Intelligencer/Courier "Let's Talk Football" (10-11-18)

Back for its ninth season, the popular Intelligencer/Bucks County Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football’ features the ‘Game On’ crew: Drew Markol and Todd Thorpe. To view this week’s show, click on the following link:  To stay on top of the high school football news in the area, visit the Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier web sites.

Check out this week’s picks by our panel of experts:  Todd, you covered Truman’s come-from-behind 29-24 win over Pennsbury. Your thoughts.

Todd Thorpe:  “I think that was a big time statement game for Truman. That was an opponent, just like Neshaminy a couple of weeks earlier, that they hadn’t beaten in an awfully long time, and if you want to prove you’re one of the teams that’s a contender, you have to beat those teams. Especially in the second half of that game, Truman came out with a little something to prove and scored on their first two possessions and really dominated the line of scrimmage. They’re mostly a running team, but they even threw the ball a little bit. Truman got it all together in the second half of that game. It was a really good game to watch. Pennsbury, at one point, did drive down the field and retook the lead, and Truman came back and took the lead again. Pennsbury was driving and Javeer Peterson just makes a great interception on the five-yard line towards the last minute or so to seal the win for Truman.

“It’s a huge win. Truman is in really good shape right now. They have three teams they can’t afford to overlook. They’ve played the big boys in that conference, and it’s just a matter of finishing it out now. They have a legit chance to be 9-1, but Abington (on Friday) – you can’t overlook them and you can’t overlook Pennridge. They’ve still got a lot left on the table to play for, but Truman kind of set the table that they’re a real factor, not only in this conference but in District One. By the time the dust settles, there’s probably not going to be as many undefeated teams as there are now. You’ve got to figure Truman is in that next echelon of teams that are going to be ranked with definitely a home game and possibly two home games. It’s good for their program and good for their team. I like the way they operate as a team. They’re super athletic and quick, and they run the football, but they’re tough too. It’s interesting to watch.

“As far as Pennsbury, I think this year is going to be the case of these near misses. Aside from the North Penn game, this is a team that could easily be 6-1. Even if they win two of those and lose one, look at where they are in comparison. I think they’re a good team. They’re just a team that is young in a couple of spots, and it’s tough to finish a game off, and that’s the biggest problem they’ve had. They were driving at the end of Friday’s game. I thought their quarterback, Drew Hensor, player really well in that game. He’s a dual threat, similar to Zach DeMarchis a year earlier. He threw a good pass that was intercepted at the end. Peterson just stepped in front of his wide receiver. It was really a jump ball type of situation. They are a team on the rise.”

Drew Markol:  “A tip of the cap to Truman for what they’re doing. We sound like we just keep repeating ourselves, but we’ve been waiting for somebody forever to knock off even one of the big two. Somebody besides Neshaminy or Pennsbury winning in that conference – it just hasn’t happened. Well this year, low and behold, Truman goes and beats Neshaminy and last week they rally from behind and beat Pennsbury. Could you argue that Neshaminy and Pennsbury – they’re not vintage teams for either one? Well, maybe they aren’t, but they’re still pretty good and the psychological edge of getting past those teams is enormous. To beat both of them, for Truman which has been down for so long – it wasn’t that long ago when they had long losing streaks and nobody even talked about them. It just goes to show how important coaching is on the high school level. For years and years and years, North Penn was a sleeping giant. Well, Mike Pettine Jr comes in and turns them around, and Dick Beck takes over 15-20 years ago, and now they’re always good.

“Neshaminy and Pennsbury have always had a good string of coaches and talent too, but Mike LaPalombara comes over to Truman – when he was hired, you talked with people and they would say, ‘He’s going to do some thing there.’ Well, they were right. He has. They have issues there that other programs don’t have to deal with. They have a lot of kids in the school who are tech school kids who aren’t playing football, but they get counted against their enrollment. That’s just a heck of a story that they’re able to do it. To have their fate in their own hands and already having played Pennsbury and Neshaminy – if you’re them, sign them up. They’re just moving right along. Can you imagine that atmosphere if they got a home district playoff game? Who knows – it might be against a Neshaminy or Pennsbury, you never know. The early season storyline was William Tennent snapping its losing streak, but Truman has now become – across the SOL – the story of the year.”  Drew, you covered the North Penn/Souderton game, a 29-27 come-from-behind win for the Knights. Your comments.

