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. All three are 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: Looking back at week one of the season, were there any surprises?
Drew Markol: “I think Quakertown beating CB East was a nice win for them. I did not expect that. Quakertown’s George Banas is building a program. Last year they were .500ish, and he said, ‘There’s help coming.’ Again, I don’t put too much stock in the first week of the season, but that was a good non-league game. It was a good job by Quakertown. I think East is decent and a potential playoff team. If you’re Quakertown, when you get into the American Conference, which is good, you’re going to have games against some teams that are struggling, and you need all the help you can get as far as the power points. You beat a team like East, which I think will do okay in the Continental – that’s a great way to start the season. Any coach will tell you in any sport that 1-0 is so much better than 0-1. It just makes the next week of practice that much easier to handle, that pressure of having to get that first win out of the way is gone.
“West beating Hatboro - I’ve always said that Chas Cathers at CB West knew what he was doing, but I didn’t know if he had the players. TJ Rakowsky, who was a very good player for West, transferred over to Palisades. Hatboro-Horsham was kind of the chic pick for a lot of people. They didn’t have big numbers, but they had numbers in the right places – that was the thought. Again, it’s one week. Maybe West is better than we thought, and we’ll find out it really wasn’t that bad of a loss for Hatboro. That’s hard to say. For West, that’s a great win. That’s a win not many people expected to see them get. You get that, and it’s good for your program, that’s what it comes down to. A good job by them.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Talk about the success of the National Conference in the opening week of the season.
Todd Thorpe: “The SOL National Conference went 6-1. That was pretty big for them. The only game they lost was Abington losing to CB South. All the games were pretty close too, which was a little surprising. Neshaminy struggled and needed a defensive touchdown to beat Roman Catholic. It was a very good win for Pennsbury beating Academy Park 27-20. It’s a good sign for their offense, which struggled last year. Their quarterback, Zach DeMarchis, got off to a good start, which is a positive sign for them in year two with Dan McShane, that’s for sure.
“I spoke with Matt McHugh, and he said a couple of things – the defense played well the whole game. West Chester East has a very good running back who had a kick return for a touchdown but got injured in the first half and didn’t play in the second half. But CR North played a very good defensive game. He said they made some adjustments in the second half to get their running game going a little bit. Mike Welde had a pretty good second half running the football (20 carries, 125 yards). That’s a big win for them. They only won one game last year and getting off to a good start is important for them. They’ve got to get a couple of wins in the bank before the league starts because that’s a rough league. If they go into league play with a winning record, it’s a whole different outlook. That’s huge.
“Council Rock South won pretty handily (over Cheltenham). That doesn’t surprise me that much. If they’re clicking with that option offense, they can be tough to defend, especially against a team that may not know them as well. It’s a good win for them too.
“Also, Harry Truman won big over Methacton. Everybody is kind of waiting to see what happens with them because they obviously have that great coaching staff now, but you also have state champion track athletes on that team so there’s a lot of talent there. People are waiting to see how it comes together. Methacton is probably not the best team they’re going to play this year, but that’s still a pretty impressive win to start off.
“Bensalem won close (over Frankford) as well, so it was a good week for that conference.”
Drew Markol: “I give (Truman coach) Mike LaPalombara a lot of credit because he brought in two guys – Galen Snyder and Dave Sanderson, and a lot of coaches wouldn’t do that because if they struggle, people are going to say, ‘Okay, let’s get rid of him and make Galen Snyder the head coach or we’ll make Dave Sanderson the head coach.’ He didn’t look at it that way obviously. He said, ‘How can I help this football team? Let me get the best guys I possibly can, and we’ll see what we can do.’ Sure, it was against a Methacton team that’s had some rough times, but to get in that conversation with Pennsbury and Neshaminy in the National Conference, which the Trumans and Bensalems, let’s face it, have not been in, now you’re starting to hear some whispers. Maybe Truman can get in there. Could they beat a Neshaminy or could they beat a Pennsbury? If they beat one of those teams, all of a sudden that opens some eyes.
