Intelligencer/Courier 'Let's Talk Football (9-15-17)

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:  To stay on top of the high school football news in the area, visit the Intelligencer ( and Courier Times ( sites. 

Check out the picks by our panel of experts:  North Penn earned an important win over Pennsbury. What are your thoughts?

Drew Markol:  “Talk about a team that needed a reversal, it was North Penn. They go down to Pennsbury - they’ve had a lot of success against Pennsbury. It’s been well documented. I think they’ve beaten them like 4,000 times in a row, but you still have to go out and do it. Pennsbury is pretty good, and North Penn was staring at 0-3, but instead, they went out – they blocked a field goal and Justis Henley, who’s as good as any player in the area, recovered the ball and ran it back 95 yards for a touchdown. It was just a huge turning point.

“Now North Penn has a little bit of momentum going into the Continental Conference part of their season. They play CB West, which is kind of a surprise 3-0, and that game’s at West. Is Chas Cathers getting West back to being a pretty good program? Yes. Are they ready for a North Penn at this point? Probably not, but it is something when you see a 3-0 West team. They’re doing something right. That will be interesting. Again, I don’t think West has enough for North Penn, but the fact that they’re building and building – that’s obviously a good sign.”

Todd Thorpe:  “I thought North Penn’s win over Pennsbury was a good game, number one, and number two, North Penn really needed it. They needed an impressive game, they needed a game where they ran the ball well, and they did those things against Pennsbury. They also were opportunistic. When Pennsbury made a mistake or they forced a mistake, they took advantage of it. It was a big game for Justis Henley. He returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, he intercepts two passes. He really got going. Dars Bowsky, their running back, had his first big game on the ground with over 100 yards. They kind of got going.

“In the same regard, I don’t think Pennsbury walks out of that game feeling that they’re not worthy of their 2-0 because they dug themselves a pretty good hole, really fought back and had a chance. They missed a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter that would have gotten them within seven points, and it’s a completely different game. Their quarterback, Zach Demarchis, is really talented. He can throw and he can run. Right now he is their running game. He’s their leading rusher, but he’s a really talented kid. Out of that National Conference picture, Pennsbury put themselves in a position where they can go into the league schedule with a little bit of confidence.”  CB West goes into conference play 3-0 after its impressive win over Quakertown. Your comments.

Jen Wielgus:  “I was at the CB West/Quakertown game. I don’t keep stats while I’m shooting video, but I kept hearing the buzz among the reporters – ‘Quakertown only ran 11 plays in the first half.’ I was like, ‘You know what, I’m not surprised to hear that stat.’ CB West just completely dominated that game. Of course, the kids played the card after the game, ‘Nobody believes in us. People were saying we should be 0-2.’ Nobody said that, but they interpreted it that way. People were just saying their first two games were close, which they were.

“That game was really a coming out party for CB West in a way. Not that Quakertown was a world beater, but they did have two good wins under their belts coming into that game, and West completely dominated that game from start to finish. Quakertown never threatened. I have to give a shout out to Don McCauley, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery. His first interception was tipped at the line, so he doesn’t get all the credit, but he fell under it and he caught it. Then it’s like, ‘Number 18, and number 18 again, number 18 again.’ The kid was all over the place. He had a great game, and it just kind of typified West’s defense. Defense is a real strong point of that team.

“West plays North Penn this week. They’re super excited, and then they get the best team in the league in their league opener. Maybe that’s a good thing for them because that will really give them an opportunity to show what they’re made of. Nobody thinks North Penn, at this point, is going to kill everybody. They’re considered the best team in that conference, and it’s their conference to win, but let’s definitely play their games. CB West definitely has a great opportunity this week, and it’s a home game for them. CB West definitely impressed me in that game.

“Their offense was enough. Against North Penn, they’re going to have to do a little more offensively, but you have to give kudos to them, especially knowing where that program came from three years ago. They’re 3-0, and they’re going to put up a fight in that league. Again, North Penn is number one, but you look at all the other teams in the league, and CB West is right there with all of them.”

Todd Thorpe:  “North Penn at CB West – that’s probably the end of the road for CB West’s 3-0. I think North Penn gets it going and wins that game. Just like we were saying about Bensalem, CB West wants to be a playoff team this year. It’s not the worst thing in the world if they play well and lose to North Penn. It shows them that they’re a factor. It’s going to be tough for them because they have not had games where they put up a ton of points, and you’re going to have to put up points to beat North Penn. They have a lot of talent, so you’ve got to score on them. That’s a tough game for West to win.”  Pennridge rebounded from its loss to Neshaminy to shut out a Perk Valley team that was 2-0 entering last Friday’s game. Your comments.

