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 needed a fourth quarter comeback to defeat Pennridge. Your thoughts about those two teams.
Kevin Cooney: “Let’s start by giving credit to Pennridge who I thought given everything that’s happened with them really played well for three quarters. They couldn’t put it away, which is ultimately what they’re going to be known for. They’re going to be either a 5-7 or 6-6 team that had trouble closing the deal, but given the circumstances, you can’t do anything but admire what they’ve done.
“For Neshaminy – Neshaminy is in a rare spot. We were wondering between North Penn and Neshaminy how they would react to adversity. Neshaminy did that earlier in the season when they played Pennridge, and we saw a little bit of that at the bookend of the season. They have to play better. They can’t turn the ball over the way they did Friday night. Garnet Valley will make you pay if you don’t play a better, cleaner game.
“That being said, I think they got their bad game out of the way last week. I think that they will play a lot better this coming week. Garnet Valley is tough. Obviously, they won an emotional game on the road at CB South last week as a real come-from-behind win where they’re able to salt things away on the road against a tough opponent. Do they have the capability of stopping the multi weapons that Neshaminy has? It comes down to whether Zach Tredway plays. If Tredway plays, they’re in good shape. If he doesn’t, Neshaminy could have some problems.
“Sophomore Oleh Manzyk is a great story for Neshaminy. He was obviously able to take command when they needed somebody to take command. At that point, they were in trouble. When you look at each other and start rolling the eyes – ‘Oh my god, this could really happen,’ at this time of year, you need somebody that comes out of the blue, and Manzyk did that last week.”
Drew Markol: “Pennridge lost so many close games this season. There’s a difference between knowing how to win and getting a lead and hoping to hang onto it. I found it a little curious that in a playoff game you would switch your quarterback and put your quarterback – Jagger Hartshorn – in as a running back and defensive back and you put a kid like Oliver Jervis, who I’ve heard things about for years, in at quarterback. He was a defensive end. Unless it was something they’d been practicing all year and they just decided to spring it against Neshaminy or if they just decided last week to get the kid ready in a short amount of time – I don’t know the answer to that. It makes it a little difficult for all parties concerned. They jumped out to a lead – they did block a punt, but still, regardless, the lead was 21-7 at the half. It was even 21-20 in the fourth quarter after a missed extra point, which was also blocked. There were opportunities there, and the defense just needed to step up, but stopping a team like Neshaminy is hard. Pennridge had them down twice in the fourth quarter this season, and Neshaminy came back to beat them twice in the fourth quarter. That game was like a microcosm of the Pennridge season. They played well. They had a lead, but they just couldn’t hang onto it, and it ends up costing you in the end.
“For Neshaminy, I think of all the teams they could have played in the first round, considering they’re undefeated and a high seed at number two. I believe if they had played anybody else – if they had played Haverford or a Penn Wood, which was a 14 seed, I think Neshaminy would have just blown them out. They knew Pennridge was tough. Their early season game against them was a good game. I don’t want to call it a fear factor, but there was a touch of apprehension – now we have to go play Pennridge again.
“Sophomore Oleh Manzyk – I believe – hasn’t been playing football that long, and he might be the best player we have in the area next year even with Pennridge’s Nick Tarburton and CB West’s Jake Reichwein. The Henley kid from North Penn is good, but this kid is an animal on both offense and defense. He’s only a sophomore, and there’s a kid – we could be talking a Penn State, a Notre Dame.”
Jen Weilgus: “I don’t think anybody coming into that game knew what to make of Pennridge, and that’s Pennridge’s own fault because they were obviously a team to watch and they had a lot of potential. Playing in the Continental, you expect they would take a few lumps here and there. They played that tough non-league schedule, and you didn’t necessarily expect them to beat Perk Valley and Neshaminy when they met the first time, but then to get beat so badly by CB East the last week of the regular season, and you’re like ‘This team is done.’ They didn’t have that signature win that they could hang their hat on and say, ‘This gives us confidence, this is a reason that we can go into Heartbreak Ridge and believe we can beat Neshaminy.’
“You kept expecting as you watched that game – Neshaminy is going to come back, and they didn’t and they didn’t and they didn’t. (Mason) Jones threw two interceptions. Pennridge played really well, more so than Neshaminy played bad, and you have got to give them credit. I had somebody come up to me on Saturday and say, ‘Well, I sold my Neshaminy stock.’ I don’t want to come across saying that at all because I don’t think Neshaminy is in trouble. I think Pennridge played really well, and Neshaminy finally woke up.
