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The SportsTalk Shop: NFL Draft 2015 Preview

April 27, 2015 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

NFL Draft week is finally here!

After months of speculation (and seeing the name “Marcus Mariota” trending more than just about any other athlete over the last several weeks), it is time for the NFL Draft.  Redskins and Eagles fans know this Thursday is a critical time for both franchises and this week’s draft could determine the future level of success of their favorite team.

I had a chance to speak with NFL Network Analyst and former Pro Offensive Lineman Brian Baldinger and “Footballstories” writers Al Thompson and Rock Hoffman about the latest developments and got their insights and predictions on this year’s draft and other football related topics (the entire “SportsTalk” show is available to watch on RCN On-Demand).

A few more insights ahead of Thursday’s draft:

    • Safety is an area of concern for both the Eagles and the Redskins.  I think there are a number of defensive backs who might be available that would help both teams:

Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
Alex Carter, Stanford
Eric Rowe, Utah
Josh Shaw, USC
Quinten Rollins, Miami
Trae Waynes, Michigan State
Landon Collins, Alabama
Marcus Peters, Washington
Byron Jones, UConn
Damarious Randall, Arizona St.
Jalen Collins, LSU
Adrian Amos, Penn State

  • Since the first night of last year’s draft, I’ve continued to be very vocal with my displeasure of the Eagles’ selection of Marcus Smith as their number one pick.  I’m hoping I’m wrong and Smith can rebound, making some contributions this fall.  However, this year’s draft class features a number of impressive outside linebackers.  Don’t be surprised if Philadelphia is able to pick up a solid OLB in the middle rounds of the draft.  FYI:  here is a look at all the draft pick selections for both teams:

Eagles 2015 Draft Picks
1st Round  –  No. 20 Overall
2nd Round  –  No. 52 Overall
3rd Round  –  No. 84 Overall
4th Round  –  No. 113 Overall
5th Round  — No. 145 & No. 156 Overall
6th Round  –  No. 196 Overall
7th Round  –  No. 237 Overall

Redskins 2015 Draft Picks
1st Round  –  No. 5 Overall
2nd Round  –  No. 38 Overall
3rd Round  –  No. 69 Overall
4th Round  –  No. 105 Overall
5th Round  — No. 141 Overall
6th Round  –  No. 182 Overall
7th Round  –  No. 222 Overall

  • Thompson also shared an interesting story with us.  He got word that Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith is heading to Chicago—the site of this year’s draft.  Players normally only attend the NFL Selection Gala if they suspect they’ll be selected in the first round (it certainly doesn’t look good if you are there and you DON’T get picked in the first round.) However, in most publications, Smith is ranked no higher than 52nd overall, and much further down the list in most other mock draft lists.  Could Smith’s alleged trip to the Windy City be a tip that a “mystery team” is going to jump and take Smith earlier than expected…and would that team be in close proximately to Happy Valley?
  • Hoffman indicated that there could be a number of future, high-quality NFL players available later in this year’s draft, and the 5th and 6th round selections may be especially interesting to watch.  Both Thompson and Hoffman hinted that Delaware Valley College’s Rasheed Bailey has been receiving interest from a number of teams, and could be selected during the middle rounds of the draft.

The draft itself should be another fun event.  The NFL has molded this selection process into a gigantic party, with the anticipation starting shortly after the Super Bowl and building to this week.  It’s true that pro football teams don’t lose games in April or May, but they can certainly put future success on hold for years if things don’t go well this week in Chicago.

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Mid-Spring Sports Update

April 20, 2015 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

With the weather finally becoming more “spring-like,” the high school sports action in the Lehigh Valley finally kicked into high gear the last couple weeks.

Our “RCN SportsTalk” cameras have been busy covering the local sports landscape.  Here we present a sample of some of our high school sports features (more can been seen on “SportsTalk” live at 7pm on Thursdays and through RCN On-Demand)

A few additional highlights from this spring season:

