Intelligencer/Courier 'Let's Talk Football (10-13-17)

Back for its eighth season, the popular Intelligencer/Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football’ features Drew Markol, Todd Thorpe and Jen Wielgus. Markol is the football beat writer for the Intelligencer area while Thorpe is the Courier’s football beat writer. Wielgus is a video sports reporter for the Intelligencer and Courier. Markol and Wielgus are contributors on the weekly Game On show. To view this week’s show, click on the following link: http://www.theintell.com/videos/hsgameon/  To stay on top of the high school football news in the area, visit the Intelligencer (http://www.theintell.com/sports/high-school/) and Courier Times (http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/sports/high-school/web sites. Check out the picks by our panel of experts:  http://www.suburbanonesports.com/football-forecaster

SuburbanOneSports.com:  This weekend’s marquee SOL game is Quakertown and Upper Moreland with the top spot in the SOL American Conference on the line. Your thoughts.

Drew Markol:  "We said weeks ago the most interesting conference was going to be the American Conference, and that's kind of been the case because the Continental is North Penn and the National is going to likely come down to Pennsbury/Neshaminy in week 10. The American Conference you had Upper Dublin, Hatboro-Horsham, Upper Moreland and Quakertown. Well, now basically, for all intents and purposes, you're down to this game on Friday - Quakertown/Upper Moreland. Upper Moreland has its brand new turf field finally ready to go. I saw it the other day. It looks really nice. One of their players said to me he feels like a kid on Christmas morning. The new field is ready. There were a couple of delays, and they were afraid they wouldn't get a chance to play on it.

"Upper Moreland is undefeated. They've played all their games on the road. Now they get to go home to a new field in a huge game against a Quakertown team that keeps falling behind in games and keeps coming back and winning them. That's the game of the week. I give the slightest of edges to Upper Moreland, but that's solely based on the excitement of playing at home on your new field. I asked coach Adam Beach what he thought, and one of his concerns is that his kids would be too hyped. He said, "I've been trying to tamper them down a little bit because they just can't wait to play at home on a new turf.' They're going to have a huge crowd. That will be good stuff. It's going to be - can Quakertown contain Sterlen Barr, who's had a fabulous season for Upper Moreland and has a ton of speed. I wouldn't be surprised if they put him out at receiver like they did against Hatboro-Horsham and get the ball to him. They have that kid, Caleb Mead, a junior running back who's awesome too. You put Barr out wide and have Mead in the backfield, and now you've got a pretty tough offense to stop, but Quakertown is a big team. They're pretty stout. Obviously, they know how to come back. They don't panic when they fall behind, which is rare. I've been saying this - that eventually catches up to you, but it hasn't caught up to them yet. They keep doing it.

"Would it have been nice if this had been in week 10? Sure, it would have been, but who knows. It's better than week four. Upper Dublin is a still a player in this. I thought Hatboro-Horsham would be the one that would win it, and they're not going to, but that's because my picks are always wrong, but I am consistent. What are you going to do?"

Todd Thorpe:  “That’s a huge game in the American Conference. We’ve been talking the last few weeks about how balanced they are at the top of the league. These are the last two teams standing. These are the ones that really stepped up and won their games. Nobody has slowed down Upper Moreland. I’m sure George Banas will have a lot of plans on how they can slow them down. That’s the one thing – Upper Moreland has been a machine offensively. If they put 40 points on the board, can Quakertown hang with them then? I doubt that they can. I think George Banas is going to want to get that score in the 20s and take his chances late. We’ll see. That’s the biggest thing. They always play good defense at Quakertown, and it will be interesting to see how much they can shut down that Upper Moreland offense. What a great run Upper Moreland has been on this year. It’s pretty amazing what they’ve done. They’re the smallest school in that conference. They’re staring at 5A now in districts, and they’ll probably get at least one home game. It’s a great story. They’ve had a lot of good teams there over the past couple of decades, and this might be the best one.”

Jen Wielgus:  "This is the game we've all been looking forward to. We didn't really know how that league was gong to shake out, which was kind of fun. That league has proven to be the most exciting race because they've never had a clear favorite, and here you have the two teams that have risen to the top playing against each other. It's really exciting. I'm really upset that I can't go because I'm shooting a feature somewhere else. George Banas just picked up his 50th career win. I kind of have a feeling he'll have to wait another week for his 51st, but we've talked about this over and over - you can never count Quakertown out.

"Upper Moreland is always pretty good, so I would not be shocked if they ended up winning that league. This is a huge game for Upper Moreland even though they still have Upper Dublin on their schedule."

