Back for its 10th season, the popular Intelligencer/Bucks County Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football’ features football beat writers Drew Markol and Todd Thorpe. To stay on top of the high school football news in the area, visit the Intelligencer (https://www.theintell.com/sports/high-school/) and Courier Times (https://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/sports/high-school) web sites.
SuburbanOneSports.com: Pennsbury was edged by Penn Wood 38-35 in a wild game. Todd, you covered the game. Your thoughts?
Todd Thorpe: “There were a lot of penalties. It’s easy to point to the end of the game and say, ‘If this would have happened, Pennsbury would have won,’ but really, they dominated the first half in terms of time of possession. I thought they did a really good job of containing and hitting the talented Penn Wood quarterback Desman Johnson in the first half. They got a lot of pressure on him in the first half and kept him under wraps. Really, Penn Wood hit two big plays – one was a running play and the other was a kick-off return. To trail at halftime by one, it had to be really shocking.
“In the second half, I thought Desman Johnson got it going a little bit. To Pennsbury’s credit, they never stopped moving the ball. They moved the ball the whole game. Whether it was running in the first half or throwing in the second half, they did a very good job of moving the ball, and they had two possessions in the last four minutes to win the game. They had a couple of interceptions – the second one was a little bit of desperation but the first one they were moving down the field and you really liked their chances.
“I think they’re just a little snakebit right now starting the season. They got their offense going this game, but their defense wasn’t as good. In week one, their defense was pretty good and their offense wasn’t that good. This week they welcome North Penn to Pennsbury. I think it’s been the Roaring 20s since they beat North Penn in a football game. It’s a tough matchup. To their credit, Pennsbury is not slacking off on their schedule. They’re not saying, ‘Oh my god, we’ve got to get these wins.’ No disrespect to anybody else who’s scheduling some of the teams they’re scheduling, but 0-2 compared to 2-0 at this time of year when it comes to most of the teams – it’s really not that big of a deal because they’ve scheduled strong. North Penn has scheduled strong. Neshaminy has scheduled strong. The teams that scheduled strong are going to be better at the end of the year. That’s what Pennsbury has to hope for – that they just continue to get better. They did the same thing last year and rebounded. I think they’re as good a team this year as they were last year. I think they should be a little better actually. They’ve got good weapons on this team. It’s just finding a way to get that first win. We’ll see how they do against North Penn. That’s a tough task though.
“We’re at a point now where it’s almost like college football. I’m all for strong scheduling, but you have to schedule a donkey in there too so you can get that win early in the year. I’m not worried about their records. Everybody is going to get concerned. I don’t think Pennsbury is down. I think they’ll be in the playoffs. I think the two playoff teams in that conference are Neshaminy and Pennsbury.”
SuburbanOneSports: Truman had a rough outing against Spring-Ford in a 58-19 loss. Your comments.
Todd Thorpe: “You looked at Truman and said they had some pretty good talent coming back. They lost a lot of talent, but you have to wonder on the defensive side of the ball what’s going on there. They gave up 41 points in the second half of that game. It’s a matter of they just completely came unglued in the second half. I wasn’t at the game. I see that they ran three different quarterbacks out there. TJ Rogers had 43 yards rushing, so they didn’t really establish the run. It doesn’t really look like they ran a lot of offensive plays – they had three interceptions. It just wasn’t a very crisp game obviously offensively or defensively.
“You looked at Spring-Ford going into the year and that’s not a bad game to schedule because Spring-Ford is usually pretty good, but Spring-Ford coming off a loss (to Central Bucks South) seemed to be playing with a little more purpose. When you consider Spring-Ford outrushed Truman 214 to 51 – the average rushing yard for Truman was 1.5 a carry. It’s almost hard to imagine that it was that lopsided. You look at it – it is a non-league game, they didn’t play well. Truman is going to have an interesting situation – they play Academy Park, and Academy Park is a team that shut out Pennsbury.
“I like Truman bouncing back this week. I’m not 100 percent sure they win, but I think they play a much better game this week. You have to wonder – after week one, you thought, ‘Truman has a new system, but they’ve still got the good players.’ They handled Olney Charter, but this was an eyeopener. You have to question – are they really good this year? Could they be a team to contend for the league title and a spot in districts? You really have to be skeptical a little bit more about that. If they can find a way to win this game, I think they’ll be back on track. They do have Neshaminy coming up in a couple of weeks and Pennsbury a couple of weeks after that, but this is a turning point week for them. Where do they stand as a football team? They have to bounce back. That was the one game you looked at when Friday night was over and scratched you head and said, ‘What happened there?’ Maybe Spring-Ford is a little better than they showed against week one. CB South lost to Downingtown West, but I think a lot of teams are going to lose to Downingtown West this year. That is a puzzling one.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Neshaminy bounced back from its loss to North Penn to defeat Pennridge. Your comments.
