Intelligencer/Courier Times 'Let's Talk Football' (10-28-16)

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 ( sites. Check out the picks by our panel of experts:  Central Bucks South defeated Pennridge last week, and this week Pennridge travels to Central Bucks East for a key game. Your thoughts.

Kevin Cooney:  “Pennridge is making the tournament, but they could go 5-5 and lose to five of the top eight seeds in the conference. Look, I’ve been critical of what they did, but at some point, you’ve got to get over the – ‘Well, we played a really tough schedule, and look who we lost to.’ At some point, you have to win a game like that to make yourself a factor. I think that is where the East game is for Pennridge.

“Meanwhile, I think there’s a lot in play here for East. This game was real emotional last year when they beat Pennridge, and they have to know that Pennridge is coming for them, that Pennridge is really going to empty the barrel because of what happened last year. That being said, I kind of have more faith that East will find a way than I do in Pennridge right now. Pennridge has that look of a team that can play to a certain point, but then something gets them. Fairly or not, this is just what I think they are. Do I think they’re a playoff team on talent? Absolutely. Do I think that talent-wise they’re a top eight team? Probably not because you lose games like they have – even to the better teams, at a certain point, a mentality kicks in where near-miss is enough, and I think that’s a bad, bad sign for this team moving forward.

“Central Bucks South needed that win on Friday. They looked like they had come back to earth, not just the two losses to North Penn and Neshaminy. They struggled against West, and it was – okay, here we go, but they put it together really nicely last week. They’re not good enough to beat North Penn or Neshaminy or Coatesville, but they’re good enough to win a game or two in this tournament. I’m not putting Perk Valley in that group. You give me North Penn, Neshaminy and Coatesville, and I’ll give you the other 13 teams that get in the tournament. One of those three will win the district title. I just don’t think Perk Valley plays the type of schedule that gets you ready for November and going to North Penn and going to Neshaminy. I just don’t.

“Perk Valley could be a perfect argument for – you take the 16 teams that are in and then you reseed them. They’re going to get a really high seed, but if I’m seeding the tournament, am I putting them ahead of Coatesville? No. Am I putting them ahead of Neshaminy? No. Am I putting them ahead of North Penn? Absolutely not. I might even make the argument I would put them behind Ridley.

“Let’s say Souderton or Abington is the 14 seed. I give them a chance against Perk Valley just because of the level of competition. Do I think it’s likely they’ll win? No, but of the top seeds, Perk Valley would be the one in the first round that I would say could get knocked off.”

Drew Markol:  “We talked last week – for Pennridge to solidify a spot in the playoffs, they needed to win at least one of the two games, and if they could win both of them, they would climb that much higher up the seedings. Obviously, that didn’t happen for Pennridge, and now they put themselves in spot where they have to go to East and beat a 7-2 East team that beat them last year in overtime at Pennridge. If they lose, I believe they’re still in the playoffs, according to Kyle Berger, whose word is pretty much gospel. The problem is if they lose to East, most likely they drop to the 16th seed, which means a likely first round game against North Penn, which they don’t want. If they beat East, maybe they get into that 11th or 12th spot. You want to try to avoid being 16th, 15th or 14th because that gives you North Penn, Neshaminy of Perk Valley, teams they’ve already lost to.

“Pennridge has made life more difficult for itself, but you have to give a lot of that credit to CB South for making that happen. I thought – and we talked about this before – after South lost in back-to-back weeks to North Penn and Neshaminy, they were a little shell-shocked. They played okay against CB West the week before the Pennridge game, but against Pennridge, South did it without its starting quarterback. Jack Johns is out with a couple of injuries, and Sam Thompson steps in and throws three touchdowns and runs for 111 yards. To be able to lose your starter and put in somebody else who handles it that well – I’ve been saying this all season – I think this is a pretty good Pennridge team. I’m still on the Pennridge bandwagon. I picked them to beat East this week. I’ll tell you what – there are not many of us left on the bandwagon. There’s plenty of room – I can stretch out now and relax because there’s so few people.

“In a close game with Neshaminy, Pennridge led and they allowed two late touchdowns. They had the game last week with South, and they scored first, but you have to learn to put teams away. When you come to the playoffs, most teams are pretty good, so you have to be able to put good teams away, and they’ve shown they haven’t been able to do it. If I’m Pennridge, I worry about the secondary and teams being able to throw on them. They haven’t shown the ability when they’re up two touchdowns to get that third touchdown and ice the game, and that’s what you need to be able to do. You look at North Penn – they put teams away, and they make sure there’s no question about what the outcome is going to be. It’s a shame – Ryan Cuthbert is so good, but he never gets the ball. They threw him one pass last week. He beat three defenders in a little tiny space and made just a tremendous play, and they never threw the ball to him again.

