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The SportsTalk Shop – February 19th

February 19, 2013 By Chris Michael 1 Reply

BOYS & GIRLS DISTRICT PREVIEWS

Last week we talked about the teams that made or just missed qualifying for the LVC and Colonial League HS Boys’ Basketball Playoffs (see our February 11th entry). Today we look at some of the Boys’ and Girls’ District XI pairing match-ups, and also “update” some of the team’s information based on last week’s events.

Class 4-A Boys

Whitehall is riding a momentum upswing after a last-second come-from-behind win over Allen and has really come together as a team at the perfect time.  I had talked earlier about how the Zephyrs had some very good individual athletes on the team, headlined by Tony Belluccci, but the team has strung together some impressive wins.  Stroudsburg is a challenging opponent and I expect this to be one of the best opening round games of the tournament.  Both of these teams are capable of beating their next round opponent Pocono Mountain West, who has experienced some tough losses to Lehigh Valley teams in the second half of the year, but still is the top ranked 4A team in the district.

The Easton/Allen matchup is the game RCN has selected to broadcast Wednesday, and is also an intriguing match-up.  Allen has the height advantage inside and every time you count them out, they’ve surprised us this year (including winning 4 of its last 6 in beating some of the top teams in the area to make the play-offs).  Easton has excellent guards in DeVante Queen, Xavier Jenkins & Company.  The Allen guards will have their work cut out for them trying to slow them down, but if they can control the tempo and deny the Canaries’ ‘bigs,’ they look to have the advantage.

Parkland looks to bounce back from their LVC Championship loss and would love to cruise past East Stroudsburg-South and Bangor to get some revenge against league champion Liberty.   The Hurricanes looked like the dominant team we were expecting during the league play-offs, with 6 or 7 of their players capable of starting on most other team’s squads.  DeShawn Oyeniyi might have the dubious distinction of being the most pivotal player in the success of any state-bound team, yet not be a member of his all-league team (and there were justified mitigating circumstances).  Freedom was one of our panelist’s “dark horse” teams to watch on last week’s “RCN SportsTalk” show, and will play the winner of the Rovers/Canaries in the second round.  Congratulations again to the Slaters for their first league title in 25 years.  However, it’s going to be hard again for them to win a district play-off game as they will most probably open against the Trojans.

Class 3-A Boys

Gary Laubach made my day by reminding me that there will be three 3-A teams that qualify for the state playoffs this year.  This is great news for Wilson fans, who lost a tough game to Bangor in the Colonial League championship and may have a tough time beating Central Catholic in the semifinal round, as the Vikings looked to re-bound from their league semi-final loss to Liberty.  The Warriors, who have lost just two games this year, had opportunities late against the Slaters, but Jeremy Ringland hit a dramatic shot at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime for Bangor to win.  Salisbury, I think, has a very tough match-up in facing Wilson, who has beaten the Falcons three times in a row.  Matchup-wise, Salisbury needs to run to have success and would have an easier time being bracketed with a team like Tamaqua, Northern Lehigh or Lehighton.
The team to watch could be Bethlehem Catholic, who’s making its first appearance in districts in some time, after having to defeat Easton to qualify.  Matt Husek is a hidden talent and I think they are fully capable of winning their opening round contest versus Blue Mountain.  Plus, the Hawks have an interesting bracket path could lead to state qualification or even the championship game—a HUGE accomplishment for a nice guy in Mike Frew, who took over the program this year.

I haven’t seen Southern Lehigh this year, expect for watching their league-opening win over Wilson on RCN’s video-on-demand, but it’s Bob Shaffer and Kurt Zellner’s last run together.  Knowing those Spartans’ basketball players of the past, I wouldn’t be surprised and hope that they can put a run together for their coaches so we can see Bob & Kurt coach another game on RCN-TV.

