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: Central Bucks East used a late touchdown to defeat Souderton 37-36 in a thriller last week. Your thoughts.
Kevin Cooney: “I think it was a huge win for CB East to pull out a game like that in the final minute and then survive that crazy ending. It just shows the kind of team John Donnelly has built there. Now they host North Penn and get to try their luck there. I think East has established themselves as a legitimate playoff team and maybe somebody that can do something when they get there. They can run the ball, they can throw the ball, and it didn’t show last week, but their defense is pretty stout. They have a lot of things that work for them right now. Do I think they’ll beat North Penn? Probably not, but again, I think they’re in good shape.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: North Penn defeated Central Bucks South in a battle of unbeaten squads. Central Bucks South will travel to Neshaminy this week for a key contest. Your comments.
Drew Markol: “It was the first game on their beautiful turf field at South, but it was a rotten night for football. It was windy as can be – that wind was just a constant force with teams going into it for two quarters and at their backs another two and just a misting rain. North Penn quarterback Reece Udinski uncharacteristically threw three interceptions. It was almost like he was trying to throw the ball away, but there would be a South defender there. With those big linemen, it can be hard to intercept a pass, but these kids were intercepting a wet ball and taking momentum away from North Penn. It was a 14-13 game midway through the second quarter, and I think what it did was it kind of woke North Penn up a bit. They played a great non-league schedule and did a pretty good job against everybody, and they came back to score 28 unanswered points and just shut CB South down.
“It’s good for North Penn to get a test in its conference, and if you’re CB South – they’re going to give Neshaminy all they can handle. CB South junior quarterback Jack Johns threw some nice long passes against a pretty good North Penn secondary. His receivers were making catches. Tyler Watson had an 80-plus yard touchdown run. These are things you don’t see against North Penn. You don’t see long touchdown runs, you don’t see numerous long passes. Against North Penn, every inch is a battle, but South was able to do some things, especially early on against them. If you’re South, you’re saying – ‘Now we’re going to Neshaminy, and we can absolutely play with them. I don’t care if they’re undefeated.’ I know some people do, but I don’t think Neshaminy is North Penn. If you’re South, you go there and what the heck – you play your game and you’re going to give them a really good tussle for sure.
“On defense, senior Nate Norris has been doing it for South for a while now, and his younger brother Matt is a sophomore. My colleague Todd Thorpe was at the South game the week before I saw them, and he said he went to the PA announcer and said, ‘Just say Norris on the tackle because it will be one or the other or both.’ As it turned out, that’s the way it was. Those kids are everywhere. As good as Nate is who is also a very good fullback, the younger one – that kid is going to be something else too. There’s some talent at South. You have to look at them and everybody else through the same prism, and you can’t really use that prism for North Penn.
“It was kind of telling – if you walked out there on Friday night and you knew nothing about either team and you spoke in generalities and you said, ‘Boy, tonight looks like a really terrible night to throw the football,’ which it was. It was crummy, but what was telling to me about North Penn – Udinski ended up throwing over 30 passes. What does that tell you? Does it tell you that South has a good run defense? Yes, it does, but when you get deep in the playoffs, you’re going to have a lot of teams with a good run defense. If North Penn is in a close game – maybe that’s why Dick Beck is doing this now because he knows he may live or die with the pass come November when that rain may be sleet or snow. It was not a fun wind, but it’s going to be a bone-chilling wind in a couple of weeks. Maybe that was a test run for what they’re going to have to do because maybe they think they can’t pound it out on the ground when they get a lead and just hang onto the ball for one of those classic eight or nine-minute North Penn drives. If that’s the case, they proved they can throw it. Udinski had 300 yards passing in the first half. They have very good receivers, and as odd as it sounds to hear, North Penn’s bread and butter is throwing it down the field.”
Kevin Cooney: “North Penn had a convincing win over CB South, and that reaffirms what they are – which is at the top of the list for everyone in District One.
“Central Bucks South will go to Neshaminy, and you’re talking about a great offense, a Neshaminy team that has three great weapons on offense – Mason Jones, Will Dogba and Zach Tredway – going against a South team that until last week was really good defensively. I think it’s a good contrast in styles, and I think it’s a good test for both teams. If you think about it, for Neshaminy, this figures to be their only test before they get into the district playoffs, a team that can maybe push them.