“East is good, but if East loses to Pennridge, they’ll be 7-3 and still get a pretty good seed, not the one they want, so I think the game means more to Pennridge, but again, if you’re East, you don’t want to run the risk of falling too far down in the seeds and having a very difficult first round game.”

Jen Wielgus:  “I think the win over Pennridge really bodes well for CB South going into the playoffs. They’re going to be a high seed, and they’re going to have expectations on them. They have sort of struggled offensively even with their quarterback, Jack Johns. Their backup, Sam Thompson, has seen time before and even split time with Johns at the beginning of the season. For him to step up and play well against Pennridge, which is another playoff team, really bodes well for them. Now they know whoever they have to go to – and I’m not privy to whether Johns is 100 percent – they’ll be all right for the playoffs. We always knew they had a good defense.

“Pennridge is going to East on Saturday, and other than teams that are going to try to make the playoffs this year, that is the big game because I stood on the field last year on CB East’s Senior Day. When they announced for the seniors what the highlight of their career was at East, almost to a man they said beating Pennridge in overtime that season, so in 2015 when they beat Pennridge in overtime, that was the highlight of those kids’ careers. I know it was the lowlight of the Pennridge seniors’ careers because it pretty much prevented them from making the playoffs. They were the last team out last year, which was pretty devastating for them and a big sticking point coming into this year.

“This game is huge for both teams. Pennridge just lost to CB South, and they’re not going to have a home game in the playoffs no matter what, so for them to go into the playoffs with consecutive losses and then have to go on the road for an opening round game, that’s a bad spot. It’s a bad spot to play on the road anyway when you look at who they’re probably going to face. To lose to East for a second year, that’s a big punch in the gut, and there’s no guarantee they’re going to win this. No guarantee at all. It could go either way.

“East is playing for a home game in the playoffs. They’re 7-2, so they could finish 8-2. Having talked to Kyle Berger and his prognostication, this game is the difference between a home game and a road game for them. Last year was East’s first playoff experience since 2005, and how big would it be for East to make the playoffs two consecutive years and have home games two consecutive years since they got that new stadium.

“Neither one of those had a chance for a league title, but this is as big a game as you’ll find in the regular season.”  Bensalem came back to defeat Council Rock North and has a shot at making the district playoffs. Your comments.

Drew Markol:  “The game against Council Rock North was the first game all season that they’ve trailed at the half. They’ve been leading in all of them. They were trailing at the half of this one, and they came back and won. That’s another sign of an improved team – they’re able to make adjustments at the half and go out and win.

“As a group, they must be sky high with what they’ve been able to do and all the excitement that’s surrounding the program. For all these years, they were just not competitive, they were just an afterthought. That’s no longer the case. Now you say – you’re starting to build this foundation. Can they build on it? Was this a blip or are they going to keep improving? They’ve had some talented kids who would end up going to Archbishop Wood or other places. You need to be able to keep those kids in your program. You can’t lose them, and the way you do that is by winning.

“This trickles down to all levels. When a team does well, the youth leagues see it, and it just builds enthusiasm. This is just a great story that I never, ever saw coming.

“We talk every week of the football season, and usually by week two or three, we’re not talking about Bensalem. Now it’s Halloween, so good for them. I wonder who applied for that job when Cubbage got it. It was a very short list, I’m sure. The perception was - it’s hopeless. What Ed Cubbage has done – good for him.”

Kevin Cooney:  “Bensalem getting into districts would be the ultimate surprise. They’ve had so much going on, right down to their quarterback (Drasaun Moore) getting hurt, and you’re thinking – all right, they’re done, they’re toast. Here they are – if they beat Truman, Kyle Berger has them in, barring Pennsbury beating Neshaminy. There could be a couple of things happen behind them that could roll ahead of them.

“We talk about the great player in Koby Khan and the job he’s done at Souderton. You have the great coaching job with Ed Cubbage in getting that program turned around. Cubbage has been in that same spot before with Truman where they needed that last week win to get in, and they weren’t able to do it.”

Jen Wielgus:  “I thought Bensalem was out of the playoff picture. I didn’t think they’d have this chance. Ed Cubbage is going against his former team, and they’re not the same team they would be if they had Jorden Freeman healthy. You have to consider Bensalem the overwhelming favorite, but they only sneaked past Council Rock North without their quarterback, Drasaun Moore, who has a broken collarbone.

“If what Kyle Berger said is true and Bensalem is going to sneak into the playoffs - let’s be real – if they get in the playoffs, they’re going to get their butts kicked in the first round by either North Penn or Neshaminy. They’re going to have a one-and-done situation, but it’s still a big deal, and that would mean there were three teams from the SOL National, which has been down this year. I don’t know what it says, but good for those programs. Good for Kevin Conlin in his first year getting Abington back to the playoffs. That’s a big deal.”  Souderton needs to beat Central Bucks West to get into the playoffs. Your comments.

