Intelligencer/Courier Times 'Let's Talk Football' (10-9-15)

Back for its sixth season, the popular Intelligencer/Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football’ features Kevin Cooney and Drew Markol.  Cooney, the Phillies beat writer, will handle the Bucks County Courier Times coverage area and also is part of a panel each Friday night on the WNPV/Intelligencer Scoreboard Show. Markol is the football beat writer for the Intelligencer area. Both are regular contributors on the weekly Game On show, and to view this week’s show, click on the following link:  Scott Huff, the football beat writer for, also offers his perspective on the SOL American Conference.

To stay on top of the high school football news in the area, visit the Intelligencer/Courier Times web site  Your thoughts at the midway point of the season.

Kevin Cooney:  “I think now you’re at a point where the landscape is pretty clear, and I think the landscape tells us that four-loss teams are not getting in (districts) or they’re going to have a very difficult time getting in. It could be a bottleneck at four losses.

“That was why last week was so critical. Central Bucks East might be in the best shape out of the (Continental Conference) group because they’re through Rock North and South. They still have Quakertown, but the rest of the schedule for East is pretty manageable.

“Rock South still has to go through Quakertown, and they have CR North, which makes it a little dicey. That head-to-head matchup on the last day of the regular season is going to be interesting.  If you’re Rock North – and this is a big picture thing, you still have Quakertown and Rock South ahead and still have some defensive issues, so that’s a concern.

“When you get to the National Conference, it’s not just that Neshaminy has North Penn and Pennsbury left on its schedule. You have them both on the road, and you have them on the road in back-to-back weeks, which could be a bear. That’s why Neshaminy’s game against Pennridge, to be honest, was the biggest game of the year. That loss to Pennridge jolts everything in the National Conference. Realistically, it makes a three-team race a two-team race for the time being. Neshaminy was probably a three-loss team if they don’t have the trip up, and they’d be fine, no matter what, but they’ve had the trip up, so you have to find a way to be creative and beat one of those two teams (North Penn and Pennsbury) to secure yourself a playoff spot. It was a bad time for a bad game. Now you’re going to have to be pretty (darn) perfect the rest of the way, and that’s a pretty tall task, even for a team like Neshaminy.

“That game keeps Pennridge in the hunt and in the conversation because now you’re two-thirds of the way through the bear schedule. You still have Pennsbury, but if they don’t slip up, they’re going to be in the conversation at 7-3.”  The first District One power rankings came out last weekend. Your thoughts.

Kevin Cooney:  “You always take the week five power rankings with a little bit of a grain of salt. A team like North Penn, which is on the outside looking in right now, is going to get into the field unless they lose to Neshaminy and Pennsbury. They don’t get full points because they have West Catholic as one of their wins. It’s nice to have that first look (at the rankings), but it’s also good to remind yourself that those numbers are very fluid, and you kind of have to look through the schedule a little bit.

“If North Penn runs the table, which it very well could, they move from a 19 seed to probably a seven or eight. That’s how quick this is going to move.

“The bracket is a little top heavy. You have Upper Dublin, who is undefeated, you have PW who is still undefeated, you have the Downingtowns. You take these with a grain of salt. Pennsbury at eight – you’re saying, ‘Oh my god, what’s going on?’ This is not the end-all by any means.

Drew Markol:  “As a lot of these teams start playing each other, it takes away a lot of what happened with the preseason games. You look at a team like William Tennent that has given up over 100 points in its two conference games, but it won its first three. They’re 23rd in the rankings, and they’re almost in a playoff spot for a team that’s not a playoff team.

“Then you look at North Penn, which is absolutely a playoff team, and if the playoffs started this weekend, North Penn wouldn’t be playing, and neither would Neshaminy. A lot of this will change week to week. You look at the top of it with Downingtown West and Downingtown East, and if those schools stayed together, imagine how good they would be.

