Back for its seventh season, the popular Intelligencer/Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football’ features Kevin Cooney, Drew Markol and Jen Wielgus. Cooney, the Phillies beat writer, will handle the Bucks County Courier Times coverage area and also is part of a panel each Friday night on the WNPV/Intelligencer Scoreboard Show. Markol is the football beat writer for the Intelligencer area. Wielgus is a video sports reporter for the Intelligencer and Courier. All three are regular contributors on the weekly Game On show. To view this week’s show, click on the following link: http://www.theintell.com/videos/hsgameon/ 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.
Check out the picks by our panel of experts: http://www.suburbanonesports.com/football-forecaster
SuburbanOneSports.com: Neshaminy earned a big win over Central Bucks South in a key non-league battle. Your thoughts about those two teams.
Drew Markol: “I talked to Neshaminy’s players after the game, and they all said that was the best four quarters of football they had played. They answered South’s early touchdown with one of their own. Mason Jones was throwing it all over the place, and Will Dogba, the senior running back, was running very effectively. He had 122 yards and a touchdown. South is a good team. When you look at them playing North Penn last week, you have to use the same glasses when they play Neshaminy. South is good enough to win a round or two in the playoffs – I really believe that. Jack Johns, the junior quarterback, gets better by the week. He ran very effectively against Neshaminy. He’s 6-6, but he can move. He looks like a kid that colleges are going to be looking at because he’s got a good arm, he’s got good feet, and their receivers can catch it. Neshaminy was just too much for them, but South is going to be a tough out come the district tournament.
“If you’re South, you needed to answer back. As soon as Neshaminy scored – not that the crowd isn’t already into it, but now they’re really into it. You could see they had their offense moving early, so South needed to answer, but Neshaminy – with Tredway back in the secondary, he’s really good, and their sophomore linebacker, Oleh Manzyk, is Neshaminy’s next big star. He had a sack of Johns. Johns was able to fend off a lot of would-be sacks and was looking like Ben Roethlisberger, but Manzyk got in on him, and it was like, ‘Wow.’ They have Dogba playing back at one of the corners. Junior Mike Garlick is another weapon – he caught a beautiful long touchdown down the left sideline from Mason Jones. He caught it in stride and outran the defense. He also plays in the secondary. He gets overlooked, but he’s another weapon they have. Mason Jones is well aware of him, but you don’t hear much about Garlick. He’s a kid they like – if he played somewhere else, he would be the top guy. He get the ball in his hands, that kid can do stuff.
“I had seen Neshaminy earlier in the season at Pennridge and seeing them now, I had North Penn way above the field as far as the district was concerned. I’m not putting Neshaminy ahead of them, but Neshaminy has closed the gap, for sure. Tredway missed three quarters of that Pennridge game, and that kid makes that team go.”
Kevin Cooney: “We said from week one it’s going to be a two-horse race, and Neshaminy and North Penn were going to be playing each other without playing each other. Everybody is going to compare one to the other, and this was a measuring stick game and Pennridge was a measuring stick game. We found out that Neshaminy is just as good right now as North Penn.
“They’re going to be one and two in the district seedings you’d think unless there’s some strange math combination, but they’re both going to finish 10-0, and they’re probably not going to meet each other until the weekend of Thanksgiving, so it’s going to be where everything goes from there and how it comes down to one game. At least at that point, we’ll have some intrigue.
“On the flip side, if you’re South, they’ve played really good defense through most of the season and then they hit these two teams. It’s a tough run, and you want to see now how they react and turn things around. That’s the key thing for South at this point. They still have Pennridge and CB West. Let’s see where they go from here.”
Jen Wielgus: “I was at the Neshaminy-CB South game, and I thought it would be a closer game than it was. Again, I guess I’ve been victim to the overvaluing of teams all season long, especially the CB schools. I haven’t seen East, but I thought South would give Neshaminy a bigger fight. They did hang around early, but Neshaminy just put the hurt on them.
“I’ve said that if Neshaminy and North Penn met that North Penn would kill Neshaminy. I would take that back now. I really think Neshaminy isn’t as far away from North Penn as people might think. Neshaminy had some weapons on the field Friday night. Mason Jones threw the ball all over the field. Obviously, he’s good. This is the first time I’ve seen him this season, and he really impressed me. Everybody knows who Zach Tredway is and, obviously, Will Dogba, but their young kids, Mike Garlick especially Oleh Manzyk – he looks like an athlete. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s not a skinny little kid. He’s going to be a beast for them.
“It’s really hard to say, but I don’t think Neshaminy is as far behind North Penn as I would have thought before.
“For CB South, quarterback Jack Johns really impressed me, but the DBs for Neshaminy made some really great pass break-ups because the Johns kid can really throw it. He’s going to be good. You can see that when you see him on the field in action, but Neshaminy’s defense should not be overlooked.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Heading into week seven of the season, how do you view the race for a district playoff berth?
Kevin Cooney: “Since we’ve established that the top two are the top two, it’s now time to turn to that second group – the Continental race which is five teams for two or three spots and the National race. Can they get a second team in?
“The key right now is the Abington-Pennsbury winner. The strange part is – the winner of that game still has a tough game the following week. Abington gets North Penn and Pennsbury gets Neshaminy, which all could open the door for Bensalem, which has Neshaminy this week but a favorable schedule the final two weeks. It’s important for all three of those teams to take care of their ‘soft games.’ Bensalem it’s the final two – they have Council Rock North and Truman. Pennsbury this week has CR South, and Abington has Truman. Those are the games you have to win just to put yourself in the conversation even if you lose that obvious game. The loser of Abington-Pennsbury is going to be out, you figure, and then it’s just going to be how the numbers fall the other way.
