To include your favorite SOL alum in our regular updates, simply send the links directly to SuburbanOneSports@comcast.net, or ask the college to submit the news release directly to the web site at the above e-mail address.
SuburbanOneSports.com has implemented a subscription service for ‘premium’ articles to help supplement the increasing costs of operating the site. Premium articles include labor-intensive items such as Alumni Updates, notebooks and expanded game wraps. These articles will be available only to subscribers after the initial 24 hours they are posted on the site. Please consider supporting the web site by purchasing a one-year subscription at the following link: http://www.suburbanonesports.com/subscribe. Thanks for your continued support.
SuburbanOneSports.com: Earlier in the season, Kevin mentioned that he thought this was a down year for the SOL. Are you surprised that it’s an All-SOL District One Quad-A semifinal this weekend?
Kevin Cooney: “I’ll admit I’ve been wrong on this, especially with the National Conference. I think everybody thought Upper Dublin would be okay, but they wondered about whether they played a tough enough schedule. For people who doubt Upper Dublin – like me to a certain degree, you wonder if that schedule will catch up with them at some point. We’ll find out this week if it does or not.
“In the National Conference, Neshaminy had a first-year coach. They had talent, but you wondered if it was going to mesh in time to have a long run. North Penn was good, but there were questions about their line coming in. That’s pretty much settled. You look at Pennsbury – they lost Charles Snorweah, but everyone thought they were probably the best of the bunch coming in, but there were questions there.
“Part of the perception back then was – ‘Wow, all these teams have all these questions.’ As time has gone on, these questions have been filled in. Do I think it’s the old Suburban One League from 2003-2004? No, you’d be foolish to think it’s Pennsbury, Neshaminy, North Penn in their prime, but it turned out to be pretty good, and I think that’s where you give a lot of credit to the four coaches involved – Bret Stover, Steve Wilmot, Dick Beck and Galen Snyder – that they’ve managed to block out the noise.
“In three of those cases, playing tough non-league schedules really helped. I think you’re seeing the benefits of not playing the ‘cupcake of the week’ club. You’re seeing the benefits at this time of year of playing tough non-league games – of Neshaminy playing Downingtown West, of North Penn playing Downingtown East and La Salle earlier, of Pennsbury playing La Salle, Council Rock North and Council Rock South.
“Add it all together, and I think that’s why you’re seeing an All-SOL semifinal as opposed to what a lot of us thought at the beginning of the year. And the events of last weekend with La Salle beating Prep – in the big picture, is La Salle the favorite? Absolutely, but are they more beatable than what you would perceive St. Joe’s Prep to have been? Yes, and I think it opens the door for whoever comes out of District One to maybe have a shot in that game.”
Drew Markol: “My esteemed colleague Mr. Cooney is usually the voice of doom. I love Kevin dearly, but as far as Kevin goes, the sky has long been falling. I’m not surprised. Last Friday I wrote that regardless of the way the seedings were that you were going to likely have an all-SOL semifinal, which we do. When you look at it, you have a nine seed, North Penn, hosting a 13 seed, Neshaminy, and a three seed in Upper Dublin – who has proved its mettle – hosting a 15 seed in Pennsbury. I have been one who has always said the district field is too big and that it should be cut in half, but if you had cut it in half this year, three of those four semifinalists would not be in the field, so that really hurts my argument about trimming the district field down.
“Just about half of the Quad-A schools in District One are in the SOL, so it makes mathematical sense that two of the semifinalists were SOL teams, but to have all four – they’re all good teams. I do wonder a bit about Upper Dublin. They play in the SOL American and weren’t tested as much, but they’ve gotten here and made it look pretty easy, so they’re legit too.
“I think they’re the four best teams regardless of seed. Ultimately, that’s what you want, and that’s what we have.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Pennsbury defeated Perk Valley in a district quarterfinal game and Upper Dublin manhandled Upper Darby, setting up a rematch of last year’s district semifinal. Your thoughts?
Drew Markol: “Upper Darby has a good offense, but Upper Dublin has a pretty good defense, and Upper Darby found out it’s pretty hard to match Upper Dublin score for score because the next thing you know it gets away from you.
“For Perk Valley, they had a good season, but when you’re playing a Pennsbury team, you’re stepping up in class. Unless you’re used to playing that kind of team, which will just pound you and pound you – they make no bones about it. They’re big up front. I doubt Perk Valley has seen a team as big as Pennsbury unless they saw Alabama or Ohio State. It’s hard to adapt to that very quickly because the size difference is that enormous.