“From the SOL, you have Quakertown at four, PW at five, Upper Dublin at six, and you could see that switching. Pennsbury, the defending district champ, is eight.  People want the power rankings, and that’s why they put it out. It gives you something to talk about. If they didn’t do it, people would complain, so now they put them out and people can complain. It’s better to have it out in the open and say – this is what it looks like now. We have five more weeks to hopefully get it right.

“You look at the top with Downingtown East and Downingtown West – when they play each other, somebody is going to lose. Quakertown at four – I’m sure they’d be very happy staying there because if you’re four, you get two home games, which you want. You look at PW and Upper Dublin at five and six respectively. Plymouth Whitemarsh and Upper Dublin are undefeated. Upper Dublin gets a lot more of the conversation, but it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

“Right now another surprising thing is there are only seven undefeated teams in the whole district. We’ll follow this week to week, and it makes it interesting. They let so many teams in this thing – if I had my way, you’d only have eight in, but they didn’t ask me.”  Council Rock North defeated Central Bucks East in overtime last week. Talk about the implications of that game.

Drew Markol:  “For CB East, they won a surprise game in overtime when they beat Pennridge, which was a pretty impressive win. Now they’re on the other end of the spectrum with a loss like that. You have to see how they respond. In a conference that’s going to be tight all the way between CB East, Quakertown, Council Rock South and Council Rock North, the games are all huge, and you have to come back from that and see what you’re made of. They have William Tennent this week, and Tennent has had troubles since conference play has started. From here on out, every game is a must win.

“For Council Rock South – their losses were to two teams, Pennsbury and Neshaminy, that are going to have a lot of wins, so as far as the power points, those are not going to be crushing losses. Your can’t call Rock South a darkhorse because they’re legit, and they also offer that option offense that teams aren’t used to defending, which gives them an advantage. To get a win like that over East in a game people thought East was going to win, that’s a huge win, and after a couple of close losses, it’s nice to win a close game and get your confidence back and say, ‘Hey, we can do this.’

“The first district power rankings with CR South and CB East both at 16 is a good barometer of how important that game was.”  Pennridge earned a 17-7 win at Neshaminy. Your comments.

Drew Markol:  “Pennridge had that tough stretch with North Penn and then Neshaminy. Now they have that big win over Neshaminy in a game most people thought they wouldn’t win, and that gets them to 3-2. They have a winnable game this week against Abington, and now you’re 4-2. It was absolutely a huge win for Pennridge to go to Neshaminy and win. Not many teams do that. In a National Conference that looked as though it was going to be Pennsbury, North Penn and Neshaminy, in some order, you have Pennridge knocking Neshaminy down a peg and putting itself back in the conversation.

“One thing Pennridge can do – they can line up with anybody. I think they were able to outsize Neshaminy. This doesn’t seem to be a typical Neshaminy team with enormous size, and Pennridge was able to man up with them. Plus you add in the weather and a sloppy field. One thing Pennridge doesn’t have is a lot of team speed, but if you’re playing in mud, everybody is slow. That probably hurts Neshaminy more than it hurts Pennridge. It’s a bit of an equalizer, but the bad cliché is – both teams are playing on the same field. Pennridge took advantage of it and got a huge win.”  Are there any games this weekend that stand out?

Kevin Cooney:  “It’s going to be interesting to see how Neshaminy bounces back. CB South is a little bit of a tough out. I know they’re 2-3, but they pushed North Penn a little bit last week. They weren’t a pushover. I want to see how they bounce back.

“When you get to week seven, it’s going to get interesting. PW/Upper Dublin is next week, and that will be interesting, at least on the surface. Upper Dublin will be the favorite. You have CR South/Quakertown and the following week CR North/Quakertown. In week seven, you have North Penn/Pennsbury and then it’s North Penn/Neshaminy and Neshaminy/Pennsbury in the final week. Mixed in there is CR North/CR South, and you have to think that will be an elimination game, unless either one of them knocks off Quakertown, and I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Drew Markol:  “CB South plays Neshaminy, and looking at the district playoffs, does that become an elimination game for somebody? It’s an absolute must-win for both teams, and I’m sure Neshaminy’s coaches are saying, ‘We’re on the outside looking in. We lost a game we thought we’d win to Pennridge.’ CB South is saying, ‘We had a lot of expectations, but we’re nowhere to be found on the district playoff list, and if we don’t win this one, we’re done.’ Nobody wants to be knocked out of the playoff talk in early October. I think for both teams it’s an absolute must to win this game if you have any hope of being in the playoffs.”  Hatboro-Horsham has turned a few heads with its 2-0 SOL American Conference record after going 0-3 in the non-league schedule.  What are your thoughts on the Hatters?

