In this fifth edition of Coach Carey’s blog, ‘The Way I See It,’ the former coach reflects on Council Rock South’s big win over Abington and takes a look at several key games this week. He also addresses the issue of off-the-field time management in the first of a regular feature that will include questions from coaches.
SOS.com: You were in attendance at the Abington-Council Rock South game – what were your observations about Rock South’s big win?
Coach Carey: That was a huge upset in my book. I had the benefit of seeing it live, and what a beautiful venue down there. I had watched their previous games the past couple of years on film, and it’s the first time I had been at Abington’s field.
Abington made some big mistakes during the game. They were on the verge of putting Rock South away, and they kept letting them hang around. Many times during the game, I thought Abington was going to pull away and seal the victory, but they let CR South hang around. Quite honestly, I thought Rock South coach Vince Bedesem did a fabulous job defensively.
It’s not rocket science. It’s what I talked about in my previous blog of trying to do something to take away the opposing team’s best weapon offensively. He double teamed Anthony Hensley about 90 percent of the game with an under guy and an over guy and basically took him out of the equation, forcing Abington to do some other things.
The one time at the end of the game they left him in man coverage, QB Sam (Kind) hit Hensley for a 70-yard touchdown, but otherwise, even in the overtime, Abington tried to force a fade route to Hensley, and he was double covered. It was a great move by Vince and his staff. They just said, ‘Listen, we’re going to take him out of the game and not let him beat us,’ and that was one of the key things that kept South in the game even though it was a high-scoring affair.
South did a great job of mixing up the play calling offensively. Its offensive line started opening some huge holes for their running backs. At times, South got away from the triple option and went to a straight ‘I’ formation and ran a simple - what we call a double dive. Both tailbacks –Keith Hickey (107 yds.) and Greg Welch (80 yds., 3 TDs) - got close to 100 yards. It was just a real, real nice game plan by Council Rock South, and, of course, there was the ‘X’ factor at the end of the game.
SOS.com: Talk about the plays that allowed Rock South to get back into a game Abington appeared to have won.
Coach Carey: There were two huge plays that enabled South to have the possibility of winning the game.
The first one was with about four minutes left. Abington had the ball up 35-28, and all they have to do is get a couple of first downs to win the game. They were forced to punt from their own 30, and the center snaps the ball over the punter’s head. Council Rock South tackled Hensley, who doubles as the punter, and then punches it in for a score to tie it 35-35.
Then with under three minutes to go, Abington receives the kickoff and marches the length of the field to about the 12-yard line. With 15 seconds to go, Coach (Tim) Sorber thought he had a timeout. He did not. He let the clock run down with the idea he was going to call a timeout with about two or three seconds and send the field goal team on to win it. The error let the time run out and sent the game into overtime. In the overtime, Abington settles for a field goal and then CRS scored a TD on its second play to ice the win.
SOS.com: Your observations about Council Rock South fullback Braxton Ambrose, who had a big night running (93 yards) and blocking.
Coach Carey: I really like him a lot. I made that point to people I talked to after the game on Friday night. He’s a physical specimen – he’s one of the biggest kids on the team and also one of the fastest. Council Rock really established him in the second half. He’s really a downhill, straight line, tough runner. He picked up tough inside yards at three or four a clip and then he broke a couple of them for 10-15 yards. When they can establish the fullback in the triple option, that opens up everything else.
SOS.com: How does Abington need to respond to a devastating loss like that?
Coach Carey: Abington is still one of the Delaware Valley’s best teams, but this has got to leave a sour taste in the mouths of both coaches and players. The same ugly head reared itself again, and that’s Abington’s defense, which continues to give up a lot of points in big games. You have got to button down that defense. They seem like they have a lot of good athletes on the field defensively. At times, they look extremely fast defensively. They take a lot of chances – they blitz a lot.
I am a proponent of being aggressive, but you have to do it at the right times, and without looking at film, it’s hard to see the exact problem, but I just know that there were some huge, huge holes scheme-wise against the Abington defense.
If its defense can get better – Abington can score against anybody. They’re going to score points against the best teams, but the question is – going down the line when you get into the playoffs and face teams that all have good offenses, will they be able to stop them? They’re not going to keep winning shootouts.
They had a shootout two weeks before against Neshaminy that could have gone either way. Then they had a shootout with Council Rock South and ended up losing that in overtime. The future will let us know whether they learned from this or not. If you lose and you don’t learn things from it, woe is you. If you learn good lessons and you make that a plus going down the line, I think that can really benefit you. It remains to be seen if they can shore that up.
Like all good staffs – and they’re a heck of a staff, they have to get together and make sure they have the right personnel with the right schemes AT THE RIGHT TIME because they still have to play some real good teams. The playoffs are looming and there are teams that are maturing in the Delaware Valley right now, and that’s the beauty of this time of the season.
