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, you covered the Pennridge/North Penn game last week. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “Before the season, most of us thought in the Continental Conference the challenge for North Penn would be Pennridge. Well, it turned out it wasn’t that much of a challenge. Pennridge scored early – they got a sack of the quarterback, they recovered a fumble in the end zone, and they had a lot of momentum, but North Penn just reeled off four or five straight touchdowns in a very short amount of time and made what looked like a very interesting game early not so interesting because they just put the pedal down and really did a nice job. I tell you what – this is the first time I’ve seen North Penn live, and they’ve got a lot of weapons, they’ve got a lot of speed, and there’s a lot of skill. The passing game, as coach Dick Beck has said, is not there yet, but if it gets a little better, they are going to be a really, really tough out because they’re disciplined – they don’t run that many plays. I don’t want to say their offense is bland, but it kind of reminds you of the old CB West teams. There were a handful of plays they ran really well, and they said, ‘Okay, if you can stop us, go ahead and stop us,’ and no one is stopping them. Now they’re 4-0 and they’re running the table. They’re going to be 10-0 and looking at a top three seed in the district. Not that it matters to them. They’ve won as the 16 seed, they’ve won as the first seed – it doesn’t matter, but they’re looking at a couple of home games because nobody is beating them.
“Shamar Edwards is a very good running back – he can catch ball out of the backfield, and he just does a lot of things. He can score from anywhere, and not a lot of kids can do that. Julian White is a bruising fullback with very good speed, and if that’s not enough, they have Jon Haynes on the outside, who’s also a punt returner, and he returned a punt for a touchdown. He fielded the punt, broke to his left, saw there wasn’t much there, then broke back to his right and just turned it up the field and was gone. North Penn’s offense, defense and special teams – they’ve got it all, and the quarterback, Solomon Robinson, is getting there. He has a strong arm. He just needs to work a bit on his accuracy. If he gets a little better, they’re going to be a really tough out. RJ Macnamara, the junior – his sister was the kicker there for so long, and he’s a nice weapon too – he plays linebacker and also plays fullback and can catch the ball out of the backfield. It’s a typical North Penn team with lots and lots of people to go to.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Todd, you were at the Pennsbury/CB East game last week. Your thoughts about those two teams.
Todd Thorpe: “That was a real good game. They’re good offensive teams right now that played very well offensively. East didn’t really do a ton in the first half, but in the second half opened things up. Pennsbury coach Dan McShane had said – that’s where his team runs into a little problem. They have only one returning starter on their defense from last year, and they’re really shorthanded there. They have some talent, and it’s coming around, but when you spread them like CB East did…CB East has some playmakers. Their quarterback Evan O’Donnell played very well, and at wide receiver Chris Lochetta played very well. Evan O’Donnell had four touchdown passes and he ran for one, and Chris Lochetta had over a hundred yards receiving. East had kind of been running down the middle on teams the three prior weeks, and they had to get away from that after the first half because they couldn’t do that. Pennsbury is huge, they’ve got a lot of size. As far as offensively – their offense looked to be in full gear despite the fact that most of those kids are sophomores and juniors. They really moved the ball, and their spread was working and fine-tuned through Drew Hensor their quarterback. They appear to be heading in the right direction from an offensive standpoint. Pennsbury needed that win. I’m sure they had hoped it would be by a little bit of a wider margin, but they’ll take it. They had to win the game with an interception on a two-point conversion attempt with two minutes to go in the game.
“This was a good sign for CB East. This is their tough stretch – they played Pennsbury last week and North Penn this week. If they get through this in one piece, the rest of their schedule they’re going to play some meaningful football games over the last month with a chance to do something and go to the playoffs. If their only three losses are to Quakertown, Pennsbury and probably North Penn this week, I think they’ll be in pretty good shape come late October.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Your thoughts about the SOL National Conference.
Todd Thorpe: “It’s kind of funny. You look at week one, and it didn’t look real good when Council Rock South lost their quarterback (Andrew Vera) in the first game of the season. All of a sudden, they’ve kind of played themselves back into it at 3-1. They beat Truman and held Truman down to almost nothing. They look like they have a pretty good run-pass game. They’re doing some things nicely. I give them a lot of credit. After that first week and Andrew Vera’s injury, they had to decide what they wanted to do the rest of the season, and they’ve kind of proven themselves, and they’re right in the mix.
“I said this to Drew Markol – when’s the last time after four weeks there were three 3-1 teams in the SOL National Conference and none of them were Pennsbury and Neshaminy. It’s kind of ironic, but obviously, it’s going to get real tough this week for CR South against Abington. That’s your gatekeeper game. The winner of that one might be a contender in this thing. That’s a really important game for both teams.
