Back for a third season is the popular Intelligencer/Courier Times ‘Let’s Talk Football,’ featuring high school football beat writers Kevin Cooney and Dan Dunkin. Cooney, the Phillies beat writer, covers schools in the Intelligencer area while Dan Dunkin – who has been covering sports at the high school and professional level for 25 years - covers teams in the Courier Times area. Both share their perspective on the teams in their coverage area. To stay on top of the high school football news in the area, visit the web site http://www.phillyburbs.com/sports/high_school/
SuburbanOneSports.com: As someone who covered the Souderton/CB South game, what were your impressions of both teams after watching that game?
Kevin Cooney: “Honestly, everyone looks at the almost 200 yards Josh Adams put up. I thought (quarterback) John Pileggi was really impressive with his 12-for-13, 223 yards. A lot of them were the drop-in-the-barrel throws where you have to throw it over a defender. He’s not graced with height – he’s 5-9, but he’s able to make the plays when he has to, and that’s a huge, huge thing for him. That’s also a huge thing for a team that wants to establish themselves as a premiere team, and I think they are slowly but surely putting themselves in that class. When South plays North Penn on Friday, that will tell a lot about how high in the class they are, but no matter what happens at North Penn, you have to think they are in the conversation for districts. I think you saw balance out of that team that maybe you don’t expect when you have a top-flight running back. I thought South was a little better balanced than I expected.
“I thought South’s defense played better in the second half. The one thing with Souderton – I thought they played pretty well, but there’s a limitation there. They don’t have what Pennridge or South or North Penn has which is that go-to guy. They have Anthony Williams, who is pretty good, but it’s not that thousand-yard back. It’s not Kyle Mayfield who could break it open in a blink. That’s not being negative, it’s just reality at this point. If you look at last week and the way things are shaping up, you have North Penn and CB South, then you have Souderton and Pennridge in the next grouping, and then you have a drop-off. Let’s call it what it is. That’s kind of the way things are.
“I think CB South has established themselves as the main challenge to North Penn. I’ll even go this far – I think this is the best shot for anybody in the Continental Conference to knock off North Penn, especially at North Penn. I think this team has the best chance. They’re playing with a lot of momentum, they’re playing with confidence, there’s a little sense of revenge for what happened in that game last year, and North Penn may not as good as they were last year. I picked North Penn to win, but after 30 straight league wins, they’ve kind of earned that badge of honor, but this is the best shot anyone has of knocking them off.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: What do you think will be the keys in Friday night’s North Penn-CB South game?
Kevin Cooney: “Quite honestly, it’s going to come down to Pileggi. If Pileggi can take advantage of the fact that you figure North Penn will load up the box to try and stop Adams – if he can do that, I think CB South has a good shot of winning. Nobody can get in a game with South right now that goes into the 40s. North Penn has to play it in the 20s or low 30s. If North Penn does that, I think they can win. If it goes anywhere north of that, I think it’s playing right into the hands of what CB South has done so well.
“North Penn’s offense has shown a little bit of life the past couple of weeks. North Penn can score, North Penn can break the big play if Mayfield gets going, but it comes down to execution. If North Penn is able to get good blocking up front, which they did not have in their three non-league games – since I haven’t seen them since then, I don’t know if that’s fair, but if they get good execution, I think they’ll be fine. If they don’t, then quite honestly that’s where they’re going to have a little bit of a problem.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Central Bucks West extended Pennridge to the limit before falling 28-21 on Friday night. Your thoughts about that game.
Kevin Cooney: “You look at what Brian Hensel has done at West – I think Brian has done a good job of getting his team to play hard. I don’t think they have the level of talent you would expect of a team to compete as a playoff team in this division. They’re just kind of a step behind. Pennridge is the same – it’s Mike Class. You hate to simplify things this much, but if Class runs for big gains and keeps the ball away from the other team, they’re in good shape. I think the one thing that hurts them against CB South and North Penn is that it’s a game of attrition. Will the attrition wear them down? They’re not North Penn, they’re not CB South. They don’t seem to have the endless roster resources to come back.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Pennridge and Souderton will square off on Friday night. What are your thoughts about that game?
