Intelligencer/Courier "Let's Talk Football (10-20-17)

Back for its eighth season, the popular Intelligencer/Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football’ features Drew Markol, Todd Thorpe and Jen Wielgus. Markol is the football beat writer for the Intelligencer area while Thorpe is the Courier’s football beat writer. Wielgus is a video sports reporter for the Intelligencer and Courier. Markol and Wielgus are contributors on the weekly Game On show. 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 Courier Times ( sites. Check out the picks by our panel of experts:  Upper Moreland defeated Quakertown 35-14 in a battle for the SOL American Conference’s top spot.  Your comments.

Drew Markol:  “What a great job by Upper Moreland. You celebrate the opening of your new stadium. If you lose that game, you bring Upper Dublin right back into the SOL American race, but if you win that game against a good Quakertown team that only had one loss, now you’ve put yourself in a great spot to win the conference title, and you’re doing it as a 5A school against a lot of 6A programs, which doesn’t happen very often. You go out and do a great job. Adam Beach had said before that game, ‘We need to take advantage of our speed.’ With Sterlen Barr and Caleb Mead, that’s what they did. It wasn’t a 14-13 squeaker. They hammered Quakertown, and I’m sure they knew they had because the way Quakertown has been coming back week after week – they’re like Rasputin, they’re hard to kill off.

“I look at Upper Moreland’s game, and I think they’re probably going to win a district title. Their game with Hatboro-Horsham on Thanksgiving is in jeopardy because they’re going to be playing for a while. When Adam Beach gets a core of good players – at a smaller school, it doesn’t always happen, but when he does, he makes the most of them.

“Upper Moreland still has Upper Dublin. Again, I’m wrong and awful, but the way Upper Moreland is going – I think Upper Moreland’s next loss might be to Archbishop Wood in late November or December, whenever they play that game. I think Upper Moreland is going to win the 5A title. I don’t see any road bumps, I really don’t. I think they’re in a really good spot.”

Todd Thorpe:  “Upper Moreland has the potential to run the table, to go 10-0. I think they’re favored now obviously to do that. This is as good a team as they’ve had with a good all-purpose running back in senior Sterlen Barr, and junior Caleb Mead has more than 900 yards. This is a once-in-a-lifetime year, and if you’re them, you start thinking District One 5A title – is it possible?  I know there’s another undefeated 5A team, Springfield Delco. I don’t know how they would match up. I don’t know the comparison between their two programs very well, but give them credit, they’re in the discussion of being a team that could possibly win a district title. Under Adam Beach, Upper Moreland has had a habit of every couple of years getting a playoff team in them, but this is probably the best they’ve had in a long time. To beat a team like Quakertown that is tough and disciplined and to beat them pretty handily is a pretty impressive win.”  Central Bucks South needed a blocked extra point in the closing seconds to defeat Central Bucks West 21-20. Your comments.

Drew Markol:  “That game was one of the best games I’ve seen in a long time. Both of those defenses – you had to fight for every yard. Nothing went uncontested. There was a lot of just good aggressive play. Neither team gave an inch. When South went down and scored in the final two minutes (to go up 21-14), you thought, ‘Okay, this one’s over,’ but to West’s credit, they moved right down the field. They set themselves up with that last play on the two-yard line and five seconds to go. You’re thinking – if you throw a quick pass and it’s incomplete, maybe you get another play. What West did – they ran their best player, Jake Reichwein, and he scores. It was like, ‘Wow!’ Unfortunately, the point after was kicked low and really never had a chance. It was blocked, but it wasn’t going to make it anyway.

“I don’t mind ties. A lot of people don’t like ties, and that’s why we have overtime and that stuff, but if ever a game deserved to be tie, it was that one because those teams are evenly matched. South was using its third string quarterback, Ryan Schoch, who did a nice job. He threw it enough to keep West honest. That’s what they needed him to do, and he did it. You can’t ask for much more than that. It was just an entertaining game to watch. For West, it’s a hard loss and it really hurts you, but both teams really, really played well.”  William Tennent gave Pennridge all it could handle in a 35-26 Rams’ win. Your thoughts.