“There’s a lot of talent on that Truman team. They have a very, very good track team. A lot of those track guys – all of a sudden they’re playing football, and that kind of speed is a wonderful thing. With good coaching, which they’re getting – again, we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but Truman, coming into week two of the season is obviously a dark horse, but that is absolutely a team to keep an eye on. Let’s see what they do. Those kids don’t know that Methacton has been struggling for X amount of years, they just know they went out and won. The coaches can say, ‘We got a win, we’re 1-0, let’s make it 2-0,’ do the old one-week-at-a-time thing, and that’s the way you build confidence. Good for them.
“It was good win for Council Rock North and Matt Hugh (over West Chester East) – it was a big struggle last year in his first season with the Indians. Winning cures a lot of ills. It always does, and now you try and build on it. I was happy to see that.
“Pennsbury beat a decent Academy Park team, and unlike Pennsbury’s season last year under Dan McShane – he knows what he’s doing, and he’ll get them righted. They go on the road, and on the road in high school football doesn’t mean that much, but Academy Park is not around the corner. That was good to go down there and get a win. With these kids, they know that Pennsbury football is always good, but what they really know is that last year they weren’t so good and they need to try and turn it around. There’s a positive step. That’s what you take from that.”
Jen Wielgus: “Everybody looked at the Neshaminy/Roman Catholic game as a potential upset loss, for lack of a better term. I had been talking to Neil French - who’s a wordsmith if there ever was one - before the game. I said, ‘We’re calling this an upset watch,’ and he said, ‘For which team?’ Roman is a very respectable Catholic League team. There are very few teams in the Catholic League that can’t play. I think this was a good test for Neshaminy, especially for its defense. Roman went for it every single fourth down it seemed like, so they got a lot of work.
“Their offense, on the other hand – you have a sophomore quarterback, Brody McAndrew, in his first high school start. They can say what they want about the seven-on-sevens and the fact that they have confidence in him, but it’s going to take some time. The kid is clearly a good athlete, and he’s got what it takes to be a quarterback or he wouldn’t be there, but it’s going to take a while before he’s looking comfortable and running the offense like a well-oiled machine. They showed flashes of it. He’s got an arm, and when they air it out, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Oleh Manzyk is every bit the player that we thought he was going to be on both sides of the ball.
“We also have to congratulate Council Rock North because no one in the universe thought they were going to beat West Chester East. I wasn’t at the game, but it sounded like West Chester East shot themselves in the foot, and North used its size up front to its advantage and just capitalized when it could. That was a huge upset, I thought.”
Suburban OneSports.com: Any other observations about week one?
Todd Thorpe: “One of the things you did notice was that a lot of the games were close. Even in the Continental Conference, some of the games were a lot closer than you thought they might be. Quakertown played a nail biter with CB East. CB West won close over Hatboro-Horsham, and North Penn/La Salle, so there were a lot of decent games out there.
“I think the two most impressive games – CB South beating Abington the way they did (38-6) was pretty impressive, but I’m not sure I know a ton about Abington. I would have thought that game would be a little closer. Matt Norris – the middle linebacker - is real good for CB South. They did lose their tailback (Jake Layer) before the season even started. He was going to be their go-to running back, and it looks like he’s out for the year. They came out and obviously did a lot of good things, and that’s a good sign for them.
“The other real impressive win was Upper Moreland (41-14 over William Tennent). I thought you were looking at a little closer game there because I thought with a year in place Tennent might be okay, but Upper Moreland returned a lot of guys so that’s a good win for them.”
Drew Markol: “The North Penn game – La Salle is not chopped liver. That’s a good team. They have their quarterback (Isaiah Jones) back who didn’t play last year because of an injury, and to have him back – that kid is an absolute weapon, and they have some D1 linemen on both sides of the ball. They’re up 28-0, and North Penn makes it 28-21, so they did fight back. Let’s face it – La Salle has dominated that series. They’ve won seven of eight. What do I think happens next? Honestly, I think North Penn’s next potential loss might be to La Salle in the state semifinals. I don’t think I’m talking out of school there. You learn more by losing than you do by winning, and I think Dick Beck will see that, and it will wake his kids up. We’ll see, but I think North Penn is good, I think La Salle is really good. Let’s let it play out.”