SuburbanOneSports.com:  Pennsbury defeated Truman in one of last week’s key conference games. Your thoughts.

Todd Thorpe:  “That was a pretty big win for Pennsbury, and by scoring as many points as they did and as impressively as they did is a big statement for them. But I think it was a big effort by Truman as well in defeat because they were right there the whole time. Unlike the game against Neshaminy, which let a bad taste in their mouths, they came out and really were right there. They answered Pennsbury. It’s just that every time they got a little closer, quarterback Zach Demarchis would make a play, and Pennsbury would extend its lead a little bit more. I give Truman credit for that because that’s a good sign for them going forward as they finish up the season in the last three weeks.

“Pennsbury – everybody expects them to be there at the end of the season with Neshaminy with the winner getting the conference title and a really high seed in districts, and I think that’s probably going to be the case, but there’s obviously some work left for the other teams.”

Drew Markol: "Pennsbury seems to be stepping up its game at the right time. I thought Pennsbury would beat Truman. Truman's got a lot of good weapons on offense, a lot of speed, a lot of talented kids, but you're stepping up in class against a Pennsbury. The Pennsbury quarterback, Zach Demarchis, had 401 yards - that's phenomenal. That kid's getting better. He's one of the best kids in the SOL now. Pennsbury is getting there. It's Dan McShane's second season. They opened things up a little bit, and that's a good win over Truman. We've talked about this - Truman needed to beat one of the big two, Neshaminy or Pennsbury. It didn't happen. They're not quite there yet, but hopefully, they'll get there. It's hard to turn a perennial program that's struggled into a ‘power,’ but they're getting there. With that coaching staff, if those guys hang around, they'll get there."

Jen Wielgus: "I think Pennsbury gave up more points than it wanted to defensively, but Truman is that kind of team. It's going to score against you most likely. Javeer Peterson broke a 94-yard kickoff return for Truman. Truman has the kind of athletes that can do that to you, but Pennsbury went into Truman's stadium and took care of business. That place was packed. What's good for high school football is that people have really rallied around that team. Not that they didn't draw a crowd before, but I really was impressed with the atmosphere there. There were a lot of people on both sides of the field.

"Pennsbury looked good. I'm really impressed with Zach Demarchis. He has a good athletic pedigree, his brother was a big Pennsbury athlete and also was multi-sport - Zach also plays baseball. That team is a real intriguing one going forward. Nobody expects them to beat Neshaminy, but obviously, that will be a really good game at the end of the season. Pennsbury didn't make the playoffs last year. It will be interesting because I think they have the tools to win a couple of (district) games depending on the draw they get. That was a big one for Pennsbury, and they don't have a rollover game this week because Council Rock South has gotten its act together.”

SuburbanOneSports.com:  Pennsbury will host a Council Rock South team that is coming off a win at Bensalem and is playing well. Your comments.

Drew Markol: "I saw Council Rock South a couple of weeks ago give Pennridge all Pennridge wanted. They played really well. I liked their quarterback Christian Jabbar. He's a nice player, and they were pretty stout on defense. If not for a couple of early season blips, they'd be right in the thick of things as far as the conference and the district playoffs. As far as teams that have improved from week one to week seven - they're right up there because they have really gotten better. They had that (42-0) loss to Truman, but they've rebounded from that. This is one of those things, for their sake, you wish the season was another five or six weeks because they got it humming now, which is nice. That's what happens with younger teams. They take their lumps early and then figure out, 'Hey, we can play at this level, and they get better.' That's also good coaching.

"You look at CR South/Pennsbury this week - they're both teams that are ascending. When CR South played Pennridge - Pennridge likes to pound the ball, and Pennridge is very, very big up front on both sides of the ball. CR South would not let them pound up the middle on them. They had to be able do something else - throw a little bit to be able to get to the outside. They will give Pennsbury all they want. Again, I give a slight edge to Pennsbury because Pennsbury is playing better. That's a good matchup too."

Todd Thorpe:  “That was a great win for Council Rock South. A couple people here at the paper predicted that South would win that game. I did not, but I really think those are two teams are going in different directions right now. South seemingly has dusted themselves off and overcame a lot of personal stuff off the field and really seems to be a better team right now. This is a team that lost 42-0 to Truman just a month ago. They’re 2-1 in their last three games. That’s a huge win to beat Bensalem the way they did. Bensalem slips to 4-3 now and is on the outside of the district playoffs looking in all of a sudden, and they’re going in to Neshaminy this week. Bensalem seems to have hit that part of the schedule that’s going to hit a lot of teams square in the teeth. That kind of looks like what happened last week.