  • Congratulations are in order for the up-and-coming Northampton girls lacrosse program.  The Konkrete Kids just started their program a few years ago.  The Lehigh Valley quickly has become a very talented area for this sport, making it much tougher for newer programs like Northampton to build success quickly.  However, the K-Kids recently won their first ever league contest by defeating Allentown Central Catholic in Eastern Pennsylvania Conference play.  With many underclassmen contributing on the roster, it probably won’t be long before Northampton starts posting league victories on a more regular basis.
  • The Easton baseball team conducted a ceremony celebrating their 50th anniversary of playing on “Richards Field” on 25th Street in Easton.   The team welcomed back members of the first Easton team to play on that field and honored them before the Red Rovers game against Allen this past Wednesday.  Former Easton Assistant Coach Karl Dutt threw out the first pitch and current Easton players wore “throwback uniforms” replicating the same uniforms worn by that 1965 baseball team.  An interesting side note:  we learned on last week’s “SportsTalk” show that John Lennon was in Easton, Pennsylvania around the same time that Richards Field first began hosting games and he purchased an Easton baseball jersey in a local thrift store.  Lennon later wore that same jersey when he sang his iconic “Imagine” ballad nationally on the Mike Douglas Show.
  • Speaking of Allen, it’s great to see both Allentown schools doing well in baseball after several years of struggling.  As mentioned above, it’s tough to rebuild in the EPC (and baseball is among the most competitive sports in the Lehigh Valley) and both the Canaries and Huskies deserve kudos for playing at a much higher level this spring.  Allen already has five wins this spring (as of 4/20/15).   Dieruff also has recorded some impressive victories, and played one of the best teams in the area—Liberty—to a close 2-1 loss the other day.  The Allen and Dieruff kids have never stopped working hard and their perseverance is paying off.

It’s also nice to see area baseball fans recognizing the efforts of the athletes from ASD.  I’ve gone to other schools’ games this spring in which neither Dieruff or Allen is playing, yet baseball fans are talking about these programs and are genuinely happy these schools are moving in the right direction (although they still hope that their team wins in a head-to-head match-up).  Both of these programs have tough issues to overcome that other school districts don’t have to deal with.  One of the great things about this region is the knowledgeable sports fans who recognize great efforts by young student athletes and it’s great to see people acknowledging the Allentown players’ efforts.

What other spring sports accomplishments deserve recognition?  Which spring sports athletes have stood out from the pack?  Email your opinions to us at and tune in to “RCN SportsTalk” at our new time, Thursdays at 7pm, on RCN-TV.  On April 30th, we’ll be talking in more detail about high school sports, with our in-studio guests comprised of athletic directors from the RCN viewing area.  Also, on this Thursday (April 23rd) program, join us as NFL Football Network analyst and former Philadelphia Eagles Lineman Bryan Baldinger is among our guest panelists, breaking down the NFL Draft and predicting what the Eagles, Redskins and other teams will do in the draft.  Al Thompson (Eagles beat writer for “FootballStories” magazine) and Rock Hoffman, who covers college football and has a comprehensive list and analysis on many of the region’s players expected to be drafted, will also be featured on this week’s show.

The SportsTalk Shop: GW’s Jamie Bumgardner

April 14, 2015 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

One of the goals of our “SportsTalk Shop” is to spotlight outstanding female student-athletes in the RCN markets.  I had an opportunity this past week to interview one of the current top athletes in RCN’s coverage area—for both our Pennsylvania and Washington, DC audiences.

Senior girls lacrosse player Jamie Bumgardner, after having an outstanding high school career in Pennsylvania, has gone on to play—and excel—at the Division-I level at George Washington University.  In high school, Jamie totaled 123 goals and 45 assists in three scholastic seasons at Gwynedd Mercy Academy.  She was also a two-time Athletic Association of Catholic Academies (AACA) selection.  She also become an all-AACA performer and two-time District qualifier on the Monarchs’ golf team.

Following graduation and after making the challenging adjustment to playing collegiate lacrosse at its highest level, Jamie has gone on to put herself in the record books at GW.  This past Friday in a game against Richmond, she registered four more assists, which not only pushed her over 100 for her career, but also tied her for the top spot, all-time in GW history (with at least four more games for her to establish—and add to—a new university record).  Here are more of Jamie’s outstanding athletic accomplishments in college (as of April 9th):

  • Ranks 5th all-time at GW with 156 career points
  • Current Season numbers: 13 goals, 19 assists, 32 points, 13 ground balls, 14 draw controls
  • In 2013, tallied 18 goals and tied GW’s single-season record with 39 assists, which led the A-10 and tied for 14th in NCAA Division
  • Became 3rd player in program history to record at least one point in every game for two consecutive seasons (2013, 2014)
  • Set Colonials’ single-game assists and points records with 12 points on six goals and six assists against Liberty (Feb. 26, 2014

George Washington participates in the very competitive Atlantic-10 conference.  Jamie’s squad has not only had success in the league, but she continues to find herself ranked among the best individually in both the A-10 and the NCAA.  Her rankings as of 4/9/15:

  • Ranks 3rd in Atlantic 10 with 19 assists this season
  • Ranks 5th in Atlantic 10 with 32 total points this season
  • Two-time A-10 All-Conference Second Team selection (2013, 2014)
  • Ended 2014 season as A-10 leader and fifth in NCAA Division I with 38 assists and 2.38 assists per game
  • What really impressed me about this senior “attack” player was not just her ability to maintain an exceptional academic standing, but Jamie is a terrific representative of both her college, the conference and the sport of lacrosse.  This sport, for both the boys and girls teams, has seen great growth in interest in many areas of the country…but in others, it’s still in its infancy stages.  Here’s a portion of my conversation with Jamie discussing her career, the quality of play at George Washington, and her thoughts on the advancement of girls lacrosse.

