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/sports/high-school/) and Courier Times (http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/sports/high-school/) web sites.
Check out this week’s picks by our panel of experts: http://www.suburbanonesports.com/football-forecaster
SuburbanOneSports.com: Drew, last week you covered Quakertown’s 21-19 win over Central Bucks West. Talk about that game.
Drew Markol: “At the start, Quakertown held CB West and gets the ball, and they put together an eight-minute drive where they looked tremendous. They ran it down West’s throat. For the older folks out there, it looked like a CB West drive from the old days and what they would do to teams. They ate up almost the entire first quarter, they go down and score, they hold West again, and then they put together a second drive. Their second possession wasn’t quite as many plays or as long a drive, but it was still impressive, and all of a sudden, it’s 14-0 and Quakertown is dominating. It just looks like this could be a rout, but then Quakertown committed a costly penalty, West got the ball back and they were able to move. West uses two quarterbacks - Gavin Grondahl and Jack Neri, and they have a big receiver in Luke Benson who’s going to Syracuse. I was sitting with the West assistant coaches, and at points, they’re like, ‘Just send Benson out and throw it up to him.’ I would have done the same thing if I were them, and I’m sure the Quakertown coaches were saying, ‘They’re going to look for Benson.’ It worked a couple of times, and all of a sudden, West is in the game. We’re in the fourth quarter, and it’s anyone’s game. West is at midfield, and their running back gets popped and fumbles. Michael Terra is Quakertown’s senior running back, linebacker and punter, and the ball just pops up to him. He picks it up and runs 47 yards for the winning touchdown. George Banas, the Quakertown coach, has said all along that the ball just seems to find that kid, and it does. It was a huge play. It rained the entire first half, and that ball could have stayed on the turf. It could have done a lot of things, but it bounced up right to him, and he just picked it up almost in stride, and he was gone. That’s the ballgame. When things are going well, which they are for Quakertown, things like that happen, and all of a sudden, they’re 3-0 heading into an American Conference schedule they should do pretty well against.
“I talked with George Banas after the game and I said, ‘You should do pretty well in the conference,’ and he says all the right things – ‘It’s one week at a time, and anybody can come up and bite you,’ but let’s face it, I’m not sure who’s biting Quakertown in the next seven weeks. Maybe Upper Dublin, but we’ll see. Quakertown is looking pretty good.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Any games that were especially significant last week?
Todd Thorpe: “You look at Council Rock South/CB South – it was an important game for both teams. CB South hadn’t scored at all heading into that game, and CR South really had a chance to solidify themselves – get back to 2-1, and all of a sudden, it makes this week’s game with Truman very big, and that’s exactly what they did. They got another really good game out of their running back, Chase Patterson, who had 78 yards rushing and a touchdown. Their quarterback, Noah Caldani, was 6-for-10 for 175 yards and two touchdowns. It looks like they’ve turned the corner a little bit and recovered from that season-opening disaster (a shutout loss to Cheltenham) and put two good wins together as they get ready for league play against Truman this week. That’s a good sign. I wouldn’t call them a favorite, but they have a real good chance Friday night against Truman.
“Truman is 3-0, and they’re rolling. It was unfortunate they had that fight and lost four players for this week’s games, but they’ve proven they have depth in the talent positions. They really handled a Tennent team that had played pretty well the first two weeks. It’s a big stretch for Truman who plays Council Rock South, Neshaminy and then they play Rock North and then they have Pennsbury the week after that, so we’re going to find out a lot about Truman in the next three or four weeks.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Pennridge lost to Perk Valley despite dominating the game statistically. The Rams are 1-2 heading into Friday’s season opener again North Penn. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “You look at that week one win, and you’re starting to wonder. As well as Pennridge played against Delaware Valley, then they lose to Neshaminy and then they lose to Perk Valley, a team they shut out twice last year. That’s hard to do. Perk Valley is a pretty good program, and to get shut out twice – granted, they had a lot of revenge going against Pennridge, but revenge is only as good as your players. I’m sure after Pennridge’s win over Delaware Valley they said – ‘We have Neshaminy, we’ve got Perk Valley and we’ve got North Penn back-to-back-to-back. We need to go 2-1.’ They’ve gone 0-2, and the hardest of the three games is Friday against North Penn. If they lose to North Penn, which most people would say is a likely thing to happen, now you’re 1-3, and you’ve got to go 5-1 at worst in the conference, which I think they could do. The Continental is very, very top heavy, but still, you’d rather give yourself a little margin for error. What they’ve done is they’ve removed their margin for error.
“Pennridge had a lot of penalties against Perk Valley, and that’s something they were not doing against Delaware Valley. When I saw them against Neshaminy, they had a couple of penalties, but when you get 100-plus yards in penalties, you’re not winning. A 15-yard penalty for a high school offense – that’s tough. You get a bunch of them it makes it really, really hard. Perk Valley returned two kickoffs for touchdowns – once, you can see it, but you can’t let it happen twice.