“I give South a lot of credit. They got a lot of offense in that game, they scored a lot of points. Running back Elias Mayo stepped up last week. What I’m writing about this week for the paper is they’ve got a lot of balance on that offense this year. They’re throwing out of the triple option. Christian Jabbar, their quarterback, has a couple of big targets, and they’re doing some different things. I think that’s led to a lot of success in the last few weeks.

“They’re going against a completely different animal this week in Pennsbury. I think it’s going to be tough for them to generate a ton of offense. Truman had success against Pennsbury’s defense, but Truman’s does it because they’ve got crazy talent offensively. I think it’s going to be tough for South to score against Pennsbury, and stopping Pennsbury’s offense isn’t going to be an easy task either. Zach Demarchis has been the best player in the conference this year so far. He makes them go. He’s not a big kid, but he can run, he can pass, and he’s a real leader out there. He’s the key to Pennsbury’s success so far.

“I like the way South is playing. You like a feel-good story where the team has a chance to get up to .500 to end the season. Their schedule is pretty brutal because they do play Neshaminy next week, but it’s good to see they’ve turned it around. I certainly expect them to be there with Pennsbury for a while, but it will be tough for them to hang for a whole game.”

Jen Wielgus:  “Bensalem has come back down to earth. We got excited about their 4-0 start and rightfully so because a win is a win is a win. Council Rock South started out real rough this season, really kind of underachieving. I don't think anyone thought they would win the league or anything like that, but I think they were really disappointed with how they started. I think the low point of their year was the shutout loss to Truman, by far. Since then, they have really been on an upward trajectory. They showed well against Pennridge and then they beat Bensalem at Bensalem on Bensalem's homecoming. Bensalem is a team that has athletes. I think South can give Pennsbury a game. I'm not going to pick South by any stretch, but I've got to give kudos to South for moving in a positive direction."

SuburbanOneSports.com:  Abington is coming off a big win over Council Rock North after extending Neshaminy to the limit a week earlier. Abington will travel to Truman this week. Your thoughts.

Drew Markol:  "Obviously, Darryl Davis-McNeil is healthy now. We saw what he did last year - running for a zillion yards. That was no fluke. You knew when you played them last year who was geting the ball, and you know for sure this year who's getting the ball. It's him, and now he's got it going. They had Neshaminy beat a couple of weeks ago, and now they're playing better. Again, is it too little too late?  They still have to play North Penn in that goofy crossover thing that they do because of the unbalanced conferences. I would do something about that or play those games in week four instead of mixing in Neshaminy/CB South in week seven and North Penn/Abington in week 10, but again, they don't ask me these things.

"Abington is getting better. I'm sure Kevin Conlin is kicking himself and wondering what could have been if they had done this a little earlier."

Todd Thorpe:  “If Truman plays the way Truman is capable of playing – and I have no reason to think they won’t, Abington won’t be able to stop them. That all being said, when you have a dynamic player like Darryl Davis-McNeil, can Truman stop him? Zach Demarchis accounted for about 400 yards of offense, and Darryl Davis-McNeil is the real deal at running back, so it remains to be seen if they can slow him down.

“I expect Truman to win this game, but I think you could be looking at 42-35 or something like that. It could be a real wild one, and the scorekeepers are probably rolling their eyes thinking about that. I think that’s a pretty entertaining game.

“Truman has got to continue to prove itself as legitimate, and if they finish 8-2 by winning these last three games, Truman is a home game team. Who below them is going to go there and beat them? They’re also a team – especially if you haven’t seen them – they will be a nightmare to match up against because they’ve got so much talent and so much speed on their offensive side of the ball. Sayyid Saunders is just a blur out there. He’s a 200m champion in track. They run the wing-t, and he’s the wing back. Dave Sanderson, their offensive coordinator, has three or four guys that just run that wing-t. It’s a tough offense to stop. I think Pennsbury has a great defense, and they couldn’t stop them. This is definitely a catch week for them. They’ve got to take care of business in a game they’re favored to win. We’ll see.”

Jen Wielgus:  “I feel as though the Abington/Truman game is a toss-up. Abington took Neshaminy to the wire. I think Abington’s problem early in the season when they were losing games – you look at the Cheltenham game, but they gave up a ton of points. Their defense just wilted. Against Bensalem, they had that epic collapse on defense that gave Bensalem that game.

“They’re going against a Truman team that can hurt you in so many ways. I’m picking Truman, but Abington is finally getting it together and moving in a positive direction. It’s show-me time for Abington at Truman. They’re getting good crowds out there. I did a mascot story and was following the (Truman) Tiger around, and it was actually a lot of fun. There were a lot of people there that were interacting with the mascot and a lot of kids who were wearing Truman shirts. It’s so good to see. I really feel as though Gretchen Cammiso, the AD, and the coaching staff have really helped bolster school spirit. It started with Jon Craig, and it’s really nice to see that community have a lot of school spirit and pride.”

