Back for its ninth season, the popular Intelligencer/Bucks County Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football’ features the ‘Game On’ crew: Drew Markol, Todd Thorpe and Jen Wielgus. 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: Neshaminy defeated Pennridge 27-14 in a key non-league game. Drew, you covered that game. Your thoughts?
Drew Markol: “Neshaminy was coming off the double overtime loss to North Penn and needed a win, and Pennridge was coming off a pretty good win over Delaware Valley the week before where they scored 54 points. In this one though, Pennridge again couldn’t run the ball. They couldn’t run against Del Val and they couldn’t run against Neshaminy. Ryan Garner - who is a very good back and had a very good season last year – there’s no room for him to run through, and it made Pennridge one-dimensional, and Neshaminy knew that. They were just rushing Zak Kantor, the Pennridge quarterback, with abandon because they could. There wasn’t the threat of the run.
“Now Pennridge has to go play Perk Valley, a team they beat in their district run last year, but that’s a good team. You start out against three good teams, and if you’re Pennridge and lose this one and you have to play North Penn next week, all of a sudden, you’re 1-3. You need to not let that happen. You have to bounce back this week and play well because next week is the biggie with North Penn. It’s a shame it’s that early in the season, but that’s just the way the schedule falls, so they have to be careful.
“Neshaminy dominated that game. There were very few points where you said to yourself, ‘Boy, Pennridge is going to come back and win this.’ Pennridge never led, and Neshminy seemed to have all the answers when they needed them. Oleh Manzyk had a nice touchdown run – a 31-yarder – in the first quarter, but other than that, he finished with 31 yards. Sophomore running back Chris James is a little guy, but as coach Steve Wilmot said afterwards – he always falls forward and he always fights for every inch. You’d watch the play and you’d think it was a three-yard gain, and all of a sudden, it was a five-yard gain. You’d think it was a six-yard gain, and it was an eight-yard gain. He played well. Junior quarterback Brody McAndrew threw it okay and he had a couple of rushing scores, including a big one at the end. Cory Joyce has been a stalwart for them at receiver and defensive back, and he was as good as always. It was just a good effort by Neshaminy to bounce back. Pennridge is a good team – it’s not a great team, but it’s a good team.
“Neshaminy is playing Downingtown West, and that game’s a toss-up. Downingtown West is good as usual, so Neshaminy could be 1-2. I think Neshaminy would have an easier road in the SOL National perhaps than Pennridge might in the SOL Continental. Judging from the early results, I’m not sure that either conference is more than just top heavy, but we’ll see.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Todd, you covered the Tennent/Bensalem game last week. Your thoughts.
Todd Thorpe: “Tennent/Bensalem was an interesting game. Even though Tennent snapped that losing streak a week earlier, I really think Bensalem and Tennent were very evenly matched, and that game could have gone either way. Both teams hit each other with really good shots, and the other team always came back. Tennent ran out of time at the end – Bensalem scored with under a minute to play to win the game. Bensalem won 22-19, and it was a really good, entertaining high school football game. Jalen Smith – Bensalem’s junior running back – had a really solid game. He had 17 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns. He scored the game-winner. He’s one of the few real veteran players they have with a lot of experience. Jarred O’Connell is a jack-of-all-trades. He plays all around – he can play receiver, he can play running back. He had some big plays. Those guys really stand out.
“I would be remiss not to point out with William Tennent – they have a really good playmaker in Eddie North. He had a good game in their opener, and he had over a hundred yards on 11 carries against Bensalem. He had a big touchdown run in the fourth quarter. What I saw in William Tennent was that new coaching staff is putting those guys in position to succeed. They’re there. Sometimes when you have a new coaching staff, they want to install all kinds of fancy things like a spread offense or a hurry-up. You’ve got to understand what you have and what you’re working with. With Tennent this year, the biggest difference is the coaches are putting them in positions they can succeed at. They’re not square peg-round hole. They’re tailoring around the players they’ve got, and I think that’s going to lead to success. I can’t tell you how many wins they’re going to get. I don’t know, but I see them being more competitive. There’s no reason, in my mind, to think there’s not a few more wins left, which is a positive sign for that program. Rich Clemens is trying to change the image down there. If he can, I think it’s great for that program. I’ve seen some pretty good Tennent teams in the past, but it’s been an awfully long time since any of us have seen that.