Drew Markol: “Souderton came into that game with a three-game winning streak, and they were as healthy as you can be at this point in the season. North Penn was coming in off a double overtime game against Council Rock South that they won in overtime. It was a very good game. Souderton jumped out to a 17-0 lead. In covering 20 years of North Penn football, I have never seen a North Penn team have that happen to them. It just never happened. North Penn didn’t get its first first down until there were five minutes left in the first half, which is hard to believe, but once they got rolling, they scored two quick touchdowns. North Penn took a 20-14 lead into halftime, but North Penn was able to turn things around so quickly. They got the ball to start the third quarter, and they came back and won 29-27.

“It does make you think – are they a little bit vulnerable or are they just bored with the regular season? I don’t know.  They had an overtime game with Neshaminy to start the season, a close game with Central Bucks East until the fourth quarter when they put together a 90-yard drive and win. They fall behind to a pretty good Souderton team. Souderton is 3-4 now, and they’re much better than 3-4. North Penn fell behind – a lot of teams down 17-0 and getting handled like they were getting handled would have packed it in, and they didn’t and they win. Now they’re 7-0, and they basically clinched a playoff spot. They could lose their last three games, which won’t happen, and they’d still get in. I think it was just a matter – you have a Souderton team that’s playing well, and I don’t want to say they caught North Penn by surprise because I’m sure Dick Beck was warning his team that this team was legit. It was a good job by both teams.”  Your thoughts about the SOL National Conference.

Todd Thorpe:  “Pennsbury goes into this week’s game – now they’re going to play Council Rock South, and they’re probably tired of losing these close games. I think that’s a legit pick-em type game. Rock South deserves the credit they’ve gotten this year because of the way they’ve won their games the last six weeks and the North Penn game they lost close. If South is going to win the league title, they’re going to have to run the gauntlet. They’re going to have to beat a desperate Pennsbury team this week, next week they’re going to face a team that’s pretty desperate in Neshaminy. If this is CR South’s year to win the league title, these next two weeks are going to be huge. They close the year against Council Rock North, and that’s a rivalry game. Certainly they’ll be favored, but you never know with that type of game. It’s a really interesting league title race when you consider the four teams that are right there battling. Pennsbury and Neshaminy with only one conference loss each are certainly not out of that.

“Getting into districts is another matter. Pennsbury would have to get in as a 6-4 team, and that’s assuming they beat South this week and then beat Neshaminy in the final game of the year, which is certainly no given. It’s hard to imagine a 6-4 team making districts, but maybe there will be one or two 6-4 teams, if that. Pennsbury is a long shot right now, but Neshaminy is right there. Neshaminy could win out and be 7-3, and certainly, they’d be right in the playoffs and a dangerous playoff team with a lot of firepower themselves. Losing that game against Truman is really the one they’re going to be kicking themselves about. The other games they lost were to North Penn close and then to Downingtown West. You can’t really kill yourselves about that, but that Truman game – the kicking situation was so up in the air at the point, and I’d never put it on one player, but it throws you off your game when you start thinking, ‘Do I go for two? Do I kick it?’ The Truman game came down to one point, and that’s difference between where Truman is now and Neshaminy not being. If you’re them, you’re looking at – you get through this week at Bensalem and go to 5-3, and then you close with Rock South and Pennsbury. Really, Neshaminy’s season is going to be a two-week season, and they might be favored to win both of those games.

