In this third edition of Coach Carey’s blog, ‘The Way I See It,’ the former coach takes a look at the third week of the SOL football season as well as some of the games to watch in the opening weekend of league play.
The Way I See It: Week 3
SOS.com: North Penn is 3-0 entering the SOL season after its 24-14 win over St. Joe’s Prep. You were at the game. What were your observations?
Coach Carey: Knowing the team and coach Beck like I do and being versed on who the young players are coming into the season, I saw a team that was very young and inexperienced in a lot of areas but had some key guys coming back.
On paper, this was a rebuilding year, but people were asking me – from sportswriters to area coaches – who I thought was going to be one of the top teams in the state, and I thought North Penn right off the bat. Even though some of their new players are young and inexperienced, there’s a lot of talent athletically, and the program is just so strong – it just reloads. I was involved in that at C.B. West.
The kids on the bench are getting a lot of playing time because usually you have some blowouts during the year. You look at these 10th and 11th graders, and they played three or four full games in bits and pieces last year, so there was some experience coming back.
They (the Knights) opened the season with a big win, and now they played a physically imposing team from the Catholic League – St. Joe’s Prep – and soundly beat them in all phases. What I think at this point is that North Penn is a very good team. I think you have to emphasize – the sum is much greater than the parts. It’s really a coach’s dream.
You look at this team, and they don’t have tons of outstanding players, but they have a lot of good players. Some of them are young and could develop into tremendous players, but right now, they’re a coach’s dream. This is a true team. I think Dick (Beck) will tell you he’s having a lot of fun with this team. I look out there, and they are clicking in a lot of facets at this point.
There are few Division One players, there’s not a lot of huge guys, but they have great team speed. They reminded me of some of the great C.B. West teams of the 80s – again, the sum is so much better than the part, and that really is very special.
St. Joe’s Prep has a great program. Gil Brooks’ record speaks for itself, but if you want to tell it honestly, North Penn has really done a better job in the coaching department the last three years against St. Joe’s Prep. Three years ago, St. Joe’s Prep had more talent – North Penn won. Last year, I thought the talent levels were fairly even – North Penn won. This year I thought NP had more talent and North Penn won again.
A big part of winning is your game plan and coach Beck has been coming up with great game plans to attack St. Joe’s defense, and I think that’s the key. When you look at both teams here, I really like what St. Joe’s Prep does on offense, but I think defensively they get outflanked and out-schemed. They’ve given up 82 points in three games for an average of 27 points a game. Coach Beck saw he could again get to the outside vs. the Prep’s 43 monster defense, but the kicker for North Penn was its ability to throw vs. the Prep’s cover “3” defense. A part of this game was won in the film room one week earlier when NP devised their game plan. I think St. Joe’s Prep will finish strong, but they need to continue to improve defensively.
SOS.com: Senior quarterback Todd Smolinsky had his best game of the season against the Prep. What was your assessment of his performance?
Coach Carey: Todd exemplifies my point – he’s a very good quarterback who could, as the season goes on, blossom into being a great high school quarterback. He has all the tools. He’s very big physically for the quarterback position. He’s got a nice arm, he runs kind of like a fullback – sneaky fast, and I think more than anything, I can see that he’s a leader and is a very intelligent football player. Dick’s putting him in a position to succeed, and that’s a very, very important thing. He’s playing with smarts and toughness.
SOS.com: Any other North Penn players who caught your eye?
Coach Carey: Ralph Reeves really impresses me. As a 10th grader, he’s physically imposing. He’s years ahead of his class in terms of physical maturity and performance. This is a guy who’s performing at a very high level as a 10th grader. It’s very unusual to have a 10th grader start, let alone this guy is in his second year that has developed into one of their leaders. He’s going to continue to get a lot better.
Another thing that’s really impressive about Reeves is how good his hands are in addition to his blocking and tackling. He’s a very good athlete in that very muscular body. He has a real bright future. This is a guy that will be a scholarship player down the line.
He’s just so physical. He’s very, very strong. He’s worked very hard in the weight room. You look at his body, and he’s very mature and yet he has that inner fire. North Penn runs most of its plays either off-tackle or to the edge, and he’s involved in 60 percent of their key blocks, and he wins the battle most of the time.