I’m convinced – and you can’t tell me otherwise – if you want to get into the semifinals of district playoffs, you’ve got to play good defense. If you want to win District One, you’ve got to play great defense, and if you want to win the Eastern Final, it’s got to be even better. Your defense has got to be really good because everybody has good athletes on offense, and they’ve scored a lot of points and won a lot of games.
You look at the teams that have gotten there down the line – Liberty won the state title last year, and they had a very good offense, but their defense was spectacular. They held a North Penn team that had one of the most explosive offenses to 14 points last year in the Eastern Final.
SOS.com: What can a win like that mean to a Council Rock South team that was a decided underdog?
Coach Carey: I’m very, very impressed. I was watching the Council Rock South coaches interact with their players during the game. Their coaching staff has a lot of energy. They made some great adjustments during the game. Their kids just played with a lot of fire.
Quite honestly, they are in my eyes exceeding expectations at this point. I look at them, and they’re not overly gifted athletically. They’re a very average-sized high school team, and yet collectively, they’re playing together as a team as good as anybody I saw this year. It was very, very impressive.
It’s neat to see a staff get a team to play that well together. You look on the sidelines, and they have five or six kids that are in street clothes, a couple of them on crutches. They have had a bevy of injuries, and Vince and his CRS staff haven’t slowed down. That’s high school coaching at it best.
Coaching is so important at the high school level and may be more important than any other level because the pawns you get in this chess match are not always the most talented, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Abington had the superior athletes on the field, and yet the general from CRS with his army that was outnumbered ended up being the victor.
SOS.com: What are your thoughts looking ahead at the Neshaminy at Council Rock South game on Friday?
Coach Carey: That is without a doubt the game of the week. Coach Bedesem and his team are probably very, very excited to meet Neshaminy – another top five team in the Delaware Valley. Rock South is very happy to be playing at home – I think that’s an advantage. At the high school level, playing at home is an advantage.
This is a very interesting game. Can Rock South get back up again? They’re going to have to score 28 points or more to win this game because I think Neshaminy – looking at their last few games – is getting better. Their offensive line is maturing. They have a bevy of good skill people in the backfield. Again, if Neshaminy’s defense can play better…that will be the mark of how far that team goes.
This will be a big test for Neshaminy’s defense on Friday night. Can they stop the option game? I don’t think you can totally shut it down, but you have to try to control it and force them into third-and-long situations. For Council Rock South to win this game, in my book, they have minimize turnovers, play great “D” and score 28 or more points.
SOS.com: What is your take on the North Penn at Quakertown game?
Coach Carey: Having been in the position as a coach in the past where we had lost to certain teams – it wasn’t many times, but the one team that comes to my mind is Plymouth Whitemarsh. We had lost to PW two years in a row, and you start wondering as a staff – do your kids and staff really believe you can beat this team? That first big win against a team that has had your number is huge!
Quakertown has to believe they can beat North Penn – not just play with them. If you’re going into the game saying, ‘Hey, we just want to stay with them the first half,’ it’s going to get ugly. You have to believe you can beat them, and then go out and have the performance of your life.
I truly believe that Quakertown has got to play better than they’ve played the whole year, and they somehow must get some turnovers defensively so that they’re putting their offense in a position to score a lot of points. Again, I see Quakertown needing to score 28 points or more to be in or win this game, and that’s going to be a tough task.
I see North Penn playing one of their better games of the season. North Penn has really not had a challenge the last couple of weeks. I know their team and their staff has been looking forward to this Quakertown game. Good teams like challenges, and it almost become ho hum playing teams where you can go through the motions and you know you’re going to be up big by halftime.
This is a game that I know that North Penn is very excited about playing. They’ve circled this game for awhile. They were hoping Quakertown was going to be 6-0. Quakertown is going to have to bring their best shot.
I think North Penn right now is better than they have been all year long. They’re almost 100 percent healthy. Their passing game is clicking on all cylinders. Todd Somolinsky is a really developing and turning into one of District One’s top quarterbacks. With T.J. Gill, Dom Taggart, Ralphie Reeves and Craig Needhammer, he has a bevy of receivers that have good hands and will run with the rock after the catch.
Coach Donnelly says this is Quakertown’s biggest game ever and NP and Beck are looking for a challenge…wow, two heavyweight MMA fighters. Gentlemen, get ready to RUMBLE!!!!!
If it rains like they’re saying, that field holds a lot of water, and this could be an ‘X’ factor.
SOS.com: Were you surprised by the way Souderton handled Hatboro-Horsham?
Coach Carey: I did think Souderton would win the game, based on the way they played against Pennridge the week before. As I said in my blog last week, I thought the defense – led by coordinator Barry Benfield – was really very sharp and very, very fast. Everyone runs well defensively, and he mixed in a lot of different looks. That kept the Pennridge offense off-balance, and that was the key.
Souderton’s defense went from being average to being very, very good. Of course, you have a couple of guys back that weren’t playing. I was not surprised that Souderton won. I see a Souderton team now that will continue getting better. Souderton has C.B. South this week, and that will be another big test because C.B. South has that wide open offense.