“For South, having the back-to-back gauntlet with North Penn and Neshaminy, this is happening at the right time on the calendar. It’s a good time for them to establish where they are in the pecking order.
“I’ve got to go with Neshaminy in that game. It’s at the Ridge (Heartbreak Ridge), and Neshminy is just to me a better football team.”
Jen Wielgus: “Everybody on our Game On show picked Neshaminy to beat South because that’s the safe pick, and we’ve been doing that all season – we’ve been going with the historical sort of pick. If you look at the CB South score against Souderton (a 7-0 win), it’s ‘Oh, how did they only score seven points against Souderton?’ and then they got completely blown away by North Penn. You cannot look at how a team does against North Penn and really measure a team. Honestly, if you put Neshaminy and North Penn on the same field right now, guess what would happen? North Penn would smoke Neshaminy. No matter who you talk to, they say this is the best North Penn team in many years. Yes, CB South could have shown up better, but North Penn is going to smoke everyone they play in the Suburban One League. I don’t know how anybody beats them. They’re going to win a district title.
“Neshaminy – as we’ve done all season – might be overvalued, and if they’re not 100 percent ready, if they take South lightly because they’re at home and they’re Neshaminy and they look at CB South’s recent history, Jack Johns is a good quarterback. I haven’t seen him in action, but he seems like he’s their guy now. Neshaminy is obviously favored to win the game, but I would not be shocked if CB South won. They have a really good defense, and if they can put some points on the board, force a couple of turnovers, that could be a huge statement game for them.
“For Neshaminy, this game is their only chance for a loss until the district playoffs. They’re not going to get tested at all down the stretch in their league. It really is like a playoff game for them. Neshaminy might not look like they have something to prove, but they do. Finally, a good crossover game.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Pennsbury edged Bensalem in overtime. Talk about the implications of that game.
Kevin Cooney: “Boy, Pennsbury really needed that game last week, and to see their offense get it going and to squeak it out and survive the way they did with basically their playoffs lives on the line, you can now see a path. The winner of the Abington-Pennsbury game is going to be in really good shape going to the playoffs, especially if it’s Pennsbury. They still have Neshaminy up ahead, but the rest of their schedule looks favorable. If you beat Abington, that might be the game that gets them over the hump.
“The last two weeks have actually been pretty heart-pounding weeks. Whether this translates into good football in November remains to be seen, but at least you’re starting to see a little bit of a pulse. It’s going to be interesting to see what this National Conference race turns into between Abington, Bensalem and Pennsbury. Odds are two of them are going to be left out and one of them will get into the playoffs. How that plays out is going to be fascinating to see. Abington and Pennsbury both have each other and one of the top two left on their schedule. The problem with Bensalem is you’re getting no points from Tennent, you don’t get a lot of points from Lincoln and you’ve lost to Abington and Pennsbury. That’s where you start getting into dicey waters.
Drew Markol: “What Bensalem needs to do now – sure it would have been nice to beat Pennsbury, but do they have to regroup and win out the rest of their National Conference games? They’re going to lose to Neshaminy, but they’ve got to beat everyone else, which they could do. If they do that, could Pennsbury trip up somewhere other than Neshaminy? Absolutely, they could.
“If I’m at Bensalem talking to those kids, I’m saying, ‘Look, we’re not out of it.’ They continue to play with house money. Zero was expected of them at the start of the season. When they beat William Tennent to snap their long losing streak, we all picked Tennent, so if you’re Bensalem, you look at it and say – we lost in double overtime to Pennsbury. We can play with anybody, and if we take care of business, let’s see what happens. Even if they don’t get into the district playoffs, if the season ended today, what they’ve done is a success. They turned a corner that quite frankly I don’t think I ever thought they’d ever turn.”
Jen Wielgus: “As far as the National Conference goes, there might be one other team besides Neshaminy that makes the playoffs, and that’s going to be either Abington, Bensalem or Pennsbury. Bensalem has a chance of going 6-4, but I don’t think they’ll get enough points from their wins. The Pennsbury-Abington game is going to end up being a big one because one of those teams is probably going to be the one, and I think it’s going to be Abington. The fact that Bensalem can finish with a winning record – I don’t want to keep harping on them every week, but I just think that’s a big deal that needs to be mentioned. Even in a down year for the league, that’s what it takes to build programs on. If you don’t have those years, you struggle to build programs.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Hatboro-Horsham travelled to Quakertown and came away with a win. Your comments.