“Souderton took care of Penn Wood. That was a good job – they took care of them early and put up some points. Penn Wood was a district playoff team last year. Again, with 49 teams making the playoff, that’s not really the biggest honor, I guess, but they still got in.
“With CB South doing what they did to Abington, either CB South is really good and Abington is really bad, which I don’t think is the case. I think CB South is pretty good and Abington is pretty good. Again, South gets credit for really showing up on opening night and playing well. “
SuburbanOneSports.com: Looking at this week’s games, are there any games that jump out at you?
Todd Thorpe: “I really like Council Rock North/CB South. I think that’s a pretty interesting game because you wait to see which one of those teams is going to follow up their big win in week one in week two. Is Council Rock North’s defense good enough to slow down what South is going to bring to the table? I’m not sure if it is, but I think that’s a pretty big game.
“North Penn really needs to bounce back against Downingtown East. It’s not a bad loss in week one because I think they probably lost to the best team in the state last week (a 41-28 loss to La Salle), but when you’re them, you want to get your feet underneath you a little bit and dominate a game. It’s never an easy opponent when you go against Downingtown East, but I think you need to do that.
“Obviously, the game people are talking about is Neshaminy/Pennridge. That’s a game Neshaminy won last year twice, and both of those games were pretty physical with a lot of penalties. So it will be interesting to see what transpires when those two teams get together. Pennridge won big over Norristown. That’s probably the game of the week right there.”
Drew Markol: “I saw Pennridge last week, and they’re playing a Norristown team – the numbers aren’t there and it’s really not much of a test for them. Their defense played pretty well, but they still committed too many penalties. It’s a chippy-ness, and you can’t do that against a Neshaminy team. I don’t think this is a vintage Neshaminy team. I think Neshaminy is a year away from being really good again, and I like Pennridge in the game. Neshaminy beat them twice last year, but Pennridge is big up front, and they’ve got a good bunch of running backs. Neshaminy had a good season last year. They beat Roman Catholic in that same spot like they did this year. How good is Roman Catholic? They’re in a league with La Salle and Prep and Wood, and it’s hard to get through that gauntlet. Again, for Neshaminy, a lot of it comes down to a sophomore quarterback (Brody McAndrew) in his first varsity start – that’s hard. This game is a good litmus test and a good game for both teams that should be played. You have two of the largest enrollment schools in the state. They’re both going to be playoff teams. It’s a good game, but I give the edge to Pennridge.”
Jen Wielgus: “Neshaminy has a lot to prove this week against Pennridge, a lot to prove. We can’t really say much about Pennridge other than they blew out an opponent that we thought they were going to blow out. I picked Pennridge to win this game simply because I feel like this would be a big disappointment not to win because this is their year to beat a Neshaminy team that really isn’t there yet.
“Souderton at Quakertown is a big game because Quakertown is coming off a huge win over CB East. I didn’t think it was an upset. I picked Quakertown to win that game, and for Quakertown to win that game, there’s no reason to think maybe they can’t beat Souderton. It will be interesting to see how Quakertown follows that up because Souderton is definitely going to be bigger than they are.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Comment on any other games that could be interesting.
Drew Markol: “You have CB East/Hatboro – two teams that are both 0-1. You don’t want to be 0-2 because you’re getting close to your conference schedule. If either one of these teams has playoff hopes, it’s a must win. I think East is better and I think they’ll win the game. Hatboro – maybe the numbers will catch up to them because maybe they don’t have the depth. I just think that East has too much for them.
“I’m going to the Souderton/Quakertown game. I like the fact that Quakertown’s non-league schedule – they’re playing East, they’re playing Souderton, I think that’s good. Play the old rivals. Souderton beating up on Penn Wood – was that a good win? Yes, maybe. Again, we’ll find out, and Quakertown – they’re thinking, ‘We beat CB East,’ and they’re thinking CB East is probably on a level with Souderton, which is probably fair to say. Now Quakertown knows they can do it, but I give the edge to Souderton.”`
Jen Wielgus: “I think CB East comes out like gangbusters this week. Hatboro - it seems like every year we talk about how they got such great athletes and we expect them to do well, but they’re going to be on a losing streak here. East definitely bounces back and will probably have a good season. I don’t think losing its opener was indicative.”