Back for a third season is the popular Intelligencer/Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football,’ featuring high school football beat writers Kevin Cooney and Dan Dunkin. Cooney, the Phillies beat writer, covers schools in the Intelligencer area while Dan Dunkin – who has been covering sports at the high school and professional level for 25 years - will cover teams in the Courier Times area. Both share their perspective on the teams in their coverage area. To stay on top of the high school football news in the area, visit the web site http://www.phillyburbs.com/sports/high_school/
SuburbanOneSports: Looking back at the events of last week that saw Mark Schmidt suspended, what are your final thoughts on that situation?
Dan Dunkin: “It took them five days from the Council Rock South game until Wednesday to decide to suspend Mark Schmidt for one game for something that, in my opinion, was extremely trivial. It was unfair to him, it was unfair to the staff and it was unfair to the kids on the team. Again, when you put it in perspective, considering the nature of the sport and the body of work he’s amassed in 18 years, and the intensity with which good coaches use to teach lessons and to get the best out of their players and what this alleged incident was - one of his kids involved in a personal foul and scuffle and he was pulling him out – to me, it spoke badly of the Neshaminy administration. The fact that very few people sizing up his suspension would speak for the record was really weak.
“Neshaminy bounced back in a big way against Bensalem. I think it brought them even closer together. To Bensalem’s credit, they had a good second half coming back, but Neshaminy withstood that, like good teams do, and put up a lot of points. They’re a good team. I think something like the controversy was really unnecessary but it really pisses a team off and makes them come together even stronger. I look for that from Neshaminy. Much like they have done throughout their history and during Schmidt's run, they’re going to be playing their best football when they need to be against Abington and Pennsbury and then in the postseason.
“It really was unnecessary drama, but they handled it. As a team and as a staff, they pulled together, and they handled it, and that spoke well of them.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: What impressed you most about Neshaminy’s performance on the field?
Dan Dunkin: “They’ve got a multi-dimensional offense, and to me, their backfield depth rivals that of Pennsbury. Nate Hall is just playing great. He’s extremely fast, he has great acceleration, great balance. He’s hard to bring down, has a low center of gravity, keeps his legs churning through contact. And they have power backs that can move it in Blake Sullivan and Denny Lord. They have D’Andre Pollard, who can come in and spell Hall. Then the way they throw the ball – they have three kids capable of throwing it. Joe Falkowski, the Pennsbury transfer, has been kind of a revelation. Hugh Hart has been solid, and Justin Andrews is one of the best all-around players in the conference. He’s an excellent receiver, and he has thrown for two touchdowns as a lefty. Cole Creighton had two breakaway plays last week as a receiver and a punt returner. They’ve got a lot of kids that can do damage, move the sticks and make big plays, and they’ve emerged as the season has gone on, so that’s exciting for Neshaminy.
“They’ve got to clean some things up defensively, but they’ve got the capability. Without question, they’ve got the capability and toughness to do that. It’s just a matter of execution. They’ve got team speed, they’ve got depth, and they’ve got a lot of kids who are really learning how to win, some younger kids that are joining the seniors. They’ve got the ability to do some damage here. They really do.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: What are your thoughts about Bensalem in their second year under Kevin Kelly?
Dan Dunkin: “Their passing game was very exciting. Donnie Reed has really developed and is probably the best receiver in the area or at least right up there. He’s leading everybody in the area with about 50 catches. He was hard for Neshaminy to deal with. He kept finding seams and caught 11 balls for over 200 yards. They have been able to get more and more out of their passing game this year. Kevin Hopkins has really improved at quarterback. He’s such a tough kid. He’s not very big – 5-7, but he’ll run it, he’ll dish it out, he’ll take a shot, he can keep plays alive with his ability, and he’s had a good year throwing the ball. That’s really kept Bensalem competitive in a lot of these games.
“They’re 2-6, and that’s the bottom line. I know Kevin Kelly is not happy with that. They’ve let some games get away in the second half, and conversely, the Neshaminy game started getting away from them late in the first half and early second half, and to their credit, they’re down 28-7, and they darn near came back and won the game. Really, if it wasn’t for a blocked extra point and a batted down two-point conversion, they could have tied the game in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter, so that showed a lot.
“Kelly said afterwards – they need to learn how to win, and that’s a tough process, but they certainly know how to compete, and that’s the step right before learning how to win and closing these games out. Anybody that’s playing Bensalem is going to be in a battle. No matter what the score is, they’re going to keep playing. That speaks well of Kevin and what he’s building there. The wins are going to come there.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: The Abington-Neshaminy game has playoff implications. What are your thoughts about that game?
Dan Dunkin: “Abington is better than advertised. They were 10-2 last year, they scared a lot of people with their speed and diversity on offense. They’re not quite that team now, but you look at them, and they’re 6-2 now, so they’ve done quite a few things right, which is a credit to Tim Sorber and his staff. Dylan Collins is a running and throwing threat as a quarterback. Craig Reynolds has had a really good year running the ball, and they’ve relied on him a lot. He’s averaged 21 carries a game. They didn’t have much experience, but they’ve stepped up and played well for the mos part this year.