Todd Thorpe: “Neshaminy needed to win, and they needed a good defensive game. It’s a very young defense. They didn’t return a single player on defense, and they needed a bounce-back game, and they got it. It might not have been pretty, they might not have put up 50 points, but they won the game and they moved on. That’s the key.
“They play Downingtown West this week. The good news is Neshaminy is at home. The bad news is that they’re playing Downingtown West, and they got their clocks cleaned by them last year. If Neshaminy finds a way to beat Downingtown West this week, then we turn around and say ‘Maybe Neshaminy is the really good team to come out of that conference.’ Again, that’s no easy task. Downingtown West really pulled away from Central Bucks South last week in the second half.
“Quarterback Josh Consoletti went out with an injury in that game. That (Sean) Smith kid is really good. If they lose Consoletti for any period of time the good feel that came out of week one for South has to be a little bit questionable right now.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: North Penn lost to La Salle 42-6. Your thoughts?
Todd Thorpe: “It’s an eyeopener in the sense that you don’t expect North Penn to lose that badly. You expect North Penn at home against La Salle to be a really competitive game. To lose that way is eyeopening, but apparently sophomore Samuel Brown from La Salle is a good little player (Brown is 6-3). Their quarterback Jack Machita had a big game, and North Penn just didn’t have the same night they did week one. I don’t know – they’re still going to be North Penn, they’re still going to be good. That was kind of a puzzling game because you don’t really expect that. I’m not going to read too much into it. La Salle has St. Joe’s Prep coming up, so we’ll see where they stand. They could end up being one of those teams that is a top five or 10 team in the state if they’re this good. People are putting them up there with St. Joe’s Prep, and that’s a top team.
“For North Penn – it’s one game. If North Penn goes 9-1 and this is their one loss, I don’t think anyone is going to be too concerned about it. To be honest, I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t expect them to be a 9-1 or 8-2 type of team. I don’t know who’s beating them the rest of the way. Pennsbury may be their best challenge the rest of the way and certainly Souderton looks pretty good. This is the toughest game North Penn will play, and for their sake, hopefully, it was just a bad night and they’ll move on.”
Drew Markol: “You look at the North Penn/La Salle game, and it was a shock. North Penn put up 55 points on Neshaminy. Then you see Neshaminy goes and beats Pennridge, but then La Salle mercy rules North Penn. It’s the first time they’ve been mercy ruled in five years. In September of 2014, they were mercy ruled by Archbishop Wood. Can you make a connection between why Wood and La Salle would mercy rule a public school power? You can. They bring in players from all over the place, and that never hurts. La Salle lost to North Penn last year, and North Penn looked like they were rolling after week one, but you never know. North Penn is a little different because they’ve always been so good and then you see them lay it on Neshaminy and you’re thinking, ‘Okay, this is another North Penn juggernaut,’ which it may well be. They’re not a bad team at all. They’re a good team, a very good team, and I still wouldn’t be shocked if they went to the district final. North Penn isn’t going to be hurt by that loss. Can North Penn come back? They play Pennsbury this week.
“We talked in the preseason that Pennsbury – after a bit of a down year last year for them –would be pretty good a pretty good team with a lot of guys coming back. Well, now they’re 0-2, and they haven’t beaten North Penn – how many in a row is it? Sixteen straight times? Is Pennsbury staring at 0-3? Maybe. If you’re 0-3, you better go 6-1 the rest of the way to have a shot at making the playoffs, and it would really help you to go 7-0. If you’re Pennsbury, that means you have to beat Neshaminy, you have to beat Truman.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Quakertown fell to Souderton after leading most of the way. Your comments.
Drew Markol: “You look at a team like Quakertown. They’re off to an 0-2 start, but they played Souderton tough, very tough. Quakertown’s leading a Souderton team we’re expecting big things out of, and they’re up 10-7 on them heading into the fourth quarter, but Souderton scores 17 fourth quarter points to win. Regardless if it’s 24-10 or 24-23, a loss is a loss. So now Quakertown is 0-2, and they have to go to CB West who’s a surprising 2-0. Are they potentially staring at 0-3? They’re a team that went to districts last year, won a first round district playoff game. I like to give it three weeks to get a much better picture, but you do see some trends, and you wonder where these teams are going.
“Souderton is 2-0, and they play Hatboro-Horsham who is 0-2. Mark Schmidt is looking for his first win. It’s going to be tough. You could see Souderton winning that game and they’re 3-0.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: What are some observations heading into week three?
Drew Markol: “In the National Conference, Neshaminy had a nice win. They bounced back against Pennridge with a 21-7 win. You have Pennsbury 0-2. They need to get a win. Truman loses to Spring-Ford, a perennial playoff team, who got beat up pretty badly by Central Bucks South the week before, so where is Truman? We don’t know. I’m not going to call that a bad loss for Truman. I’m glad they’re playing them. That’s good for them. Truman has to play an Academy Park team this week that is always a strong team in 5A. Again, I like their preseason schedule, but you’d like to get some wins too.
