to East Stroudsburg North and I thought I was in Canada. I was waiting to hear someone sing 'Oh, Canada.' Coming from Delaware, that was a long haul, but I absolutely love it."

Tkach will be working the Northern Lehigh-Northwestern Colonial League game on Friday night in New Tripoli.

It's going to be a special night for Tkach, since the Bulldogs and Tigers are using the game as a chance to increase awareness and raise funds for two worthy causes — the Bo Tkach Memorial Foundation and the fight against ALS. They call it "Bo and Brett's Backyard Brawl."

Bo Tkach, Jim's son, committed suicide in 2007, and Brett Snyder, a former Northwestern standout and brother of first-year Tigers coach Josh Snyder, has been battling ALS (also called Lou Gehrig's disease) for nearly a decade.

"It's always a special night," Tkach said. "This will be my first time doing Northern Lehigh and it's also Bo's and Brett's game. I've been trying to get ready and will try not to get too emotional. It's amazing to me how these two communities, considered rivals, come together for two great causes for each town.

"And yet, there's a football game to be played and you don't want to take a thing away from the kids who are playing on the field."

Tkach, a Lehighton grad, usually works as a color analyst with George Ebbert, the former Lehighton coach who is also his first cousin.

The two try to learn as much as they can about each of the teams and are also learning about teamwork in the booth.

"It's not too bad and I've learned about not jumping on each other and waiting for your cue to come in," Tkach said. "I know when he stops and then I can go. There are times, I'm told, when we both get excited. But what are you going to do?"

Tkach coached at Northern Lehigh for 14 seasons, 1992 to 2005, and then was an assistant at Liberty for three seasons and was part of the Hurricanes staff when they won the 2008 PIAA 4A state championship.

After returning to Northern Lehigh for a year as a volunteer assistant and spending a year on his brother's coaching staff in Delaware, Tkach decided to leave the sidelines for good and focus on his work for the Bo Tkach Memorial Foundation. He delivers multiple presentations each week, increasing awareness for obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health issues.

However, the TV gig with Blue Ridge allows him the chance to see some old friends and stomping grounds, and talk about the game he loves.

He spoke with close friend Matt Millen "and he said you can't get too technical," Tkach said. "We just try to give the viewers an idea of what they're thinking about and promote the kids. That's what it's all about.

"The best thing about it is it gives me a chance to see people I may never see again. I was in Panther Valley last week and in Jim Thorpe the week before, and I'm seeing so many people I know. I was a little homesick last fall, so this has really been neat.

"I get to stay in touch with people in addition to my regular phone talks with guys like Tim Moncman [the former Liberty coach now a Parkland assistant] and Stan [Dakosty, the longtime Marian coach]."

Tkach will be returning to the area Thursday to give a eulogy for one of his teachers and coaches at Lehighton, Ray Koons, who died on Saturday at the age of 76.

"It was an honor to be asked to speak because he was such a great man who touched so many young lives in that community," Tkach said. "He was always about the kids. There's not many like Ray around anymore."

Did you notice?

Former Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino has been a postgame studio analyst for TBS this week, joining Dennis Eckersley and David Wells. Victorino was always well-spoken in the Phillies locker room, but it's not an easy transition to the analyst's chair. He's trying to hard to fit in and seems to be having a good time. As time goes on, he'll drop some of the "you knows" that presently litter his comments.

BWest be incisive

There are so many analysts out there they can all sound the same. If you played the game at some point, you generally have a platform somewhere. I am always searching for analysis I haven't heard before, and that's why former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook got my attention on FM 97.5, the Fanatic.

Westbrook said that early in Michael Vick's career, defensive players were so concerned about his quickness that they only worried about getting him to the ground. Now, many of the defenders know they can catch them, so now they are going after the ball as well as trying to take him down and that's why Vick is turning the ball over with more frequency.

Keith's can't miss … The Packers visit the unbeaten Texans on Sunday Night Football. NBC always seems to get the best teams and the best games, but even they didn't know Houston would be so good.

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