“I think we’ll know a little bit more about Rock South at the end of this week. I’m by no means saying they’re not good – they’re really good, but these next two weeks are really the defining moment of their season. I think that by Friday night 10 or 11 o’clock we’ll have a pretty good idea if this is a good South team or is this a South team that could go beyond that and not only win a conference title but possibly make a legit run in districts. That’s a whole different animal. It certainly looks like the other side of the district with Coatesville, Downingtown West – who Coatesville just beat, Downingtown East is in the mix, Garnet Valley is in the mix. I’m not sure how teams in the Suburban One League match up against them this year, but we really won’t know until they start playing those games. It’s a great conference. I love the competitiveness of it. It probably means there’s not that one powerhouse that wins the district title, but it’s still very competitive and fun to cover. Pretty much every game I’ve covered in that conference this year has come down to the last series – you can go back to Bensalem/Tennent, which was decided at the end, Neshaminy/North Penn, Council Rock South against Abington, Pennsbury/Truman. It just seems like every game I’m covering in that league is that close. It’s made it very entertaining. I think these last three weeks are going to be pretty entertaining too. I’ve said all along – week 10 with Pennsbury at Neshaminy at Harry E Franks Stadium is always the one, and it’s still a possibility. That’s the biggest intrigue of any conference.”

Drew Markol:  “If Truman is the story of the year, Council Rock South is a close second because they’re legit. They haven’t lost in the conference, and they nearly beat North Penn, the number one seed in the district. They took them to double overtime. It seems as though it’s taken a while for people to warm up to them, but I’ll tell you – they lose their quarterback, Andrew Vera, and Noah Caldani took over. What kind of odds would you have gotten at the start of the year if you had said that Truman and CR South would be where they are now in mid-October? Give credit to Vince Bedesem. Nick Gallo, who’s going to Virginia Tech, is obviously a very good two-way player. The running back Chase Patterson has been really good, and they have that funky offense with the wing-t, and when you get in the playoffs, teams aren’t used to seeing that. They don’t want to play a Neshaminy or a Truman or Pennsbury because those teams are familiar with them. It’s kind of like Garnet Valley with their funky running offense where the forward pass is like a four-letter word. They’re just hard to prepare for. In a conference that is usually dull and you can write down who’s going to be first and second every year – well, that has not been the case this year.”  Upper Dublin established itself as the frontrunner in the SOL American with its win over Quakertown. Your thoughts about that conference.

Todd Thorpe:  “Obviously, in the American last week, they had the big one with Upper Dublin and Quakertown. It was another real heartbreaking loss for Quakertown. To lead that game at halftime and really be in a position to win and Upper Dublin comes back and finds a way to pull it out. Kudos to Upper Dublin – they look like they’re going to run the table and go undefeated in the conference. They deserve all the credit they get. Upper Dublin is second in the latest power rankings, and they are one of four one-loss teams in the top four along with Radnor, an explosive Penn Wood team and Academy Park. If Upper Dublin finds a way to finish this off and ends up 8-1, they’re in the mix to be a top four seed and you have to think a contender because they’re battle tested. The last time as a program they made a huge run in states and made it to the semis, that was at the highest level and they were playing Coatesville, the Prep and North Penn and teams like that. Not to say 5A is any easier, and if you get past District One, you have to play Archbishop Wood or someone like that. You have to believe Upper Dublin is a real factor, and people view them as a real factor in that 5A bracket.

“It’s also nice to see Cheltenham at 5-2, looking at a six seed and possibly a home game. I covered games two, three, four years ago where they were just getting hammered every week. To see that program turn around the way it has, it’s good to see. They’re another team that makes that American Conference stronger. That is fun to see.

“Right now I’m showing Quakertown at 13 in Class 6A, and they have three games left, so let’s just go take care of business. If you’re George Banas, that’s what you say – ‘Our goal at the beginning of the season was, yes, to win a conference title. Another huge goal was to make districts. Let’s go out, win our games and let the dust settle.’ You certainly don’t think they’d want to see a Coatesville, Garnet Valley or Downingtown East or one of those teams in the first round of districts, but if you get seeded high enough and you get thrown in the mix with a Spring-Ford, Truman or Council Rock South – Quakertown has to think in those types of games they could be very competitive. If you’re Quakertown right now, yes, you have two disappointing losses, and it’s disheartening to them, I’m sure, but the ball’s in their court. I think if they win the next three games they’re probably seeded somewhere around 10. By no means does that have to ruin their season.”