Drew Markol: “Maybe Quakertown looked at the conference and said, ‘Hey, we played Upper Dublin almost down to the wire, and they’re the best team in this new American Conference for us. We can just show up against the other teams that aren’t called PW or Upper Dublin.’ I don’t know if they’re thinking that, but Hatboro coming off a big rivalry win against Upper Moreland – would they be up for Quakertown? Obviously, they were. Hatboro seemed to turn it around a bit, but that (score) was a surprise. I just thought Quakertown would be able to wear them down. Maybe they took them lightly. I’m sure George Banas tried to get it through their heads not to take anyone lightly, but sometimes that’s hard to do. It ended up costing them. If you’re Quakertown, you play out the rest of the season, and now you have a game scheduled with Saucon Valley the first week of what will be the district playoffs. Saucon Valley will probably be in the District 11 playoffs, so that game might not even happen. If you’re Quakertown, unless you can find a game at the end of the regular season, your next meaningful game isn’t until Pennridge on Thanksgiving Day, and that’s a month and half away. That’s a long wait when a team is struggling. It just makes practice that much longer. It kind of came tumbling down for Quakertown a little bit, and that loss to Hatboro was really a crusher.
“I thought Hatboro-Horsham might make a run in the American Conference, and they started off slowly. When that happens, it’s hard to turn it around, but they had that bye because of the forfeit with Springfield earlier. Maybe that helped them. They had more practice time, they could work on some things because since then they’ve been playing better. Are they going to get in the playoffs? That might be a reach, but they have managed to improve. They’ve already beaten Upper Moreland once, and beating Quakertown is a nice win. It’s not a great year for Quakertown, but that’s a great win for Hatboro to go up there and do that. Their quarterback – junior Chris Edwards – is getting better by the week. That’s a good job by coach Mike Kapusta, not having that team quit.”
Kevin Cooney: “It’s tough to get a read on Hatboro at this point. They were bad and now they’ve put together two wins out of the bye week. They still have Upper Dubllin, they still have PW, so I’m kind of hesitant before jumping fully in, but yes, I think they’ve shown some fight at a good time.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Plymouth Whitemarsh will face Upper Dublin in a key SOL American Conference battle. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “When you look at that game, I just think Upper Dublin is too much for PW. PW played Wissahickon a couple of weeks ago and won 39-36, and one of Wissahickon’s receivers – Marlyn Johnson - had a huge night against PW. If you’re Upper Dublin, you’re licking your chops because what they can do with quarterback Justin Horn is throw the ball. He’s completing passes at a 60 percent clip and has nine touchdowns and only one interception. With Ryan Stover graduating, you always wondered what would happen to Upper Dublin. Well, Horn has stepped in, and that kid can throw it and he can also run. He’s a nice dual threat. It’s a shame he’s a senior because he’s legit, so they have to be licking their chops, saying ‘What we do well is throw the ball, and it looks like PW has some trouble stopping the pass.’ You do the math, and you’re going to come out throwing.
“As we talked about in previous weeks, Quakertown gave them a battle, but they couldn’t put many points on the board. Upper Dublin has the combination of a pretty good defense and a good passing attack. I do like PW’s running game with Khan Jamal, but the bottom line is I just think too good of a passing attack for Upper Dublin and a pretty good defense – I think they win that, and that’s their obstacle in the American Conference. They know it, everybody knows it. If they can beat PW, they’re in good shape as far as the conference goes and they’re in good shape as far as the 5A districts. Spring-Ford is in there and Academy Park, but Upper Dublin’s right there.”
Kevin Cooney: “I think for PW this is a status game. Look, Upper Dublin is going to be in good shape when it gets to the 5A Tournament. PW – I think everybody always looks at them with a little bit of an arched eyebrow anymore. They play in the American, they have a couple of games against teams from the 3A class when it was the old system, and they haven’t really shown in the postseason recently that they’re much of a threat. This is the type of game – if you knock off Upper Dublin, who I think everyone agrees is one of the two or three best teams in 5A in District One – you could put Academy Park and Springfield-Delco in there - you’re talking about a PW team that has to enter the conversation for doing something in the 6A field. The problem is that no one right now is solving Upper Dublin’s defense, and I think that’s where PW could have some issues. Can they score enough to make it a close game at the end?”