Intelligencer/Courier 'Let's Talk Football (9-7-17)

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. Markol and Wielgus are 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 ( sites.

Check out the picks by our panel of experts:  The popular pick last week was Pennridge over Neshaminy, but Neshaminy won that game to go 2-0. Your comments.

Drew Markol:  “Neshaminy had a tough game with Roman Catholic, and they pulled out a win, thanks to Marcus Griffin who returned an interception. We don’t know about Roman Catholic, whether they’re good or bad or half decent, so you wondered what Neshaminy was made of. Then you had Pennridge, which handled a Norristown team that is struggling the week before. Most people went with Pennridge, including myself, to beat Neshaminy last week, and that didn’t happen.

“Pennridge had a lot of penalties against Norristown, but those were masked by the fact that they scored a bunch of touchdowns, so you can kind of overlook that. They had a bunch of penalties against Neshaminy also. There was revenge on Pennridge’s mind because Neshaminy had beaten them twice last year, including in the playoffs. Still, Neshaminy was able to beat them.

“Pennridge is a lot bigger up front, but Neshaminy has a pretty good passing game with sophomore quarterback Brody McAndrew. I have not seen him yet, but from what I’ve heard, he’s the real deal. Also, Pennridge did not have their kicker for the game. He was apparently playing soccer, and that cost them because they had to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Neshaminy 11.

“Kicking is vital, especially on the high school level. If you have a kid that can make a 30-yard field goal and make most of the extra points, that’s just a huge bonus. Not having anybody – it just shows you right there what can happen. It cost Pennridge. If you’re a team looking to make a playoff run or anything, you have to have a kicker. Special teams get overlooked, but that’s a huge part of things. You just have to have one, but they didn’t. It ended up costing them.

“If you’re Pennridge, now you have to play a very good Perk Valley team. I wouldn’t call it a must-win, but I’d rather win it than lose it if I’m Pennridge because now you lost two in a row heading into your conference, and it starts to shake your confidence. For Neshaminy, they’re 2-0. Good for them. They get Downingtown West, which is not off to a great start either, and Neshaminy could be looking at 3-0 heading into conference play. It’s funny how things work.”

Jen Wielgus: “Neshaminy’s week one opponent was a team that they didn’t really know what to make of because the coaches were telling me that Roman didn’t scrimmage, so they didn’t really have their usual prep on Roman Catholic. Roman Catholic is not a slouch team. They’re from the Catholic League, which is a very strong league. Neshaminy didn’t look great against Roman Catholic, but they came out against Pennridge, and kudos to that coaching staff – they’ve been together for many years, and they know what they’re doing. They shored up anything that was not going right in the first game because their offense ran pretty well.

“Brody McAndrew is their sophomore quarterback, and he showed that he’s got a good arm and could really sling the ball down the field. On Friday, they got Cory Joyce involved in the offense, and he ended up catching two touchdown passes, and he wasn’t used that much in week one.

“Defensively, Josh Pinkney broke a 70-yard touchdown run, but other than that, Neshaminy kept Pennridge pretty much quiet. Marcus Griffin – I’ve got to say something about him because he’s got three interceptions in two games. He’s been in the right place at the right time. There’s a lot of times you see a kid with a chance to get an interception and the ball just bounces off his hands, so that’s a pretty good stat. He’s a junior who hardly played last year.

“I stupidly picked against Neshaminy last week, and I won’t again. They look like a team that’s going to improve every week. I asked the kids in the preseason what their goals were, and it sounds like a cliché, but that was their goal – to improve every week, and they certainly did that against Pennridge, so you’ve got to give them credit. Again, I’m impressed with the coaches because they clearly know how to get their kids to make adjustments.”

Todd Thorpe: “I covered the Neshaminy-Pennridge game. Pennridge is a big physical, tough team, but Neshaminy had them beat in the skill positions. That was the difference. They were able to throw the ball pretty much at will against the Pennridge defense, and Neshaminy has a lot of talent and that was the difference. Pennridge is a big physical football team that’s going to give a lot of teams fits, and they’re a borderline playoff team probably, but I don’t think that game was an upset when you watched it on the field.

“Going in, you looked at the first week results, but you have to look at who teams are playing and the matchups. I don’t think that was a huge upset.”  Quakertown notched its second come-from-behind win in as many weeks over Souderton. Your comments.