    Bumgardner has two regular season home games remaining (4/17 vs. Duquesne and 4/19 vs. St. Bonaventura; both games are at the GW Lacrosse Field) before the Atlantic-10 playoffs commence. Regardless of Jamie’s final individual numbers that end up being logged into the record books, she’ll have the recognition of being regarded as a great ambassador for her sport and her collegiate program.

    We are always on the lookout for outstanding accomplishments by athletes, both on and off the athletic fields.  If you have a suggestion for an athlete for us to feature, send us an email at and join us for “RCN SportsTalk” at our new time, now broadcasting live from 7-8 pm, Thursday evenings on RCN-TV.

The SportsTalk Shop: Phillies Prospects & Nationals Predictions

April 7, 2015 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

With the pomp and circumstance of Major League Baseball’s Opening Day now behind us, we can take a look at two teams in the RCN viewing area with completely different focuses for the 2015 season. The Nationals are in a “World Series or bust” state of mind, while the Phillies are clearly looking to groom young talent and play for the future.

Here we look at some predictions, projections and thoughts on Washington’s key players to watch, as well as interview clips from some of the Phillies top minor leaguers, reflecting on their spring training performances and discussing their summertime goals.

A couple of other key points for both teams…

• I think the Nationals are clearly the favorites in the division and my pick to win the pennant. I think the Marlins are, at best, a wild card possibility. However, it is imperative that Washington does not flounder for the first month of the season. They have a favorable schedule (they play the Phillies seven times) the first month of the season. Despite being without three key pieces to their lineup and a bullpen still defining roles, they cannot afford to finish April under .500. It’s not likely to happen, but a rough start makes it tougher to work their way back into the race. With all the potential free agents on Washington’s roster, they don’t want to have guys worried about improving their free agency status and more concerned over their individual statistics than the team’s overall success. A rough start could send this negative attitude (or “Natitude” in this case) in motion, and make for a horrifically disappointing year. Again, not likely to happen, but something to keep an eye on.

• The Phillies are not the 76ers. They don’t NEED to trade all their big name players…at least not right away. They don’t get any real benefit by being overly bad, and they’re not going to get much in return right now for unloading guys like Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz or Jonathan Papelbon. The best thing to do is hope these older veterans play well, and another team gets desperate enough to give up something of value for them. Someone on last week’s “SportsTalk” show suggested throwing in Cole Hamels in a trade so that the team could rid themselves of Howard’s weighty contract. That’s not wise either, as you lose the only player who can (and should) give you a healthy return of prospects…and for what? To give Darin Ruf—a player the Phillies clearly don’t like—more at-bats? It’s not imperative Philadelphia cuts everyone loose, and only as we near the trading deadline would it even begin to make sense to look for some serious trade rumors to start simmering.

It should be an exciting season overall for the Nationals, hopefully culminating with a record-setting postseason win total for the organization. To get excited about the Phillies, you’ll have to look more closely at the younger members of the organization and try to imagine a bright future that awaits a few summers from now. As the baseball season unfolds, don’t forget to email us your sports comments and opinions to and join us for “RCN SportsTalk” at our new time, now broadcasting live from 7-8 pm, Thursday evenings on RCN-TV.

The SportsTalk Shop: The “Crossover” Season

March 30, 2015 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

‘Tis the season.

There is a well-known sports term perfectly describing this time of year for many involved in athletics.  It’s the time of year when all the winter sports are climaxing to an exhilarating finish.  “March Madness,” state tournaments and final swimming and diving meets…all with their elaborate playoff systems formed to create an exciting and balanced formula, pitting the best teams, and individuals squaring off against each other and building in intensity until reaching their conclusions.  With any luck, the results are memorable and thrilling finales.  As we approach the end, everyone involved can enjoy the memories created by this fiercely competitive segment of the calendar, while we all sit back, relax and reflect during a slower, more peaceful time of year….

For some of us.

