Intelligencer/Courier 'Let's Talk Football (9-28-17)

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 defeated Pennridge 45-35 in a classic battle.  Your comments.

Drew Markol:  “I think both of those teams are playoff teams and both of those teams can actually do a little damage in the playoffs, but North Penn had an answer for everything Pennridge was able to throw at them. I just thought the last team with the ball was going to win because that’s what it looked like because there wasn’t much defense being played. North Penn was able to make enough stops, and they made some big plays. Justis Henley was banged up a little bit and didn’t play much, and Josh Pinkney from Pennridge wasn’t able to play because he has that bone bruise from the Souderton game, so each team was missing a key cog.  Sometimes with North Penn, it looks like teams can get intimidated, but it didn’t look like that. It just looked like North Penn had a little bit more firepower. Now if they can beat CB South, it looks like clear sailing to another Continental Conference title.

“It’s weird to see teams run the ball right up the middle of the North Penn defense. You don’t ever see that. If you’re going to beat them, you have to have that really good outside kid or really mobile quarterback, but Pennridge was able to pound the ball up the middle, which surprised me. That’s not a typical North Penn team that allows that to happen. That was probably the biggest surprise. You look at the size of the Pennridge line, and they’re one of the biggest teams you’ll see. I think CB South is close, but I think Pennridge is the second best team in the conference.

“With CB South quarterback Jack Johns hurt – I was over at South on Monday, and he wasn’t throwing. Will he play? He might, but South doesn’t have as many playmakers as Pennridge has either. I like North Penn in that game. Both teams have the short week, so you can’t use that tired excuse. You look at the records, and Tom Hetrick said this yesterday – the combined record of the teams South has played is 8-17, and the combined record of the teams North Penn has played is 20-5. They’ve played better teams. I just think North Penn has a little bit too much for them.”

Todd Thorpe:  “North Penn proved that they’re still the team to beat and they’re a very difficult offense to stop. Pennridge has a pretty formidable defense, but they certainly didn’t have the answers to stop North Penn last week and that was with Justis Henley really hobbled for a lot of that game and not playing as much. That’s a pretty big statement win for North Penn, and they certainly go into this week’s game against CB South pretty confident.

“I think Pennridge has proven itself. Their schedule is a little bit harder than a lot of these teams. CB South we’ll find a lot about this week against North Penn. It will be interesting to see how it plays out because I think in that conference you have three playoff teams, and you have four legitimate contenders.”

Jen Wielgus:  “The North Penn/Pennridge game lived up to its billing. You kind of expected that North Penn would win that game, but Pennridge showed you something by hanging in there.

“The big game this week is North Penn/CB South. If anybody is going to knock North Penn off, it has to be South. That game is incredibly important for the whole league because North Penn is held up as this paragon of intimidation. The game is at Crawford. CB South is the only hope to beat North Penn. There’s nobody else that can do it until you get deep into districts, so that’s obviously the marquee game this week.”  Upper Moreland edged Hatboro-Horsham 41-40 in a game that turned into a shootout. Your thoughts.

Todd Thorpe:  “Upper Moreland keeps on finding ways to do it, and that is the ultimate throw-the-record-out game. That game is going to be wild, no matter what, and 41-40 is kind of indicative of where we are with football right now and the offenses teams possess. Upper Moreland sure has some offensive weapons in their running game with Sterlen Barr and Caleb Mead, and then when you throw in a passing game with quarterback Brendan Olexa, they’re a tough out in that conference.

“In all fairness, I’m not sure you have a team with a long district future out of that conference this year, but it’s about as balanced at the top as you’re going to get. Those top four teams in that league are tough, and they’re pretty even as you saw with Quakertown’s come-from-behind win over Upper Dublin. I really think you’re at a point where you can flip a coin when you talk about Upper Dublin, Quakertown, Hatboro-Horsham and Upper Moreland. I’m looking forward to see some of these games as they play out. Part of me is sad that Upper Moreland and Hatboro-Horsham have to play in the regular season at all, but that sure is a neighborhood rivalry that no matter when you play it, it’s pretty exciting for those communities.”

Drew Markol:  “You look at Upper Moreland – I thought Hatboro-Horsham was the best team in the conference. That’s a great rivalry. I wish they would just play it on Thanksgiving and not twice, but nobody asked me about that. My god, 41-40 – that’s a huge win. Upper Moreland might win the conference, they’ll get in the 5A playoffs – that’s surely going to help them . To get games like that is just huge.