“You look at it – they’ve put up 30-plus points on three league opponents. Neshaminy is going to have to be on its toes defensively. I expect Neshaminy to win this game. It’s huge for both teams. They’re both in the bottom tier of power points for District One. Neshaminy is tied for 13thand Abington is 15th. Sixteen teams get in. They’re tied for second place in the conference. Neshaminy is home, and because of the things I’ve talked about previously, I expect Neshaminy to win this game and play a pretty solid game on both sides of the ball. I think their running game will punish Abington, and they have the ability to change it up with their passes."
SuburbanOneSports.com: What are your thoughts about the Council Rock South-William Tennent game?
Dan Dunkin: “Council Rock South has been playing better in the last three weeks. Their running game has gotten stronger. They have good talent back there with Christian Crane and Tyler Alexander. They’ve been letting quarterback Greg Paprocki throw a little more, and he’s capable. I just think they’re the more physical team. Tennent’s thing has been team speed, but losing their quarterback, Joe Lutz, a couple of weeks ago hurt, though Jeff Ledford has done a really great job stepping in, running the ball very well and being able to throw it and still playing great defense the way he does. I just think South knows it has two more chances to win games here. It’s been a tough year for them, and they’re a more physical team. I think depth-wise they can pull this one out.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: North Penn will not be going to the playoffs for the first time in recent memory after Friday’s loss to Pennridge. Your thoughts about the Knights.
Kevin Cooney: “North Penn’s standard has been so high, and I think they’re being punished a little bit for playing a tough schedule, which I don’t think is fair, but it’s the rules of the game, so you just have to move on. I think quite honestly that some of the things that have happened to them, especially the two league losses, are breaks that they would normally get that they just didn’t get.
“You saw quarterback John Pileggi just go out of his mind in the second half of the CB South game, and in Friday’s loss to Pennridge, you saw an amazing catch by Kyle Bigam for the game-winning touchdown. Their secondary has not been good, but again, other years they haven’t been great either, but it just seems this year some of the fine details were not as polished as they normally are. Things like penalties, mental breakdowns – stuff you never saw before you saw a little more this year. I thought their offensive line did not have a real good year. They didn’t keep their quarterback upright enough. They didn’t really get enough of a push for Kyle Mayfield, who I think is a real good running back and has done the best he can.
“This is where North Penn is right now. It’s just one of those years. Look, Neshaminy has had years they have missed the playoffs, Pennsbury has had years they have missed. Stuff happens, for lack of a better term. This is a year where stuff just happened, and North Penn will not be going on.
“I think the rest of the division got better. I think some of the holes North Penn has had will get patched going forward. I think this is what happens when you have a senior-laden team that goes to the state title game. You have guys that did not play a lot last year. You had some other guys who didn’t fill the roles they expected. North Penn is not going to be down for long. I think it’s a one-year deal. If you’re asking me if I would bet on it being a one-year deal, yes I would.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: After watching Pennridge several weeks in a row, what are your thoughts about that squad?
Kevin Cooney: “I was impressed by the fact that Pennridge won Friday’s game even though North Penn did a great job on Mike Class. I think so much attention has been paid to Class that we forget Crawford, we forget Bigam, we forget Krivda. They have some other weapons on that team. They have some players who can make very big plays. I love their linebacking corp. I think their linebackers play tough. They’re not a complete team, they’re not going to be the favorite in districts, but they’re a tough team, and they’re going to be a tough out for somebody.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Talk about Pennridge’s response after North Penn came back to tie the game 21-21 with under a minute to play, going on a 65-yard game-winning drive.
Kevin Cooney: “The key play on that drive was the quarterback draw by Krivda that got them to midfield. Once the draw happens, it opens up the rest of the field. If they are stuffed there at the 35 with two timeouts left and 40 seconds, I am willing to bet Randy Cuthbert takes a knee and just plays for the tie. That’s something you’re not used to seeing – teams being that aggressive in an era where you get the ball in overtime. Give Randy Cuthbert a lot of credit. That quarterback draw that got them to midfield was the biggest play of the game to me. That got the engine going and ready for the final drive.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Looking ahead, what are the big games in the Continental Conference?
Kevin Cooney: “Central Bucks West going to North Penn is a big game for West. CB West still has a playoff spot on the line. CB West is in elimination mode, and Souderton is in elimination mode. Souderton’s big game is next week against North Penn at home with Souderton being the 17th team in the 16-team format. If they beat North Penn, you have to think they probably will get in. For CB West, it’s kind of the same deal. Sherrod Higginbotham had a huge game for them last week against Hatboro-Horsham. This is a big game for the program. They made the playoffs a couple of year ago, and with only two Continental teams guaranteed, if they made it this year, that would be enormous.
“It’s pretty clear that if you get to four losses you’re done.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season with the playoffs on the horizon, what are your thoughts?
Kevin Cooney: “I think it’s important for both CB South and Pennridge to get home games. Obviously, Pennridge should win their final two regular season games, and if they do, they should get two home games.
“The momentum CB South had earlier in the year seems as though it got stymied a little bit after that Pennridge game. Quite honestly, they need a home game.
“Honestly, the best Suburban One League team right now is Pennsbury. Pennsbury is the team that seems as though it has the most talent. Pennsbury seems as though it’s starting to get in a favorable spot in the rankings. If they beat Neshaminy next week, they will have a big boost there.
“The Abington-Neshaminy game this week is almost an elimination game, more so for Neshaminy because they still have Pennsbury on their schedule. “