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: 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/sportsand Bucks County Courier http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/sports/high-schoolsweb sites.
Check out this week’s picks by our panel of experts: http://www.suburbanonesports.com/football-forecaster
SuburbanOneSports.com: Your thoughts about Pennsbury’s come-from-behind win over Council Rock South and the SOL National Conference race.
Todd Thorpe: “You look at the Council Rock South-Pennsbury game – South obviously in first place has a lot to play for, has a lead going into the fourth quarter and it gets away. Pennsbury has been waiting for that win. They’ve been so close in the games that they’ve lost. I covered their game against Truman two weeks ago, and they were right there. They’ve been frustrated, and they’ve lost games late, but they still feel they’re a pretty good team and they’re just as good as any of these teams. That’s their feeling, but they just haven’t found a way to win these games, and low and behold, they did.
“Now Pennsbury has a chance with two weeks remaining to really hold their playoff destiny in their own hands. Even at 6-4 if they win these next two games, I think they’re in the playoffs. I look at these brackets and I see the seeds 14 through 19 in a 16-team bracket, and you may see a 5-5 team make the playoffs this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if that came out of the National Conference with a Pennsbury or any of the other teams.
“For Rock South, it’s right back to the drawing board. They slipped to 5-3 with that loss, and now they have to play Neshaminy this week at Neshaminy. If they lose, you’ve got to figure Rock South is going to end up 6-4, and they’re going to be a bubble team. Two weeks ago, everybody thought that they were solid after some of the wins they had and the close loss to North Penn, but all of a sudden, they’re a bubble team.
“That whole conference is a garbled mess when you think about it. It’s Truman’s to win. Truman has a non-league game against Pennridge this week, and next week they play Bensalem. Truman really it’s in their hands, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that Pennsbury-Neshaminy game being for a share of the league title.
“You’ve got to love Rock South’s chances if they beat Neshaminy because then they got Council Rock North next week. I saw Council Rock North against Souderton. It was kind of messy early. They fumbled the ball away on four straight possessions, but they play really hard. They never gave up in that game. If you’re going to measure a game by sustained drives and first downs – and you don’t, by the way, they did hold their own. They just didn’t hold onto the ball in the first half, but they had some big plays. Ed Gallagher wasn’t thrilled with the way Souderton played. I give North credit – they’re a team that’s struggling, but they’re playing hard. I like Matt McHugh. I think as a coach he’s a guy who’s got a plan. Is the talent going to be there to succeed? I don’t see why not. It’s just going to be a matter of getting the players. What are the chances they’re going to beat Rock South next week in a game that will count for a lot in everything? North plays Bensalem this week, so they have a chance to get that second win. I would think they’d be favored.
“If Rock South wins this week, I think the ball is really in their court for a share of the league title. If Neshaminy wins this week, and Pennsbury beats Abington, which is no gimme, by the way – that game could be close, all of a sudden – at Harry E Franks Stadium - Neshaminy and Pennsbury are playing for the a share of league title. Just like last year, just like the year before, just like the last 150 years in this conference. It’s just a very intriguing league. I like it. It’s really been a great league of football. Who knows where these teams are all going to shake down come playoff time. Truman will probably end up in the fifth seed, I guess, and Pennsbury, Neshaminy and Rock South – if they all get in – would be in that 13-16 range, which is not a good thing. It’s a competitive league, and first things first. You take care of your league and then you worry about the playoffs after that. I’m excited to see what happens.”
Drew Markol: “The National Conference is very interesting. You have Pennsbury coming back last week and beating CR South, which allowed Pennsbury to keep alive its chances of getting a share of or winning the conference. Pennsbury has the one loss to Truman. Truman has the one loss to Council Rock South, Neshaminy has the one loss to Truman, so you have four teams with one loss. This week you have Nesahminy playing Council Rock South. Council Rock South had a lead against Pennsbury last week, and Pennsbury comes back and beats them, so they’re not going to be in a good mood. Neshaminy - to set up a potential championship game against rival Pennsbury - they need to beat Council Rock South. That might be the best game of the weekend.
