Intelligencer/Courier Times 'Let's Talk Football' (9-9-16)

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 ( Courier Times ( sites. Check out the picks by our panel of experts:  Your thoughts about District One’s schedule proposal.

Kevin Cooney:  “I thought that was the most interesting thing out of last week. Basically, it would tear the leagues up, and there would be a more centralized form of a schedule. I’ve really come around to it. I like the fact that it would do away with power points. It would basically do away with maneuvering your non-league schedule to get into the playoffs through a false record.

“If you look at the Springfield case as an example, they would get to play schools that are more like them than they are now playing in the mish mash American Conference where you have a 6A school, a 5A and a 4A and is really a willy nilly type structure. This works better.

“Using North Penn as an example, this actually – in a strange way – may help and may hurt them. North Penn won’t have to play murderous non-league schedule that they always have had to play. This year they dialed it back. They’re not playing St. Joe’s Prep, they’re not playing Archbishop Wood. Now they have Downingtown East and Pennsbury, who is in a down year, and the reason they have to do a schedule like that is because nobody else will play them. What made North Penn so dangerous in the playoffs was they had faced the best of the best already, and that toughness was built in already. They had a thick skin, they weren’t going to be intimidated because they had played La Salle and Prep. That’s the one part I’d be interested to see under this structure when they won’t really have a say in their new non-league schedule.

“With that being said, I like the idea, I think it makes sense. Do I think it’s going to happen? Probably not. Each league has its own power structure, and that power structure under this gets blown up. People who right now set up the schedules can set agendas within their league, and they won’t necessarily be able to do that anymore.

“The other part of this is – I don’t really think it applies to the Suburban One League, and what I mean by that is – I don’t think the Suburban One League will cause a problem with this. I could see the Central League and the Pioneer League, which have classifications in that 6 to 4A range and have rivalries in there and now those games are going to be gone- that could be a problem, and that’s why I don’t think it goes quickly. I think it’s something that may be pushed down the line.

“People vote to preserve their own power and base, and that’s why I don’t think it will pass.”

Drew Markol:  “If you’re Upper Dublin after what happened to them this year – losing the Abington and Springfield games and playing an eight-game schedule, you have to be in favor of a built-in schedule and you get your 10 games. I talked with Dick Beck from North Penn when they were looking for games, and he told me that North Penn called every team in the district, and no one would play them. Tom Magdelinskas at Neshaminy said the same thing a couple of years ago. Nobody would play them. What teams want is a 6A team they can beat, but they want that 6A team that goes on and finishes 8-2. That’s like having your cake and eating it too. It doesn’t work that way. Everybody is trying to find those teams they can beat but that team still has to do well.

“Upper Dublin’s situation is a shame. It’s kind of like the Council Rock North team where they didn’t get to play in opening week, which is also absurd. It kind of lends credence to the idea that was passed down by the District One committee. The more I think about it – maybe it’s not a bad thing where it gets you 10 games guaranteed, so you don’t have Council Rock North not having an opener, and you don’t have Upper Dublin running into this. Upper Dublin is the defending district champion, and they’re sitting home because of a scheduling thing with Abington and Cheltenham, and they can’t find anybody to play. They run into the problem where they make a phone call to somebody who might need a game, and the other end of the call will be, ‘Well, aren’t you the defending district champs?’ Yes, and all of a sudden the phone hangs up.

“With Springfield dropping football, you’re looking at the defending district champs playing an eight-game season. That’s like a middle school or junior high schedule,

and it’s just a shame. Again, it gives more credence to that thing that was floated out, which I think might actually happen.

“We can talk about this in future weeks when it gets closer to a vote, but you can start to see some of the positives. I’m a traditionalist, and now you’re taking away all your leagues and saying good bye to the SOL for football and the Ches-Mont League and the PAC-10, etc., etc.”  Bensalem snapped a 29-game losing streak with its win over William Tennent. Your thoughts.

Drew Markol:  “Obviously, the feel good story of the early season and maybe for a couple of more weeks would be Bensalem. If you’re a senior on that team now, the odds are the last time the team won when you were a freshman you weren’t playing varsity. There might have been a handful of guys who were on the roster or played special teams, but for the most part, probably 95 percent of that Bensalem roster had never had a win. Last year, they didn’t have a jayvee team, and you run the risk of those jayvee kids getting beat down playing varsity, but for those who stuck with it, this is the reward.

“For them to get a win after coming so close and it not happening – you’re working all summer and have a lead late in the game and you lose to Penn Wood, then what are you thinking? You’re probably thinking – all right, we’re just not going to win. To get that win, it must be the weight of the world off the shoulders of those kids to break that streak because who knew – once you get into your conference season, they’re going to have a very hard time going against the Neshaminys and Pennsburys. They needed to get it out of the way, and now it’s gone. That was just a nice story to see them hang in there and break a streak that was just a giant cloud over all of their heads. It’s just a wonderful thing that they ended that streak. They’ll talk about that win and how they broke that streak forever.”