“Bensalem’s 2-0, and both of their games have been cardiac arrest bowls because they came right down to the wire. This week they play CB East at home, which is a really good test for them. I think East is a notch better than the teams they’ve played so far. This is a good test for Bensalem, so we’ll see how that goes. If CB East wins that game, I think they right the ship and they can be looking at a real nice season in the Continental Conference. If Bensalem wins, they’re 3-0, and that’s always a plus.
“I don’t know what the future holds for those teams, but it’s certainly a lot brighter, especially on Tennent’s end, than it has been in recent years. We’ll see how those teams play out.”
Jen Wielgus: “I had the pleasure of covering William Tennent at Bensalem, which is always a tough matchup, but the fact that it rained pretty steadily throughout the night made this one even more challenging for the teams. Tennent obviously came in with momentum after winning its first game in three years, and the Panthers got themselves a 19-15 lead heading into the final minute. Bensalem just has a knack for pulling out nailbiters, as evidenced in a big Week One comeback against Frankford, and they found a way again. Tennent definitely has some athletes and will be competitive; it's tough for anyone in the SOL Continental with North Penn looking as good as it does. Bensalem will have another really good test this week against CB East; I saw the East coaches out there Friday night scouting, so I know the Patriots will be ready.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: CB East picked up a win over Hatboro-Horsham. Todd, you covered that game as well. Your thoughts.
Todd Thorpe: “That game was just what the doctor ordered. CB East needed a game – and coach John Donnelly talked about this – where they established the line of scrimmage and pounded the ball because they did not think they did that very well against Quakertown in the opener, so they came out really determined to do that. It took them a little while to see the fruits of their labor. They fell behind, and it was a close game for a while. Jake Ventresca is a real tough little running back. He’s just a junior, and he’s been around for a couple of years now. He did a really good job with that north-south running. One of their linebackers, Drew Bethke, is very good too. He also plays tight end on offense, and at linebacker, you can tell he makes a big difference. They had a wide receiver who had a really good game – Anthony Giordano. He had four or five catches for 150 yards. I thought he played well.
“Hatboro-Horsham obviously is struggling. They’re not a big team, and their roster size is relatively small too, but Hatboro-Horsham has some real playmakers. Cameron Broaddus – whose brother Calvin played there a few years – is a real playmaker at the receiver position. They have a few running backs – Ismael Collazo and Amir Bookard – and they have some players. I think they’ll benefit from when they get into the American Conference.
“CB East won 29-14, and CB East just wore them out in the second half, and that was the difference. In Hatboro-Horsham’s own conference, you won’t see that happen as much. East is 1-1 and they go play Bensalem who is 2-0. It’s a very interesting week three game.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Any other games last weekend that you’d like to comment on?
Todd Thorpe: “La Salle was always a pretty good litmus test, and even some pretty good North Penn teams couldn’t get by La Salle. They come in, and North Penn took care of La Salle and they get another big win, 21-13. North Penn took control of the game in the second half and rolled from there. That’s a real positive sign. We talked about this last week, and one thing they’ve got – they’ve got multiple guys that can run the ball. Their quarterback, Solomon Robinson, had 89 yards rushing, Julian White had 77 yards, and RJ McNamara had 72. That’s a team that has multiple weapons that can beat you and athleticism in more than one place. That’s a trait that North Penn teams tend to have. I think North Penn is going to be in good shape. After this week against Pennsbury, is the path to 10-0 pretty open for them? You hate to put that kind of expectation on a bunch of high school kids after the second week in the season, but it’s true. Let’s face it – how many teams in the Continental Conference have any luck against North Penn? Maybe a Pennridge here or CB South there, but for the most part, those teams don’t beat North Penn. That’s the challenge they all face each year. North Penn looks awfully tough right now. That was a great win.