Jen Wielgus:  “We were just at Quakertown, and those kids feel like they’re in really good shape and in really good condition, so when it comes to those third and fourth quarters, they’re not tired, and they can really put on a push. I joke with George Banas all the time because he’s a Crossfitter like me, and he’s really into fitness. I saw them at camp doing all these pretty intense conditioning drills – he has them doing burpees and squats and pushups, and it seems like it really is paying off where – against teams that are bigger than them – they’re able to sort of outlast them because they’re in such good shape.

“You see Quakertown get past CB East and Souderton, and you look at their schedule – they’re playing a 2-0 team this week in CB West, but I saw it written that they could just as easily be 0-2, so it’s not like they’re blowing teams out. My point is it’s a winnable game. You look at Quakertown’s schedule, and you can’t look at any team on their schedule and say, ‘That’s a loss.’ They could conceivably go undefeated. I think CB West will be a big test because also Quakertown could be feeling their oats a little bit. They’re like, ‘We beat CB East, we beat Souderton, we have the 309 Cup.’ I hate to use trap games because that’s such a cliché, but this will really be a good test to see how focused they are because they could easily lose a game like this. I think I’m going to be at the game on Friday night because I think that will be a good one. “

Drew Markol: “You look at Quakertown. I thought they would lose to CB East, they didn’t. I thought they would lose to Souderton, they didn’t. Now they play CB West, and with all the momentum Quakertown has, maybe you stop doubting them. They’ve won two close games, and that shows a lot of character and good coaching. Then they go into the American Conference, and you’ve got to consider them one of the favorites in that conference, regardless how they do against CB West this week. At this point, how do you pick against Quakertown? You can’t. I’m usually wrong a lot, but I’m usually not wrong this quickly, but two weeks ago if you had asked me to rank CB East, Souderton and CB West, I would have probably ranked East first, Souderton second and West third. Well, now Quakertown has beaten East and Souderton. If you’re Quakertown, you’re thinking, ‘We beat CB East and Souderton. Why can’t we beat CB West?’ It’s good scheduling by Quakertown. They played two close games, and the game with West will likely be close. That’s what you need. You need close games, and the fact that you won them makes it even better. Now you know what it’s like to play in a close game, and you’ve got to be on Cloud 9 if you’re them. I like Quakertown in Friday’s game. Their head coach George Banas will have them flying to the moon. As far as early season surprises go, they’re right at the top of the list. As is North Penn.”  Your thoughts about North Penn after last week’s loss to Downingtown East.

Drew Markol:  “A quick look at the numbers, and they’ve allowed 102 points in two games. Granted, they played two good teams in La Salle and Downingtown East, but still, 100 points – I looked it up, and it took until their eighth game last year before they allowed 100-plus points. Now they’ve done it in two. You can tell your kids till you’re blue in the face that you’re playing really good teams – and they are, but that’s got to shake you a little bit.

“If you’re Pennsbury, which has had very little success against North Penn over the years, now they’ve got to be thinking, ‘Maybe we’ve got a shot here.’ That’s a very interesting game. You have a Pennsbury team trying to rebound from last year, and you have a North Penn team that’s kind of reeling. You look a little further down the road to the end of the month, and if you’re CB South, you’re saying, ‘Okay, this might be our chance.’ CB South is off to a good start. North Penn has dominated the conference forever, so you can see the dominoes maybe starting to line up a little bit.

“If you’re North Penn, you need to blow somebody out. You need to win decisively and get your confidence back. Maybe they will. Would I be surprised? No, I wouldn’t. I still think North Penn is very good, but these last two weeks – it does surprise you. It’s not so much the 0-2, it’s the 100 points they’ve given up. It’s odd because it’s North Penn, and we’re just not used to them struggling. That’s absolutely an interesting storyline because it is North Penn.

“Heck, after North Penn lost to La Salle, I said last week they were going to run the table, and their next loss might be against La Salle in the state semifinal. It turned out it was a couple of days later. You can say it’s a funny game and all those clichés, but it really is. I don’t know. It’s weird to have a lot more questions than answers surrounding North Penn at this point, but we do.”

Todd Thorpe:  “I think the biggest surprise last week has to be North Penn. You have to wonder defensively where are they. They probably played against two pretty good offensive teams, so that could be a reason, but this is not like North Penn giving up as many points as they have. That’s got to be your biggest surprise to the start of the season. Not that they’re 0-2 but just how it’s happened. They gave up a lot of yards and a lot of points last week, and they weren’t playing La Salle. They were playing Downingtown East. That’s a surprise.”