“Abington has kind of done the same thing. They lost in week one, and you wondered what they had, and now they’ve gone out and won three games. Should they have won those three games? Yes, they should have won those three games, but they’ve proven that this is a season they could very well be in the mix. This week is important because neither one of those teams has played Pennsbury, and neither of those teams have played Neshaminy. That means you have those two games still on the docket.
“This week is important. I wouldn’t want to be the team that falls back to two losses after this game, so I think that’s a really interesting game. I’m going to be there at Schwarzman Stadium. I’m curious to see how that plays out. It’s really one of the intriguing games in the National Conference, and I think the other one is the Neshaminy/Truman game. Neshaminy got a much-needed win last week kind of like Pennsbury did. They handled Council Rock North, they kind of got their running game going with Chris James and Oleh Manzyk. Their passing game was going with Brody McAndrew, who threw three touchdown passes. They got it going against North. You assume you’re going to see the Truman team you saw the first three weeks with all their starters back and ready to rock and roll and also ready to prove a point. Last year they were in a similar spot, and they ran into Neshaminy and got humbled a little bit. A couple weeks after that, the same thing happened against Pennsbury. If Truman is for real, they’re pushing Neshaminy, they’re contending to win.
“There are some really intriguing matchups in that conference, and this week those two games really stand out.”
Drew Markol: “That was a nice win for Council Rock South. People say, ‘Well, Truman was depleted because they lost some people because of a fight against Tennent, so they couldn’t play this week.’ Okay, whatever, that doesn’t matter. If you’re Council Rock South, you just play who they put up against you, and if that happens, so be it. Did you possibly take advantage of it? Maybe you did, so you get a win. It doesn’t matter how you got it, you got it. Council Rock South has been a nice story all season. We always look at Truman and maybe Bensalem as sleepers in the National Conference, but maybe it’s Council Rock South. With Vince Bedesem and his ground game, they’re doing all right. Are they at the Neshaminy/Pennsbury level? No, probably not, but they’re looking pretty good. That’s a nice surprise that none of us really saw.
“I talked with Kevin Conlin, the coach at Abington, and he said, ‘We don’t have that one main guy that we’ve had with Darryl Davis-McNeil or a player like that. We have to have a whole team thing going.’ Abington had that big win over Cheltenham two weeks ago, and that was huge for them. They followed that with a win over Bensalem, and now they’re playing Council Rock South this week. If Council Rock South is the potential sleeper in the National, maybe Abington is too. You had Pennsbury and you had Neshaminy, and then you had Abington in that second tier, so it’s hard to call Abington a sleeper, but they’re playing better than I think most folks expected. Now they’re playing Council Rock South – there’s a great game.
“The winner of that one has put themselves in a good spot. That’s a good matchup between two teams we really didn’t expect too much out of it, and instead, they’re actually providing it. That might be the game of the week.
“You look at Pennsbury beating CB East last week 35-34. East is not bad – that’s a good win for Pennsbury. Pennsbury had struggled early. They had played some pretty good teams. They needed that win and we’ll see. I know my colleague Todd Thorpe saw that game, and he said Pennsbury has a lot of young kids who are good. It’s just a matter of them learning, growing and getting experience. They’re big as always. We always ask – is this the year somebody new steps up? A Truman, a Bensalem, an Abington, a Council Rock South and beats the Pennsburys and Neshaminys. It usually doesn’t happen, but we’re waiting for it. I’m sure the rest of the folks in the National Conference probably aren’t thrilled that Pennsbury seems to be putting it together.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Your thoughts about the SOL Continental Conference.
Todd Thorpe: “I thought CB South had a real shot in its game against CB West. I think they’re better than the 0-3 team they were the first three weeks. I think South and West are fairly equal in terms of the talent they’ve got on their whole roster. I thought that was a game just the emotion of getting that first win was going to carry them. Good for South. I think West will regroup this week. They have Tennent, and that’s a game I know they think they should win.
“In the National Conference, there are five or six teams you look at and say – they could still be in this thing. In the Continental Conference, you scratch your head and say – who else besides North Penn because you’re not looking at a lot of depth in terms of playoff contenders.
“Pennridge has played a very tough schedule, and that’s a credit to them, but they’re 1-3 and their one win was against Delaware Valley who nobody knows around here. Who knows? I think Pennridge has to get this thing figured out. They’re 1-3, and they have to run the table now. If they’re good and where they think they should be and where they were last year, they will certainly be a factor to do that. They play Souderton this week, and that’s one of those backyard rivalry type games. We talked about it on Game On this week – Cody Muller going against his former coach Ed Gallagher, so that will be interesting, but I think those two will be the first to tell you that neither of them are on the field playing. That is a vitally important game for Pennridge. Especially with CB East playing North Penn this week, Pennridge can find its footing a little bit. I’m not sure this is how it’s going to play out, but the winner of that Pennridge/CB East game – could that be your second place team in the conference and a playoff qualifier? I certainly think both of those teams have a lot of work to do before that game, but you look at it and say maybe. Again, until they start playing, you don’t know how these teams are going to match up because they’ve played such vastly different schedules so far.”