“You have Pennridge playing Perkiomen Valley. Pennridge is 1-1, and they need a win. We’re not seeing dominating teams. Maybe in the American Conference Upper Dublin is again that team. Cheltenham is 2-0 and making things interesting in the American Conference. With Quakertown 0-2, that’s a team you’d think would be right in the thick of that race, and maybe they still will be once they get into conference play. Time will tell. We talked in the preseason about the big three in that conference – Upper Dublin, of course, Cheltenham, which had a good season last year, and Quakertown was in the conversation. I don’t think Quakertown is a bad team. They got worn down a little bit against Souderton. Their sophomore quarterback, a kid named Will Steich – he looks like he’s going to take over because he looks like he can play. They’re using Tyler Merwarth, the junior, out of necessity. Last week against Souderton those two were sharing time. Steich throws a nice ball and has good presence for a sophomore. The two teams Quakertown played are 4-0, and now they’re playing a 2-0 CB West team. West hasn’t had as tough a schedule, but what they do have is a lot of confidence. Quakertown has to go down to West and win, and they could do that. That game on paper is probably a toss-up.
“You look at CB East in the Continental – they’re 2-0, but when is Jake Ventresca coming back? He gets hurt against Quakertown, and he didn’t play against Hatboro-Horsham. He’s a huge part of their offense. Their quarterback, Anthony Giordano, has been fabulous through two weeks. He’s throwing it all over the place, and he’s close to 600 yards passing in two games, which is incredible. But losing Ventresca hurts. I don’t know if his injury is season-ending or just nagging, but they need to get him back once their conference play starts.
“In the Continental, we have questions. Even now, we sort of question North Penn, but again, they may have played the best team in the state in La Salle. And we have questions in the National with Pennsbury 0-2. They need to win. Teams go to 0-3 and the wheels can fall off. That’s a hard hole for a team to dig out of when you only have a 10-game schedule. We’ll learn more when we get the non-league games out of the way this week and get into conference play next week. We’re learning more and more, and we’ll learn more this weekend.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Abington will travel to Cheltenham for a non-league rivalry game. Your comments.
Todd Thorpe: “I was at the Abington game last week against Mastery Charter North. They got on the winning track. With Abington, you know they have players that can play. They really went out and played well. They won that game, and it didn’t take long for them to start talking about Cheltenham afterwards. That’s a game those kids like to play in that community. They’re playing Pop Warner and youth football together - they know those kids. This is a game you don’t need any pregame hype. They’ll provide it all themselves. It’s good for those communities. Hopefully, it’s a good crowd. I think the winner of this game is really elevated. If Cheltenham finds a way to get through this week, then you’re talking Cheltenham as a possible contender in that SOL American with Upper Dublin. I’m a believer in Cheltenham. I saw them week one, and I think they’re good, I think they can be really good. The jury’s still out on Abington. We see talent and a good quarterback and good running backs. This is a good test for both teams. It’s nice to see such a significant game early in the season.”
Drew Markol: “An intriguing matchup in a non-league game is Abington/Cheltenham Friday. They’re neighborhood rivals and used to play on Thanksgiving. They should still play on Thanksgiving – I wish they did. It can be done, but they don’t. That’s a good test. Cheltenham knocked off Council Rock South in week one and last week they beat Frankford 34-17. This will be a test for Cheltenham. Abington lost to Northeast, which is usually a pretty good Philadelphia Public League team. Between them and George Washington, one of them usually gets to the District XII final so they can lose to La Salle or St. Joe’s Prep every year, but those aren’t bad teams. Abington came back last week with a win over Mastery Charter North. I’d be lying if I said I knew much about them. Remember, Abington shut out Cheltenham 27-0 last year, and Cheltenham went to the 5A district playoffs. I’m glad they’re still playing. I just wish they were playing two-and-a-half months from now.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: William Tennent and Council Rock North both picked up their first wins of the season last week. The two teams will face each other Friday. How important is that game to those programs?
Todd Thorpe: “It’s important in the sense that the team that wins this game is going to have a second win and a lot of momentum going into the heart of their schedules. I’m sure a lot of people looked at Council Rock North in week one and said, ‘This could be an 0-10 team. This team could be in for a really long season.’ To come out and win convincingly is really good for them. John Greiner is a coach that knows how to win. He won at Bristol. I know that’s in the small division, but that’s not always an easy place to win because your numbers are pretty low. I think that’s a great win for them. The next two weeks they play Neshaminy and Pennsbury. It’s a really important week for their season. If they can win, it would be a boost to them.
“It’s not that much easier for Tennent. They turn around and play Souderton next week. It’s never easy when you’re playing in this league. I guess I would say Tennent is a slight favorite just because they do have Tommy Santiago, and he’s a real difference maker for them. To get a player of that caliber – last week he had 206 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He’s a college football player. Whether it’s a low Division I or Division II, he’s going to be playing somewhere. He’s a big time player, and he plays linebacker for them too. I would probably favor Tennent in this one, but I think it’s important because it’s not going to get easier for either team after this game.”