Jen Wielgus:  “Obviously, North Penn being 0-2 and going to a place where they’ve historically rolled over Pennsbury and North Penn needing a win – we all know they’ll be fine, but they’ve been giving up a ton of points. They want to make a statement, and Pennsbury, on the other hand, has looked good running that spread offense. Their young quarterback, Zach Demarchis, has looked good. I think North Penn will win, but that’s a big game in the sense that Pennsbury could show something, and North Penn has something to prove.” Any other thoughts after week two?

Drew Markol:  “I’m sure a lot more was expected of CB East. East has become a perennial playoff team. They’ve got to be reeling and wondering - what’s going on here? It’s funny – I make my living with bad clichés, but talk about a team that needs a win. My gosh, they need to right things too because conference play starts next week. They’ve been the successful the past couple of years, and there are a lot of teams in the conference that would like to get a little bit of a payback. They’ve got to right things quickly, and that’s hard to do.

 “CB South has the big quarterback in Jack Johns and a tough defense. The school hasn’t been open for that long, but they have a nice history. They have a lot of numbers, and obviously, there’s talent there. They’ve gone out and picked up two decisive wins already. My god, how sky high are they at practice? I’ve always liked Jack Johns as a quarterback, and they really haven’t needed him too much to throw it around, but that’s a nice thing to have. It used to be the old joke with CB South was – you let them score 50 and you go out and score 60. Well, now that’s not the case. Tom Hetrick, the head coach, has got that defense for real. It’s early September, but it’s paying off.”

Todd Thorpe:  “CB South won big against over Council Rock North, and they’re certainly doing what they probably should be doing, and they’re doing it pretty impressively.

“CB West beat Council Rock South. I think that’s a good win for West. West is just finding ways to win, and you have to give them credit for that. That’s a team that’s been building the last couple of years. They have a dominant player in Jake Reichwein. They’re 2-0, and that’s pretty impressive.

“The Hatboro-Horsham/CB East game was exciting and came right down to the end. Hatboro wins the game, but CB East falls to 0-2. You wonder where are those two teams.

“As far as Souderton/Quakertown, I was a little surprised by that. After Souderton’s first week win over Penn Wood, you looked at them and thought they might have something this year, and they still may, but maybe Quakertown is pretty good too. People tend to get caught up in first week scores, and that’s not always a good indicator of how good the teams are.”

Jen Wielgus:  “Truman is 2-0, and that’s historic. I picked against them last week, but I’ll always vote for a program like that to succeed. You knew those coaches were going to come in and take care of business, so it’s good to see that. They’re going to be a force in that National Conference because other than Neshaminy, it’s going to be competitive, and Truman is going to be right there.  Your thoughts heading into this week’s games.

Todd Thorpe:  “Harry Truman can go to 3-0 against William Tennent. I think they’re certainly favored. They’ve outscored their first two opponents by wide margins, and I look for that to continue. To be 3-0 to start the league, that’s an interesting scenario for them.

“North Penn at Pennsbury is a real good game. That’s the one team Pennsbury hasn’t been able to beat over the last decade. North Penn has really had their number. North Penn is 0-2 and now they’re a little bit desperate. That will be interesting to see how those teams match up, and that’s certainly the game of the week probably.

“There are definitely some interesting matchups. CB West plays Quakertown. That’s 2-0 teams, and you scratch your head and say, ‘Are they really that good?’ Well, you’ll kind of find out.

“The non-league portion of the schedule is always interesting, but it’s probably not indicative of how good teams are until they get into their league.”

Drew Markol:  “You wonder which Hatboro will show up at Souderton. I was over at Hatboro’s practice last week. They don’t have a lot of numbers, but they came back and got a win against CB East. I think they can win the game, and if you’re Souderton, Quakertown’s Christian Patrick runs it in late in the fourth quarter to steal the win, and if you’re Souderton, you’re like, ‘Man, we let that one get away. Is this one going to cost us come November?’ You don’t want to go into the conference 1-2. I look at that game as a toss-up. Both teams kind of need it, and that makes for a good game.”

Jen Wielgus:  “Pennridge is playing Perk Valley, and Perk Valley is always good. They’ve got good athletes out there, and this game is real big for Pennridge because they’re home. I was around them when they were warming up at Neshaminy, and they were like, ‘Revenge.’ They not only didn’t get it, but it wasn’t even that close. They had some chances, and they couldn’t get anything going on offense against Neshaminy. This is a big game for Pennridge to kind of show what they’re made of because their season can go south pretty quickly. Already they’ve got CB South and North Penn in their conference. Pennridge could again be a team scratching and clawing and just barely getting into the playoffs.”