“Neshaminy had a bounce-back win against Pennridge. I think that’s exactly what Neshaminy needed. A good opponent on the road – let’s flex the muscles a little bit, let’s take care of business, and I think they did that in that game and took out Pennridge 27-14. Brody McAndrew, their quarterback, had a real nice bounce-back game. One of the things I liked when you looked at the numbers for that game – Zak Kantor tore apart Delaware Valley the week before, and Neshaminy’s secondary - which was the strength of their team last year and looks to be one of their strengths again this year – really shut down the Pennridge passing game. That, to me, is a good sign. I’ve said it before – it would not shock me if Neshaminy and North Penn were two of the four teams remaining in District I.”
Drew Markol: “North Penn has two really nice wins. They opened with a win over Neshaminy, and then they played La Salle, and La Salle has been their nemesis for a decade. La Salle was coming off a loss to Imotep, and there’s no shame in that. Imhotep is really, really good, and you wondered if La Salle would bounce back. North Penn came out again and beat them. Before the season, you could have looked at North Penn’s schedule and said, - okay, Neshaminy, La Salle and Pennsbury. They could be 0-3. Now you look and it and they could be 3-0. Then they play Pennridge next week. You’ve got to think if North Penn can beat Pennsbury this week, which I think they will, and then if they can beat Pennridge next week, they’re looking at an undefeated regular season. They’ve been at the top of the mountain for a long time, and they’re still there. They’re just getting it done.
“Good job by Council Rock South. They lose their quarterback Andrew Vera in week one early, and you’re thinking, ‘Oh lord, that’s big trouble,’ and normally, it would be, but then they bounce back against what I think is a decent CB West team and they beat them 10-7. That’s a great win for South against a pretty solid West team. West had the week one win over Hatboro-Horsham, and maybe they took South a little lightly. When you do that, things like last week happen. You come out listless and you end up losing the game. All the credit to Vince Bedesem and his kids at Council Rock South for doing what they did. You lose your starting quarterback on the first series of the first game. That could have been it – all right, we’re done, and you pack up everything and go home, but they didn’t do that. A big part of that is good coaching because Bedesem and his coaching staff had a big task ahead of them, saying, ‘Look, we’re not done.’ Convincing those kids they weren’t done can be hard to do, but they did. Well done.
“Give Bensalem credit for two comeback wins. On the high school level, that’s not easy to do. Teams fall behind, and a lot of times they end up falling behind more, but Bensalem did it two weeks in a row. You look at all the momentum William Tennent had after breaking their losing streak – they were in the lead against Bensalem, a team they played close last year. That’s nice work by Ed Cubbage, the coach at Bensalem, to have his kids believe. If you’re Bensalem, we’re not talking style points here. You’re just trying to win, any way you can win. Now you’re 2-0, so keep it going. You have to play CB East this week. On paper, you’re probably an underdog, but who knows? You win that one and now you’re 3-0 heading into conference play. If you beat East and you’re a Bensalem kid or coach, now you’re 3-0 and you’re thinking district playoffs. I know the coaches will tell the kids ‘one week at a time, we don’t look ahead,’ but it’s human nature to look ahead. Bensalem could set itself up pretty nicely if it beats East, which will not be easy, by the way.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Talk about players who stood tall in week two.
Jen Wielgus: “Well, if you saw my Game On feature on Tuesday, you know I've been particularly impressed with Quakertown running back Michael Terra. I think anyone who watches him enjoys how hard he runs -- except opponents, of course, because the Panthers are 2-0 and looking like a team that could potentially go undefeated. He's not a one-man show, by any means, but it's hard not to notice him.
“Bensalem's Jalen Smith was a workhorse in that Tennent win, and Owls quarterback Tyler Barry stood out as a very vocal leader, in addition to running the offense. Eddie North had a good game for Tennent. Looking around the league, I wasn't surprised to see that Neshaminy quarterback Brody McAndrew came up big against Pennridge; that guy is a big-time player. Council Rock South rebounded from a bad shutout loss in the first week to outlast CB West in OT, thanks to the legs of Chase Patterson and the LEG of kicker Adam Keylin. Should be interesting to see what happens this week against CB South, another team that has struggled to score.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Talk about this week’s games that you find intriguing.