While there is a perception that the end of winter sports season induces a slower time-period in the sports world, students, parents, athletic directors…and even some of us in the media, have a different story.  A “crossover” exists when one sports season begins winding down following a flurry of playoff action, while the spring sports teams are quietly trying (as best as Mother Nature allows) to put together a winning formula for what every coach hopes will be a successful campaign.  But a heavy snow late in the winter keeps athletes from getting much needed playing time out on their respective athletic fields.  Little to no snowfall but extreme cold temperatures also keeps athletes inside preventing them from much needed practice time out on their fields.  A couple days of rain on surfaces that are still frozen or a low snowfall amount with quickly rising temperatures on hardened surfaces create swampy and/or flooded conditions which…well, you get the idea.

For athletes who participate in both winter and spring athletics, it’s rather challenging to be going full-steam ahead in one sport, then quickly don a brand new uniform and begin competing at a high level instantly in a whole new activity.

And those of us in the media also are doing our best covering the final games of the basketball season while simultaneously attempting to interview as many spring sports coaches and players as we can, without the benefits of cloning.  All this must be accomplished before the looming and unforgiving deadline of the first game/match of the spring season which, ironically and painfully enough, usually gets postponed the day of, due to… (snow, rain, the cold, field conditions, electrical issues, or fill in your own reason here).

Keeping this theme in mind, this week at the “Shop” we look at one of our final winter sports interviews of the year, while also giving you a sampling of several of our spring high school sports previews (you can see more of them on “SportsTalk” live on Thursday evenings or on RCN On-Demand).

First, we check in with Mike Jones to get his thoughts on the final games in the NCAA tournament, the success of the nationally ranked DeMatha basketball program once again this winter, and the outstanding basketball tradition in the Washington, DC area.

Now, here are a few insights into several spring sports teams in the RCN coverage area.

So whether you’re spending the next several days enjoying what promises to be a exciting finish between the last four teams in the NCAA tournament (for the record, I did have Wisconsin and Kentucky in “my” Final Four, but missed with Duke and Michigan State).  Or, if you’re coaching, playing, or supporting one of the outstanding scholastic sports programs this weekend, I tip my cap to everyone who doesn’t take it easy over the next week, continuing to participate in the efforts of our young athletes in action during this special time of year.

‘Tis the season.


The SportsTalk Shop: State Basketball Recap

March 23, 2015 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

After shoveling snow out of my driveway for the final time this winter (even if we get more of the white stuff, I’m just plowing through with my car from now on), I had a chance to witness some of the PIAA state playoff games.  Unfortunately, none of the teams in our RCN-TV coverage area made it all the way through the state tournament, but that didn’t stop us from seeing some tremendous efforts from our local teams in the postseason on RCN-TV.

Here’s a look at our final set of basketball highlight packages from our state playoff game broadcasts; then, a few of my own observations on the final weeks of the PIAA basketball season.

Now a few thoughts as we close out the high school basketball season for our Pennsylvania sports fans.

    • Becahi’s Head Coach is a Stand-Up Guy

First of all, Jose Medina took over the Becahi girls basketball team very late (November) before this season started.  There’s no question this team had talent, but to keep all the pieces together and still win 27 straight games, an Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Championship, a District XI 3A title, advance to the 2nd round of the state tournament and to be ranked in the top four statewide throughout the entire season, all were tremendous accomplishments.
Once more, following a disappointing loss to Conrad Weiser and the controversial decision in which his star player, Kalista Walters, was left in the game with three fouls in the second quarter, he responded to my request to be on our “SportsTalk” show and address this and other issues with this year’s team (this show is available through RCN On Demand).  I cannot offer enough respect and support going forward for Coach Medina for tackling these topics head-on with me on our live show, and admire how he and his players have conducted themselves following their surprising, upset loss in the state tournament.  I heard from a good source that their up-and-coming players like Tessa Zamolyi and Rebekah Recchio were quality, hard-working players even before this season started, and the way they addressed the ending of their season makes me think the future of this program is as bright as ever.

    • Speaking of Conrad Weiser…

The Scouts from the Conrad Weiser girls basketball team made for one of the best stories in the entire state.  While some did not count on Weiser to be a force entering the league playoffs—let alone districts and states—the Scouts fought their way into the Final Four in the Berks County playoffs, then followed that up with a trip to the district championship game.  Then, after a mild upset win in the first round of states, they won back-to-back games against the best teams in the state to reach the PIAA quarterfinals.  Head Coach Mark Owens called his team “The Little Engine,” referencing the childhood story of the train that wouldn’t give up.  Despite being discounted multiple times, Owens’ group of undersized players (their tallest player is 5-8, shorter than about a half-dozen players they faced in states) made for an exciting post-season experience and showed what hard work, dedication and determination can do on the scholastic level’s biggest stage.

    • The “Final Pairs”

Here’s a look at the final two teams in each classification of the PIAA tournament.  See if something jumps out at you as readily as it did for many high school sports fans (this weekend’s winning teams in BOLD).

