Back for its 12th season, the popular Intelligencer/Bucks County Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football’ features football beat writer Drew Markol. To stay on top of the high school football news in the area, visit the Intelligencer (http://www.theintell.com/sports/high-school/) and Courier Times (http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/sports/high-school/) web sites.
SuburbanOneSports: Quakertown won its SOL Continental Conference showdown against Souderton 36-14 in a game that was much closer than the final score suggests. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “Quakertown is looking to win a conference title and get a high seed in the district tournament. It was a good game for three quarters. It was tied going into the fourth quarter, but Quakertown put up three touchdowns, including a big TD by recovering a botched kickoff. They grabbed the ball, and they were able to score in a 36-14 win. As Souderton coach Ed Gallagher said afterwards - it was one of those games where the score was truly not indicative of the way the game went. It was a good game from both sides, a good 309 Bowl rivalry game.
“Souderton has had a ton of injuries. Everybody has had their injuries, I understand that. They give most teams a good go, but they get worn down. Against a good team like Quakertown that has the ability to run and pass, they eventually get to you, and that’s what Quakertown did, and it’s why they’re 6-0 and just rolling along.
“You look at that game – Quakertown’s passing game came to life, particularly in the second half. Senior wide receiver Zach Fondl caught eight passes for 162 yards and had two touchdowns. He was unstoppable, did a really nice job. Quarterback Will Steich can make things happen. He doesn’t run much, but he has that ability to run. He’s very accurate, he’s been a three-year starter, and he plays like one. They’re just getting good play. Their defense is very good. They make a lot of open field tackles, which good teams do. They did the same thing against Upper Dublin two weeks ago. When Souderton would get a player in space, the Quakertown defender would make the play. That’s how you win games, that’s how they’re doing it. They’re good in all three facets, and it’s paying off.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Quakertown will host Neshaminy in a non-league game Friday. Your comments about that game.
Drew Markol: “Another good test for Quakertown will come this Friday at home. They’ve gone Upper Dublin, Souderton and now they get Neshaminy in a crossover. Neshaminy is only 1-5 with a win over Souderton. They played North Penn tight for three quarters, and they had the lead on them in the early going. That’s a good test for Quakertown. They’re going to get teams like Neshaminy in the district playoffs that are bigger and physical. Can Quakertown go back-to-back-to-back? We’ll find out on Friday. Neshaminy is young, and they’ll be better next year.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Central Bucks West came up with a big win over Pennridge. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “CB West keeps it going, beating Pennridge 28-24. They’ve won five in a row now. They had a big stop on fourth down. Pennridge was deep inside West territory in the late going, and it was a fourth-and-three. Everybody in the stadium knew that Phil Picciotti was going to get the ball for Pennridge. West was aware of it too and made the stop and stopped him short. They got the ball back, and they were able to run out the victory. Nice win for West. When they lost their first week to Coatesville, we kind of wondered, but it was Coatesville, a very good team. Now they’ve won five in a row, they’re setting up big games against North Penn and CB East that are coming up. Good job by West. They come at you – they run and they run, and they set up the run by running. That’s what they do. They don’t make any bones about it, and it’s working for them.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Pennridge – coming off losses to North Penn and CB West – travels to Bensalem on Friday. Your comments about that matchup.
Drew Markol: “An interesting game this week will be Pennridge at Bensalem. Can the Rams bounce back after the tough loss to West last week? They’re 3-3 right now. The magic number is probably at least six to get into the playoffs, so they need to win some games. Then you have Bensalem at 4-2 that won a 6-0 game against Council Rock North. They’ve played a lot of high-scoring games, but they played some defense, so that’s a huge game if Bensalem were to win on Friday night. I think Pennridge is the better team. When I pick the game, I’ll pick Pennridge, but it will be close, and you have to play down at Bensalem. They’re carving out a pretty good season, and they know full well if they get a win over Pennridge – that’s win number five. They’re probably another win away from going to districts, which is remarkable after being winless last year and struggling seemingly forever.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Anything of note in the SOL American?
Drew Markol: “In the American Conference, you look at Springfield Township, and we talked before about just a few years ago they dropped varsity football. They didn’t have enough players, and now they’re 4-1, playing schools that are larger than them. Their only loss was to a decent Plymouth Whitemarsh team. I’m sure they’re telling the kids when they get to the playoffs and playing schools their own size – what they’re doing now is only going to help. It’s just remarkable that they’re doing so well. They were close to dropping their whole program, and now – a little bit of success breeds more success, and it breeds more kids going out for the team, and it all just snowballs. As much as Bensalem has been a great story, the ongoing story of Springfield is a really good one. Their coach, Chris Shelly, could have packed it in when the program was down in the dumps not even having varsity football, but he hung with it and has built it back up, and that’s not an easy thing to do.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Hatboro-Horsham forfeited its game against Central Bucks West on Friday due to low roster numbers and safety concerns for the program. This is their second forfeit this season. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “We find out that Hatboro-Horsham is going to forfeit its game with CB West this week. This is their second forfeit in the last three games. It’s a shame what’s going on. We haven’t heard anything official from Hatboro-Horsham, but Central Bucks West athletic director Henry Hunt put out a statement saying it’s a shame they can’t play the game, but Hatboro-Horsham has low numbers, and they’re afraid of injuries. It kind of figured it would be the low numbers. Hatboro-Horsham – with a rich football tradition – is a 5A program, the second largest enrollment classification in the state, and they’re not playing. You see teams like Jenkintown, New Hope-Solebury, Morrisville, Bristol – much, much smaller schools – fielding teams, so it does sound like there’s something a lot deeper at Hatboro-Horsham for why they’re not getting the numbers that they need to field a program.
“It makes you wonder going forward. They didn’t play two weeks ago, but they played last week and lost to Council Rock South and gave up 48 points. I believe they’ve given up close to 200 points in the games they have played. Their next two games are against undefeated Quakertown and then defending district champion Souderton on Oct. 15 and 22. It makes you think that those games are in jeopardy too. If they’re not going to play this week, I don’t know if you’re going to magically get healthy enough and get enough numbers to play in those games either. It’s not a good situation. You wonder what the underlying causes are. Again, they’re a 5A program that has had a pretty rich tradition of football. There are an awful lot of 5A schools out there playing, and there are also a lot of 1A teams out there playing. This is something if you see your numbers are very bad in May and June – let the other schools know because now you’re hurting them. They want to play, their band wants to play, their fans want a game – there are all sorts of ramifications down the line, and then they’re not able to do it.
“A couple of years ago, Springfield Township stopped playing varsity football and basically started from scratch. They’re smaller enrollment-wise than Hatboro-Horsham, which tells you it can be done. They took a drastic measure, and when it happened, a lot of people thought you wouldn’t see football again at Springfield. Well, you are, and they’re playing very well. Is that a potential road Hatboro-Horsham will have to take? It might well be because I’m sure the other teams in the league will tell you – we all feel bad for Hatboro-Horsham, but they’ll also tell you – Hey, we want to play, and if you’re not going to be able to play, we need to know.’ It’s like anything in life. It’s a trickledown effect – every decision affects a lot of different things.”
Drew Markols Picks (Winner in bold)
Central Bucks South @ Council Rock South.
Abington @ Souderton
Pennridge @ Bensalem
Central Bucks East @ Council Rock North
Cheltenham @ Plymouth Whitemarsh
North Penn @ Harry S Truman
Lower Moreland @ Wissahickon
Neshaminy @ Quakertown
Springfield Twp @ New Hope-Solebury
Upper Dublin @ Pennsbury
Upper Moreland @ William Tennent