Intelligencer/Courier "Let's Talk Football" (9-29-16)

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:  To stay on top of the high school football news in the area, visit the Intelligencer ( and Courier Times ( web sites.

Check out the picks by our panel of experts:  Bensalem defeated Central Bucks West at War Memorial Stadium – the program’s first win over Central Bucks since 1964 before the schools split. Your thoughts.

Drew Markol:  “You look at the first district power rankings that came out this week, and if the season ended today, Bensalem would be in. It’s just remarkable. Ed Cubbage is the king of reclamation projects. He was at Truman and you go to a place like Bensalem where maybe the expectations are low. He’s said he’s able to mold things the way he wants them done because there hasn’t been much success previously. He’s proven that theory right because Bensalem ended a 29-game losing streak – if that had been the only game they won all season, at least they would have ended the streak and the clichés – the gorilla off their backs, the albatross – all stopped.

“And now to beat a team like CB West – imagine how the Bensalem kids are feeling. In that game, they went up 21-0, but West came back and tied it, and you’ve got to be thinking – another devastating loss. They’re arguably the story of the first half of the season. What else in the SOL trumps what they have done the first half of the year?

“CB South has had a very good start, and we knew North Penn and Neshaminy would be good. Upper Dublin you could make a small case for because they lost a lot and they’re undefeated again, but there are still some kids left from last year’s team. It’s Bensalem and what they’ve done. Now they play Pennsbury. I couldn’t tell you the last time Bensalem beat Pennsbury. Who knows? I’ll pick Pennsbury because they’re Pennsbury, but Bensalem is the wild card. Imagine the confidence they’ve been building and then to beat West like that – good for them. They’re, at worst, the best story of the first half of the season, and they may end up being the best story of the year.”

Kevin Cooney:  “CB West – the narrative through the non-league schedule was ‘Here comes CB West, South and East. They all look great.’ Suddenly, poof. South and East have held up their share of the bargain. Yes, West had North Penn two weeks ago, and if last week’s loss to Bensalem was a North Penn hangover, it’s a bad case because you still have South and you still have East on your schedule. A lot of what you did in the good start just got derailed by losing to Bensalem.

“If you look at the district power rankings, there are three teams from the National Conference that make the playoffs, but realistically, I think two is going to be the max. I think Abington has a really good shot of coming out of it. The problem with Bensalem is – if you lose to Pennsbury this week, you’re counting on other people to do your work, and that’s a difficult place to live.

“Bensalem is the story of the first half of the year. If we’re looking at the first half of the season, to me, it’s Bensalem’s rise back to football grade – and you have to give Ed Cubbage a ton of credit. That program was lifeless and now has a lot of life going for it. He’s the rebuilder. Obviously, Truman is struggling now, but they’re a lot better off than they were before Cubbage got there, and Jon Craig has done a good job of at least maintaining some of it.”

Jen Wielgus:  “We talked earlier in the season when the (Central Bucks) schools were all unbeaten – yes, that was great, but the schools they’d beaten had really bad records. I think we really overvalued a lot of teams, and this might be evidence of that. But what War Memorial Field represents, the history that had gone on there and what CB West had done there and what Bensalem has not done historically and what they’ve gone through – for those kids to go there, they had a big lead (21-0) and CB West came back to tie it, but they were able to hold them off when they could have just said, ‘Oh, they’re coming back. Here we go again. We’re Bensalem, we’re on the road and we’re not supposed to win this game, we’re going to fold,’ but they didn’t. I don’t think you can overstate the importance of such a statement win for Bensalem.

“If you look at the district rankings that came out this week, I know we’re only through week five, but if the season ended today, Bensalem would sneak into the playoffs. I don’t think there’s a bigger story than that in what we all agree is a down year in local football. It’s a feel-good story, but it also proves that Bensalem has some athletes and has some heart and actually can play football. If Ed Cubbage had any hope of having any future success at Bensalem, you need a season like this.”  Council Rock North picked up its first win of the season over Pennsbury last week. Your thoughts.

Drew Markol:  “I was one of the people saying it would be Pennsbury and Abington battling for second place in the National Conference, and I was absolutely wrong. I didn’t realize that things had gotten to this point. You’ve got to wonder about Pennsbury. I know it’s a new coach with Dan McShane, but he’d been there on the staff at Pennsbury and took over for Galen Snyder. You hope the kids aren’t quitting the team or anything like that, but it is a lot worse than I thought. I even had said that Pennsbury was going to go 6-1 in the National Conference and get in the playoffs. Now you wonder because that was a game last week they had to have. It doesn’t happen, and boy, where do they go? Now they play Bensalem where McShane used to coach. That was a couple of years ago, but I’m sure the Bensalem kids are being reminded that the former coach is now at Pennsbury, and wouldn’t it be nice to somehow go and beat him.