“We talked about Truman in the National, but Truman has to play Pennridge this week, and Pennridge is not a pushover by any means. They are big, and they need a win. If Neshaminy/Council Rock South is the biggest game of the weekend, Pennridge/Truman might be the second one. I know it’s a ‘non-league’ game, but there are a lot of implications for both teams as far as the district playoffs go.
“Pennsbury is playing Abington, and Abington can step up and surprise you once in a while. I don’t know if they have enough to beat a Pennsbury team that has just gotten better and better as the season has gone along. That’s an interesting game too. Who eventually comes out with the title? You have four teams tied now, so to get an outright champion is going to be hard. The math just doesn’t add up. I give Council Rock South a slight edge over Neshaminy. If that happens, Neshaminy doesn’t have quite as much to play for against Pennsbury although they’d love to knock Pennsbury out of a chance at winning or sharing the title. This is what we’d hoped for forever is that the National Conference would be more than Neshaminy and Pennsbury in the last week of the season. We’re getting it, and it’s really cool. We’re sitting here trying to do math, which is not my strong point, trying to figure this all out. If A beats C, what happens to B and D? Well, we’re going to find out, and it’s good.
“How excited is Council Rock North going to be if they have a shot at knocking Council Rock South out when they play the last week of the season? Truman’s got to beat Pennridge – that’s a test, and they have to beat Bensalem next week, you’d think they’d do that. A lot of this week is going to set up a lot of next week and make it fun. This is good. When you look at the three conferences, the National is far and away the most intriguing.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Drew, you staffed CB East’s win over CB South. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “CB East lost a couple of close games this season – the one-pointer to Pennsbury, a really tight game with North Penn, a close game to Souderton, but to their credit, they were able to bounce back. They beat West in an emotional game, and West almost tied it at the end. Against South, East’s defense was just stout. They were saying it was the best defensive effort they’ve had all season. South couldn’t do anything, especially the first half. It took them forever just to get a first down, let alone anything else. You try not to, but you have your preconceived notions before a game of how you think it will play out. I kind of expected the South defense to do to East what the East defense did to South. As always, I was wrong.
“East didn’t allow them to breathe, and they did just enough on offense. They have a nice sophomore receiver, Will Silverman, who’s going to be a weapon. He already is, and he threw a touchdown pass. He catches everything thrown to him. The senior quarterback, Evan O’Donnell, has a nice rapport with him. Chris Lochetta, the senior receiver – he and O’Donnell go way back too, so East has a solid passing game. You throw in Jake Ventresca the running back – he’s only a junior, but he always seems to land forward. Even on the plays where he’s stopped at the line of scrimmage, he somehow gets two or three yards out of it. He’s a nice threat for them.
“Basically, last week was an elimination game for the loser. So now East still has a shot. Can East win its last two games? They play William Tennent this week, and they get Pennridge next Saturday at home. Depending what happens with Pennridge and Truman this week, for Pennridge, on the surface when you look at that crossover game they play against the National Conference, you look at it and you’re thinking, ‘Well, that’s a win for Pennridge.’ Well, that is not the case anymore. Pennridge – at 4-4, the same record as CB East - has to go to Truman and beat them and go to East and beat them to get in. Those are two difficult tasks. Whereas for East, they have to beat Tennent this week where if they play well they will, and then they have to beat a Pennridge team that may or may not be playing for a playoff spot. East is in a decent position to go 6-4 and get in. They won’t get a home game, they’re not getting a high seed, but that was a big win for East beating CB South.
“South was a bit of an enigma. They’ve had an up and down season, and they had a really slow start. They were 0-3 to start the season and even had trouble scoring. Once you dig yourself a hole, it just proves again, it’s awfully hard to get out of.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Your thoughts about the SOL Continental Conference.
