Back for its 10th season, the popular Intelligencer/Bucks County Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football’ features football beat writers Drew Markol and Todd Thorpe.
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SuburbanOneSports.com: Quakertown took a 0-3 record into its SOL opener at 3-0 Upper Moreland and won 31-6. Your thoughts?
Todd Thorpe: “When you look at that game, I think that’s a case where people look at non-league games and put too much stock in whether teams won or lost. Obviously, Quakertown played the tougher non-league schedule, and they were a much better team than Upper Moreland last week. Despite the fact that one was 3-0 and the other was 0-3, it didn’t really matter. Quakertown had played all schools that were bigger than them, and Upper Moreland hadn’t. That doesn’t mean Upper Moreland is going to have a bad year from here on out. It just means that their level of competition as a team was a lot less than what Quakertown had faced. Quakertown was battle tested against some really good opponents. Who knows if Quakertown carries this over against other good teams? It’s tough to say, but that’s a big win for them. I give them a lot of credit because after 0-3 you can be really down. It’s tough to believe your coach when he tells you – ‘You’re just as good as this team.’ When you go out there and prove it – they could turn this into something with another win this week.
“Quakertown travels to Cheltenham this week. That is a huge game. Quakertown needs to keep on winning. They need to put three or four wins together here, and they need to do it convincingly to stay in the conference race. They’re undefeated – they’re 1-0 in the league, so this is kind of a crossroads game. Both of them still have the big game with Upper Dublin, and consider that PW is off to a quick start this year. Week in and week out, that conference is going to be a battle. If I’m Quakertown and I’m coming off that game last week, I’m thinking, ‘We’re ready. Upper Moreland was a good win for us. Let’s take it and expand upon that, and let’s work on shutting down Cheltenham.’ Cheltenham has some dynamic offensive players, and they’re very well coached. It will be interesting to see how that game plays out. It’s contrasting styles a bit, but you know what – I don’t think Quakertown goes into that game thinking they’re overmatched. I think Quakertown has a pretty good shot there. That could be a pretty good game. I think that could be one of those 21-18 type games.”
Drew Markol: “Good job by Quakertown. They started out 0-3, and people were writing them off. Heck, I was sort of writing them off too. They played Upper Moreland, and I thought they could give them a game, but I didn’t think they would blast them. They did a great job and got the win. It’s a great way to start the American Conference for them. We thought if Quakertown would be out of the mix it would be Upper Dublin, of course, and then Cheltenham and maybe Upper Moreland would be that third team. Maybe Quakertown is that team. We’ll find out a lot when they play Cheltenham this week. If they start out 2-0 in the conference with wins over Upper Moreland and Cheltenham, they’re right back on track.
“It will be interesting to see this week when Upper Moreland plays PW. Can the Golden Bears bounce back? The Colonials are undefeated and doing a lot of nice things, but the teams they’ve played have struggled. Now they’re playing an Upper Moreland team that got blasted pretty good by Quakertown last week. Upper Moreland should be in a foul mood playing them. It will be good for Plymouth Whitemarsh to see what they can do. You’re going to play somebody now who’s going to hit you back when you hit them. This is good for PW. Let’s see how they do against Upper Moreland. Two years ago, PW and Upper Dublin were co-champs, so this 4-0 really shouldn’t shock anybody, but they still have Cheltenham and Upper Dublin and now Quakertown is in that mix. Things always do have a way of getting sifted out. This will be good for Plymouth Whitemarsh because I’m sure people are probably doubting them, and this will help them get rid of some of the doubters.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Pennsbury is another 0-3 team that notched a 21-14 win over a 3-0 Central Bucks East squad. Your comments.
Drew Markol: “Pennsbury comes in 0-3 and East comes in 3-0. Last year they played and Pennsbury beat East 35-34 in a crazy game. This year it was the same kind of thing – very tight, but in the second half, Pennsbury went to Drew Hensor their quarterback from last year and their first three games this season. In the first half, he was just playing safety, but in the second half, they put him at running back for the first time in his high school career, and he carried 16 times in the second half for two touchdowns and 140 yards. He scored the winning touchdown with about 30 seconds to go, dragging a couple of East defenders into the end zone on a nine-yard run. He looked like a natural playing a position he’d never played before. You could argue that that win had saved Pennsbury’s season because last year they started out 0-3 like this year. They beat CB East to get their first win, and they ended up going to the district playoffs. Now, it’s the same kind of scenario. They’ll get into their National Conference schedule this week. They found a running back to go along with their two other good backs. Now they have a three-headed monster. Hensor is a kid who can score from anywhere on the field, and I’m sure they have the halfback option in mind. He gives them another element they did not have, and I doubt East was ready for it. That was really something. Talking to him after the game he said. ‘I’ve never played it before, but you do whatever you can to help the team.’ Well, he surely did that. They found themselves a tailback. It took them almost half a season, but okay. That was a huge win for Pennsbury because if you start out 0-4 and you still have to go through your conference schedule, you have no room for error. Now you’re 1-3 and have momentum and a new halfback.