Jen Wielgus:  “I’m super happy for the kids at Bensalem, especially a kid like Malcolm Carey that was there all four years and really hadn’t tasted success – they won one game freshman year - but stuck it out. If a school doesn’t have a winning tradition and then to put all that commitment and time into it to get your brains beat in for 11 or 12 games and to stick it out – I’m just really happy for kids like that. When Ed Cubbage was at Truman – not that they ever had a great tradition, but they had fallen on hard times when he took over, and he was leading them in the right direction, but he needed a teaching job and had to leave the district. He takes over at Bensalem and, again, the program has no tradition. I’m really happy for him because coaches have to go through so much, and to not see it pay off for the kids – it’s got to be really, really hard. He’s put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears, so I’m happy for him.”  Your thoughts about some of last week’s action.

Kevin Cooney:  “I’m happy for Bensalem. I don’t see how you cannot be happy for Bensalem.

“North Penn and Neshaminy are what we think they are. Yes, Pennridge pushed them, and it’s the second week Neshaminy got pushed. They got pushed by Roman the week before, but in my mind, Neshaminy is the cream of the crop in the National and probably the second best team in the district behind North Penn. North Penn has a good shot to start the season 3-0, and I don’t see anybody in the Continental that can beat them. You’re looking 10-0, you’re looking home field advantage in the playoffs and the title game at Crawford if they want. They just keep impressing week after week. Last week they came out a little slow against Downingtown East but turned on the jets when they had to. That is a very good sign for them. They have a passing game with Reece Udinski, and they can still run the ball so when you get into the colder weather games in November and December you’re not worried – they’re so pass happy and will the wind be a factor.

“For Pennsbury, I think this week is a critical week psychologically. They can’t get blown out by North Penn – they have to hang within a touchdown or so, and I think that could springboard them. If you get blown out again, boy, that would be a tough sell. You’re 1-2 and could easily be 0-3.” Neshaminy came from behind late to defeat Pennridge. Your thoughts as someone who covered that game.

Drew Markol:  “Neshaminy and Pennridge are two really good teams as far as your district goes, and they just slugged away at each other. Pennridge, though, had just too many mistakes and penalties. I think the penalty yards were 105 for Pennridge and 10 for Neshaminy. How telling is that and they only lost by a touchdown. You need to clean up some of those penalties, the personal fouls – those are mental mistakes. You’re going to have holding and stuff, but personal fouls – you can’t be doing that. It will kill you. You look at Neshaminy, and Neshaminy didn’t do that. You’ve got to get that discipline to cut out those penalties and just make life easier on yourself. When you get into games against the upper echelon teams, if you keep making those mistakes, it makes it really hard to win.

“If you look at it for Neshaminy – Neshaminy may have played its two hardest games already and have them out of the way. They have Downingtown West this week, and that’s never an easy game. If Neshaminy goes to Downingtown West and beats them, they’re probably on their way to an undefeated regular season and what could be a district first or second seed. I don’t think North Penn’s losing either, so it will come down to points. All these teams do the math – if they can beat Downingtown West, the path is pretty clean for them the rest of the way.

“So for Neshaminy, to lose Zach Tredway early – he got hit in the head and that wasn’t called a personal foul but probably should have been. It was right in front of me, and I was surprised it wasn’t called. If Neshaminy gets him back – he adds another dimension. The fact that Neshaminy was able to beat a good Pennridge team without arguably its best player – he plays both ways and does a lot of things, kick returns and punt returns also, that just kind of shows that Neshaminy has some pretty good depth.

“Pennridge has to bounce back, and Perk Valley this week – that’s no free lunch. If they lose to Perk Valley, then they have to play North Penn, and all of a sudden, you’ve dug yourself a hole. The Rams have to bounce back and it has to be Friday.”

Jen Wielgus:  “This is a big week for Pennridge to see where their season is going. They have North Penn in the Continental Conference, and they’re probably not going to win the league. I’m really interested to see if they can keep their Perk Valley game close and if they can win it. The Neshaminy game was big since Pennridge had beaten them twice in a row, but I thought Neshaminy should win that game, and they did.”  Comment on the great start for the three Central Bucks schools.

Drew Markol:  “You look at the Central Bucks schools – Tom Moore gave me a great stat. The three Central Bucks schools only won in the same week once all of last year. It was in week 10, and now they’ve done it two weeks in a row. Obviously, they’re all 2-0. CB East plays Methacton this week, and West has to go to Quakertown. Quakertown put out a pretty good effort against Souderton after getting knocked around against Archbishop Ryan in its opener, Quakertown played Souderton – a rival - really tough. Souderton was able to pull it out, but that was a tight game. Now West has to go to Quakertown, and if you’re Quakertown, yes, you’re 0-2, but you played Souderton tough. They got Noah Wood back, the senior linebacker, who was one of their very few returning starters on either side of the ball, so to have him back helps.