Todd Thorpe: “There’s still some intrigue in the Continental Conference. This whole race for another playoff spot exists there too. North Penn is in solidly, but Pennridge is a bubble team, CB East is a bubble team, Souderton is a bubble team. It’s pretty fascinating. I was saying the other day on Game On, CB West and CB South have some good wins this year. They’re not just going to roll over and play dead for these teams playing for a playoff spot. It’s a really interesting little tidbit for these teams trying to get into the back end of the playoffs. I give them a ton of credit. I think you may see some surprises down the stretch.
“North Penn for two or three weeks in a row has struggled in the conference, and in the end, nobody pays attention to the struggle if you got the ‘W,’ but they’re in a spot where I’m sure Dick Beck is saying, ‘Where are we going to be in two weeks when the playoffs start?’ We know they’ll be at Crawford Stadium, but as a team capable of winning a district title, where will they be? I’m sure there’s a lot of film watching and just trying to figure things out over there, but they are still winning. They’re not blowing teams out like you’re accustomed to seeing North Penn do, but they’re winning, and that’s the biggest thing in the end.”
Drew Markol: “CB West was tied with North Penn until late in the third quarter. You have to wonder – I’ve seen North Penn a couple of times. Maybe – I don’t want to say they’re bored, but they expect to win. When they went 3-0 in the non-league season, they set themselves up beating La Salle, Neshaminy and Pennsbury. They knew when they were 3-0 they could go 3-4 in the conference and gotten into the playoffs. They realized once they got through their non-league schedule, and they saw the teams they beat – they knew those teams would have good records, and they would get lots of points from them. It takes a lot of the urgency out of the conference season for them. They just got by East, they just got by Council Rock South, they just got by Souderton where they were down 17-0. To North Penn’s credit, they keep winning these games, which is the impressive thing because they could easily say, ‘Even if we lose a game, no big deal,’ but they still manage to win them. Can that backfire come the playoffs? It surely could.
“If the Continental is going to get a second team into the playoffs – with two games to go, it looks like CB East because they have an easier road.”
SuburbanOneSports: Central Bucks West will unveil its statue of former coach Mike Pettine. Your thoughts about that event.
Todd Thorpe: “You and I remember Mike Pettine as a coach, the stern jaw and how successful his programs were at West for 30 years. We remember it, but the kids today weren’t even born when he coached the last time. You might as well be talking about Vince Lombardi to those kids. I think it’s a really neat thing, and it does show kids at a school – at one point, this is what people who came before us achieved, so there still is a little bit of an aura in Doylestown. You hope that maybe they’ll look at that a say, ‘That’s the blueprint. We’ve done it before. There’s no reason we can’t do it again.’ It’s great for the school, it’s great for the community. You and I remember that when Mike Pettine was there and they were winning, that community was really defined by CB West football. That was the place to be. So many things have happened – from the opening of CB South to the coaching changes that West has undergone – that it could almost make you forget how great a time that was. If you were a high school football fan in Doylestown and Central Bucks, they were so good. They were that elite program. They were the St. Joe’s Prep of today or St. John Bosco Prep or all the national programs you hear about every year. CB West was it, a public school in Doylestown, Pa. Mike Pettine was a larger than life figure, and ironically, he was also the most old school figure you could ever imagine. So larger than life as he was, he was very simple meat and potatoes – I’ve got a bigger line than you, my running backs are gonna execute better than you, and my defense is going to hit harder. I might not have the biggest kids or the fastest kids, but I’m going to be perfect. It was almost like a Marine battalion – it was that kind of precision. They were on top, they were it.
“It’s just so hard to imagine that in today’s day with the proliferation of private schools. If you look at that USA Today Super 25 now, probably 15-20 are private schools. It’s the super power schools. It’s not even the little private schools, it’s the private school you go there just to play football. Back then, it was Doylestown, Pa. I will not be at CB West, but it will be interesting. Maybe it will spur West on. It’s been an up and down year for West. Rob Rowan came and lost some tough players from the year before. He’s a real organized guy who has a lot of enthusiasm who will hopefully be at West for a long time and hopefully build that program.”