“With CB East, they lost senior Jake Ventresca the first game of the season. He was a thousand-plus yard rusher last season. He was a home run hitter for them. Here was a kid they could give the ball to 20-25 times a game. I’m sure head coach John Donnelly was expecting big things out of him, and he should have been because he’s a very good player and defensive back, but then he hurt his ankle and he’s out for the year, and that has basically taken away East’s running game. Anthony Giordano, the junior quarterback, has done a nice job, and junior Will Silverman is a very good receiver, but when the other team knows what you’re trying to do, it’s a little easier to defend against you.”
Todd Thorpe: “I think the more impressive thing about that game was defensively Pennsbury held CB East to two touchdowns. If you look at what they’ve done this year in their losses, the only game they really struggled defensively was the Penn Wood game. They played pretty well defensively against Academy Park, and then they played pretty well defensively against North Penn. Beating CB East and holding them to two touchdowns – that’s a big game for the defense. As far as Drew Hensor moved to running back, I trust what the offensive coordinators there are thinking – you just have find a way to get the ball in his hands as much as humanly possible because he’s a very talented kid. He’s very fast, he knows how to run the football, and it wasn’t really working for them offensively for three weeks so it was time to change things. I’m curious to see – do they go back to Hensor this week? They play North, and that’s certainly a game I’m sure they think they should win and get two in a row. Or do they stick with CJ Kohler? I’ll be curious to see how if they do that the rest of the year or if they go back to Hensor. He started every game at quarterback last year and started the first three this year, and he’s a really talented athlete. I’m sure that they’re going to try and get the ball to him as much as they can.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Central Bucks West improved to 4-0 with a 42-28 win over Central Bucks South. Your thoughts?
Drew Markol: “That was a huge win for CB West, beating a CB South team they hadn’t beaten since 2013. West was 3-0, but people wondered – who had they played? Well, they went and played a pretty good South team. The game went back and forth for a while, but West was able to pull away. Senior Jack Fallon had another huge game. He ran for 263 yards, he had four rushing touchdowns, he made an unbelievable interception on defense going out of bounds where he made a lunging catch and tapped his foot in to stay inbounds. It was just a beautiful play. He’s a very heads-up player. It seems like he’s always thinking on the field, and now West goes to 4-0. They play William Tennent this week. Tennent has gotten better, but if they beat Tennent on Friday, now you’re 5-0 and you’re in pretty good shape. West has really had a nice turnaround. Their first goal was to get the CB Cup, and they can get it if they beat CB East. A good win for West. That validated their early season success.”
Todd Thorpe: “I had a lot of question marks about CB West. Not based on anything I’d seen because I hadn’t see them this year, but to go in and put 42 points up on CB South is pretty impressive. That’s a sign that they’re really there. You see what Jack Fallon has done in the first four games and how dynamic he’s been. They got a really good quarterback in Jack Neri. Maybe West at 4-0 is for real. They play Tennent this week, and if they win, they go to 5-0. They still have Souderton, they still have North Penn and CB East, so it doesn’t get any easier for them, but putting five wins in the bank with five to play – that puts them in really good shape. You also look at the factor – how close are you to North Penn? Despite North Penn losing one game, they’re still the team to beat in the Continental. You have to think they’re heavily favored against anybody they play. For Souderton and CB West, they’ve got to keep on doing what they’re doing, but they’re both going to play North Penn. That’s when we’ll find out if they’re a real factor or not or if they can just have a good season. Just having a good season, being competitive and making the playoffs is good, but a real factor is your ability to win a couple games in the playoffs or to have the ability to beat North Penn. It’s very rare that happens in that conference. We will see. You can only play the teams that are in front of you, and West going 5-0 is huge.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Neshaminy and Truman – co-champs on the National Conference last year – will do battle on Friday night. Your thoughts?
Todd Thorpe: “I look at the Neshaminy-Truman game, and they obviously were both supposed to win last week against the Council Rock teams and they did. If either one had lost their game, that would have been a serious red flag that their season was about to drown. They had to win those games if they wanted to keep their seasons alive, and both teams did what they had to do. Neshaminy got out to a really fast start and went up 21-0 quickly, but they had to battle. North scored 31 points on them. It looked like they moved the football too. The game was never close, but that’s a lot of points, especially after a week where Downingtown West scored 150 on them. It’s difficult to really evaluate that, but the thing is they got the win, and that was the most important thing. If they get Chris James back this week, they can do their best to start establishing the run and time of possession and keep the ball away from Truman.