“Adam Beach is a good coach. His teams are always pretty good, and every couple of years he’s got a real good one, and that’s a real good win. That’s a win over a good rival. What a shootout, and I give coach Mike Kapusta credit for going for two at the end.”  Quakertown trailed Upper Dublin 28-15 heading into the fourth quarter but rallied or a 34-28 win in overtime. Your comments.

Todd Thorpe:  “Quakertown takes on the mentality of their coach. George Banas is a fighter, and he’s got a lot of pride in Quakertown, and that’s what he instills. Those kids play to win and they think they can win. You saw that the second half of the season last year. After they rebuilt for most of the year, the second half of the year they run off four or five games in a row to end the season. That’s a team that’s not going away, and in that conference - to beat Upper Dublin, Quakertown may be the favorite now because Upper Dublin was the team everybody looked at and said, ‘They’re probably going to be the team to beat.’ I think Quakertown is the team to beat now. Even though they do have that one loss, Upper Moreland and Hatboro-Horsham are going to have to go there and beat them. That’s not an easy out. Quakertown is a pretty big school for that conference. George Banas has been there five or six years now, and he’s built that program the way he wants it. They’re tough, hard-nosed kids who take a lot of pride in the program. When you look at them, there’s not a ton of impressive stats coming out of their games every week. They don’t have a guy that’s going to rush for 2,000 yards or a quarterback that’s going to throw 30 touchdown passes. They just have a bunch of kids who go out and play and play hard. That’s what Quakertown is. If he gets them back in the playoffs, that would be three out of four years for them. That’s a pretty good accomplishment.

“I don’t think there’s a team in that conference you look at and say, ‘They’re a district semifinalist or a district finalist,’ but find me a conference that is that balanced at the top. I don’t think I’ve seen one this year as balanced at that. You look at the National, we kind of saw a separation of powers last week where it looks like Neshaminy and Pennsbury are going to be the teams again, and the league title will probably come down to Oct. 27. You go to the Continental Conference, and it’s still North Penn. Beat North Penn and maybe you can make a case. CB South has gotten off to a great start. If they could beat North Penn, that would probably be the biggest win they’ve ever had. At least certainly the biggest win since the last time they beat North Penn. North Penn is still the best team in that league, but the American Conference is where the balance is, and that’s where the exciting finish is going to be. I think they’re going to beat each other up. I don’t think you’re going to have a team that just runs the table and wins easily. I think you’re going to see a lot of games decided by a touchdown.”

Jen Wielgus:  “This has been a theme for Quakertown all season long. I know that every team does conditioning drills. Quakertown isn’t the only one, by any stretch, but the stuff that they do is a little bit of a cut above, I would say. They’re running a mile, they’re doing 100 pushups, they're doing 200 squats and they’re doing a third movement. It’s called Murph in CrossFit, but they had to modify it because Murph typically has 100 pull-ups, and they can’t do pull-ups out on the football field. George Banas would always make them do that – we’re talking sometimes on consecutive days – in addition to all the other stuff that they do, and it really does pay off. It’s great when you can say to your kids, ‘See, all that suffering you did in the heat on turf, no less, this is when it pays off.’ Quakertown is just as much a candidate for winning that league as anybody.

“In this week on Game On, we talked about the big storylines for the second half of the season. The SOL American Conference is a big storyline. Quakertown beat Upper Dublin and Upper Moreland beat Hatboro-Horsham this past weekend. I picked the other way on both of them, of course, but both games went down to the wire. The brand of football being played in that league is really competitive and really exciting. Obviously, Quakertown still has to play Upper Moreland, and Quakertown plays Hatboro-Horsham this week on a short week. That conference, to me, is the big storyline of the second half.”

Drew Markol:  “I’ve never done CrossFit because I’m too old, and it looks like it would really hurt, but apparently, it’s working. I don’t put much stock in it because every team runs and conditions, but it’s obviously doing something for Quakertown, and even if it’s psychological, whatever works, you keep doing it because it’s working. To come back like that – they’ve done it before, so now they don’t panic. They know that they can come back and they keep doing it. Beating Upper Dublin is a tremendous win. Good for them. I know Michael Terra had a big game with four touchdowns, and that’s what they need. I thought Quakertown was a year away, but maybe they’re not.” Neshaminy beat a Truman team that was 4-0 by the score of 56-7. Your thoughts.