Kevin Cooney: “That game is huge. I think it sets up third place in that division. It’s a bigger game for Souderton obviously since they’re 3-2. If you get three losses and still have North Penn on your schedule, that’s not a good thing, and even the Neshaminy win doesn’t look as big as it did at the time. For Pennridge, this is a statement game. It’s their first ‘big boy’ test here. They lost to Bensalem, but they bounced back nicely. It didn’t have a carryover effect. If Pennridge loses this game, is it the end of the world? No, but I think they put themselves behind the eight ball if they do. With North Penn and CB South still on their schedule – this thing has a natural way of weeding itself out, and I think we’re in that weeding out process. I think we’re starting to see what we really have here. We have four very good teams, but how long will four very good teams be able to stay at a very high level. Natural logic tells you that if CB South goes undefeated they could be a one seed or a two seed. You look at North Penn – if they get through the rest of the way, they’re probably an eight. The third place team in the conference is probably scraping for one of the bottom spots.
“This is a big week. It sets the tone for the rest of the year. It would not behoove teams to throw a clunker in this week.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Central Bucks West and Central Bucks East will face each other in a rivalry game on Friday night. Your thoughts about that game?
Kevin Cooney: “That game is interesting in my department because you’re seeing signs of life from both. West played well, but not well enough. East has played well, but you’re kind of wondering how long it’s going to last. East doesn’t have that feel of a team that you would put in that upper echelon, but if they win on Friday night and Souderton loses, they go to 4-2 and now you’re talking. It’s a rivalry game, and if you win this game, you’ve at least put it out there that - hey, you know what, we’re still hanging around here.
“You don’t want to be the third place team in your own school district. If you go to 2-4, which West would if it loses, you still have four weeks left, and it could get very long after that. I’m not saying I expect them to roll over and fold their tents, but mentally, it becomes very difficult.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: What are your thoughts about the National Conference heading into the week three of the season?
Kevin Cooney: “I’ll be interested to see how Pennsbury handles the short week. They obviously had a very nice win over Council Rock South on Monday night, but that’s a quick turnaround. Yes, I know they’re kids, and it’s not really supposed to matter, but we’ve seen it matter. Pennsbury-Abington is always a high intensity rivalry game, which has its nice little drama.
“In a conference that doesn’t look like what it used to be, Pennsbury has been the most impressive because, quite frankly, Pennsbury has shown the ability to play with big teams and hang with big teams. Now they’ve got to, in my mind, just pound the football. They’ve done a good job with their ground and pound, and I think that’s what we’re probably going to see a lot of.
“William Tennent’s loss to Council Rock North was a sign that they’re not ready to take that jump yet. When you have an emotional win like they had over Neshaminy, you always want to get them the week after because they sometimes smell themselves a little bit. That’s always a pretty good place to get them, and Rock North got them.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: William Tennent – after its big win over Neshaminy – was shut out by Council Rock North. Your thoughts about that.
Dan Dunkin: “Tennent showed why they’re Tennent in football. They’re just inconsistent, and it’s unfortunate because those kids and Biz Keeny felt so good about that victory over Neshaminy and they should. You can’t coach mental experience – they hadn’t had experience coming off a victory like that - and Council Rock North, when they set their mind to it, can be defensively pretty good. I give them a lot of credit for shutting out what is, in fact, a good offensive football team. Tennent has good skill position players and a good system. We’ll see how Tennent responds this week against Bensalem. I still think they could be a .500 team, but that was disappointing. I thought that could be a great game, and it would come down to the end. CR North is gaining confidence defensively, which they definitely will need heading into a hornet’s nest at Heartbreak Ridge on Friday against Neshaminy.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Council Rock North will travel to Neshaminy on Friday. Share your thoughts about that game.
Dan Dunkin: “That’s an emotionally charged game. Neshaminy is really smoking mad after losing to CR North last year in the last minute. Mark Schmidt said CR North really deserved to win that game, and now here we are a year later. It’s Neshaminy’s homecoming this time. Both teams are at a crossroads, both teams have high aspirations, and they’re both 1-1 in the league, and it’s really a must-win. It’s got the makings of a good matchup. Clearly, Neshaminy is the favorite, but the ‘X’ factor for CR North is their freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain, who’s getting a lot of people’s attention, including coach Schmidt’s. He makes them a better team. He’s the kind of guy that can impact an entire offense with his arm and with his legs. He’s just going to continue to get better. The question is will CR North’s offense continue to get better while their defense plays like it has lately. To win this game, CR North has got to play great defensively – not good defensively but great. That’s their only chance to keep this game close and winnable, and that’s a tall order.
“Neshaminy probably uses more people at their skill positions than anybody in the league. These kids are all good. They run a lot of packages at you. They’re very difficult to prepare for, and it’s going to really be a huge challenge for CR North. For Neshaminy’s defense, the key is going to be to contain McIlwain and not let him make plays improvising. He’s the kind of player that can make good things happen out of a broken play. They’re going to have to be disciplined, and if they are disciplined and do what they should do offensively, they should win, but it could be a closer game than a lot of people are expecting.