Drew Markol:  “Pennridge opened its season with Norristown, which was an easy one for them, and then they went down to Neshaminy and lost that one, and you’re thinking, ‘Okay, when they play somebody at a little bit higher scale, they’re going to be in trouble.’ Well, Perk Valley has really become a very good program. They lost some good players to graduation but all teams do. They were off to a good start, and they beat up on Pennridge last year, but this time Pennridge goes out and just hammers them. Pennridge is big up front. They have a lot of size, and they have some good speed in Josh Pinkney and Nick Tarburton, the linebacker and Penn State signee. He makes so many tackles, and he’s just a monster on the field.

“Obviously, the Neshaminy game must have woken them up. The fact that it did – good for them. Now we’ll see what happens when they go to play Souderton.”

Jen Wielgus  “Reading the stories after the Pennridge game, they were pretty excited. They were thumping their chests after that win. I think I read a quote, ‘The Suburban One League knows who we are now’ or something like that. Well, it’s a good win. It was necessary to bounce back after not playing as well as they could have at Neshaminy, but it’s a long road. It’s not like people didn’t know who they were, especially with Nick Tarburton who pursues the ball better than anybody in the league, maybe in the state. So people know who you are, and now you have another chance to prove it. That was a big win. They shut out Perk Valley, so that was impressive, for sure.”  Hatboro-Horsham handed Souderton a 28-3 loss. Your thoughts.

Drew Markol:  “Souderton had a tough loss in the closing minutes to Quakertown the week before, and I thought they would bounce back against Hatboro-Horsham. Hatboro-Horsham doesn’t have a lot of numbers, but the kids they have are really good. As long as they can stay healthy – and it’s a big if, but their quarterback Chris Edwards is fabulous. He’s long, he’s fast, he’s athletic, he’s smart, and he’s got a nice arm. He’s not just one to automatically tuck it and run. He’s thinking out there.

“Hatboro-Horsham came out and rushed for 350 yards and basically stuffed it down Souderton’s throat for four quarters and just took them apart. At one point, I was talking to one of the officials, and the official said, ‘We might be heading to a mercy rule. I thought it might be a mercy rule the other way around with Souderton doing it to Hatboro-Horsham.’ It was a total reversal, and it was a huge win for Hatboro-Horsham heading into American Conference play. Now you have to consider them one of the top teams in the American Conference.” Your thoughts about Truman and Bensalem – both 3-0 – or any of the other National Conference teams.

Drew Markol:  “Truman and Bensalem are both 3-0. That’s a great story. We’ve talked in the previous weeks about Truman and that coaching staff – in any sport in high school, coaching is just huge. Football-wise, they have Dave Sanderson, former Hatboro-Horsham coach, and Galen Snyder, the former Pennsbury coach. Michael LaPalombara is the head coach and worked with those guys before. You get some kids to come out for the team, and now you’re 3-0.

“I wrote for Friday’s paper that out of the two, Truman has the best chance of knocking off one of the heavyweights in Neshaminy or Pennsbury. Can they beat both of them? I don’t think so, but could they beat one of them? Yes, I think they could.

“I think Bensalem is getting there. Their numbers aren’t great. Abington this week is a good test. It doesn’t look like a vintage Abington team, but I think it’s a decent Abington team, and we’ll see. Can Bensalem play with Abington? Their 3-0 start is great. Good for them. They nearly made the district playoffs last year, but if you want to get in, you have to win the close ones, and I think Abington will be a close one. If you’re serious about getting in, you have to go and win.

“Of the two, again, both great stories, but I think Truman is a little further ahead. It’s nice to be able to talk about the National Conference and not just two teams.”

Jen Wielgus:  “It’s amazing to me that Bensalem could beat Archbishop Carroll, a team that beat Conwell-Egan, which is a good private school team out of the PCL. After picking against Bensalem several times already, they have shown out better than I thought they were going to.

“Abington is a team – we really don’t know what to think of them yet. They lost to CB South, they beat Cheltenham and Plymouth Whitemarsh. I would pick Abington in that game, but I wouldn’t count Bensalem out in that one.