As good as North Penn is going to be this year, next year is a year they will probably be penciled in to win the PIAA State Title.
SOS.com: Council Rock North notched a big win over Hatboro-Horsham. In your opinion, does that win legitimize Rock North?
Coach Carey: Tom Coates and his staff have really worked hard to turn things around at Council Rock North. They have a lot of legacy in that program also, and Tom’s had a rough start in his first two seasons, but he has some real fine athletes this year. His staff is working overtime to get them better, and when I saw them two weeks ago against Central Bucks South, I was very impressed with CR North, and they have obviously continued to improve.
Their defense is playing better, and Coates does a lot of things offensively. They’re a mobile offense with a lot of weapons. I really think if Brandon Cottom continues to get his wheels under him and become more comfortable coming back from the injury he sustained last year – he will become a big-time player and could help CR North challenge for the National title.
Tom has a unique team, and you better prepare for Council Rock North because he has a team that can put a lot of points up against opposing team’s defenses. He has shown he’s prepared. That was a great win they had at the end of last season against Council Rock South, and that was a very good Hatboro team he beat on Thursday night. Yes, they’re an up and coming team.
SOS.com: Quakertown has once again come out of the gate fast. How would you assess the Panthers as they head into conference play?
Coach Carey: I had an opportunity to see Quakertown against Cheltenham last Thursday night, and I was extremely impressed with Quakertown. The first thing I noticed was the swagger that the players had. They just came onto the field, and on their first series – even though they got down 7-0 on a long bomb by Cheltenham, you could just see the attitude has changed up there. They expected to win, and that’s the first thing that starts a program churning.
It’s like North Penn – every time North Penn comes on the field, they expect to win. I can see that the Quakertown kids have now bought into that, and that’s going a long way. Kudos to John Donnelly and his staff. They’re doing a lot of things offensively, and their defense is flying to the ball. They’re very attacking on defense, and their team speed defensively is impressive.
Quakertown is now 3-0. They’re close to being a top 10 team in the district at this point. If they continue to get better and stay injury-free, they could be a team to be reckoned with in the playoffs.
SOS.com: Were there any Quakertown players that caught your eye?
Coach Carey: Kurtis Robert came in at quarterback, and I was very, very impressed. They didn’t miss a beat when this young man came in who started in the secondary. He was very, very impressive.
Of course, Tony Latronica is a very gifted running back and receiver. They have a lot of other kids – Rob Basile, their middle linebacker, was making tackles all over the field. I was impressed. They have good receivers. They just have a lot of weapons. They were not relying solely on Latronica at all.
In fact, early in the game, I was wondering why they weren’t giving the ball more to Latronica. John had a plan to spread the wealth, and as the game went on, Latronica got his touches.
The key thing to me though was Quakertown defensively was very competitive, and if you want to be good in District One and in the playoffs, you have to ramp up your defense.
SOS.com: Has Quakertown closed the gap on North Penn at all this season?
Coach Carey: I think it’s a bit premature to say that at this point. Quakertown has so many guys going both ways while North Penn, with its great numbers, has most guys going one way. I think Quakertown is building a program. The coaches have a plan, although I’m not real crazy about the no-huddle (but that’s a whole other discussion). The kids look really strong from their off-season program. Coach Donnelly should be very proud at this point. I think Quakertown is establishing themselves as one of the better teams in the division. They have North Penn up in Quakertown this year, and that will be the true measuring stick if they’re closing the gap.
SOS.com: Do you have any comments about the Central Bucks East situation with Tim Michael stepping down after three games?
Coach Carey: It’s a shame that something like this happens at this time of the season. Tim’s a class guy. He and his staff were trying extremely hard. I don’t know all the particulars at this point, but the kids suffer more than anybody because it’s deflating when you lose your head coach because he’s your leader. I know the people in the community in Central Bucks are upset and questioning why something like this would happen three weeks into the season.
SOS.com: Looking at this week’s games, comment on the Abington/Neshaminy game.
Coach Carey: It’s a huge game for Neshaminy and Abington. Thinking about this game with Abington having a week off – it really could work to their advantage. It’s like a week of summer camp. I’m sure Tim Sorber has put in a few new wrinkles for Neshaminy and maybe healed up a little bit. I think Abington is very happy that the game is being played at their place, and that might be worth a point or two.