SuburbanOneSports.com: Pennsbury is coming off a big win over Council Rock South on Monday night. The Falcons will face Abington in a key National Conference showdown between a pair of teams that are 2-0 in conference play. What are your thoughts about that game?
Dan Dunkin: “Pennsbury is the real deal. They’re real good. I’m convinced. They have two new dimensions. They have their usual good deep running game and good line play, but they have two added dimensions to that offense that make them really tough and could turn them into a team that makes a deep playoff run. Shawn Pepper is 6-3, 215 pounds, and he can run outside, inside. He’s a receiving threat, and he’s a kick return threat. He’s hard to tackle, he’s deceptive, he’s a long strider, and he has a ton of big plays already. The guy’s averaging over 12 yards a carry as a rusher. Not to mention that he was a terrific defensive player last year, and he’ll probably be playing two ways later this season. Their sophomore quarterback who came from Bensalem – Breon Clark – gives them a dimension they haven’t had in a long time as a thrower. Pennsbury can now throw it six to eight to 10 times a game and maybe more if they want to, and I don’t think defenses are going to be able to cheat up, load the box with eight or nine people and try to stop the run because he’ll make them pay. He can throw it on the run, he’s got a terrific arm. A really good athlete. When I first saw him it was kind of like the wow factor, like - man, this kid has skills at quarterback that they haven’t had in a while where they can really consider opening things up and mixing it up a little bit more. I like how physical Pennsbury’s defense is. I like their linebackers a lot.
“Abington will be a test for them, especially in the lines. Both lines for Abington are good. Quarterback Dylan Collins has come along, but they just don’t have the depth at the skill positions that Pennsbury does. You look at Abington’s stats, and they rely basically on three people exclusively – quarterback, receiver and running back. Pennsbury can run four or five guys at you. They’ve got the quarterback now and a couple of receivers, so look out. I like that team. I think it’s going to be a pound-it-out kind of game, but I think Pennsbury should win it. If they want to win the league this year, they’ve got to win this game."
SuburbanOneSports.com: Council Rock South is still looking for its first win. Your comments about that team.
Dan Dunkin: “It’s all going wrong for Council Rock South. I will say this for CR South: The scores don’t indicate this, but I’ve seen them against Bensalem and I saw them against Pennsbury. I was on the sidelines, and they play as hard as they can play. The effort is there, and it’s there for four quarters. Pads are popping and kids are trying. They’ve got that going for them. It’s too bad they don’t have any results from that effort.
“CR South didn’t have Christian Crane or PJ Steinmetz for the Pennsbury game, which made it really difficult, but junior Tyler Anderson really showed some substance in that game. They ran him all night, 26 times for about 180 yards with a 58-yarder late in the game when you should be really tired against a punishing defense, so that showed me a lot for the future.
“One of the realities is they’re not as quick as last year’s CR South team on the line or in the backfield. And that rears its head on defense as well – they give up a lot of big plays and a lot of rushing yards. They don’t have the linebacker play they had last year. Their quarterback is new to this system, and they just don’t have the guy running the triple option that they’ve had for the last four years – Billy Fleming and Brian Donnelly. No disrespect, but that’s a drop-off. Greg Paprocki is a fine athlete, but he’s really not suited for that system.
“But again, CR South is showing fight. In Monday’s game, there were flags flying all over the place. I like to see that. I’m not espousing dirty play, but they should be mad. They were in there trading punches with Pennsbury. I expect them to beat Truman though. But they can’t assume they’re going to win; Truman has some physical kids, bigger kids than usual from the weight room, and they have some speed. They’re probably a year away from being a four-win team. I see CR South winning this, but not super easily.”
SuburbanOneSports.com: Bensalem, which fell to Abington last week, will face Tennent this week. Your thoughts about that game.
Dan Dunkin: “This is a very big game for Bensalem and Tennent, two programs on about the same tier, both on the comeback trail. We need to see which program is ahead of the other. I think it’s Bensalem. They’re a more physical team, and I think that will win out in this game, and they can really pound the ball between the tackles. I think that will be tough for Tennent to stand up to for four quarters. They might be able to pop some plays on Bensalem, but overall, Alex Archangeli and Ian Pisarchuk are going to be tough for Tennent to deal with along with Bensalem’s line that keeps improving. Bensalem is starting to put up some points. In a couple of these games that got away from them, they were in it for a half. They’re no doubt a better program now than they were a year ago, and they need to win this game. Tennent has a long way to bounce back after that egg they laid against CR North.”