Todd Thorpe: “CB South is playing Council Rock South. Council Rock South got the injury to quarterback Andrew Vera in week one, and they come back and gut out a win in week two against CB West. That impresses me because when you have a bad opener like that, it’s not always the easiest thing to come back. Not only do they come back, they do it in pretty dramatic fashion. CB South is pointless on the season – they haven’t scored a touchdown in their first two games. You know they’re looking to fix whatever is wrong there in a hurry to salvage their season. That’s a season saver for them. That’s an interesting game for them for that reason. South has been a pretty successful football team throughout the years. That game is very important.
“North Penn has got to be a heavy favorite against Pennsbury. Pennsbury has lost twice, and both games were close against pretty good teams. That could be a season saver for them. I talked about it on Game On. Pennsbury is not worried about the playoffs right now. They’re worried about winning a game, doing what it takes to win a game. They’ve lost 18 straight times to North Penn. Most times it’s an even matchup, and North Penn has found a way to win. This year they appear to be heavy underdogs.
“Quakertown plays CB West. I like Quakertown to win that game and really setting themselves up for the conference. It’s definitely going to be theirs to win, but that’s a good game because I think West will look to bounce back after a bad week last week. Last week was kind of a screwy week with the field conditions and the rain. It was a tough week for some of these football teams, and some of these scores were pretty low.
“Neshaminy does play at Downingtown West, and Downingtown West obviously had a big win last week over CB South. If Neshaminy wins that game, I think it’s fair to say they’re right where they want to be to start the league, but it’s never easy to win on the road like that this early in the year. That could be an intriguing game.”`
Drew Markol: “You look at Pennsbury and now you’re 0-2. You played a good Academy Park team, you played a good Penn Wood team. That’s what the coaches have to tell them - you played teams that were in their respective district tournaments, Academy Park in 5A and Penn Wood with a very good quarterback in 6A. You lost to two teams that are really good. Your kids don’t want to hear that, and now they have North Penn, which Pennsbury hasn’t beaten in forever, a 2-0 North Penn that’s really revving. It’s a tough spot for Pennsbury. You could well be 0-3, and you look at the National Conference – your archrival Neshaminy is pretty good and you remember what you did to them in the district playoffs last year, so you have to look at that and say – if we lose to North Penn and we lose to Neshaminy, that’s four losses. We can’t afford to lose to anybody else. You’ll probably be in districts, but you’ll be a very low seed, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. You’d rather not be in that spot. Pennsbury’s coaches just have to tell them, ‘Look, you lost to two good teams, you’re playing another good team this Friday. Keep at it because there are brighter skies ahead.’”
Jen Wielgus: “I want to say Pennsbury-North Penn, but when you see that the Knights have gotten the better of this matchup for 17 years, and Pennsbury is 0-2, it doesn't necessarily seem like a very good game. I'll keep an eye on how Pennsbury plays, because losing to North Penn isn't something teams this year can really be ashamed of, and the Falcons have had a tough nonleague schedule as it is.
“Quakertown got shut out by CB West last year - I was at that game - so that matchup intrigues me. After scoring just a touchdown against CB South, you can bet it won't be much easier to find the end zone against the Quakertown defense. CB East at Bensalem is a good one, as is CB South at CR South.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Jen, this is your final week with ‘Game On.’ Your thoughts as you step away.
Jen Wielgus: “I would like to thank the local sports community for embracing ‘Game On’ from Day One (which was the fall of 2013), and following us through all our growing pains over the past five years. This project started from scratch with a bunch of writers and reporters who had never done anything with a camera, or on camera, before, and it took us all a while to find our stride. But I know you always watched and appreciated our efforts. We have been on a pretty fun ride together, and I've been blessed to capture some amazing moments in a unique way with my video reports and feature stories. I can't think of a time when I reached out to a school or a coach and asked for either a place (indoors and outdoors) to shoot the show, or access to the team, and was refused or treated poorly. I don't want to list any people specifically who made an impact on me, because I don't want to leave anyone out.”