“Pennridge may have been a little bit overvalued. I’m guilty of that because they looked really good. A first-year coach – it’s hard. You’ve had players who are used to a certain system and now that’s been changed. It does take a while to transition like that, and a lot of us, including myself, kind of lost sight of that after their week one win. You could blame the weather, but I don’t like when teams do that because the other team is playing in the same weather. It’s not like it stops raining when the other team has the ball. That’s a good job by Perk Valley, and now Pennridge has to straighten it out and do it quickly.”
SuburbanOneSports: Council Rock North’s game at Penn Wood was halted at halftime and instead of a ‘no contest’ is ruled a loss. Your thoughts.
Todd Thorpe: “I think it’s worth noting the Council Rock North situation. They were losing to Penn Wood 8-0 at halftime, they played in rain and thunder throughout the first half. They went in their bus at halftime because they don’t have locker rooms at Penn Wood, and after an hour, they decide not to continue the game because of lightening. When Rock North left that field, they were in agreement with Penn Wood that the game would count as a no contest. According to District I the next morning, the federation rules clearly state that if you can’t continue the game it goes to the team that was ahead at the time they stopped the game, which was unfortunate because by that time it was too late to put anything together to finish the game. I know there’s still some talk going back and forth between the two schools, but it is very unfortunate for North because you’re obviously hoping to go on the road and get a win against a good Penn Wood team, and it now counts as a loss. I don’t know where North is going to be in another month, but you’d hate to see them sitting at 5-4 going into the last week and needing a win for the playoffs, and they didn’t really have a chance to win it on the field against Penn Wood. That’s worth noting.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Bensalem has had to forfeit their two wins because of an ineligible player, and Truman and William Tennent both lost some players for this week as the result of a melee. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “Bensalem started the season 2-0 with two come-from-behind wins, and everything is looking pretty good, and all of a sudden we find out they’ve used an ineligible player who had some issues with a summer school class. They had to forfeit those first two games, and they lost to CB East last week. So 2-1 has become 0-3, and they have their National Conference schedule coming up. They have to play what I feel is a bit of an underrated Abington team on Friday. I can’t imagine the mood at Bensalem when you’re 2-0 and you’re flying high, and boom – now you’re 0-3. That is just a crusher.
“You look at Truman and Tennent last week – they had a big fight, and four Truman kids got ejected and three Tennent players got ejected, which means none of them can play this week.
“You can’t have these things happen. I get it – it’s hard to police a summer school thing, but that’s what you have to do. You have to check on these kids because things get found out. That’s where the coaches and administration have to be working together, and kids have to honest about what they’re doing with their classes. Something fell through the cracks there.
“To have a fight with Truman and Tennent, it comes down to discipline. When you don’t have it and all of a sudden you’re losing your top players for the next week – programs like Bensalem and Truman are desperately fighting to get into the district playoffs. You can’t have that. You need every win, and for Tennent, which finally got that losing streak over – you can’t be losing three players either. It just cripples your team. It’s easier said than done, but it’s got to be policed better. You can’t have this because you don’t have the depth to replace those kind of kids.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Thoughts heading into the SOL National Conference season.
Todd Thorpe: “As far as the National Conference goes, Pennsbury loses at North Penn in front of two or three hundred people on the soccer field, and Pennsbury goes to 0-3. Neshaminy loses big to Downingtown West. That Ches-Mont League is looking like a powerhouse. You’ve got Downingtown West 3-0, Downingtown East 3-0, and the defending district champion and maybe the favorite to win the whole state Coatesville 3-0. Neshaminy goes out there and gets beat up pretty good, so you go into the first unofficial week of league, and you don’t know where they stand. Is Truman at 3-0 the best team in the league? They really haven’t played the schedule of Neshaminy or Pennsbury so we don’t know that yet. What does the 1-2 start for Neshaminy and 0-3 start for Pennsbury mean for those teams? We’ve seen it many times with North Penn in the past. You lose a couple games early, you come into your league and get better and better as the season goes along. That’s just something I’m curious about in the National Conference. It’s such a wide open thing and we just don’t know. In a couple of weeks, we will know. It gives a little intrigue to a league that sometimes you know who the good teams are right off the bat. Not only is Truman 3-0, Abington is 2-1, and Council Rock South is 2-1.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Your thoughts about the SOL Continental Conference.
Todd Thorpe: “It’s North Penn, North Penn, North Penn. They handled Pennsbury pretty easily in a very difficult situation. They weren’t prepared to play that game on turf. You have a home game – you’re counting on that home crowd on a Friday night, and all of a sudden, you’re not playing in a football stadium, and it really has an antiseptic type feeling to it. Give them credit – they didn’t miss a beat. This week North Penn plays Pennridge. Going into the season, people said that was the game of the year in the Continental Conference, and I have no reason to believe it’s not, but Pennridge is 1-2. They go to Perk Valley and lose despite putting up a ton of yards. At 1-2 Pennridge all of a sudden needs a win. How would you like to need a win going against North Penn? That’s a real tough game for Pennridge. If they go to 1-3, you have to wonder, but there’s no reason to think they won’t win the table if they go to 1-3.