State Basketball Finalists
Class 4A Boys – Roman Catholic, Martin Luther King (Both District 12)
Class 4A Girls – CB West (District 1), Cumberland Valley (Dist. 3)
Class 3A Boys – Newmann-Goretti, Archbishop Carroll (Both District 12)
Class 3A Girls – Archbishop Wood (District 12), Black Hawk (Dist. 7)
Class 2A Boys – Conwell Egan (District 12), Aliquippa (Dist. 7)
Class 2A Girls – Newmann-Goretti (District 12), Seton LaSalle (Dist. 7)
Class 1A Boys – Constitution (Dist. 12), Farrell (Dist. 10)
Class 1A Girls – Old Forge (Dist. 2), Vicentian Academy (Dist. 7)

If you noticed most of the teams reaching the state championship games were from the Philadelphia region (Districts 1 and 12) and that ALL the boys winners were from District 12 (first time that has EVER happened in Pennsylvania), give yourself a gold medal.  It was common knowledge that once the District 12 schools were granted access to the PIAA tournament, the teams from the Delaware Valley would often be favorites in playoff match-ups.  However,  I don’t think many basketball fans not from the southeastern corner of the state anticipated just how dominate these programs are.   I’ve had the opportunity to see teams like Roman Catholic, Martin Luther King, Conwell Egan, Newmann-Goretti and Archbishop Carroll play at a high level for several years.  Their successes is not a fluke, nor do I anticipate their quality of play dropping off any time soon.

Is it right that most championship participants of a statewide tournament come from one area?  I cannot argue against it and believe there are opportunities with this tourney for a team to have a chance—although not a great one—to compete for a crown.  Whether it’s envy, sour grapes or an unjust system, the debate will rage on until more teams from other parts of Pennsylvania start making it to the title games—and for the boys teams, it’ll mean winning championships on a more regular basis.  One thing that cannot be disputed is that the success of high school basketball in Philadelphia is as strong as ever, and any sports fans left to watch the last three rounds of the PIAAs will continue to watch Philly’s brand of basketball for years to come.

The SportsTalk Shop: Phillies and the PIAA

March 16, 2015 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

We had the opportunity to speak with several important guests on last week’s “RCN SportsTalk,” discussing a number of issues relevant to sports fans in the RCN viewing area.  For this week’s entry in the “SportsTalk Shop,” I’d like to share some of my opinions on these topics and add a few more bits of information that we didn’t have a chance to address.

The first topic of conversation with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jake Kaplan focused on spring training for the Phillies and also the comparisons between the current Nationals’ starting rotation and the “4 Aces” that the Phillies featured a few seasons ago.

Now, there are several other issues regarding the Phillies exhibition season.  As we close in on the final two weeks of spring training, the Phillies roster is starting to come into focus—and there’s actually some good competition for the remaining roster spots.  The most competitive battle is for the three remaining bullpen spots, with several southpaws standing out.   Andy Oliver, Elvis Araujo, Mario Hollands, Adam Morgan, and Joely Rodriguez all have been throwing well with most of these pitchers not allowing a run so far this preseason.  Oliver (a Rule 5 player who the Phillies risk losing if not on the MLB roster this season) and Hollands (who pitched last year) probably have the edge, but the fact that so many of the young pitchers have looked impressive is an encouraging sign for the future.

The potential starting lineup is also intriguing.  If this team was battling for a playoff spot, the overabundance of left-handed bats would be a definite concern.  Since the Phillies are more in “talent retrieval mode,” the fact that the lefty-hitters are all making contact and squaring the ball up the last few days is worth noting.  Here’s my view of what an Opening Day lineup—especially if an opposing right-handed pitcher is throwing—might look like as of now:

CF – Ben Revere (L)
LF – Odubel Herrera or Grady Sizemore (both L)
2B – Chase Utley (L)
1B – Ryan Howard (L)
C – Carlos Ruiz (R)
3B – Cody Asche (L)
RF – Dom Brown (L)
SS –Freddy Galvis (S)

Also, with Ruiz getting older and coming off another season with an injury, he probably will only start three to four games per week.  This means his backup, unless they do add a significant name, will bat lower in the lineup, and will make the upper half of the lineup even more left-handed.

* * *
The other big subject on last week’s show dealt with the ongoing talk that the PIAA (the governing body for high school sports in Pennsylvania) could realign the classifications for high school football in the Keystone state.  The biggest issue with the new proposal is that it would change the current four classes format (based on male student enrollment numbers) to six classifications.

Here are a few thoughts on the proposal and how it could affect the football landscape in Pennsylvania.