“Mason Jones is a good quarterback, and Oleh Manzyk is a really good young player who stepped up at a big time. Neshaminy has been a second half team all season. They’ve let teams hang around. I think Pennridge woke them up. Maybe there were a little sluggish, but Pennridge also played really well. It’s a shame that was their draw. I think if they’d had a different draw in the first round of the playoffs they could have won a game and moved on.
“Jones and Neshaminy’s passing game was good enough when they needed to be good enough, and they did just enough to win that game, but Pennridge – hat’s off. Last week we were even talking like – Quakertown’s going to beat Pennridge on Thanksgiving. We were even saying that Pennridge just folded, but they didn’t, and that’s a credit to them. This changes the whole feel of the Thanksgiving Day game.
“Also, I want to say that the times I’ve covered Pennridge games – the Pennridge students and the turnout for those games really impressed me. I really want to give a shoutout to those kids. They were out in force at Neshaminy. They really showed up at the Orange Out game that I went to – it was a miserable night, and they showed up for that game. Pennridge has one of the better student sections in the Suburban One League, and they’ve showed that to me this season.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Central Bucks South lost a heartbreaker to Garnet Valley. Your comments.
Drew Markol: “I saw Garnet Valley play CB South last week. That’s a game – Garnet Valley plays good defense, but South had opportunities to put that game out of reach and didn’t do it. The final numbers for Garnet Valley are a little skewed because they had a couple of late runs, but they weren’t getting anything out of their running game for three-and-a-half quarters until they got these big plays. Then they made some huge passes. I think their coach said after the game – they only threw the ball 45 times all season. Their offense is very one-dimensional.
“As psychologically tough as Neshaminy’s first round opponent was, I think getting Garnet Valley in the second round will be pretty good for them because I believe that’s a team they can handle.”
Jen Weilgus: “I didn’t pick Garnet Valley last week because you like to put your weight behind the local team and definitely the home team. I thought that game would be close, and I wasn’t shocked that Garnet Valley won, but they didn’t really do much. South is a team that has struggled to score points, and I don’t think Garnet Valley is going to be a problem for Neshaminy this week.
“I think Neshaminy is not going to have that cakewalk to the North Penn championships game that we thought they might, but they’re not going to take anybody lightly now after what happened last week.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Central Bucks East fell to a Spring-Ford team that will travel to North Penn on Friday night. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “I know East got beat up with the injuries. Everyone has injuries this time of year. Neshaminy lost Zach Tredway for most of its game against Pennridge. He might be their best player. Everybody has injuries, it happens, but East got a rash of them, and that Spring-Ford team is pretty good.
“We joke about the PAC-10, but between them and Perk Valley, they’re a decent team. Can they hang with North Penn for four quarters with what North Penn will give them? No. Could it be a 35-21 final score that North Penn wins? Yes, I think it could be because North Penn – it’s a credit to them – hasn’t really been tested since early September or August even when they were playing La Salle and Downingtown East. They just kind of blitzed their way through the Continental Conference schedule.
“Last week against Haverford, that game played out like a one versus 16 game usually does. North Penn hangs 50 on them, and that’s that. Granted, the 10th seed, Garnet Valley, beats the seventh seed in CB South, but it took a miracle to do it. There are just too many teams in the tournament. If there’s going to be a district playoff – and there shouldn’t be, give me 12 teams in it, and the top four teams get a bye in the first round, and then you go from there. Sixteen teams is just too many. Everybody will say – ‘Oh, Pennridge almost beat Neshaminy,’ but the key word there is almost. Again, the field is way too big in 5A.”
Kevin Cooney: “East lost four players to injuries, and it would have been interesting to see if East was fully healthy if that would have changed anything, but look, Spring-Ford is a good football team.
“Again, the question about North Penn has been – are you able to withstand some little problems. They haven’t faced adversity all year – if they get pushed down, will they respond? The problem is I’m not sure if I could see Spring-Ford pushing them. The next week against Coatesville or Ridley, absolutely. This will be the last relatively easy game on North Penn’s schedule.
“To North Penn’s credit, when they get a team down, they put them away. They take your soul early, and it’s over. They don’t mess around. They come in and say, ‘We’re going to score and score and score, and we’ll stop you, and boom – you’re done. You know it, and we know it. The game is over.’
“It will be interesting to see what happens this week. I had Neshaminy closing the gap a little bit on North Penn, but I don’t know. I think this team is better than their state title team. It’s just they didn’t have to deal with St. Joseph Prep back then. That’s the de facto state title game when they play in the state semifinal.”