Drew Markol:  “I think Pennridge is a pretty good team and can win a first round district playoff game, but they play down a lot of times to the level of competition. Council Rock South has been playing better, but they had Pennridge on the ropes, and now William Tennent – which has lost 25 games in a row and how high can their spirits be – well, they go out and give Pennridge all they want. That was remarkable. I’m at another game hearing scores and saying, ‘This is just crazy.’ Pennridge’s defense is pretty good. They pride themselves on that defense, and Tennent has had a lot of bad losses over the years, and to give that much of a fight to Pennridge – give credit where credit is due. Quarterback Mitch Vierling had a huge game. Those kids and coach Leo Plenski – they could have handed in their uniforms weeks ago. They have two tough teams left with North Penn and CB South. They’ll be underdogs in both, but my god, as big a surprise as Upper Moreland blowing out Quakertown – I thought they would win, but I didn’t think they’d blow them out, but Tennent hanging with Pennridge for that long might be an even bigger surprise. Good job by William Tennent. I’d love to see them get a win, but it’s going to be hard.”

Todd Thorpe:  “In the Continental, it’s North Penn and everybody else, and it’s really played itself out that way. They’ve got William Tennent this week. I give William Tennent credit. They’ve played well the last couple of weeks, and they really played well against Pennridge. Their quarter, Mitch Vierling, threw for over 300 yards. Give them a lot of credit, but 25 losses in a row – it’s going to be 26 probably this week unless something really crazy happens against North Penn. You hate to see teams lose that many in a row. Just for the mental state of the program, you want them to get one before it’s over. They have CB South in week 10, so it’s not going to be easy for them to do that, but I give them a lot of credit. Coming off a Souderton game in what probably was their best chance to get a win this year, they come out and really play well against Pennridge, a Pennridge team that easily looks like a top eight seed in the district, but you look at their box scores and they’re winning games close. They’re not blowing teams out.”  Pennridge will host Central Bucks South this week. Your thoughts about that game.

Drew Markol:  “South beat West – there is a rivalry there, but it’s not as big as West/East, and I don’t think it ever will be. For older folks, East and West was always the big rivalry. These current day kids grew up with South always being there. For them, that’s a big rivalry too and sometimes we overlook that. Those teams went at it with maybe a little extra vigor.

“I’m picking Pennridge to win the game, but again, I wouldn’t be surprised if it went the other way. That’s one of the best games on the slate this week, and there’s a lot riding on it. Neither team is going to win the Continental Conference title, but you want to get a home playoff game for districts.”  Abington shut out Truman and will be hosting Pennsbury this week. Your comments.

Todd Thorpe:  “If you look at total yards from scrimmage, Truman – for a team with a ton of offense - had like 140 yards. I didn’t see that game, but I’ve read the stories and I’ve looked at the stats, and I’m still wondering what happened. There were three Truman turnovers, but if you look at the stats of Darryl Davis-McNeil over the last three or four weeks - over three weeks, you’re talking over 700 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s just absolutely taking over every game they play now, and they’ve won two of those three games. Abington is a completely different team when he’s dominating like that, especially because they can control the line of scrimmage and keep the defense off the field.

“All of a sudden, Abington shocks Truman in Truman’s homecoming game, and now they host Pennsbury. Abington is playing the role of spoiler. When I spoke to Dan McShane last week, he was very cognizant of not looking past the next game, but when you have Neshaminy looming on the horizon, it might be easy for them to do just that. I think they will have a real competitive game in Schwarzman Stadium on Friday night. I think Abington is there.

“The thing with Pennsbury – they really took their foot off the gas pedal at halftime against Council Rock South last week. They were a lot better. As of now, no one has found a way to stop Zach Demarchis. He can run, he can pass, he can do everything, and they’re good defensively too, so it will be interesting. I like Abington – I don’t like them to win the game. I’ll still go with Pennsbury, but give them a live shot because you beat Truman you open up some eyes. I, for one, thought Truman was a top eight seed in the district. They probably hurt themselves a little bit with that loss. One of the things Truman will run into is their points aren’t going to be that high because of the records of the teams they’ve beaten. If you look at Truman, they don’t have a signature win over a good team. They’ve got a lot of really lopsided wins that you have to open your eyes about, but most of their wins are over teams that don’t have very good records. This week they play Souderton, and I certainly expect them to get a big win there, but they can’t afford a slipup. They’ve got to keep on winning, and they could potentially have a big game with Bensalem in the last week of the season.”