Scott Huff:  “Hatboro-Horsham followed up its impressive 20-13 victory over rival Upper Moreland with a 30-6 victory over Upper Merion.  In the win over the Golden Bears – the Hatters received a brilliant outing from senior quarterback Casey Walsh.  And in the 30-6 win over Upper Merion, the Hatters showcased a punishing running attack fueled by seniors Robert Fitzpatrick and Kingsley Nworu.

“Almost everyone agrees that both Upper Dublin and Plymouth Whitemarsh are the powers to be in the conference.  And the Hatters should go into their October 23 meeting with PW unbeaten after expected wins over Springfield and Wissahickon the next two weeks.  Hatboro-Horsham will play Upper Dublin the following week – October 30.”  What’s up with highly regarded Upper Dublin?

Scott Huff:  “Upper Dublin flexed its muscle against overmatched Springfield and registered a 62-0 victory.  The Cardinals – a Quad-A team - are unbeaten and took care of business early and often against the Spartans – a Class AA squad.  Stacey Gardner and Kalief Lee have provided a potent 1-2 punch all season for UD, and both helped knock out Springfield as both Gardner and Lee each scored three touchdowns.

“Upper Dublin (5-0, 2-0) will host Wissahickon (1-4, 0-2) this Friday and will then travel to Plymouth Whitemarsh (5-0, 2-0) on October 16 in what should amount as the SOL American Conference version of the Super Bowl.

“After the fifth week, the PIAA District One points have been revealed – and Upper Dublin ranks 6th in the Quad-A rankings with 540 points.  Springfield – despite the lopsided loss to the Cardinals – ranks 2nd in Class AA with 340 points.”  How about Plymouth Whitemarsh?

Scott Huff:  “Plymouth Whitemarsh has somehow become the Rodney Dangerfield – (no respect) - in the SOL American Conference.  The Colonials own the identical unbeaten record that Upper Dublin owns – and rank higher in the PIAA Quad-A District One rankings with a 5th place ranking and 560 points.  But almost all the statewide rankings have Upper Dublin mentioned – but not a sighting of PW.

“Plymouth Whitemarsh will have a huge contest this week as the Colonials host Upper Moreland (4-1, 1-1).  PW has featured the elite back in the conference in Nafeese Nasir – but Upper Moreland is very good and showcases a talented runner of its own in Rodney Morgan.  A victory over the Golden Bears is a must if the Colonials want next week’s game (10/16/15) with Upper Dublin to be the ‘Game of the Year’ in the SOL American Conference.”  Will the struggles of Cheltenham, Upper Merion, and Wissahickon continue?

Scott Huff:  “Cheltenham head coach Joe Gro has seen it all during his long tenure as the Panther head coach – but this season must rank among his most frustrating with a very inexperienced team.  Senior quarterback Branden Mack – a Temple University recruit – is talented but does not have the supporting cast.

“Upper Merion – which will exit the SOL next year for the Pioneer Athletic Conference next season – is one of two teams that are ranked Class AAA and the roster numbers make it difficult for the Vikings to compete.  Wissahickon continues to search for an identity with the loss of its head coach due to suspension.”  Who wins this week in the SOL American Conference?

Scott Huff:  “How about - /Upper Dublin 56 – Wissahickon 13/; Plymouth Whitemarsh 42 – Upper Moreland 21/; /Hatboro-Horsham 38 – Springfield 14/; and /Upper Merion 20 – Cheltenham 13/ ?”