As for District XI fans in the RCN viewing area, here’s a look at the current alignment and the potential breakdown—as of now—for what a six classification format would look like:

Class 4A— over 493 male students
Allen, Dieruff, Easton, East Stroudsburg South, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, Northampton, Parkland, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Stroudsburg, Whitehall.

Class 3A—300-49
Bangor, Bethlehem Catholic, Blue Mountain, Central Catholic, East Stroudsburg North, Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Pottsville, Saucon Valley, Southern Lehigh.

Class 2A—175-299
Catasauqua, North Schuylkill, Northern Lehigh, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Palisades, Palmerton, Panther Valley, Pen Argyl, Pine Grove, Salisbury, Tamaqua, Wilson.

Class A—1-174
Mahanoy Area, Marian Catholic, Minersville, Nativity, Pius X, Schuylkill Haven, Shenandoah Valley, Tri-Valley, Williams Valley.

Six-class proposal
Class 6A—608 male students and above
Dieruff, Easton, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Northampton, Parkland, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Stroudsburg, William Allen.

Class 5A—410-607
Bangor, East Stroudsburg North, East Stroudsburg South, Nazareth, Southern Lehigh, Whitehall.

Class 4A—301-409
Blue Mountain, Central Catholic, Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Pottsville, Saucon Valley.

Class 3A—210-300
Bethlehem Catholic, North Schuylkill, Northern Lehigh, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Palisades, Palmerton, Pen Argyl, Pine Grove, Salisbury, Tamaqua, Wilson.

Class 2A—148-209
Catasauqua, Mahanoy Area, Minersville, Panther Valley, Schuylkill Haven.

Class A—1-147
Marian Catholic, Nativity, Pius X, Shenandoah Valley, Tri-Valley, Williams Valley

My thoughts on this…I’m honestly not so sure it’s a good idea.  I think there are some positives (I’m all for shortening the season) along with some concerns.  There are some major hurdles that different sections of Pennsylvania would have to overcome (the biggest would be scheduling) in order for this to happen.  I also think it would put a strain on some of the newspapers and website outlets that cover high school football, to make the leap from covering (at most) two championships per night to potentially four or more—especially with newspaper staff numbers dwindling.

However, I have known District XI Football Chair Jason Zimmerman and several other proponents of this proposal for quite some time. I believe that Jason and the people he is working with genuinely care about the scholar athletes’ best interests and believe in doing what’s right for the kids in Pennsylvania.  If he feels strongly enough to invest his and other administrators and coaches’ time and energy into exploring this proposal, then I think we should all take a serious look at the ideas presented.

The SportsTalk Shop: “Districts & Regionals” Video Recaps

March 10, 2015 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

Last week here at the “SportsTalk Shop,” I examined the top stories, teams and individuals involved in this year’s District XI boys and girls basketball tournament.  As always, the RCN crew did their usual outstanding job, bringing all the sights and sounds of the local playoffs to our viewers–their schedules stretched to the limit to cover as many basketball games as possible.  And let’s not forget the District XI and Northeast Individual Wrestling coverage our crew provided for our viewers.  This year’s tournaments certainly had their share of thrilling action, great individual performances and exciting finishes.

Here are video highlights from our District XI boys and girls basketball post-season coverage, as well as highlights from our playoff wrestling coverage.


Which highlights were your favorites from this year’s District XI playoffs?  Which teams made for the most exciting finishes?  Send us an email with your thoughts and opinions to and we’ll read some of your comments on an upcoming show.  Also, here’s a reminder of a special “RCN SportsTalk” program on Thursday, March 12, from 6-7pm.  On this show, we’ll be joined by District XI Football Chair Jason Zimmerman and PIAA President Dr. Robert Lombardi to discuss the new “six football classifications” proposal, which could gather momentum later this month and potentially change the landscape for the sport in both the Lehigh Valley and in Pennsylvania.  We’ll also have a live update from Florida on the Phillies’ spring training news, and thoughts on who’ll make this year’s team.

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Hoops – District XI Recaps

March 4, 2015 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

It was another fun (and extremely hectic) District XI playoff season for us at RCN-TV.  A huge “THANK YOU” to all the representatives of the district, the athletic directors, coaches, statisticians (especially Bob & Pat Whirl!) and everyone involved in the tournament.  The playoffs were not without their share of exciting moments, a few upsets and some great storylines involving the communities within RCN’s Lehigh Valley coverage area.

Here are a few thoughts and observations regarding this year’s tournament.