SuburbanOneSports: Your comments about the SOL American Conference.
Todd Thorpe: “Upper Dublin has all but clinched the title. It’s kind of over. Good for Upper Dublin. They won some close games this year. They found a way to pull out the games they needed to pull out. They deserve to be the champs.
“Hatboro-Horsham got a good win last week over Cheltenham, and now they go play Quakertown. I’m sure Quakertown was sharpening their teeth after a couple of losses because they’re looking like a pretty good bet to get in the playoffs regardless. Now, low and behold, here comes Hatboro-Horsham that has beaten Cheltenham which has beaten Quakertown. You never know. Does Hatboro-Horsham have a chance to sneak in the playoffs? I don’t know.
“The best thing about football is they still do try somewhat to put teams by school size, especially in the American Conference. It gives those schools that are nowhere as big as the big schools a chance. If Upper Dublin played in the National Conference, what chance would they have every year? They’re a good program, they could win a little, but there’s a reason why the same programs win every year. I firmly believe, nothing against North Penn or whoever, but I think the SOL and all leagues in football should be divided strictly by enrollment. There’s a way to play non-league crossover games against your area rivals, and that’s fine too. Especially as you’re seeing roster sizes shrink even more every year – it’s just not fair. Every football coach is organized today. It’s not – let’s out-organize him or I’ll out-coach them. I’ll take my 20 and we’ll go up against their 50 and we’ll win. Every coach goes year round now, every coach is really organized and knows film study. There’s no mystery.
“I like the American Conference because it is schools that wouldn’t fit in the other two. It’s all very competitive. Good for Hatboro-Horsham getting in the mix. I covered them earlier in the year against CB East, and they lost that game kind of handily. I wasn’t sure what they had this year, but to bounce back and get a couple of wins in the league – obviously, beating Cheltenham is a real good win, and you go to Quakertown with something to play for. Mike Kapusta has got some players with skill, and he has them every year. It’s just a matter of how it comes together. It really leads to an intriguing matchup against Quakertown.”
Drew Markol: “In the American, Upper Dublin is going to win that conference, a credit to them. Cheltenham has dropped a bit, but good job by Hatboro-Horsham (defeating Cheltenham). I don’t think anybody expected that to happen. I talked to coach Mike Kapusta about it, and he said it’s kind of a funky season for his team, but lo and behold, if Hatboro-Horsham can beat Quakertown on Friday, then they’ll be fighting for a playoff spot. That’s a big game. Their running back, Jordan Collazo, got 200 yards last week against Cheltenham. That’s pretty good stuff.
“As far as the American goes, Upper Dublin going to get a high seed in 5A and deservedly so. Quakertown is 11th in the latest ranking in 6A. They don’t want to lose to Hatboro-Horsham because they could potentially even be knocked out or drop down to a 14 or 15 seed, and they could be playing Coatesville in the first round.
“Unlike last week, which was a little ho hum, there are some decent games. The only conference with championship implications would be the National. I always say I’m a dinosaur, but to me, that’s the first priority. I think to so many teams today the district tournament has become the end all, be all. I’m not quite sure why. If you’re the 15th or 16th seed and you lose by 50 to somebody, you wonder. I talked with kids over the years when they lost to Garnet Valley in the opening round, and they’d say, ‘I never heard of this team.’ Then your lasting memory of your last high school football team is a 48-6 loss to somebody you never heard of. That’s why I love the Thanksgiving Day games, but those are a quickly, quickly dying breed. I don’t think we’re going to have a situation like last year where we had Pennridge and Quakertown playing each other in districts and then on Thanksgiving because both of those teams – if they were to get in – would be lower seeds.
“This week is shaping up as very interesting and could make next week, especially in the National Conference, very interesting.”