Todd Thorpe:  “I can’t say I was all that surprised. Neshaminy was probably the favorite going into that game despite their one loss. I think it really goes to show you that when you schedule the way Neshaminy does, you’re better prepared when you get into a tough league game like this. It’s nothing against Truman’s schedule. They have their schedule, and they were dominant in the way they beat those teams, but Neshaminy was certainly more battle tested going into that game.

“The biggest surprise out of that game was how well Neshaminy ran the ball. This is a Neshaminy team that’s pretty much been a throwing team offensively, and they ran the ball right down Truman’s throat. Galen Snyder is the defensive coordinator at Truman, and that’s a pretty good statement for Neshaminy. Joel Stills, the running back, had a big game. That’s just a huge win for Neshaminy and puts them right back on the cover as the team to beat in that league, if they ever were not, and a team that you can see playing into late November.”

Jen Wielgus:  “Truman started out like they were going to be able to hang, but it was clear from the beginning that Neshaminy’s defense wasn’t going to let them do what they’ve done to other teams, which is let Sayyid Saunders, David Akinwande, Habeeb Baba or Enzo Poulson free and run all over the place. They were really strong at the line of scrimmage, snuffing out anything before it became a big play, so they really limited that running game. Truman was outscoring its opponents by some crazy, ridiculous margin, and in this game, Neshaminy turned it completely on its head.

“I think the heat was a factor. Truman played a lot of the game without some of its leaders. Habeeb Baba went down early and didn’t come back. Javeer Peterson was out for a while. He came back in the second half, but I think there was doubt that he was going to come back at all. Saunders touchdown made it 12-7, and you’re thinking, ‘Okay,’ but even before Truman scored that touchdown, it looked like Neshaminy was going to be in control. Neshaminy really looked in control from the beginning.

“I don’t think anybody saw that coming, that it was going to be that lopsided of a game, but hats off to Neshaminy. I picked Truman to win just because I thought that they could, it’s not that I thought that they would. Right now you’d have to say that Neshaminy is in the driver’s seat, 100 percent, no doubt, in the National Conference because Pennsbury hasn’t really proven anything yet. Truman is a good team, they’ve got athletes, and they’re well coached, and Neshaminy blew their doors off. We can look back at Neshaminy beating Pennridge, who acquitted themselves well against North Penn on Saturday. Neshaminy is in the driver’s seat in the National Conference as is North Penn in the Continental. I think I thought the Neshaminy/Truman game was going to resemble what the North Penn/Pennridge ended up being, a close one.”

Drew Markol:  “I was more surprised by what Central Bucks West did to Bensalem than what Neshaminy did to Truman. When you get into playing the true heavyweights, the Neshaminys and the North Penns and those folks – they hear all the rumblings, especially in this day and age where everybody hears everything five minutes before it’s said. I’m sure the Neshaminy kids wanted to make a statement, and they did. Give them credit. They’re playing a team that’s flying high with a ton of confidence, and they went out and they crushed them.”  Central Bucks West knocked Bensalem from the undefeated ranks with a 41-21 win. Your thoughts.

Todd Thorpe:  “That’s huge for West. West got off to a good start like Bensalem, won a lot of close games, and you weren’t quite sure what CB West was. North Penn’s win over CB West was a lot easier than the final score of the game (28-14), so you really had to wonder what kind of team West had, and to go and put up 41 points on Bensalem, which has been known for its defense for the most part, that’s an impressive win for West. That’s a win that’s going to help them because on reviewing the remainder of the schedule, it’s a Bensalem team that has a chance to be 6-4 and maybe a 7-3 team, and that will help West power points-wise as opposed to some of the other teams who have played teams without great non-league schedules. That’s a big win for West. West is a team with experience, and they have good young coach in Chas Cathers. I think that’s a real statement win. The big test for West – are they a playoff team or not – it’s not going to be how they play against North Penn. It’s going to be how they play against CB East, CB South, Pennridge. Those are the games that will determine their fate, and none of those games will be easy wins. CB East-CB West will be a really good game.”

Drew Markol:  “For CB West, that’s a nice job. You got beat up pretty good by North Penn the week before, and then to come back out against an undefeated Bensalem team and handle them like that - that shows you something. That’s good coaching by Chas Cathers. That’s how you rebound. West is probably the number four team in the Continental Conference behind North Penn, Pennridge and CB South, but now you wonder with the National Conference, is it Neshaminy/Pennsbury and then who? Is it Bensalem? Is it Truman? It’s nice that Bensalem and Truman are still in the conversation and having nice years, but sometimes you need to get punched in the nose, and they did. There’s no shame in losing to Neshaminy, that’s for sure.”