1)  Parkland and Becahi Delivered
Coming into this season—heck, even over a year ago—the Parkland boys and Bethlehem Catholic girls basketball teams were the definitive teams-to-beat in the 2015 District XI tourney.  On paper, they clearly had the best teams, but that doesn’t always translate to winning a championship.  No matter how dominating their regular season, one bad night could shatter all of their expectations—especially with an early loss in the playoffs.  However, these teams came out and played their best.  What was more impressive was, if one player was having a rare off-night, others stepped up and delivered.  The result?  Neither of these teams needed a late-game, “sweat-it-out” basket to win its game, and entered the state playoffs as #1 seeds.  It’s one thing to appear to be the best team, but there’s something to be said for going out and executing each and every night.  Through many months of hard work and dedication, they made their success “look” easy, and winning every single game against every area opponent is a tremendous accomplishment for both of these schools.

2)  The Nazareth Community
One example of the truly special communities within the RCN area is Nazareth.  From its #1 fan (Andy Weaver) to its classy and professional head coaches (Joe Arndt, Rich Bickert), to its passionate fan base, it’s always fun to broadcast a Blue Eagle game.  Both teams took different routes to advance to the final day of the district playoffs.  The Nazareth girls team has several seniors armed with experience earned during the Blue Eagles’ 2013 championship season, mixed with some of the most talented sophomores in the area.  Many girls basketball experts thought Nazareth’s experience would give them the advantage over the upstart Red Rovers, a team I don’t think got as much attention as they deserved.  Easton has a host of athletic underclassmen and no doubt will be competing for league and district titles for many years to come.  But 2015 belong to the Eagles and I’m looking forward to seeing them in action this Friday in their opening round state game against Mount St. Joseph’s.  Especially with the game conveniently located, I’m expecting the people of Nazareth to take the short trip down Route 191 and continue to support their team as they embark on their playoff run.  (Programming note: Coach Bickert and members of his District Championship team will be guests on the March 19th edition of “RCN SportsTalk” at 6pm).

Speaking of the Eagles’ fan base, the people of Nazareth weren’t the only area basketball fans who were rooting for the Eagles boys team, a unit that embodied the spirit of the ‘Comeback Kids’ over the last few weeks.  Nazareth had to defeat Northampton (who was fighting for its league playoff life) just to qualify for the playoffs, then came back to beat Liberty (a team many pegged to play Parkland in the Championship) in the first round.  Then, they overcame a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to beat a Stroudsburg squad that had come the closest local team to beat the Trojans.  Finally, Nazareth bounced back from a 15-point third quarter deficit to force overtime against Whitehall in the semifinal, making for the most thrilling fourth quarter of the tournament.  Although Nazareth would go on to lose to Allen on the playoff’s final day, the Blue Eagles made for some lasting memories for many local basketball fans.  The fact that the boys athletes showed up at the girls’ games and vice versa was tremendous to see, and the entire town should be proud of its winter sports athletes.

3)  The “Ultimate” Underdogs
I don’t know if there’s a more underrated boys basketball head coach in the area than Salisbury’s Jason Weaver.  Ever since he took over the Falcons basketball program seven year ago, all they’ve done is win games.  Every couple years he’ll lose the entire starting lineup to graduation, and yet, by game one of the following season, the Falcons are right there, playing as well as anyone in the Colonial League…and each February they’re beating teams in the post season.  When Salisbury lost its top scorer Dasheen Reid before districts started, they came back and posted one of the most impressive start-to-finish games I saw all year in their win over Wilson.  They continued on and lost tough ball games to Central Catholic and Tamaqua to finish out their season, but, like Nazareth, I don’t know how many local basketball fans thought they would preserve through some adversity as well as they did, and should be commended for their effort.

And speaking of Salisbury, how about a shout-out to two of the top girls basketball performers in our area—the Falcons’ Meagan Eripret and also Palmerton’s Jade Farquhar.  Although we didn’t broadcast any of their games, I had a chance to watch both of these standout stars in action.  We interviewed Eripret for “SportsTalk” last year when her head coach Joe Mladosich won his 200th game and she was very well-spoken and unselfish when discussing her skills and abilities in relationship to the team’s success during her career at Salisbury.  She became the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,787 points and has made her Falcons a perennial post-season contender over the last few seasons.

Farquhar was the Colonial League’s MVP and she scored her 1,000th point in a game against Pleasant Valley earlier this season.  I was also told that she contributes countless hours volunteering at local organizations and youth activities.  I heard extremely wonderful things about both of these young ladies, both in terms of the performances on and off the court from people who follow girls basketball on a regular basis.

Another such individual I have had the good fortune of seeing often was Wilson’s Phil Pierfy, who’s tremendous scholastic basketball career came to an end in this year’s district playoffs.  He’s a two-sport standout star in basketball and baseball, and I know a number of college coaches in both sports that would love to add him to their teams.  Warrior’s Head Coach Bob Frankenfield would commonly refer to Phil as a great “STUDENT-athlete,” putting the emphasis on the first part of this term.   The high standard players like Eripret, Farquhar and Pierfy live up to are what true champions are made of, and should be celebrated just as much,  and in many cases more, than the trophy that’s raised at the end of the district tournament.