Souderton believes right now. Their team believes, their coaches believe, and that’s part of the battle. They think they can beat anybody they play right now, and you can see – they just dominated the last two teams they played.
SOS.com: How hard is it for teams to improve at this point in the season?
Coach Carey: This is the time of the year that is a real challenge for coaches. You’ve been beating the same verbiage into kids’ heads since Aug. 15, and you’re now closing in on the end of October. This is a very, very important time. It’s a time you really need to reach the players and impress upon them that as a team we need to improve.
The good teams that want to go deep in the playoffs – this is the time of the year from the sixth week to the 10th week that they make their most improvement. It’s hard because the kids are tired, there are some injuries, and yet the sign of a great staff and a great program is – is my team moving forward?
It always was, for us, the time of the season to ramp it up because you start smelling the playoffs. No matter what you say to the kids – as a coach, it’s in the back of your mind, ‘I’ve got to get ready for that big game down the line,’ and the only way you can do that is if you get your kids better.
Really, you need them to give that 100 percent effort, and it’s tough to reach them at this time in all cases because of the outside effects. They start getting tired, they start to get beat up. Physically, some of them start to lose some strength and weight.
The weight program has got to be kicking into high gear. Kids should be gaining strength at this time of the season. The coaches should be really ramping up the strength program if you want to play like champs. Also you usually don’t have as much time to practice because the sun’s going down sooner, so you have to cram things in more.
It’s really critical – and you’ll see it in the Pennsburys, Abingtons, North Penns, Neshaminys, Quakertowns, Soudertons – if want to get deep in the playoffs and beat teams like Downingtown West, Ridley and each other, it’s the teams that improve from here to the end of the season that will be standing at the end of November.
Ask Coach Carey…
Quakertown Coach John Donnelly: How difficult was it for you to strike the balance between all of the time you spent on the practice field, in the film room, in the weight room, etc…..with being able to attend sporting events that involved your daughters or simply family time in general?
Coach Carey: First of all, I want to thank Coach Donnelly for his really pertinent question. Any coach that is married – whether a head coach or an assistant – wrestles with this in his career. First and foremost, if you’re going to be a successful high school or college coach, you have to have a spouse that really buys into the whole program and the whole idea of what you’re doing for young kids.
I was fortunate to have a wife – just as Mike Pettine did – that basically gave us the go-ahead to do our thing, and that was, first and foremost, to coach our team and help teenage boys mature and have a great experience. Also, to do something that I think is very vital for the community and that was bringing enthusiasm and pride to our town. But the backburner thing is that your family gets short-changed. I don’t there’s any coach out there that doesn’t feel guilty at some point.
One of the ways I balanced it – every Saturday night my wife and I were together. This was our night. That wasn’t always going to dinner or going to a movie. A lot of Saturday nights we were going to a high school football game, and then we were going out to eat afterwards.
I just had so much support. My wife literally raised the kids, and during football season, there wasn’t a whole lot of time in my life for family. It was C.B. West football, and when the season was over, I became much more involved in family and coached many of my girls sport teams.
That’s the real trade-off. If you shortchange your coaching world, somebody’s going to have an edge on you – the Mark Schmidts, the Larry Greenes, the new coach in the league who is determined to dethrone you. These guys put in 70 hours a week trying to get the edge on you. I was determined, as was Mike Pettine, that nobody was going to have an edge on us. We were going to outwork everyone.
As a coach you always had something to do, more film to watch, game plans and setting up practice schedules (what do I want or need to work on this week). When you got to the weekends, you were playing football Friday night. Saturday was film work and possibly another game, and Sunday it was football all day long for us. We had eight-hour meetings on Sunday. The one little window we had was Saturday night. Now and then I could go see one of my kids if they had a game on Saturday afternoon, but normally, I was going out and watching another high school game.
Your mind is just totally immersed in football - even when I was sitting home at the dinner table, which was late, eating at night by myself since my wife kept the food warm. My wife mentioned many times she would talk to me and I would have this blank stare because all you were thinking about was next week’s opponent or the big game three weeks down the line.
Coach Donnelly, it is a double-edged sword.
For years and years and years, I missed all my kids’ fall field hockey games, the start of basketball season, back-to-school nights. I missed all of it. Bev did everything. She was so great. She would say, ‘Go and coach the kids. You’re making such a big impact on them.’ In the end,I really wanted to be around and coach my last two children – Devon and Jesse. Jesse, my youngest just went to college last month, so that opens the million dollar question – what next?
Coach Carey’s ‘Real’ Top 10
1. North Penn
3. Downington West
7. Downingtown East
8. Council Rock South
On another note, I want to thank everyone from coaches, parents and fans who have called or written me with support. I’ll continue to break down games, players and coaching techniques with the upmost competence.
That’s it…keep the e-mails coming to SuburbanOneSports@comcast.net. I’ll answer all your questions with an honest answer. Until later...keep the hits coming. There’s no game in America like High School Football.