Intelligencer/Bucks County Courier: "Let's Talk Football (9-17-21)

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 ( and Courier Times ( web sites. Drew, you covered the Neshaminy/Pennridge game. Share your observations about that game and those two teams.


Drew Markol:  “Pennridge has played very well defensively all season, but in this one, Neshaminy – which has been battered by injury after injury – hung tough against Pennridge and kept it close. The score was tied at the half, and it was tied after three quarters before Pennridge scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Pennridge is doing a lot of ground and pound. Tyler Wetzel – a junior running back – is the best back in the bunch, but head coach Cody Muller is spreading the carries around. There’s not much of a passing game for Pennridge. They’re going to rely on the run. Neshaminy hung in there with a pretty young team – they did a nice job. Their senior quarterback, Nunzio Zydzik, was running for his life sometimes, and he took a pounding against a good Pennridge defense led by Phil Picciotti, the all-state linebacker, but Neshaminy – as Cody Muller said to me after the game – is the best 0-3 team in the state.


“Pennridge is 2-1 now and in a pretty good spot in the Suburban One National, but Neshaminy at 0-3 – if you want to qualify for district playoffs which are back to ‘normal’ for now with 16 teams getting in, you need to get - at minimum - probably six wins, so Neshaminy would need to go, at worst, 6-1 the rest of the way in order to have a shot to get in. That’s a tall task, but Steve Wilmot, the head coach of Neshaminy, does a good job over there. They’re 0-3 and it doesn’t look good, but they’re not a bad 0-3. Junior running back Jaydon Wilson looks like he can play. He’s got pretty good speed, he runs tough. Their offensive line is young, but there’s some bulk up there. They lost Gavin O’Connor, who was a do-everything player for them. I told Wilmot, ‘If you had O’Connor, you might have beaten them.’”  North Penn scored 35 points in the first half in its 35-0 win over Pennsbury. The Falcons, who are winless, will be playing a Harry S Truman squad that notched its first win last Friday. Your thoughts about those squads.


Drew Markol:  “You look at Pennsbury – every game I go to, one of the first thing people ask is ‘What’s happening at Pennsbury?’ They were winless last year in the condensed five-game season, and this season in three games, they haven’t scored a point. This is a school with a rich, long-time tradition. They’ve won district titles, they’ve won mythical state titles if you want to go back to the 70s with their great rivalry with Neshaminy. They’ve always been good. This year they’ve been outscored 112-0 in three games, and it’s not like one of the games was close. Their closest games have been 35-0 mercy rule games. The numbers are down, and they’ll tell you they’ve lost players to Conwell-Egan, but they’ve lost players to Conwell-Egan in the past too. It is a mystery – their struggles and where they’re headed. They’ve beat up on a lot of teams over the years, and the teams they beat up on – I’m sure they’re salivating and saying, ‘This is our chance to get back at them.’ I’m sure they’re going to try.


“Truman got off to the 0-2 start, but they did beat Hatboro-Horsham 42-0 last week. I thought – and their coach Ben Johnson said the same thing – that they’d have momentum from playing in the spring, but it wasn’t there, so they need to right their ship. You’re playing a neighboring rival in Pennsbury on Friday. This is one of those cross-over games that the Suburban One League plays. Truman got some footing with a shutout win over Hatboro-Horsham, but the Hatters are also struggling mightily. If you’re Truman, you’re saying, ‘My god, Pennsbury hasn’t scored a point yet.’ Pennsbury has played Academy Park, one of the top 5A teams in the district, North Penn and Pennridge, two teams that will both most likely make noise in the district playoffs, so the Falcons have played some pretty good competition early on.


“You look at Truman-Pennsbury as almost a toss-up game. You don’t know what Pennsbury is going to do against a team that’s more on their level, and has Truman picked things up after getting a win.”  Any thoughts about any of the other SOL National schools?


Drew Markol:  “CB East and CB West both are now 2-1. They both won two in a row, they’ve both beaten CB South, and it looks like when they play each other in that huge rivalry - that game is going to have some serious district implications. It might be – does one team get in and one team doesn’t get in? That’s yet to be seen, but it could have a lot to do with seeding, who’s going to play at home and who’s not, let alone all the bragging rights that go with it. Give both teams credit. CB West shut out Abington, and CB East beat CB South, which is also a very good rivalry game. With three weeks of the season gone, you do start to learn some things, and now you do have some little perspective.


“It’s a four-team race in the National Conference. North Penn is way ahead in the race. Then you’re looking at Pennridge, East and West. That’s better than having a two-team race - the more the merrier”  Your thoughts about the SOL Continental.


Drew Markol:  “Bensalem was close in its loss to Upper Dublin – 23-12. Upper Dublin beat them, but it is a three-team race. Souderton lost Shaun Purvy, the outstanding junior, against North Penn, but Elijah Goods had a huge game for Souderton in their win. He had a punt return, a pick six and a rushing touchdown. There’s a prime example of the next man up. You talk about versatility – that was going to be Purvy’s role. In the one game Purvy played against North Penn, he had an interception return for a touchdown, and he had a receiving touchdown before he hurt his knee on a kick-off return. Elijah Goods has stepped into that role, and he had a game for the ages the other night against Council Rock North. It’s remarkable.


“Quakertown is rolling. Next week you have Upper Dublin playing Quakertown. We’ll learn a lot in that game. We’ll also learn in the crossovers – Upper Dublin plays at North Penn this week. That’s a matchup of potential 5A district champ versus 6A district champ. You don’t get that all the time. It’s pretty cool.


“Also in the crossover, Neshaminy has the defending district champ – Souderton – coming in. That’s just the way things fall, but if you’re Neshaminy, you have to stand up and beat them. That’s a hard task. Again, Souderton has been hit with the injury bug as has Neshaminy. Both those teams could lament about that, but their coaches don’t. It’s football, people get injured playing football. Next man up they say, and both these teams – Neshaminy’s best player in Gavin O’Connor has been out, and Souderton’s best player in Shaun Purvy has been out. They don’t stop the season for that. You just have to persevere. That’s hard to do, and it can be demoralizing to a team, but that’s just the nature of the game.”  The SOL American begins play this week. Upper Moreland enters conference play 3-0. Your thoughts.


Drew Markol:  “Upper Moreland had another close win, and coach CJ Szydlik must be going crazy. They had a tight game with Archbishop Ryan after they beat Ryan 35-0 last year in the state playoffs. I’m sure he tried his best to tell his kids that it’s a whole new year, but kids remember what happened last year. Ryan is coming off a win over Father Judge last week – they’re not bad, and they gave Upper Moreland all they wanted. This past week Phoenixville does the same thing, almost forces overtime. I don’t know what it is – there’s an awful lot of talent at Upper Moreland. When they get to the playoffs as a 4A team, they can make some noise. I’m sure (Szydlik) is stressing, ‘We need some consistency here, fellows. Let’s take care of business.’ The dreaded one game at a time cliché. It hasn’t bitten them yet, but you don’t want to walk that tightrope.”


Drew Markol’s picks (Winner in bold)

Quakertown @ Abington
Hatboro-Horsham @ Central Bucks South
Council Rock South @ Central Bucks West
Norristown @ Cheltenham
Harry S Truman @ Pennsbury
Souderton @ Neshaminy
New Hope-Solebury @ Plymouth Whitemarsh
Upper Dublin @ North Penn
Council Rock North @ Pennridge
Springfield Twp @ William Tennent
Wissahickon @ Upper Moreland

Bensalem @ Central Bucks East