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-schools web sites.
Check out this week’s picks by our panel of experts: http://www.suburbanonesports.com/football-forecaster
SuburbanOneSports.com: North Penn defeated Downingtown West 35-21 and now will take on second-seeded Coatesville at Pennridge in the District One 6A title game. Your comments.
Drew Markol: “Most people are looking at the North Penn/Coatesville game and saying, ‘Coatesville is the number two seed, but they’re the best team and might be the best team in the state,’ which I don’t think they are. I think that’s St. Joe’s Prep. North Penn is a number one seed, but they haven’t played at home in the mud at Crawford Stadium the entire playoffs. They kept moving the games. They went to Wissahickon twice, they actually shifted the game against Downingtown West, which was supposed to be at North Penn and then it was at Wissahickon. Then it snowed so they had to go to Downingtown West to play a good Whippets team whose only loss was to Coatesville. This week a North Penn team that had home field advantage throughout the playoffs will play at its third different field, this time at Pennridge.
“In last Friday’s semifinal, Downingtown West scored on the first possession of the second half to go up 21-14, and they’re driving down to score again, and it’s looking like a two-touchdown lead. North Penn’s Shamar Edwards, who ran for over 300 yards – on defense, he falls down on the play, he gets up, tracks down the receiver, knocks the ball up in the air out of the receiver’s hands, and it’s intercepted by Kaleem Corbin, who somehow doesn’t go out of bounds in the end zone on a great play. All of a sudden, instead of 28-14 Downingtown West, North Penn goes down and takes advantage of the interception, gets the ball on the 20, goes down and scores and ends up winning 35-21.
“It seems like they’re always finding a way to win. We’ve talked about this ad nauseam. It was double overtime with Neshaminy, it was double overtime with Council Rock South, it was Neshaminy in the playoffs where Neshaminy dominated the first half but couldn’t take advantage of it because North Penn’s defense is really good. It was Souderton in the regular season going up 17-0 on North Penn and then North Penn comes back. It’s a credit to them because high school teams don’t normally do this. Once they fall behind, it’s very hard to keep coming back, but they keep coming back when they need to and they keep winning. Now they’re 13-0. We have the number one and number two seeds the way they draw it up playing for the district title. At some point, you think it’s going to run out – the big play that’s just not going to happen or the turnover because those things can be so arbitrary. I may be in the minority, but I think North Penn can win this game. I would pick them to win.
“You look at Coatesville and what they did to Garnet Valley in the district semifinal. That was a repeat of the district final from last year, and Coatesville beats them 42-7 and that Garnet Valley team was undefeated and was really good and Coatesville just squashes them.”
Todd Thorpe: “Obviously, North Penn versus Coatesville is the game that everybody in Class 6A has been waiting for between the top two seeds and the top two programs in District One. North Penn has not been an offensive juggernaut this year. They haven’t blown teams away like Coatesville has, but more impressive is they’ve found ways to win. They really found a way to win last week against Downingtown West, a game that got moved to Downingtown West. They fell behind, they’re in danger of falling behind by two scores, and they somehow turn it around, come back and win the game. It’s just another example of this team just finding a way to win.
“If they had odds for high school football, North Penn might be a three-touchdown underdog in this game. Coatesville is that good. Nobody has touched Coatesville this whole year. Garnet Valley is a really good team and Downingtown West is a really good team. Coatesville blew both of those teams out. Those are top four teams in the district playoffs, they’re both semifinalists, and Coatesville blew those teams out of the water. That’s how good they are. They’re just a dominant, dominant team this year, and I think they’re a huge favorite, but – and this is a big but – it’s North Penn’s home game. They’ve been pretty good about going and finding other places to play their home games because their grass field has taken some beatings this year and many years. They’ll be playing this game at Pennridge, but they would have been wise to play that game on their grass field, no matter what the condition would have been on Friday night. That might have been their chance to slow Coatesville down.
“I’m telling you – Dick Beck has done very well against Coatesville teams in the past, and he has never lost a home playoff game. If that game is close in the fourth quarter – Coatesville hasn’t played a close game all year, North Penn has a fighting chance, but that’s their chance. North Penn isn’t going to blow that team out. They have to be in the game, they have to be within a touchdown or be even going into the fourth quarter, and I honestly do think they have a chance that way. I’d never pick North Penn to win that game because I think Coatesville talent-wise is just tremendous. I give North Penn a lot of credit for getting where they are because a lot of people have been saying they’re not that good this year. Well, they’re an undefeated team in the district final, so we’ll see what happens.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Upper Dublin rolled to a 40-7 win over Unionville in a District One 5A semifinal last week and now takes on a West Chester Rustin team that upset top-seeded Penn Wood. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “Let’s take a look at the District One 5A final. Penn Wood, the number one seed, loses to fifth-seeded Bayard Rustin last week, which gives Upper Dublin – the number two seed – the home game for the final, and that’s great for Upper Dublin. Of course, it’s a shame that the district has the championship at the site of the highest remaining seed. I feel bad for the kids. The kids out in District 7 are playing at Heinz Field in their district championship games, and our kids are playing at a high school field. It should be a bigger event than it is. You wish the district would find a site to hold these games – an Ursinus, a Villanova, a Delaware Valley University. Pony up the money and do it right, but that’s not happening.