“The Truman-Council Rock South game is a really good, intriguing National Conference game. I think it could go either way. Council Rock South didn’t get completely destroyed last week against Central Bucks South. Council Rock South was a team I thought was going to play well this year. That game is a coin flip. That would be a huge win for Truman, and Council Rock South needs it. If I wasn’t doing a feature story on Quakertown, I was going to go to that game because I thought that was the most intriguing matchup of the weekend.”

Todd Thorpe:  “Neshaminy – who was riding high – loses at home to Downingtown West in a shootout. They’re probably looking at themselves and wondering where they stand as they go into the league.

“Truman is just walloping everybody. They’ve outscored their opponents 125-12 or something like that. They’re just killing everybody. I don’t know how Council Rock South will stop Truman with their offense. David Akinwande is putting up really big numbers. Give Truman credit. I know people are looking at Truman and saying, ‘Let’s see what they do when they get Pennsbury, when they get Neshaminy,’ but so far they’ve been really good. They’ve given you no reason to think that they’re not going to be right there with those teams.

“Who would ever have thought after three weeks there would ever be a season that Harry S Truman and Bensalem would be the two undefeated teams in that league. A lot of things are going to break in the next couple of weeks, but it’s shaping up pretty good in that league.” Any thoughts about any of the other Continental Conference teams?

Todd Thorpe:  “CB South is undefeated – they’re 3-0, and Pennridge is 2-1 coming off a real big win over Perk Valley. Are they threats this year for North Penn?  I think both of those teams are going to give North Penn battles, and don’t forget about CB West. They don’t blow teams out, but they’re 3-0, and they’re coming off a great win over Quakertown, so they’re right there in the mix. You wonder if this is the year like four or five years ago when Pennridge won the league title that people catch up to North Penn. I have my doubts. I think North Penn probably will rise above at the end when all is clear, but it certainly has opened up a pretty big picture.” Your thoughts about the American Conference race heading into conference play

Todd Thorpe:  “As far as the American Conference goes, I still think it’s pretty wide open. I think you’re looking at Upper Dublin, which had a big win, Quakertown, which lost last week but is still very good, and how about Hatboro-Horsham going on the road and really drubbing Souderton last week? And you can’t forget about Upper Moreland. They’re 3-0. The best thing about the first three weeks of the year is you really don’t know too much. There’s a lot to be decided when these league games are played because there are years where you look at it and say, ‘There’s nobody that’s going to touch North Penn. They’ve got no shot.’ The same thing with Neshaminy, Pennsbury and Upper Dublin. I don’t think that’s the case this year. I think there’s a lot of questions that are going to be answered, and I’m looking forward to it.”  Are there any other games this week that jump out at you?

Todd Thorpe:  “CB East hosts CB South on Saturday morning, and that’s usually a really close game. I don’t see any reason to think it’s not going to be. East got on the winning track beating Methacton this week. If CB South goes in there and wins handily and goes to 4-0, I think you can start talking about CB South as a real contender for a high playoff spot. That’s a big game for them.

“Bensalem at Abington is a good game. Bensalem is 3-0 and Abington is 2-1. Bensalem had a great win over Archbishop Carroll last week. To win that game in overtime like that is pretty impressive. Bensalem is proving themselves a little bit every week, and this game is a good test. If Abington wins, I think they get themselves right back in the picture in the National Conference mix. I think this is a real statement game for Bensalem, and it will be interesting to see how they match up. Even if they lose close, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If you’re Bensalem, you want to see if you can get to that five, six, maybe even seven-win plateau. I like their coach Ed Cubbage, and I think Bensalem – with a win Friday night – would really establish themselves as more than pretenders, as somebody who can be a factor.”

Drew Markol:  “CB South has allowed something like 20 points total in three games. Nobody is scoring against them. Can CB East give them a game on Saturday?  East got off the schnide and beat Methacton, but Methacton is struggling. Let’s call it like it is. You look at it, and you don’t really see the rivalry. You talk to an East or West kid, and the rivalry is the other one. South is the new school that opened up in Warrington, even though it’s not so new anymore, so you don’t really have the rivalry aspect there. A little bit of a sluggish effort against CR South last week (in a 21-7 Titan win) enables the CB South coach to say, ‘All right, guys, look, we’ve got to stop thinking how good we are and we’ve got to go out and play.’ Now it starts, and as important as it feels for a team to be 1-0 after week one when the season started back – when did the season start? Was it June or May? They started so early. You want to be 1-0 in your conference. That’s huge, and everybody is pointing toward CB South/North Penn at the end of the month, but in order to make that really good, you have to win before you get there. I just like what Tom Hetrick is doing at South. I think they’ve got just too much for East.”