“The way the season has gone, especially in that conference, and after Bensalem beats CB West – would you be shocked if Bensalem beat Pennsbury? I can’t say I would be. It’s unbelievable. We’ve been doing this (Let’s Talk Football) for a couple of years, and Bensalem – there’s hardly ever a mention of them because of their struggles. Good for them for what they’re doing. It’s a great story to see.”

Kevin Cooney:  “I think we all thought that Pennsbury would get itself together at some point. They were a very young team with a lot of inexperience, a lot of players lost to graduation, but at some point midway through the year, they’ll get their stuff together. The National Conference isn’t so great, and they’ll get on a roll and all that. Well, it’s not happening. They’re not offensively built, at this point, to make that kind of run. What last week’s loss does if you’re in the camp that four losses get you in districts and five losses get you knocked out of the playoffs – you have no more margin for error. You have Neshaminy in the final week of the season, and Neshaminy will be a heavy favorite in that game. I just don’t see that Pennsbury has enough offense to beat Neshaminy. You still have Abington and this week you have Bensalem. The irony is here comes Dan McShane having to beat his former team. History tells you Pennsbury should win this game, but history kind of gets thrown out the window when you see what’s going on right now.

“I think Pennsbury is in real, real trouble. This wasn’t – okay, you go to North Penn and you get whacked. This was a CR North team that for the first three games of the season hadn’t shown much. That’s not good. Again, there’s a down cycle and and up cycle and all of that – we’ll acknowledge that completely, but this is a dangerous, dangerous point now for Pennsbury going forward.”

Jen Wielgus:  “You looked at Pennsbury coming into the year and everybody knew they were small and they didn’t have the names they had in the past and the talent they had in the past, but people were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt because of their history. Even though they weren’t going to be the top dog in that conference with Neshaminy, they were going to be right there with them. We’re all thinking – it’s Pennsbury, it’s Pennsbury, it’s Pennsbury. Well, this is a real down year for Pennsbury. We have to say that now.

“Meanwhile, if you talked to other coaches and people behind the scenes, it was supposed to be a down year for Council Rock North too, and nobody was doubting that, but people weren’t giving them kudos for the heart they were showing on the field while they were getting beat. I don’t think anybody was surprised in the football circles to see Council Rock North win – maybe us media who weren’t really knowledgeable, and I’m really pointing at myself here. People who knew the teams weren’t surprised that Council Rock North won that game, and it really goes to Council Rock North’s leadership, the captains of the team. Mason Luff is a captain and linebacker, and he was making play calls on defense at the end of the game when they couldn’t hear the coach. It came down to a defensive stand at the end of the game. Great job by North. Pennsbury is not a world beater, but good for North.”  Central Bucks South will host North Penn in a battle of SOL unbeaten squads. Your thoughts.

Drew Markol:  “CB South will get on their new field for the first time. They’re really playing defense this season, which South never really used to do. They’re allowing less than a touchdown a game. It’s a whole lot easier when you don’t have to score 40 points to win a game. South wins a game 7-0 last week over Souderton. If you look back over the years, there aren’t many games involving South where they ever had a total of seven points scored (and won). They’re playing defense, and the bad cliché – offense wins games and defense wins titles – is true.

“Now they’re playing North Penn, and the way North Penn is going – I’m not sure if anybody is stopping them until Hershey, so that’s a tough one. We thought in the pecking order it would be North Penn, then Pennridge and then you’d have a group of the CB schools and Souderton at the next level, but maybe it’s North Penn, South and then Pennridge in with the other two CBs (CB East and CB West) and Souderton. It’s funny how things started to play out differently.”

Kevin Cooney:  “In both the National and Continental, you have the teams that everybody figures are one and two in the pecking order right now playing each other. You have North Penn at South, which is kind of an interesting game because North Penn hasn’t really been tested. I guess La Salle for a half, but there was no game you said, ‘Wow, this is a tight game.’ You keep waiting to see if somebody is going to do it, and in the conference – everybody thought Pennridge would be it, but it’s not going to happen, and this may be the last shot for North Penn to get tested. I guess East with their defense would make an argument against that and make it a little interesting. South has been such a strong defensive team. The question is – can they hold North Penn’s offense down with all the different weapons they have, which nobody has done yet? Can South get to 27 points? If South holds North Penn under 27, maybe they have a prayer of winning the game, maybe they have a chance. I don’t see it. The line I used on Game On was – they’re stepping up to the varsity, and they really are. They have not played a team like this. That’s not a knock on them, but you’re talking right now the best 6A team in District One and maybe the second best in the state.”