I look at it as a very even game. It’s the first great Suburban One matchup this year, and even though I’m going to do the North Penn/CB South game for WNPV, I’ve contracted one of my friends to film the game so I can review it Saturday morning.
You have two high-powered offenses with Julien Ireland, Sam Kind and Anthony Hensley on Abington. Neshaminy counters with Brian Titus, Bryan Dean, Corey Majors and Rick Brebner.
The one thing that concerns me is Abington’s defense. They went to the 3-5 defense last year, and when you play a team whose philosophy is based on power football like North Penn and Neshaminy, you really have your outside linebackers double as defensive ends. This is a tough job if you aren’t used to handling the fullback kicking them out, the tight end turning them out, or the wing back sealing them. Coming upfield - which Abington ends did vs. North Penn last year - creates a huge off-tackle hole and just aids in what the offense many times is trying to accomplish (run off tackle). Remember they’re now moved from being outside linebackers to ‘D’ Ends up on the line. They did not do a very good job against North Penn last year when North Penn came out with their two tight ends and tight wing look. This is a big question for Abington and their defensive staff…how to stop Neshaminy and get the ball back to our ‘O.’
As for Neshaminy…the Redskins’ defense has to step up because they’re playing against a high-powered offense with a lot of team speed. Abington can score points in bunches and has great speed on offense. I am concerned with Neshaminy’s team speed defensively. This game will show me how their team speed is because Abington is so fast offensively. Both coordinators have their work cut out for them.
SOS.com: What do you look for in the Council Rock South/Pennsbury contest?
Coach Carey: With the game being played at Pennsbury, I think that’s a huge advantage for Pennsbury. I still think Council Rock South is going to present a lot of problems with its triple option on offense. You can’t simulate it in practice that well or that fast. Then you get into the game, and all at once your reads defensively are happening real fast and you have to beat blocks. Big challenge for the Falcon defense!
I do think that Pennsbury’s offense – it’s the fourth week of the season – will continue in high gear. I love Brandon Pepper at QB…talent plus toughness = winner! I think they will wear down Council Rock South. This could be an interesting game. Vince Bedesem and his kids from CR South don’t back down from anybody. I expect them to play Pennsbury tough, but I do expect Pennsbury to win the game.
SOS.com: What about the Central Bucks West vs. Souderton game?
Coach Carey: two teams really in the hunt for a win. Coach Hensel has West playing tougher than they have in the last couple of years. Coach Gallagher is again haunted by injuries and off-field issues. Souderton has had a decade’s worth of injuries in less than two years. I see a close game with West striving for ball control and Souderton blitzing on “D” and look for the big play on ‘O.’ Good luck to both teams!
Players who make a difference…who you may not know (that I have seen in scrimmages, games, or film)
(Not in any order)
1) Brandon Cottom, Council Rock North, Jr…tons of size (6-2, 215), speed, hands. When he decides to start cutting it loose all the time….look out. BIG TIME RUNNING BACK
2) Jon Raymond, Council Rock North, Jr. (6-4, 240) wow, fast, good feet and a natural defensive lineman in terms of instincts. Very raw but a future D-1 player
3) Rob Basile, Quakertown, Jr. (6-2, 215) plays TE and LB. Tough good speed…in on tackle after tackle. Leader of a very good “D”
4) Lawrence Cottom, Cheltenham, Sr. (6-2, 290) OL,DL. Big, tough, moves well for size…he would be a difference maker on some top teams
5) Dom Taggart, North Penn, Jr. (6-1, 195) WR, LB, Kid makes plays everywhere. Nice receiver who just gets open and then is athletic to run afterwards. Defensively, he’s one of the four-headed monster playing linebacker for North Penn
6) Desmon Peoples, St. Joe’s Prep, Soph. (5-6, 145) RB, Return man. As dangerous a returner as any that have been around. Remember his name….Mr. Excitement can take it to the house with blocking or NO BLOCKING. He’s going to be that good. Future scholarship player!
That’s it…keep the e-mails coming to SuburbanOneSports@comcast.net. I’ll answer all questions with an honest answer. Until later...keep the hits coming. There’s no game in America like High School Football.