What other players should be recognized for great work this past winter sports season, and which individuals deserve “Shout-outs” for their efforts?  Send us an email with your thoughts and opinions to and we’ll read some of your comments on our next show, March 12th from 6-7pm.  On this show, we are happy to be joined by District XI Football Chair Jason Zimmerman and PIAA President Dr. Robert Lombardi, to discuss the new “six football classifications” proposal, which could gather momentum later this month and potentially could change the landscape for the sport in both the Lehigh Valley and in Pennsylvania.

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Basketball Playoffs (Part 2)

February 23, 2015 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

Recently here at the “SportsTalk Shop,” we brought you highlights and insights on the larger Lehigh Valley basketball teams in this winter’s playoffs.  This week we look at some of the smaller schools, and a few of the girls teams that I had a chance to catch-up with over the last few weeks.

Like most basketball seasons, Allentown Central Catholic boys team is a favorite to compete for a District XI 3A title.  The Vikings are in search of their fifth straight championship, and may present the best chance of any team in the RCN area to win it.  The #1 seed is Pottsville–a team that also appears quite regularly in the playoffs.  Some winters, the Crimson Tide come into the playoffs with overwhelmingly impressive records…but that doesn’t always translate to postseason success.  Some years their quality of competition is not nearly what teams in the Lehigh Valley face, and the result is a quick exit from districts.  This is NOT one of those years, as Pottsville not only has played some very good teams, but also boasts some outstanding, multi-talented players.  These players also are great all-around athletes who excel at other sports.  Tamaqua is also having an outstanding year, but is in the “upper bracket,” meaning they’ll have to face the Tide in the district semifinal.  A loss to Pottsville means they would have to fight for the remaining playoff berth in the consolation game (FYI: District XI 3A has three teams that can qualify for the state playoff).

Speaking of “brackets,” it’s a shame that so many quality teams from the Lehigh Valley were all grouped together in the same (lower) 3A bracket, which limits the number of teams in the RCN viewing area teams to advance.  Central Catholic will face Salisbury in this Tuesday’s semifinal matchup.  The loser of that ball game will have to win the consolation game Friday in order to qualify for the PIAAs.

In the girls Colonial League championship, Notre Dame really impressed me with it’s lights-out defense and smart play.

The Crusaders held a very talented Northwestern offense to 15 first half points, while having five different players scoring eight or more points themselves.  Notre Dame featured outstanding balance on this year’s team.  Seniors Gabby Altmire, Sam Cabone and Julie Romich are outstanding leaders on and off the court.  Despite having a very young team (six of their nine regulation rotation players are underclassmen), they have many battle-tested players who’ve played in a number of close games against great competition throughout the past year.

Northwestern is also a very fun team to watch and showed lots of determination in the title game by coming back and not quitting, despite facing a 15-point deficit midway through the third quarter.  Seniors Sabrina Mertz and Sarah Segan are both capable of big scoring nights and leading a team that can also play great defense.  They are part of a 3A group loaded with talent. The Tigers figure to be viewed as underdogs heading into their semifinal game.

This brings us to the two best girls teams in the RCN viewing area–Bethlehem Catholic and Central Catholic–that met in the EPC championship this past Friday.

The Golden Hawks earned a hard-fought title, led by perhaps the best player in the state, Kalista Walters, who has scored 2,202 career points heading into the district playoffs.  Very few teams have been able to contain her in her scholastic career, and when they do she’s been amazing at finding the open teammate on the floor and dishing out assists.  Central Catholic might actually have more high-quality players and feature one of the premiere all-around athletes in the area (Darcy Wolf).  Becahi Head Coach Jose Medina has done a great job keeping the rhythm going after taking over the program very late in the process and Central Head Coach Mike Kopp is as good as it gets.  I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if these teams square-off against each other in districts, and make for another great battle.

You can watch the Becahi/Central championship and all of the local leagues’ girls and boys title games on RCN OnDemand.

Be sure to bookmark our RCN-TV website and check back often for updates on our playoff broadcast schedule as we cover the teams in the RCN viewing area over the next several weeks.  Also, we’d love to hear your comments on our local teams and athletes and want to spotlight great on-the-court performances on our “RCN SportsTalk: District Championship Preview Show” with guests Megan Dellegrotti and Joe Stellato, coming up this Thursday, February 26, from 6-7 pm.  Email your thoughts to and we may read and respond to your emails on this program.

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