Drew Markol:  “Darryl Davis-McNeil, the really good running back for Abington, seems to finally be healthy. He ran all over Neshaminy, he ran all over Truman. Neshaminy needed a late, late, late score to beat Abington. Abington has nothing to lose now, and if you’re Pennsbury, you’re thinking, ‘We’ve got Neshaminy next week for the National Conference title, and that’s our archrival.’ I’m sure their coaches are hammering into their heads, ‘Guys, you cannot overlook Abington’ because if you do, you’re going to be in trouble. Again, they’re kids. Could they overlook Abington? Sure, when they look at their record. Their coaches will say, ‘Look, they’ve been playing well the past couple of weeks,’ and you just hope the kids listen. Abington – it took them too long to do it, but they’ve turned things around.”  Central Bucks West is at Central Bucks East on Saturday. Your thoughts about that game.

Drew Markol:  “I was over at East’s practice the other day, and for those kids, it is East and West. Granted, South has worked its way into the equation. They now have that Central Bucks Cup. There’s a lot on the line here. West has to try and bounce back from the tough loss to South, and East is on the outside looking in on the playoff standings right now. They need to win. They need to win this one and they need to beat Pennridge next week if they want to get in. You can’t look at it as a two-game season. It’s a one-game season this week and a one-game season next week, and you’ve got to win them both.

“With the way West played against South, if they can duplicate that effort – I think East is a shade better, but that’s another really good game, a really close game. You’ll have a big crowd. That’s what it’s about. To have that rivalry and then you add on the fact that it’s almost an elimination game as far as the district playoffs go, that just adds to the fun.”

Todd Thorpe:  “Missed extra points – you hate to see games end like that, but I kind of thought CB West/CB South was a more even game because of the quarterback situation at CB South. When you’re down to your third quarterback, that’s rough. Because of that, I thought that was going to be a close game. I kind of thought West had a real good chance to win that game, and they did. They just faltered a little bit late.

“West plays CB East, and CB East seems to be trending up. CB East really needs a signature win over a team with a winning record if they want to be legit. They’re a very long shot to make the playoffs, but beating West would be a good step for them if they could. West needs to win just to hold momentum. It doesn’t seem as though it was that long ago they were the third seed in the district power points, but a couple losses in a row set them back. I give Chas Cathers credit. He’s got some good players. They’re all seniors, and they’re winning. East/West is a fun game even if it’s on a Saturday and not on a Friday night at War Memorial. It’s still a fun game for both schools and the kids. That game has a lot of juice to it because they’re both decent teams, and they’re both teams that are right there in the mix for the 16-team tournament.”  Any other games that look interesting this week?

Drew Markol:  “Hatboro-Horsham at Upper Dublin is another good game. I’ve been behind Hatboro-Horsham all season, and I think Hatboro will beat Upper Dublin. There are a lot of weeks where we don’t have that many good games, but this week we have a lot of good games, and you kind of wish you could spread some of them out. Week nine and week 10 – on the flip side, that’s what you want. You want good games that mean something, and we’ve got a bunch of them.”

Todd Thorpe:  “Bensalem won four in a row to start the season and lost their last four. They get Council Rock North this week, and they’ve got to show up and play more like the team they were early in the season. At 6-4, you’ve got a legit chance of making the playoffs. I don’t know how legit that is because I see a lot of teams in front of them right now, but they’re one of the teams that you look at and say – if they finish 6-4, they’re going to make the conversation pretty interesting.

“It’s all pointing toward Neshaminy/Pennsbury in the last week of the season, but I just said, ‘Pump the brakes a little bit. We’re not there yet. Let’s play week nine before we get to week 10.’ I think both coaches – Steve Wilmot and Dan McShane – are saying the same thing. They have games this week – let’s go play.

“You know what – Council Rock South could test Neshaminy. Every week it seems they’re right there. They played Pennsbury tough. They were never a threat to win the game, but they passed the ball well. They’re just a tough bunch of kids. Neshaminy has had some close games in games that you thought they might blow the other team out. It wouldn’t shock me if Neshaminy/CR South is a football game in the fourth quarter. Some interesting games in that National Conference this week when it’s been apparent for a few weeks that it’s going to lead to that last game, but week nine still has to be played.”