Back for its 13th 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.
Join Jeff Nolan and Kevin Cooney for the WPHT High School Football Scoreboard Show as they recap the night of high school football on Friday at 10 p.m. on 1210AM/WPHT and the Audacy app.
SuburbanOneSports.com: Looking at the SOL, which team has the potential to be playing the longest this season?
Drew Markol: “North Penn was 11-1 last year. They lost in the district quarterfinals in overtime to Ridley 56-55 in obviously a wild game. They come back this year led by their four-year starter at quarterback, Ryan Zeltt. He has a pretty good target in a kid called Yazeed Haynes, who transferred to North Penn over the winter from Neumann Goretti. Haynes, a senior, is about 6-2, 175. He ran a 4.39 (in the 40-yard dash) at the Penn State summer camp, and he committed to the University of Georgia, which won the 2021 National Championship. To give Zeltt a target like that – the last Georgia signee we had in this area was Mark Webb who went to Archbishop Wood a couple of years ago and is now in the NFL, which tells you something. Georgia doesn’t take the run-of-the-mill kid. Head coach Dick Beck says he has pretty good offensive and defensive lines. If Zeltt has a little time to throw, he’s going to have a pretty good place to throw it to in Haynes. North Penn really has no weaknesses across the board. I think they’re an absolute district title contender.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: What are your thoughts about the rest of the teams in the SOL National Conference?
Drew Markol: “CB West opens up the season at Garnet Valley. Garnet Valley beat them last year in the District 6A finals on the way to winning the district title. Garnet Valley has a new coach (Eric VanWyk) – Mike Ricci stepped down after 35 years, but they’ve had it rolling for a long time there. I give West coach Rob Rowan credit. He plays good teams when he can. Last year, West opened up against Coatesville. They lost to Coatesville, but they finished 9-3. Their only losses came against Coatesville, North Penn and Garnet Valley, and those three teams lost a combined four games. You play good teams, and that’s how you get better. Eli Boehm is back, and he was their leading rusher last year, and he’s a senior now. Ganz Cooper is a junior, and he’s in his third year as a starting quarterback, so there are pieces there for West, for sure, to build on.
“Pennridge lost all-state linebacker Phil Picciotti, who transferred to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year, and that’s going to hurt. He’s committed to Oklahoma. If he had stayed, I think Pennridge would have been a pretty good pick to go a long way in the playoffs. Without him, they still have a good running game. Brennan Fisher is a senior now – he’s an Army West Point commit. He averaged 12 or 13 yards a carry last year. Tyler Wetzel, another senior running back, is really strong too. They have a nice punch there in the backfield. Senior linebacker Dylan O’Brien got overshadowed by Picciotti, but he’ll lead that defense. Pennridge has a new head coach in Chuck Burgy. They should be solid, for sure.
“So should CB East with Patrick Keller at quarterback returning and Ethan Shine – a very good first team SOL linebacker and running back – returning. CB South was down a little bit last year, but they won’t be down for long. Tom Hetrick is a very good coach. They’ll always be tough. You look at Neshaminy and Pennsbury – Pennsbury was 0-10 and Neshaminy was 2-8 for a combined 2-18, and that’s all but unheard of. One of Neshaminy’s wins was over Pennsbury. Galen Snyder is back at Pennsbury. He retired after the 2015 season as a head coach, and he’s back to try and rebuild the program. They haven’t won a game since they beat Neshaminy in 2019 in the last regular season game of the year. I believe it’s 16 straight losses for Pennsbury, which is just hard to fathom, and they open up their season at Coatesville, which went to the district final last year and lost to Garnet Valley. Neshaminy has a couple of good defensive players in Jack Dunkley and Nick Buchys, who’s a good tight end also. It’s a very uncharacteristic 2-8. I don’t see that again. I see Neshaminy getting their footing. You look at Abington – Kevin Conlin has some talented players. It was not a great year last year for Abington, but he’ll get them back in the mix. They’re not at the North Penn or CB West level, but they’ll fall in there and be better, for sure.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Your thoughts about the SOL Continental Conference.
Drew Markol: “Upper Dublin has a good quarterback in Colin O’Sullivan, who started out at Hatboro-Horsham and now is at Upper Dublin. He was a starter as a freshman at Hatboro-Horsham, and he’ll be a four-year starter. He’s very good, so Upper Dublin again, as always, will be right near the top.
“Souderton returns its entire defense, and that’s so odd for a high school team to return everybody. Last year, in six of their games, I believe Souderton held the opposition to 15 points or fewer, and now you have that whole defense back. You have to consider them a title contender in the conference. They also get Shaun Purvy back. He got hurt in the season opener last year against North Penn. At that game, he had returned an interception for a touchdown, and he was about to break a punt return for a touchdown when he took a misstep and broke his growth plate and missed the rest of the season. He’s as dynamic a player as the Suburban One League has, and having him healthy, he’ll get the ball in lots of ways – he’ll be in the backfield, he’ll line up in the slot, he’ll line up at wide receiver. He was really good on Souderton’s 2020 team that won the district title. Now to have him back and healthy will be a big help for them.
“Last year Quakertown set a school record for wins with 13, and they go to the district finals, which is the furthest they’ve gone. It was just a magical ride, but that team lost their three-year starter in quarterback Will Steich and the anchor of their defensive and offensive lines, Fred Retter, who is now playing at Kutztown, so there are a lot of holes to fill. John Eathertown is a running back I really like, and Quakertown will rely a lot on Eathertown to carry the load, but graduation did hit them pretty hard.
“One other team in that conference – Harry S Truman didn’t have the year they wanted last year, but they’ve got some really good players. Rondell Bradley, a senior, had 750 receiving yards last year and scored 12 touchdowns. He’s really good. They have good numbers at Truman, and they could surprise some teams. Again, last year was a bit of a disappointment, but don’t forget about them.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Your thoughts about the American Conference.
Drew Markol: “Dan Chang has been at Plymouth Whitemarsh for a long time now. They’re coming off an undefeated conference season, and they’re usually in the mix. Any time you hear somebody talking about Plymouth Whitemarsh, you basically hear the same thing – they’re well coached, they’re always ready, and they’re never bad. There’s a reason for that – it’s the truth. PW has to be the favorite
“Upper Moreland’s former head coach, CJ Szydlik, is now at Council Rock South, and Adam Beach is coming back to Upper Moreland for the third time. His first stint was in the early 2000s, and he turned a pretty bad program around and made Upper Moreland pretty good. Then he left and came back, and they had success again. Szydlik took over for him and kept the success going. Szydlik moves on to Council Rock South and Beach is back. Beach knows what he’s doing, and he knows that program inside out. They lost a lot to graduation – they got hit hard, but I don’t think it will take long for him to make up for that and get Upper Moreland cruising as usual.”
Markol’s Picks (Winners in bold)
Abington @ Cheltenham
Norristown @ Bensalem
Central Bucks South @ Plymouth Whitemarsh
Central Bucks West @ Garnet Valley
Wissahickon @ Council Rock North
Council Rock South @ William Tennent
Harry S Truman @ Chichester
Hatboro-Horsham @ Upper Moreland
Springfield Twp @ Lower Moreland
Neshaminy @ Ocean City NJ
LaSalle @ North Penn 7pm
Downingtown East @ Pennridge
Pennsbury @ Coatesville
Southern Lehigh @ Quakertown
Souderton @ Haverford
Kennett vs. Upper Dublin at Wissahickon
Renaissance Academy Charter @ New Hope-Solebury
Central Bucks East at Chambersburg