“You look at Upper Dublin – they go and hammer Unionville. Lucas Roselli had a huge game, and their quarterback Mike Slivka had another good game. I wasn’t really sold on Penn Wood. You hear they put a lot on their quarterback’s shoulders. I’m not even sure I would have taken them to beat Upper Dublin – maybe because they were playing at home. Now Upper Dublin is playing at home and they’re rolling. If you’re Bayard Rustin, you’re ecstatic from beating the number one seed. Can you bounce back and do it again? I don’t think so. I like Upper Dublin there. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Suburban One League had two district champs.”
Todd Thorpe: “Upper Dublin will play Rustin for the 5A title. Give Rustin a ton of credit – I thought Penn Wood was the team this year in 5A. If Rustin is good enough to beat Penn Wood, this could be a tough game, but you have to be impressed with the way Upper Dublin manhandled Unionville. This Upper Dublin team is just getting the job done week in and week out. It’s not the team from a couple of years ago, but you look at them – they’re putting up just as big wins in 5A. If Upper Dublin wins this week, they have a pretty good path to Hershey because Archbishop Wood is on the other side of the bracket this year, and they wouldn’t have to play Wood until the final. That would be one heck of a showdown if they do eventually meet, but you don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse. Rustin is good, and if you can slow Penn Wood down – that game was 10-8, you have to be pretty good because Penn Wood is dynamic and has a really good quarterback, so Rustin is for real. I think this is a real challenge for Upper Dublin, but this might be their year. They’re just continuously doing it week in and week out.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Upper Moreland will travel to Hatboro-Horsham for the annual Thanksgiving Day game. The Hatters beat Upper Moreland 14-8 during the regular season. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “First off, I’m just glad they’re still playing their Thanksgiving Day game. There are so few of them left now. Hatboro-Horsham and Upper Moreland, to their credit, play during the regular season and then they play again on Thanksgiving. Hatboro-Horsham beat them during the regular season, but I’m not sure how much stock you should put in that. Last year, Upper Moreland beat Hatboro-Horsham 41-40 during the regular season, and then on Thanksgiving, Hatboro-Horsham shut them out 34-0. I think Upper Moreland was a little upset that its district playoff run had ended. Two years ago, Hatboro-Horsham really laid it on Upper Moreland too. This year, you look at the records. Upper Moreland is 3-6 and Hatboro-Horsham is 5-4. It’s not a great season for either side, but when this game is close where you don’t have one team coming off a 9-1 season, I usually go with Hatboro-Horsham.
“Caleb Mead, the Upper Moreland running back, has been really, really good. Hatboro-Horsham has played against him a lot. They know what he likes to do. I just think the Hatters have too much. I like them in this spot.”
Todd Thorpe: “Upper Moreland/Hatboro-Horsham is a good game, it always is. It’s two rivals. Upper Moreland always plays with a kind of a chip on their shoulder. They feel that Hatboro-Horsham looks down on them a little bit, but they’re in the same league now, and Upper Moreland has had just as much success as Hatboro-Horsham has in these games. I’m sure Upper Moreland’s players that are back are smarting a little bit from the loss they took on Thanksgiving last year to Hatboro-Horsham and they lost in the regular season this year. Upper Moreland has something to prove, and they’ve had three weeks of practice to get ready for this game. I expect to see a close game. I don’t think Hatboro-Horsham is running away from them. I would expect 28-21 or 35-28, and I think Upper Moreland could win. I’ll still probably pick Hatboro-Horsham, but I think it’s a pick ‘em game.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Pennridge will travel to Quakertown for the first meeting this season between the neighboring schools. Your comments.
Drew Markol: “Pennridge beat Quakertown twice last year – in the district playoffs and then again on Thanksgiving – and beat them handily both times. As we see, especially with Quakertown, a year ago might as well be five years because that Pennridge team that went to the district semifinals last year finished 4-6 this year. Quakertown comes in 9-3 and has a district playoff win over Perk Valley. I kind of lean towards Quakertown here. They had less of a layoff, which helps. They’ve been practicing for an actual game against Perk Valley whereas Pennridge was just practicing for Quakertown. It’s at Quakertown, it’s always a great atmosphere. Pennridge has dominated the series over the past 90 years, but I just think this is Quakertown’s year. Christian Patrick, the running back for Quakertown, is a workhorse. I just think a guy like him could be the difference in this game. They’re going to rely heavily on him. It’s close. It seems like when Pennridge wins this game they win big, and when Quakertown wins, it’s close. I just think Quakertown wins a close one.”
Todd Thorpe: “I’m going with Pennridge, and I’m not exactly sure why. Quakertown had a really good season and made it to the second round of districts. This has been a year where Pennridge is re-tooling a little bit, but I just like Pennridge in this game. They go out there and they play real physical, and I think they will find a way to leave Alumni Field with a win. We’ve done these games a lot - this is a special rivalry. It doesn’t matter what the records are, and when you look at the schedule Pennridge plays as opposed to who Quakertown has played, I don’t think the difference in their records is that great. Quakertown beat Perk Valley at Perk Valley and Pennridge did not. Pennridge lost pretty badly to Perk Valley, but I think this is definitely a toss-up type game. I’m curious to see how it turns out. I think Pennridge probably has one left in them this year.”