Jen Wielgus:  “Bensalem has come a long way, we can’t deny that, but their Abington win doesn’t look as great right now as it did because Abington is struggling. We’ll see how they play against Pennsbury, but it really is Neshaminy and maybe Pennsbury in that conference.”  Council Rock South rebounded from a crushing 42-0 loss to Harry S Truman to defeat Abington after a week that saw head coach Vince Bedesem also lose his mother. Your thoughts.

Todd Thorpe:  “When you lose three or four games in a row, kids question where they’re going the rest of the season. I’ve said it all the time – football is not a game you play out the string. When you have to go to practice every day in those pads and knock heads, that’s not a game you play just to go out and get the season over with. You’ve got a lot to play for every week. That league is going to be tough for Council Rock South, it’s going to be tough for Abington and Council Rock North because you’re playing against four district playoff teams this year. In Neshaminy and Pennsbury, you have two teams that could go deep in the playoffs, so that’s a real tough conference. If you’re trying to put something together and you’re trying to build something, it’s tough to do it because you’re not getting any days off.

“I give South a lot of credit. Certainly the Bedesem family had a rough week, and I’m sure the win – it doesn’t make up for the loss, but in the same breath, it’s nice to see the team rally around their coach too.”

Jen Wielgus  “As absolutely dejected and angry as they were on the sidelines after they lost to Truman – to come off that game and knowing what they’ve been going through behind the scenes with their coach not being there, I give them points for coming back and winning that game.”

Drew Markol:  “Abington, to me, is just an enigma. They’re just struggling, and that’s a good job by CR South. It’s a shame about Vince Bedesem with the loss of his mother. That is never easy. That win is a testament to the assistants and to the kids with their coach going through a lot that they could come back like that. Now they have to buckle up again and get ready for Pennridge on Thursday, so there’s no rest for the weary, but that’s a nice job by South, for sure.”  Looking ahead to this week, are there other games you find especially interesting?

Todd Thorpe:  “I’m doing Pennsbury at Bensalem. I expect Pennsbury is starting to get on a roll now, and they’re pointing to two games. They’re pointing towards Truman and Galen Snyder, Dave Sanderson, Mike LaPalombara and the coaching staff from Truman coming back to play Pennsbury, and I’m sure they’re looking ahead to Neshaminy the last week of the regular season too, but the reality is they’ve got to take care of business. Bensalem didn’t get to be 4-0 by accident, and, yes, they got a comeuppance last week and they’re facing probably the most dynamic offensive player in that conference in Zach Demarchis. They’re going to have to show up and they’re going to have to turn around and play with a lot of determination. Anything can happen.

“I think Pennsbury, especially coming off the North Penn loss, said, ‘You know what, this is a team that went to the state semifinals last year and is predicted to do good things again this year, and we were right there in the fourth quarter and had a chance.’ I’m sure Pennsbury came away from that game thinking, ‘Why not?’ and you see it more every week. Zach Demarchis is getting more people involved in the offense, and they continue to put up really good defensive numbers. Those are things that make Pennsbury formidable. I really like what Bensalem did the first four weeks. I like how they played, their coach Ed Cubbage and the attitude that - we’re quick guys who get the ball defensively, and we’re going to get after you. It’s a good story. Now if they want to be taken seriously and move to the next level, it’s got to be against a team like Pennsbury. They have to come out there and play and have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. That would be a statement for them. I still think Bensalem is a team with their destiny in their own hands. If they take care of business, they’re going to be right there in the mix at 6-4 and 7-3, and that is playoff-worthy numbers. I would say you better get to 7-3 just to make sure. It’s in their hands. If they go out, play well and do what they have to do, they can achieve that goal and get to the playoffs. I think this is a tough challenge for them this week against a tough Pennsbury team that does seem to have an identity and knows where it’s going. You gave up 41 points to CB West last week and now you’ve got to stop a guy like Zach Demarchis who’s a very tough quarterback to deal with.”

Drew Markol:  “Quakertown at Hatboro-Horsham is another great game. If you’re Hatboro-Horsham, you have to win. If you’re Quakertown, you’ve got to be careful because you just beat a team in Upper Dublin that many people thought might be the best in the conference. Hatboro-Horsham is going to be angry because they can’t afford a second conference loss. I think Hatboro-Horsham wins, but I’ve been wrong on Quakertown a lot, I’ve been wrong on Hatboro-Horsham a lot, so I really have no idea what I’m talking about.”