Drew Markol:  “It’s a good job by Upper Dublin. Cheltenham goes and beats Quakertown a few weeks ago, and then Upper Dublin beats Cheltenham. Last week, if Quakertown wanted to have a shot at a share of the championship, they needed to beat Upper Dublin. Upper Dublin scored a late touchdown and beats them by a joint. Upper Dublin has a win over Cheltenham, a win over Quakertown. It’s unlikely they’re going to lose again. They’re going to win the conference title, and as a 5A team, they can do some damage in the 5A tournament. I said it many times before – they’re no longer just a good team, they’re a good program. A couple of years ago, it was like – oh, Bret Stover has his son at quarterback, and it was that whole father-son storyline. Not any more – that was a long time ago in high school football years. Now they’re just moving right along, and they’re setting themselves up pretty nicely.”  Your thoughts about the SOL Continental Conference.

Drew Markol:  “Souderton has DeAndre Wakefield healthy. That kid is only a junior, and he can score from anywhere. A lot of teams in the Continental Conference – they don’t have that player. Whereas, North Penn, in Shamar Edwards, has that player, and they have the receiver in Jon Haynes that can give you a quick strike touchdown. A lot of teams don’t have that. Well, Souderton does with Wakefield, and they’re a dangerous team. Right now they wouldn’t get into the playoffs because they’re not in the top 16. They have to win out, but you can say that about the whole Continental Conference. You have Pennridge, Central Bucks South, Souderton and Central Bucks East all at 3-4. They’re beating up on each other, and that could end up keeping all of them out. The only team in the Continental Conference in the playoffs if the playoffs started tonight would be North Penn, which is hard to believe, but that’s just the reality. One of these Continental teams has got to win out and get to 6-4 and get into the tournament. You may not be looking at a home playoff game, but at this point, you really can’t be too concerned about that.

“I’ll be going to the CB East at CB South game on Friday. I give a slight edge to CB South, but it’s the slightest of edges because I thought CB South would beat Pennridge last week. Pennridge scored 21 unanswered points to beat CB South and to keep their hopes alive.  CB East had a great game with CB West last Saturday, the archrivals going at it. That was a terrific game where, for most of the game, East had a big advantage in offense, but West hung in there and hung in there. East won at the end, but a ball hit off a West receiver’s fingertips in the back of the end zone. It would have been a phenomenal catch if the kid could have made it – he was diving, reaching. The ball was humming, but West could have tied it up right there or score and go for two, and they would have won if they could have converted. That was a good game, but it just kind of sums up what we’ve been talking about all season. With the Continental Conference, you have North Penn and then you have everybody else, and I’m not sure if everybody else is good, bad or somewhere in the middle. One week some teams look really good and other weeks other teams look really good, so what you end up with are teams with the same record, and that’s what we have. We’ll see. Again, if these teams want to get in – the Souths, the Easts, the Pennridges, the Soudertons, they have to win out. That’s it. They can’t afford another loss.”

Todd Thorpe:  “The last three weeks North Penn really struggled. They beat East 31-21 and they needed a drive late in the game to finish the game off, they had to go to overtime with Council Rock South 27-24, last week they beat Souderton 29-27 in a game they trailed 17-0. Give Souderton credit, but you have to wonder what’s going on over at North Penn. Is North Penn a contender in District One or are they a team that gets through the Continental Conference, gets that trophy and then they’re not going to match up very well with Garnet Valley, who beat them last year, with Coatesville, which is a legit championship game contender, Downingtown East is still undefeated and Downingtown West’s only loss was to Coatesville. North Penn is seeded number one right now according to the power rankings, but should they be seeded that high? We’re going to find out. It would be a huge upset if they didn’t win out and finish undefeated, so to be 10-0 is no slouch, and no matter how you win, you’re still winning. You can’t kill them too much, but it does make you wonder.”