Drew Markol:  “I put something in the newspaper that West and North Penn were both two wins shy of 600. Two games later, North Penn was no longer shy of 600. I don’t know if I jinxed West, but they’re still two games short, and they have one game left, so obviously, it isn’t happening this year.

“For Souderton, they’ve beaten Plymouth Whitemarsh, and that has helped them. If they beat West this week – who knows the way the seeds fall. They might get Plymouth Whitemarsh again, which would be interesting. Souderton’s running back, Koby Khan, is one of the best running backs they’ve had in a long time. They ask a ton out of him and everybody knows it, but he’s still delivering, which is a sign of a very good player.

“West hasn’t quit. They lost 14-7 to a CB South team that will probably be the fourth or fifth seed in the district tournament. Their offense has a hard time putting up points, and their defense – which has been pretty good – just seems to be on the field a lot. It’s hard when you have some two-way players, and I think that’s what has hurt West because offensively they haven’t been able to do much. They can’t get in a shootout because they can’t score that many points. They have to win games 14-7 or 10-7, and it’s hard to ask your defense that’s out there so long to keep stopping teams and keep stopping teams. It’s very difficult.

“Would I be shocked if West beat Souderton on Friday? No. Do I think it will? No. I think Ed Gallagher’s team is going to get back in the playoffs, and Koby Khan is just a little too much for West.”

Kevin Cooney:  “I think Souderton gets in. For as tough as West has played, West has lost five of its last six games. Souderton has everything to play for. Let’s be honest, in the past, Souderton has gone into this same situation and struggled. To me the two most fascinating games of the weekend are Souderton/CB West and Bensalem/Truman because both of those schools are in the same spot. Souderton has had a drought of four years or so since it’s been in the tournament, and I think if they get in it’s a real surprise. They’re riding a great player in Koby Khan.

“So those are the fascinating games. This is not a normal week 10. A normal week 10 you’re going – all right, it’s Neshaminy/Pennsbury. Pennsbury has a shot to win and get in the playoffs, but you’ve got to think with everything going on that it’s highly unlikely. This used to be rivalry weekend, but it doesn’t quite have the same feel to it this year.”

Jen Wielgus:  “Souderton – who knew what to make of them? They were up and down and up and down. They beat the teams they were supposed to beat, and the one game they really hung tough was the game against CB South when they lost 7-0.

“That Koby Khan kid is quietly having a really great season. You have to consider them the favorite against West, which is a good little team, but I don’t think they have enough offense. It could be close.

“Souderton has its destiny in its own hands, and I think they’ll pull it out.” Pennsbury is travelling to Neshaminy as a decided underdog. Your thoughts.

Drew Markol:  “That’s always a very good rivalry. I think Pennsbury leads the all-time series 35-27 with a couple of ties in there, but the fact that they lost to Abington last week took away their chance of getting in the playoffs. That hurts them, and it’s not like they can play a spoiler against Neshaminy because even if they win – okay, Neshaminy goes from a second seed to a fifth seed.

“There is an intense rivalry, but there’s not much juice to the game. The conference is decided, the district seedings are decided. You could ruin Neshaminy’s undefeated season, which would be something. Neshaminy came out last week against Council Rock South and scored every time they had the ball in the first half. Pennsbury is going to have a hard time dealing with a Neshaminy offense that does a lot of things. If you have variety on offense in high school football, which they do, it’s very hard to stop.” Any thoughts about the American Conference teams this week?

Drew Markol:  “Upper Moreland is going to make the playoffs in 5A. If you look at the power points, they’re 13th, but the teams beneath them only have three wins. Even if they lose to Upper Dublin this week, they’re not going to drop below all those three-win teams.”

Jen Wielgus: “In 5A, Upper Moreland is making the playoffs, and that’s good because they’ve scratched and clawed all season. They had to play some good teams in their conference. They’re playing one this week in Upper Dublin, and looking at the power rankings, they could play Upper Dublin again in the playoffs because I don’t think they’ll move much. They’ll probably be a 14th seed.”  North Penn is travelling to Abington. Your thoughts.

Kevin Coooney:  “Abington has played its way into the tournament. Really, it’s just a matter now of where they will fall if you believe Kyle Berger’s rankings, which you should because Kyle is always right.

“If you’re North Penn, you’re playing for a number one seed and an undefeated regular season, and to be honest, after that, you’re playing to get this game out of the way. You want to make sure you get through it healthy, that you’re sharp, and you can move on to the real season. It’s interesting only because Abington is in the playoffs because of its win over Pennsbury, but I don’t think this is a good matchup for the Ghosts.”