“The Continental is weird. You look at Pennridge’s three losses, and they’re against three of the top teams in the district – Neshaminy, North Penn and Perk Valley, but yet their schedule with CB South and CB East to wrap it up leaves them with no margin for error. If you’re lining 16 teams up on merit, Pennridge is one of them, but I don’t know if that’s the way it’s going to work out. I kind of like the way East’s schedule plays out. That East-Pennridge game is going to be a win-and-in and lose-and-out game. I think CB West has hit a wall. Souderton gets North Penn this week, and that will hurt their chances because you figure they’ll lose, but they probably close with the easier grouping, and they’re still going to be in the conversation the final weekend.
“You take all of this and package it together – the Continental is a wild race, and oh, by the way, if South somehow loses another game or two in here with Pennridge still on its schedule, then you start worrying about them too. We’re in elimination mode right now for some of these teams.”
Jen Wielgus: “With the way Pennsbury’s been playing, you don’t know what you’re going to get out of them. After Truman beat Council Rock North, I thought maybe Truman could be a spoiler in the National Conference with the teams trying to get that district spot behind Neshaminy, but quarterback Jorden Freeman was injured in the first half, so that hurt Truman.
“Now that Pennsbury-Abington showdown next week is going to really be the determining factor. Abington is setting themselves up as the team that will get in the playoffs. Pennsbury is doing what they need to do now, but there’s no way they’re going to be competitive against Neshaminy.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Plymouth Whitemarsh handed Upper Dublin its first SOL loss since Oct. 25,2013. Your thoughts about those two teams.
Drew Markol: “If there’s anybody that thought PW was going to win, they didn’t talk to me because the way Upper Dublin had been playing – their defense had allowed one touchdown and was just really playing well. A couple of common opponents, the scores favored Upper Dublin, so you’re thinking – how can PW win? How could they keep up with Upper Dublin? Well, they did. It’s a credit to Dan Chang. That’s a proud program at PW. They’ve been overshadowed of late by Upper Dublin in that conference. PW loses its opener to Souderton the first week of the season but hasn’t lost since. I don’t care that Upper Dubin is now in the 5A instead of the 6A, they’re still the defending big school district champs, and they were playing well. For PW to beat them, that says a lot for the Colonials. That was a tremendous win. PW won’t get as many points beating a 5A team, but you’re beating a 5A team that’s liable to win a district title. That game, I’m sure, opened a lot of eyes in a lot of places that they were able to do that. Good for them.”
Kevin Cooney: “Talking to (PW coach) Dan Chang on the radio last week, he talked about the power of turnovers and how the turnovers really gave them a short field. When you consider what Upper Dublin’s defense had done the first six weeks of the season, you saw how critical it was for them to get the short field and turn that into points. Look, after that loss to Souderton in its opener, PW has turned into a top flight team in this district. This is a dangerous game coming up against Hatboro who is still fighting for their playoff lives, but if they get by this game, I could see them easily being a top eight seed. If that happens, they’re going to be a tough out because they have a lot of confidence behind them after beating Upper Dublin.
“For Upper Dublin, if you look at it in the big playoff picture points – you take some of that air of invincibility off them. This is a program that rode pretty high the past two years. Now they’ve kind of been scratched, if you will. They should finish well in the American, but that 5A bracket is going to be tough between Springfield-Delco and Academy Park. That was a huge swing game for both teams.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Plymouth Whitemarsh will face Hatboro-Horsham in another big American Conference game. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “If you’re Hatboro, you’re playing well lately, and you want to get into the thick of the district race. You only lost by a field goal last year (31-28), so you’re saying to yourself, ‘We can play with these guys.’ Again, you’re going in on a roll, but PW has won six in a row. This is a stretch for Hatboro – they play PW this week and Upper Dublin next week. If they want to get into the playoffs, they probably have to beat one of those two teams, so you might as well get it out of the way and try and knock off PW, which isn’t going to be easy. That’s got to be the game of the week in that American because you have two teams that are on winning streaks. You wonder – does PW have a bit of a letdown after beating Upper Dublin? That’s what they have to avoid. Hatboro quarterback Chris Edwards, a junior, has been playing well all season. He gives them a chance every time out.”
Jen Wielgus: “The PW-Hatboro-Horsham game is the season for both teams. Hatboro is finally playing like the team people thought that they would be. Coming into the season, you were hearing how they were going to be so much better with (Mike) Kapusta finally getting his foothold there. If they want to make the playoffs, they’ve got to do something here.
“If you believe in trap games, if you believe in letdowns, obviously, this would be a spot where PW could stumble. They haven’t lost since the Souderton game, and I know they had big expectations, so that was a big blow to them. I don’t think anyone is surprised that they’re doing what they’re doing.
“I really think PW will win, but Hatboro – here’s their big chance. I really think it’s the season for both teams.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Quakertown – which had a 43-6 win over Cheltenham – will face Upper Moreland. Your comments.
Jen Wielgus: “I used to get grief from the Quakertown people for picking against them. This year I’ve been picking them, not because I want to make amends, I really thought they would win so I picked them. I really like that Noah Wood kid, and I picked them again to beat Upper Moreland.
“Upper Moreland has a lot to play for this week, and I think the Quakertown kids do too because they have some pride. They showed it last week, and it’s good to see because when you’re building a program – and they still are, they have the numbers every year, but you’re not going to have a Tom Garlick and Rob Burns every season. Your kids have to harness something when you’re not winning every game. You have to play for pride, so that should be a good one.”