Jen Wielgus:  “CB South is unveiling their new turf, and they’ve got a chance to defend it. I don’t think anybody expects them to win that game, but they’re number one and two in the power points in the district. You have to consider them a surprise team in that sense. You don’t play for moral victories, but all eyes are on you because you have your new stadium and you’re playing North Penn, so let’s see what you’ve got. That’s the game of the week.”  Central Bucks East will be at Souderton in a key Continental Conference game. Your comments.

Drew Markol:  “Souderton got off to the good start, especially beating PW in the first week. This game is – flip a coin. Again, you’ve got a good East defense, and yes, Souderton lost to a pretty good South team, but they only allowed seven points. That tells you this could be a 7-6 or 8-6 kind of game and could go either way and comes down to somebody fumbling late in the game or something like that. That’s a game – both of those teams have to have it. You’ve already seen the district power points – East and Souderton are in there, but the jostling really starts to begin here. If you’re Ed Gallagher of Souderton or John Donnelly at East, you have to impress upon your kids – this is a must-win this week, for sure.”

Kevin Cooney:  “For Souderton, this could be an elimination game. I know people don’t want to figure it like that, but if you’re 3-3, you still have North Penn up ahead and you don’t have the strongest non-league schedules that would give them a push.

“Souderton is so baffling to me. Every time you think – here they go, they’ve got a running game, and then they take a step back. I think we’re at a point right now where you’ve got to show it. You’ve got to win a game like this. This is the ballgame right here.

“For East, it’s a big game because quite honestly, you can’t afford to trip up in a game like this. You have North Penn still ahead, CB West still ahead and Pennridge still ahead. The schedule gets a lot more complicated, and this is the kind of game – if you’re East – you can’t afford to lose.”

Jen Wielgus:  “Souderton needs this game really badly. On the flip side, Souderton played CB South really close. People are not giving them any credit anymore because they were burned by a trick play when they played Pennridge and looked like they got buried and that’s there season. I don’t think they’re going to get blown out by CB East – they have a chance.” Quakertown played Upper Dublin tough and will now face Hatboro-Horsham. Your thoughts.

Jen Wielgus:  “Quakertown battled so hard in its loss to Upper Dublin. You looked at the scoreboard and you realized – they could win this game. They were driving, and I really felt like they could win that game, but they couldn’t break through on offense when they needed to. I have to mention Noah Wood, who won Game On Athlete of the Week for his performance last week against Wissahickon. That kid is a fighter. He plays way bigger than he is.

“Quakertown could win games. They have Hatboro this week, and that’s a winnable game. You know Quakertown is going to show heart. They’re not going to quit on their coach.

“Upper Dublin is just a better team overall. They’re the best team in that division, and Justin Horn is filling Ryan Stover’s shoes nicely at quarterback.”

Drew Markol:  “Hatboro-Horsham had a nice win over Upper Moreland, and quarterback Chris Edwards had a huge game for Hatboro. Quakertown is better than its record, I think, and in that conference, I give Quakertown a slight edge. Noah Wood has been really good. He’s always been good defensively, but as the lead back, he’s been really good. I think Quakertown will start wearing them down by grinding it out with Wood like they’ve done in other games, but that’s a good game. I think Quakertown wins it, but Hatboro is starting to show a little bit spark.”  Any observations about any teams at the midway point of the season.

Kevin Cooney:  “I’ve actually found Pennridge to be disappointing in this first half of the year.  Look, they played Neshaminy tough – I get it, and a lot of teams are going to lose to Perk Valley and North Penn, but it’s the way you lose, the way you were completely not in the game. That’s where I would say I’m a little disappointed. I thought they would be a little more competitive than they’ve been to this point. They have half a season to turn it around.

“Quakertown is through the Upper Dublin part of its schedule but hasn’t played PW yet. I don’t think they can get into the playoffs, but stranger things have happened. We talked about 5-5 teams getting in, but what’s going to hurt them going 5-5 is being in the American Conference where you have 3A and 5A schools and you’re not going to get max points.”