“The other team that had a nice win last week going to Bensalem is Central Bucks East. They do it on the ground on a grass field, and they blow Bensalem out. Bensalem is reeling a little bit going into that game knowing that their first two wins of the season were vacated for using an ineligible player, but it’s still really the same guys. I don’t know too much about the details, but that’s a big win for CB East, putting the ball on the ground for the second week in a row and letting Jake Ventresca do his thing. He had over 200 yards rushing – it was two big games in a row for him, and he’s turned into a real strong back. East can pass the ball too. They have to go to Pennsbury this week, and the only way to describe Pennsbury right now – whether you want to say hungry or desperate, they’re probably a little bit of both. If CB East can go to Pennsbury and make a statement, maybe they’re the biggest threat to North Penn in that league. That conference thins out a lot after the top teams. CB West and CB South play a 1-2 versus 0-3 game this week. West has lost close – it hasn’t been blown out, but it is what it is. Souderton lost 8-7 to Hatboro-Horsham last week. I think that conference is pretty thin.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Comments about the SOL American Conference.
Todd Thorpe: “In the American Conference, Quakertown is still rolling at 3-0, and you’ve got to like what you seen in Upper Dublin. They’ve played very well so far. Hatboro-Horsham and Upper Moreland got their first wins. Quakertown solidified itself as it goes into league play against Upper Moreland with a chip on their shoulder because they lost to Upper Moreland last year. All of a sudden, you’re looking at Quakertown and where are they in a month-and-a-half? Could we be looking at an 8-2, 9-1 or even better team? The conference they play in is good, but they’ve played up the first three weeks. You look at that Quakertown-Upper Dublin game, and that’s the one you want to point your finger to, but who knows? Anything can happen. It’s interesting how you see it playing out in this side of the district especially.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: What games jump out at you as significant this week?
Todd Thorpe: “We talked about a couple of them already. Abington/Bensalem could be an interesting game. Abington is 2-1 and Bensalem is ‘0-3,’ and I’m sure Bensalem wants to prove they are as good as their first two non-league wins. Abington at 2-1 has righted the ship a little bit, and if Abington wins that game, they’ll go to 3-1.
“Truman at Council Rock South is a really interesting game. Truman without four starters is going against a Council Rock South team that has been starting to figure it out the last couple of weeks. If Truman wins that game, they go to 4-0, and you start thinking – is Truman right there with Pennsbury and Neshaminy or even better. If Council Rock South wins, they go to 3-1 and are right in the mix. I think that might be one of the better games on the docket as well.
“Council Rock North against Neshaminy – Neshaminy has got to be smarting a little bit. They thought they had a team that really was going to compete in District One. I think they’re very hungry coming home. I think Neshaminy will be real fired up for that game.
“Hatboro-Horsham/Upper Dublin – Hatboro-Horsham did win last week. If Hatboro-Horsham is in that game, you never know.”
Drew Markol: “Neshaminy is a team that needs to bounce back. You thought they righted the ship in week two against Pennridge, but now you look at Pennridge and maybe Pennridge isn’t as good as we thought. Both the Downingtowns – East and West – are good. They’re both undefeated, and it’s a good thing for District I that they aren’t one school because they’d really be good. Neshaminy is reeling a little bit after losing 35-14 to Downingtown West, and they have to bounce back against Council Rock North.
“We talked briefly about Pennridge before. Now they have to do what many would say is impossible to do and beat North Penn. That’s a quickly improving North Penn team that’s already 3-0. It makes it very hard for Pennridge.
“Souderton has had a slow start, but if they get a win on Friday against William Tennent, maybe that will give them a little positive momentum which will be good to see.
“Maybe we’ll get a little bit of the temperature of the American Conference with Hatboro-Horsham/Upper Dublin. Hatboro-Horsham won last week over Souderton and Upper Dublin is undefeated. Everybody is saying, including myself, that Quakertown and Upper Dublin are the teams to beat in the American Conference, and they probably are, but let’s see what the Hatters can do in that one.
“Upper Moreland is at Quakertown, and they have a nice little home field advantage at Quakertown. The band is into it, they always seem to play when the other team has the ball. Is that just a coincidence? It doesn’t seem like one. The students are into it, and let’s face it – for Quakertown, that’s a revenge game. That game cost them the American Conference title last year because Upper Moreland beat them. Quakertown’s first goal is to win the conference title – you can’t afford to slip up, and I’m sure they’d love to beat the team that gave them the only loss in the conference last year. They’ll be ready for that one. Upper Moreland scored nearly 50 points last week in a win at Upper Perk, and they do have Caleb Mead, one of the area’s best running backs. That may be a better game than we think. I think Quakertown is a little too much for them, but we’ll see.
“Council Rock South loses quarterback Andrew Vera early in the first game of the season, but they bounced back nicely. Now they’re playing a Truman team that lost a couple of key players. That now becomes an interesting game, whereas before you said – that should be a win for Truman. Well, now you don’t know. There is some intrigue there. We talk about Truman and Bensalem trying to sneak up in the National Conference. Well, maybe Council Rock South will be the team that does that.”