Drew Markol: “I talked with a couple of players from CB South the other day, including senior linebacker Matt Norris who pretty much has been starting for South for the past 11 years. He’s a very good player, and he was very honest. He said, ‘If we’re 0-4, we’re in big trouble. We needed a win. Our spirits never really got down because we were practicing hard and we could see good things coming, but we had to beat somebody.’ To CB South, CB West is a big rivalry. I’ve always said I’m not sure if CB West looks at it that way – their rival is CB East, but regardless, if CB South loses to West, now you’re 0-4, you haven’t played East, you haven’t played North Penn and you haven’t played Pennridge, and that’s not good. Instead, you’re 1-3 and winning does a lot. Now they have Bensalem this week. Bensalem lost those games with an ineligible player and now they’re 0-4 and they lost two straight on the field besides the two they had to forfeit. Bensalem hasn’t played Neshaminy or Pennsbury, so I’m sure it’s very tough for them to have a lot of optimism. If you’re CB South, you need another win. If you’re South at 1-3, you have six games left, and you’ve got to be saying to yourself –we have to go 5-1. Maybe that one loss is to North Penn, but everybody else you have to beat. You don’t want to put yourself at 5-5 and be at the mercy of the point system of whether or not you get into districts. That’s the only thing – when you start off 0-2 in the NFL, your odds of making the playoffs are drastically lower, and that’s a 16-game schedule. You look at a high school schedule and start off 0-3 when you only play 10 games – South can’t afford too many more hiccoughs.
“Another interesting game – and not on the lines of Council Rock South/Abington, but Souderton coach Ed Gallagher goes to Pennridge against one of his old players in Cody Muller, the first-year coach at Pennridge. It’s very interesting. When Cody played for Ed Gallagher at Souderton, Ed was a big fan because Muller was a coach-on-the-field kind of player, and it turns out he was right. Now he is a coach on the field. Gallagher has told him - I’ll help you 358 days out of the year, but he wouldn’t obviously be helping him this week because he’s playing Pennridge. Pennridge has lost three in a row, and they need a win too. The same for Souderton. That game will be close, but I think Pennridge has a little bit more than Souderton, but Souderton does have some talent. We’ll see. The intrigue there is more coach versus former player, which is always kind of cool.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Your comments about the SOL American.
Todd Thorpe: “In the American Conference, Upper Dublin is just crushing teams, and Bret Stover is just a tremendous coach. Upper Dublin and Quakertown are the two class programs in that league. We’re just kind of waiting to see what happens when those two teams play.
“I said it when they got moved down to the American Conference – George Banas was pretty close to putting a team on the field that was going to compete in the playoffs year in and year out, and that was in the Continental. When he moved out, I said, ‘Look out’ because that is a team that will be in that mix for that conference title every year. Even last year when they were completely rebuilding, they lost to Upper Moreland. George is a good coach and has built a good program, and they’re consistent right now. Really, you look for consistency in a program so you can constantly build and constantly have a chance to win every year.
“Upper Dublin is challenged by their size, but after a year they had to regroup a little bit, they’re right back where they were. I’m not sure they’re district championship worthy like they did a couple of years ago, but Upper Dublin and Quakertown look as though they’re the teams to beat in the American Conference.”
Drew Markol: “Quakertown is 4-0. They had a pretty tight game with CB West – I was at that game, and they were in control, but West kept chipping away at them and they made it really close. Michael Terra picked up a fumble and ran it in for a touchdown to kind of seal things for Quakertown. Last week, they got Upper Moreland, the only team in the conference to beat them last year, and Upper Moreland went on to win the conference title, so you know Quakertown obviously had that one circled. They went out and beat them 49-14. That was a good win for Quakertown. I know Upper Moreland lost a ton to graduation, but still, Quakertown has that game out of the way, and you’re basically looking at – you play Upper Dublin on Oct. 5, and that’s likely for the American Conference title. Quakertown just has it rolling. I’ve had people tell me off the record – who have they played? Well, they’re winning the games. You play the schedule they put in front of you. They have a shot – if they beat Upper Dublin – to be 10-0. That’s going to get themselves a really good seed and home games for the district, and that’s what you’re looking for. Give them credit. You have to go out and win, and they’ve been doing that. George Banas has them rolling.”