Jen Weilgus: “I had to look a little bit deeper at what happened in the CB East-Spring-Ford game because I was so shocked. I picked CB East to win that game, and I’m not saying that was a great pick. Maybe I didn’t respect Spring-Ford for what they were. It sounds like it was a bit of a body bag game for CB East. That doesn’t mean Spring-Ford was overly physical. I’m not suggesting that, but it sounds like CB East really got unlucky in terms of losing guys that were crucial to them.
“I don’t think that means Spring-Ford is going to give North Penn a hard time. I don’t think anybody is going to give North Penn a hard time. If they do, good for North Penn because I feel like they need to get tested at some point. They need a test if they’re going to go play for a state championship or if they meet St. Joe’s Prep on the way to Hershey, but I don’t think it’s going to be Spring-Ford.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Upper Dublin trailed Strath Haven but came back to earn a decisive win. Your thoughts about the Flying Cardinals heading into this week’s game against West Chester Henderson.
Drew Markol: “We have talked all year – Upper Dublin knows this time of year now. They know what they can do. Last week they’re down 7-0 – if you’re Bret Stover, the coach, you might be thinking – ‘Good, it might wake us up,’ and boy, it did. Now he can say to them all week at practice, ‘Look, you fell behind 7-0. You do that against a West Chester Henderson team, and you might not be able to get 34 points.’ You can’t let that happen. You need a fast start, which everybody needs. Sometimes falling behind is the best thing that could happen to good teams. That should help Upper Dublin this week. I see them winning and going to the semifinals, and they’re a game away from the district final again.”
Kevin Cooney: “We’re talked about this all year – Upper Dublin has done things so many different ways compared to what they did last year. Last year it was offense, this year it’s been defense. They’re going to have to play a low-scoring game on Friday. They’re going to have to find a way of bottling up Henderson and not committing turnovers deep in their own zone. If they play a clean, turnover-free football game, I think they’ll be okay.
“Look, Class 5A is wide open. Academy Park is good, but they’re beatable. If you’re telling me right now that any of the top four teams is going to win 5A, I would buy it. If you believe that in November defense wins games, then I think Upper Dublin is in good shape.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Souderton gave Downingtown East a run for its money. Your thoughts about the SOL Continental teams in the postseason.
Drew Markol: “You look at the SOL Continental and they were 1-4 with North Penn getting the win. You have CB East, CB South, Pennridge and Souderton all losing. What Souderton had was a real good running game with Koby Khan that a) enables them to have the ability to hit the big play and b) eat up the clock. That’s fundamental football. You keep the other team off the field – it’s hard for them to score. I wasn’t surprised that Souderton kept it close, and I wasn’t surprised that Pennridge gave Neshaminy a tough time. I was a little surprised by East. Losing their quarterback hurts, but East had played pretty good defense all year, and defense, regardless, is supposed to show up, and it didn’t. It’s a credit to Spring-Ford too.
“The only surprise really and just because of the way it ended was CB South losing to Garnet Valley. There’s a good reason those South kids were pounding the ground in the final seconds of that game because they had that game. Granted, it was a 14-7 game, but if a 14-7 game ever looked as though it’s over, that one did. All of a sudden, Garnet Valley throws two beautiful passes and they win. Again, a credit to them, but that was the surprise to me because it looked like that game was over and South would be playing again this week.”
Kevin Cooney: “We talk about how strong schedules help you when you get into the playoffs, but it also wears you down, it also beats you up. When you look at what happened to Souderton, Pennridge and South from the Continental Conference, they faded late. Three of the four Continental Conference teams in districts faded late and the fourth one – CB East – was just beat up physically and lost early. I think the season did take a little bit of a toll. Where do they go from here? I don’t know.
“I still think the Suburban One League still has a good shot of getting two teams in the Class 6A final, and I still think Upper Dublin can win 5A. People are hyperventilating. Guess what? They’re going to be fine.”
Jen Weilgus: “Souderton played well in its loss to Downingtown East, and that’s a testament to that SOL Continental Conference. Souderton was basically going into that last week of the season playing for their playoff life when they faced CB West. To be the fifth team from that conference to get in and to go on the road and to play that well, that says a lot about the conference with Souderton and Pennridge playing like they did. That’s why it’s a shame what happened to CB East - I’m sure they wish they could have that whole week back.
“Good for Souderton. Souderton wasn’t a team we talked about a lot this season. They were again a team that was hard to get a read on because they were up and down – they had an up and down schedule. They had to play a North Penn and then they would play a William Tennent. Then they’d have to get up to play CB South and then they’d play Truman. If you had to end your season on a loss, that was not a bad loss for Souderton."