“What helps Upper Dublin heading into this week’s game is the fact that they played Pennsbury last year in this same spot – in the semifinal – and it was at Pennsbury. They were in that game all the way. That Pennsbury team was a more explosive team – it had Charles Snorweah, and this team doesn’t. If Upper Dublin gets ahead of you – their defense doesn’t get much mention, but that’s a pretty good defensive team too, and watching Pennsbury a couple of times this season – like any high school team, they have a heck of a time defending the pass. Now all of a sudden they have one week of practice to get ready for a really good passing attack, and that’s hard to do.
“If it sounds like I’m leaning towards Upper Dublin, that’s because I am because of the experience they gained last year and the fact that they realized they could play with them, and how many players were on that Upper Dublin team that are now back? This is their chance, and if they want to crack through and join the ranks of the elite, you go out and beat Pennsbury this weekend.”
Kevin Cooney: “Logic would tell you that this is maybe a style problem for Pennsbury – you have the high-flying Ryan Stover-led offense against a team that never practices against the pass because they don’t pass the ball, but there’s something about Pennsbury I can’t put my finger on. It’s not an upset that they beat Perkiomen Valley – it’s just not, but the way they beat Downingtown West – if you’re Pennsbury, it just seems like the cards are lining up to get to the final. You took out Downingtown West on the road on a Saturday night, and then you go and beat Perkiomen Valley. It wasn’t bells and whistles, but it was pretty substantial. Now you go against Upper Dublin. It’s a rematch, and Upper Dublin is going to be fired up.
“You also know the familiarity is there too from the Pennsbury side. You’ve seen this – it’s the same players, it’s the same group you’re seeing from last year but a little better. I root for the storyline, and I kind of think that the storyline is of Pennsbury trying to defend the district title out of the 15 spot and the father-son angle on both sides. I just think Pennsbury is going to come out early, and they’re going to try and jam the Upper Dublin wide receivers at the line. They’re going to force Stover to tuck it and run, and they’re going to try to pound him, or they’re going to try to make him throw into coverage and they’re going to pick him off. They won’t make life easy for Stover.
“The question is can Stover react and what happens when Upper Dublin gets punched in the mouth? If they get punched in the mouth and respond, they’ll quiet the doubts of everybody who has been a critic – and I guess I’m at the front of the parade here. If they put 21 in the board in the first half on Friday night, all of us who have talked about Upper Dublin will have to shut up. I just get this sense that this works okay for Pennsbury where they’re at.
“The best district final would be Upper Dublin-North Penn, but the best storyline is North Penn-Pennsbury. It just is.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: North Penn traveled to Downingtown East for a game that was billed by many as the district final. Your thoughts about the Knights’ performance in that game.
Drew Markol: “North Penn lost to Downingtown East all those weeks ago 28-24, so it wasn’t like they were blown out. Now they get another crack at them – which if you’re a North Penn kid, you’re like ‘Wow, we get a shot at redemption here.’ You give Dick Beck a second chance against a team, and the odds are pretty good he’s going to figure it out and do something to stop you. He’s been doing that for how many years, and he went and did it again.
“Some had said that was the de facto district title game, but I disagree. I think North Penn-Upper Dublin are actually the two best teams.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Neshaminy traveled to Quakertown and came up with another big road win. Your thoughts.
Drew Markol: “Neshaminy gets the opening kick, goes right down the field – six, seven, eight yards a pop, and you’re thinking they’re going to overmatch Quakertown, and then they throw an interception. Quakertown goes and scores. Quakertown kicks off, it hits the up man for Neshaminy. Quakertown gets the ball and goes and scores again, and before you know it, what you thought was going to be 14-0 Neshaminy is 14-0 Quakertown.
“To their credit, Neshaminy didn’t panic. Quakertown had those touchdowns by midway through the first quarter, so there was plenty of game left. Neshaminy has an explosive player like Denzel Hughes – besides Brandon McIlwain from Council Rock North, I’m not sure Quakertown has seen a player like that. Boom – he returns a punt for a touchdown, and then he catches a bomb, and all of a sudden, it’s 14-14. Then in the second half, Neshaminy kept the ball away from Quakertown and was able to pound it. Quakertown was forced to throw, and Jack Spingler from Neshaminy had three nice interceptions of Tom Garlick. He also had a fumble recovery that killed another Quakertown drive.