“To Truman’s credit, they needed a win. They were 1-2. I’m not sure exactly what happened in the Spring-Ford game, but Academy Park wasn’t a bad loss. That’s a game they led in the fourth quarter, and it’s a good Class 5A team that has already beaten Pennsbury earlier in the year. The fact that they went out and beat Council Rock South is not a surprise at all. It looks like they didn’t try to get to the passing game too much. They just said, ‘We’re going to give it to DaJuan Harris and TJ Rogers, and we’re going to go behind our big line,’ and it worked. That probably should be their strategy this week too. Except for the Pennridge game (a 21-7 win), Neshaminy has given up a ton of points this year. If I’m Truman, I’m giving the ball to my running backs and saying, ‘Stop me.’ This game could be a real shootout. It could be a three-and-a-half hour game. Last year it was 27-26 (Truman win). This year it could be even higher than that. You could be looking at 42-35 between a team that likes to pass the ball and a team that likes to run the ball.”
Drew Markol: “One of the highlight games in the National Conference this week is Truman at Neshaminy. They shared a conference title last year, but Truman won head to head a year ago. Neshaminy is having trouble stopping anybody on defense. They got out to a pretty big lead on Council Rock North last week, but Council Rock North ended up putting up 31 points on them, which they hadn’t done previously. Neshaminy throws the ball with senior quarterback Brody McAndrew, the New Hampshire recruit. He’s a very good quarterback, and senior Ian Sheehan has been a really good receiver for Neshaminy, but Truman will run it at you. I think that game will be interesting because right there you have two of the top teams in the conference going at it, and the winner is going to be in pretty good shape.
SuburbanOneSports.com: Pennridge will travel to Souderton this week. Your comments.
Drew Markol: “Pennridge is 1-3, they lost to North Penn by 23 points Friday night. They’re just having trouble scoring. They got 13 points when they won their opener against Delaware Valley, but they won that game because they shut them out. They got seven points against Neshaminy, 13 against Perk Valley. They can’t score any points, and at 1-3, they need a win. If they lose to Souderton – now they’re 1-4, and they still have to play CB South, CB East and CB West. If any team faces a must win, it’s Pennridge this week against an undefeated Souderton team.”
Todd Thorpe: “Pennridge needs some overhaul, and if Shane Hartzell is out for the year, that’s their best player and that hurts them. Souderton struggled a little bit last week against William Tennent, but they won the game. They did what they had to do in the fourth quarter to put it away. I think Souderton wins that game, but it’s a rivalry game. If Pennridge can dial it up, you never know. If you’re Pennridge, you’ve got to shuffle the deck here a little bit because things aren’t working offensively through four weeks. It’s only a three-month season, and it’s time to try some news things and see what works and see what doesn’t. Pennridge has already played North Penn – that’s the good news, but the bad news is you have two more undefeated teams in that league, starting this week with Souderton and then you’ve got CB West. It’s a tough run they’ve got left, but the good thing is they do have six games left, so there’s still time to turn it around. That game could be interesting because I do like the rivalry factor. Souderton’s in pretty good shape right now at 4-0.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Abington improved to 3-1 with its 49-15 win over Bensalem. Your comments.
Todd Thorpe: “Abington is doing what they’re supposed to do. They crushed Bensalem, and they beat Cheltenham. When you have a 6-2 quarterback (Tamir Berthau) that can run and pass and has a lot of experience at the varsity level, they’re a factor. They’re going to play the big boys soon, and they’re going to find out where they stand. Again, they’re putting wins in the bank, and as far as playoffs go, that’s big. As far as league championships go, we’ll find out when they play the other teams in the league. They have games coming up with Pennsbury, Neshaminy and Truman. They got the same gauntlet the other teams have, but they’ve done what they’re supposed to do. I said it last week and I’ll continue to say it – I really don’t count the first three weeks much in terms of evaluating how good these teams are. If you have a good win, that tells me something, and if you have a horrible, lopsided loss, that tells me something too, but in terms of just getting wins against teams, it’s very difficult to compare a schedule that a North Penn is playing as opposed to the other teams with good records in their league. The same with Quakertown – they’re playing up. They’re playing Continental teams in their first three games. Two of Abington’s games were against Public League teams. Bensalem had two Public League wins, so you don’t know. You have to wait until they play one another. What it does show you is that it’s very difficult for these teams to compete against the Downingtown Wests, but they wouldn’t have to play them until November.”
Drew Markol: “When we look at the National Conference, it’s always been Neshaminy/Pennsbury, Pennsbury/Neshaminy. Truman has moved into that conversation in recent years, and every couple of years Abington would rise up. I like this Abington team. They got the win over Cheltenham, they opened the season with a loss to a good Northeast team, but they’ve won three in a row, and I think they’re right in that mix in the National Conference. Their senior quarterback, Tamir Berthau, is a very good player with a lot of experience. I don’t want to say we’re sleeping on Abington because we’re not used to them being in the mix every year, but I think they’re right there. They have Council Rock South this weekend, and if they play well, that should be a win, and all of a sudden, they’re 4-1. A 4-1 team is a confident team, and a lot of times that’s half the battle. It’s funny how things change, but the National Conference may have become a four-team race, which is great with Truman, Neshaminy, Pennsbury and Abington.”