By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/13/13
Eastern University sophomore defenseman Tyler Gelhaus remembers talking to Eddie Coombs about a month before his death in the summer of 2011. Not surprisingly, Eddie was giving good advice.
“He is one of the reasons I I decided to play college lacrosse,” said Gelhaus, who had just graduated from Hatboro-Horsham. “I talked to him about a month before he passed away. I told him my situation he said, ‘Play man, you won’t regret it.’ And I never have regretted it.”
Gelhaus was one of five Hatboro-Horsham grads that competed today in the 2nd Annual Edward Taylor Coombs Fall Ball Shoot Out at their home field. Eastern, along with co-host Ursinus College, Albright, Elizabethtown, McDaniel, Eastern Connecticut, Montclair and St. Mary’s comprised the eight men’s Division III teams that played two games each in a tourney that raised money for the Edward Coombs Foundation.
On Saturday three men’s teams – Marist, NYIT and Merrimack – and six women’s Division I teams competed. Eddie played one year at Marist before his tragic death in a car accident that involved drinking and driving.
The tourney was created to honor Eddie and raise awareness for making responsible decisions and developing positive peer relations. It also supports research for Traumatic Encephalopathy, which can lead to brain injury from repeated hits to the head.
The other Hatter grads included Albright freshmen TJ Keleher (defenseman), Jimmy Durkin (attackman-midfielder) and Ryan Higgins (midfielder). The fifth was Ursinus College’s Steve Palo (face-off specialist).
Gelhaus described Coombs as a role model and leader.
“He went out of his way all the time,” said Gelhaus. “One memory of Edward was at the homecoming dance. There was a girl with special needs and he was dancing with her to a slow song. Not many people would do that.
“That’s the kind of guy he was. He cared about other people more than himself. That’s what I remember about him.
“It means a lot coming back home. I was neighbors with Eddie and had a close relationship. Our families were close and it’s nice to come back in his name for such a great tournament at the college level. We played backyard football basketball, street hockey … everything together.”
Gelhaus is one of many players fighting for playing time on an Eastern squad that went 15-2 last year and cruised to the MAC Freedom title, but was not selected for an NCAA at-large berth.
“We lost a lot of good seniors, but we feel we have a chip on our shoulders because we feel we got gypped by not being in the NCAA tournament,” said Gelhaus. “We went 15-2, but it is what it is.
“We are using that as motivation. We just have to continue to work hard.”
Durkin and Higgins were volunteers in last year’s tournament as seniors at Hatboro-Horsham. When they learned that their team was coming home to play in the event, they were thrilled.
“We found out in mid-summer and I was really excited to play,” Durkin said. “I worked it last year and it is really gratifying. Eddie was the type of kid that wanted you to succeed on the field and off the field.”
“Me and Jimmy kind of circled the date on our calendar; we were itching for this day,” said Higgins. “He was like a role model to me. I looked up to him. He was that vocal person on the field getting everyone to be as good as they could be.”
Keleher said the tourney also provided the chance for young players to get experience.
“It’s a learning experience,” he said. “For us freshmen, we are getting out there and finding out about the college sport. It’s the next level from high school and a chance to learn today.”
Ursinus’ Palo said it’s an honor to play for Coombs.
“It feels great to come back here and play with everyone in his memory ,” he said. “It means so much for (the Hatboro-Horsham) program. It’s a great experience.”