“For Quakertown to get to the second round of the district playoffs in back-to-back years is a very nice accomplishment. I had a couple of Neshaminy coaches coming up to me after the game singing the praises of Quakertown and how good that team was. It wasn’t for the newspaper – it was just coaches talking, and that doesn’t always happen. For them to say that shows you are one of the elite teams in the district because they’re saying ‘we got everything we wanted from Quakertown.’
“Now it will be interesting to see how Quakertown bounces back because Pennridge doesn’t get into districts because of a technicality that didn’t even involve them. They lost to Quakertown twice last year – do you think they want to play on Thursday?
“George Banas, the Quakertown coach said, ‘Maybe the best thing for us is we have a quick turnaround. We can forget about this and get ready for Pennridge,’ and that’s what they have to do.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: North Penn, coming off its big win over Downingtown East, will host Neshaminy. Your comments.
Kevin Cooney: “That North Penn-Downingtown East game was not as close as that score indicated. That was the most lopsided 27-14 game. You look at the analytics – yards per play, yards from scrimmage, and you saw how dominant it was for North Penn. North Penn has hit their stride. In this nine-game stretch North Penn has been on, however, one team has made them sweat, really sweat, and that was Neshaminy.
“Did Neshaminy’s style of play and the way that game was officiated – it was kind of mucky, it was kind of off key – was that the reason? Or was this a style matchup? We’ll find out. I know we said North Penn-Downingtown East was the unofficial district title game, but you’ve got to feel that the winner of this game has put themselves in a really good spot. If it’s Neshaminy – Neshaminy has won all these games on the road to get to this point to move forward. I don’t think they would be intimidated going to Upper Dublin or hosting Pennsbury, but in the end, I think North Penn just has too much. I think North Penn’s talent and North Penn’s versatility – they can run different backs, and it’s going to be interesting to see how Nick Isabella is this week after hurting his ankle or foot, but you saw Nyfease West get going against Downingtown East.
“You take all of this, and to me, this is North Penn’s district to lose because they have the best coach, they probably have the deepest amount of talent. Upper Dublin is good in that front line, but I think that when you combine the coaching acumen of Beck and the amount of talent and how deep it is beyond the surface and just the confidence of ‘been there, done that,’ this looks like North Penn’s district.”
Drew Markol: “The last time these two teams played it was poorly officiated. North Penn and Neshaminy are obviously two good teams, and a part of being a good team is you don’t get penalized a lot. In that game, both teams were hit with penalty after penalty. I was on the North Penn sideline, and I’ve never seen Dick Beck so upset with the officials. Like any coach, sure, he gets upset with officials, but a lot of it was justified. I rarely will rail on officials, but that one just got away. Now you’re looking at a district semifinal, and hopefully, you’ve got a better crew, and things are controlled early.
“One thing Neshaminy was able to do, which sort of surprised me, was they had success on the ground against North Penn in the first game. A lot of teams try to pound it against North Penn, and they can’t, but Neshaminy was able to run the ball. Their quarterback, Mason Jones, has two good receivers in Denzel Hughes and Zach Tredway – I’m thinking Neshaminy is going to open up the playbook, which they didn’t do against Quakertown. It was very basic stuff against Quakertown. They didn’t want to show anything to their next opponent. Now you’re an underdog, and you’ve got to open up a little bit.
“With North Penn, to take apart the number one seed at home is just impressive. We always wonder when the season starts and North Penn is 1-2, but then they turn it around, and come Thanksgiving, they always seem to be around. That’s what good programs do.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Upper Moreland will face Academy Park in the District One AAA final at Plymouth Whitemarsh. Your thoughts about that game.
Drew Markol: “With Upper Moreland, they got off to that good start and then they lose to Hatboro-Horsham, and you think, ‘Boy, what happened here?’ They came back and beat PW, who almost beat Downingtown East in the opening round of the Quad-A districts. They’ve done a good job. They fell behind Marple-Newtown in the Class AAA semifinals last week, and they bounced back. Rodney Morgan has been running the ball really well.
“In Academy Park, you’ve got an undefeated team – I know they beat a decent Lansdale Catholic team, but you wonder about their competition level a little bit. For Upper Moreland, you’re in the district title game. It’s cost you the Thanksgiving Game – you’re not playing Hatboro-Horsham, and I’m sure after losing to Hatboro they’d like to play Hatboro, but that had to be cancelled. I would almost call this one a toss-up. I know Academy Park is undefeated, but I think Upper Moreland is a little better than we think.”