“As far as I know, there are no betting lines on these high school games, but if there were – and I hope there isn’t someone in some dark corner putting lines out on high school football games, you’d take the three Central Bucks schools with CB South playing Council Rock South, which is struggling and can’t generate any offense. The three CB schools could be 9-0 combined after this weekend.”

Kevin Cooney:  “For CB West, it’s a sign that the program under Chas Cathers has really come together. John Donnelly has done a great job of getting East back together. If you want to compare South to anybody, I would compare South to what Abington is in the National Conference. South is going to have a down year or two and then because of their numbers and the way the program is structured – they’re going to get back to where they’re a playoff team. I think that’s what South is, and that’s a good thing. It’s tough to be cyclical in high school football, but they are cyclical. When they are down, they’re going to come back up. Do I see West going 8-2? Probably not, but look at where that program was two years ago. What Chas Cathers has done to build it back up is pretty remarkable.”

Jen Wielgus:  “With the strong start by the Central Bucks schools, it certainly adds intrigue when they play each other because they’re all in the same league again. I don’t think anybody expects any of those teams to win the league championship when they’ve got North Penn in their league and even, to some extent, Pennridge, but it’s got to be super exciting for all three schools. They’re rivals, and CB South has sort of been on the outside because they’ve been in that National Conference. East and West is the big rivalry, and the kids get up for that, but this year especially because all three programs have that great start and that momentum, it will be really cool when they do go head to head.

“I think they’ll all be 3-0. I cannot see Quakertown beating CB West at this point, and Council Rock is not beating CB South. I don’t know a lot about Methacton, but CB East should win that game.”  Souderton is 2-0 for the first time since 2010 after its win over Quakertown. Your thoughts?

Drew Markol:  “The way it’s working now with the district playoffs – 5-5 teams are going to make the playoffs. With 16 out of 33 6A teams getting in, which is hard to figure, but they didn’t ask me, it’s almost like the magic number is five, and if you’re Souderton, you already have two of them. If you looked at the schedule before the season, you would have said, ‘What’s Souderton going to be after playing PW and Quakertown?’ Honestly, was the best case scenario 1-1? Now, Souderton is kind of playing with house money, and this week they play Hatboro-Horsham, a team I really touted in the preseason – if you’re Souderton, you’ve got a ton of confidence you didn’t have. Now you have to go against a Hatboro team that is kind of reeling. It’s looking good for Ed Gallagher and his team. It’s been a long time since they were 2-0, and it’s been a real long time since they were 3-0, but it looks like they’re heading that way.”  Pennsbury will travel to North Penn after a loss to La Salle last week. Your thoughts.

Drew Markol:  ““You look at a team like Pennsbury that played La Salle and got shut out and only scored 10 points the week before against Frankford, so all that talk turned out to be true about it being a rebuilding year for Pennsbury, trying to put a new offense in with a new coach in Dan McShane. Pennsbury lost an awful lot of talent to graduation, so it’s kind of a double whammy for them – losing all those kids to graduation and a new coach. That makes it doubly tough.”

“North Penn has beaten Pennsbury 15 straight times, but of all those 15, if Pennsbury had beaten them, I don’t think it would have been a surprise. Now with Pennsbury a little down and struggling a little bit, you have to like North Penn’s chances again. From there, probably North Penn’s toughest game would be Pennridge, who could be 1-2 when they play them, and then you’ll have an even more desperate Pennridge team if that happens. I think the Continental is North Penn, Pennridge, and then there’s a logjam for that next spot with the Soudertons and the CB schools. That’s a pretty good conference this year. From top to bottom that’s pretty good. 

“Downingtown East is a legit team every year, and for North Penn to beat East after beating La Salle in their opener, I was saying before the season they’ll win a district title, and they look like they’re heading in the right direction, for sure.  Your thoughts about Upper Dublin this season.

Drew Markol:  “Last year at this early point in the season, we weren’t saying, ‘Watch out for Upper Dublin,’ but soon thereafter we were, but they were still playing their teams in the conference. What are you going to do? That’s the way it’s laid out. You think about it – the guys on this year’s team were practicing against some really good players. They saw all the publicity the district champions got and they also saw the previews that said Upper Dublin lost 71 starters and they’re going to struggle. These guys said, ‘We’ll show you.’ They have a quarterback – Justin Horn. To replace a player like Ryan Stover is very hard to do, but Horn steps in. Last year he was an understudy, but when you have that piece of the puzzle, there’s a lot to build around there.”