SuburbanOneSports.com:  CB West is coming off a loss to Pennridge and will face a Central Bucks South squad that lost to Neshaminy in overtime. Your comments.

Drew Markol:  "CB West/CB South is interesting. Neshaminy had to rally and go into overtime to beat South last week without Jack Johns playing quarterback. CB West needs a signature win. It's a pretty decent CB West team. They'd love to win that Central Bucks Cup between the three schools. They still have to play East. They have a shot. I lean towards CB South in that game, but there is some intrigue there. I think it will be a good game.”

Todd Thorpe:  “If you look at Pennridge’s non-league schedule – to go play Neshaminy, to go play Perk Valley. They’re good teams, and it’s kind of played out for them. Now they’re in their conference, and they’re beating teams. I give West a ton of credit for the year they’ve had. They’re certainly a playoff team, in my opinion, but Pennridge is on a different level. That’s why they won that game.

“You look at that conference, and it’s North Penn, Pennridge and then probably CB South. West has a big game against South this week. If West can win that game, they put themselves in a good position to be in that mix for maybe a home game in the playoffs. If they lose, they’re probably looking at a lower seed.

“I realize for the coaching staff and the whole program getting to the playoffs is a huge accomplishment, but you’d also like to get a game on your home field if you could. I think it’s a big game for South. It will be fun to see what happens. You look at the Pennridge/West game last week, and Pennridge really bottled up West’s offense. They had a negative 11 yards rushing. Pennridge is peaking at the right time, and they’ve already played North Penn. They still have to play South, and that’s a tough game, but I think Pennridge is in a great position to finish strong and make some noise in the playoffs. Their defense is going to be tough for anyone to handle. Nick Tarburton is the real deal, and they’ve got a lot of other players too. We’ll have to see, but I thought that was a good statement win for Pennridge.”

SuburbanOneSports.com:  Neshaminy needed to convert a fourth-and-goal from the 17 to tie the game in the closing seconds and then went on to defeat Central Bucks South in overtime. Your comments.

Todd Thorpe:  “For Neshaminy, it was their second week in a row with a closer-than-expected game. I guess we kind of forgot that CB South was a 5-1 team going into that game, and they really outplayed Neshaminy. Neshaminy had to score a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to tie it and then they won it in overtime.

“At CB South,  Josh Consoletti is out for the year, so they’re down to their quarterback. They were right there with Neshaminy, so I give them a lot of credit. They have CB West this week and Pennridge next week. That loss to Neshaminy was a good loss even though they probably should have won, which you can’t argue with, but Neshaminy found a way to win, which they’ve done. I like Pennsbury as the favorite in the conference. If they’re both 8-1 going into Oct. 27, I like Pennsbury to win that game, but that’s a few weeks away. I don’t think either of those teams is just going to waltz there.”

Jen Wielgus:  “CB South really showed something by taking Neshaminy to overtime. They could have won that game. Neshaminy converted a fourth-and-goal to tie the game in the closing minute and then won it in overtime. If you’re South, you can take that as either really deflating or use it to build your confidence.

“I really feel as though South will win its game with CB West. That’s a good test for West, which is going to be a playoff team. It’s a good tune-up. West has CB South, CB East and Souderton left. Getting into the playoffs for West is really big deal seeing where they’ve come from, but I don’t think West has enough offense, and South’s defense is really good.”

SuburbanOneSports.com:  After covering the North Penn/CB East game, your thoughts about that contest.

Drew Markol:  "Dick Beck was kicking himself after the game. North Penn recovered a fumble with about 20-25 seconds to go in the first half inside the CB East 15, so you're thinking at worst they kick a field goal. I think they had two timeouts, and he just had his quarterback, Steve DePaul, kneel down. They ran out the clock. Then he started his reserves in the second half, and East started scoring. All of a sudden, he had to put his starters back in. They'd been on the sidelines in real time for probably an hour, and they had to go back in. Basically, they had to keep trying to score because they couldn't stop CB East. Dick Beck said afterwards - 'I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. If I go for the mercy rule, I look like I'm running it up. If I don't, look at CB East - they're doing what they're supposed to do. They're trying to win the game. They're not going to quit playing.’ For North Penn, it was basically, we better keep scoring because we're not really stopping them. I think Beck learned - he had a chance to get that mercy rule going and he didn't take it, I don't think he'll let it happen again."