Class 2-A & A Boys

I “think” things have worked out well for both Catty & Notre Dame so that they should make it to the championship game and subsequently earn a trip to States.  I have no idea about Williams Valley and North Schuylkill (no yet, anyway), but I talked in an earlier blog about the positives of both the Rough Riders and the Crusaders.  I’d love to see them advance and try to win a PIAA game.  We also talked quite a bit about Pius on the Feb. 14th edition of “SportsTalk” (check it out on VOD) and about their strengths and chances to advance in the postseason.
Class 4-A Girls

Nazareth looked impressive in defeating Parkland for a second time in three tries (they came within a point of sending the game they lost into overtime).  However, they have to get past a gritty Liberty, who is very well-coached.  Speaking of, how about the job Jeff Jacksits is doing once again at Northampton, who started the year off dreadfully, only to come back and make districts?  Don’t know how they’ll fare against Stroudsburg or Pocono Mountain West, but what a huge accomplishment it would be for the K-Kids to get to a semifinal game against defending district champ Bangor, one of a quartet of impressive Colonial League teams again this year.

Class 3-A
I was very impressed with Southern Lehigh again this year!  Madelene McDonald, Mady Campbell and their whole team are fundamentally sound, and I was awed by their basketball smarts and ability to drive and score/draw fouls … and then convert at the line.  Melann Amory is a very underrated player and Brianna Prince has very quick hands and is an excellent “undersized” post presence.
The Spartans will probably have to battle Northwestern for a third time in the 2nd round. The cliché mentions how tough it is to be a quality team three times, and the third battle will be an all-out war.  League MVP Sara Jones and her back court mates were not-too-happy about watching the final minutes of the championship from the sidelines, and they will be looking for revenge big-time.
On the other side of the bracket, you will see (once Bethlehem Catholic trumps Palmerton) another rematch between the Hawks and Central Catholic.  Both were upset in the league semi-finals and there’s still no indication that Janelle Robinson can make a remarkable recovery; however, Bethlehem Catholic still has LVC League MVP Kalista Walters and a very talented group of players that were the top girls team in the Valley during the regular season.  I keep hearing people saying Central is “down” this year (how good is their program in which 4 losses is considered “down” by some), but I think the inevitable meeting between these two teams in districts could be another barn-burner.

Class 2-A

One of my favorite teams from outside the area to cover is Pine Grove — not only do they always have an outstanding team (either the boys or the girls seemed to win a title every year), but they send me NCAA Division One-like information about their program.   Notre Dame Head Coach Josh Kopp is also one of the most prepared coaches in the Valley and his team that just fell sort of a Colonial League championship appearance this year.  This should make for an interesting District XI title game with Pine Grove.

Well … that’s my take on the District XI play-off picture.  Tell me where I made mistakes and where I’m completely off-base via email to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com as we’ll be talking about the district basketball play-offs for the next couple weeks (the show airs live on Thursdays at 6pm on RCN-TV).  You can also post your comments here on our blog!  Best of luck to all the teams!

 

The SportsTalk Shop – February 12th

February 12, 2013 By Chris Michael 3 Replies

Phils Spring Training’s “Other Things”

With Spring Training underway for the Phillies, there’s been quite a bit of talk on what are the BIG things to be concerned about: the health of Roy Halladay and Chase Utley, the recovery of Ryan Howard, the starting lineup, et al. Unfortunately, though, for die-hard fans who watch all the reports out of Clearwater daily hoping for some news on these developments, the answers (unless resoundingly negative) probably won’t be revealed until the last week of camp, at the very earliest. Therefore, here’s a few “other things” you can focus on during the pre-season that might have a large bearing on the overall success or failure of the 2013 Phillies.

1. LATE-INNING DEFENSE.
While this isn’t as sexy as who’s leading off or who’ll bat behind Howard, the Phils figure to play in a bunch of close games again this season, and improving on protecting those late inning leads will be key. Last year, the Phightins’ were 13th in the league in defense, and you could argue that they took a step back from last year’s squad in that regard. Assuming Delmon Young is healthy for Opening Day, Ruben Amaro, Jr. had said after signing Young that he felt he would be serviceable in right field. But “serviceable” may not cut it defensively, especially given the age and declining range of a number of other positions. Left field also could be a black hole of bloop-hits and singles-misplaced-into-extra-base-hits given the proven lack of defense in Laynce Nix, the unproven and unknown commodity of first baseman-turned-outfielder Darin Ruff, and the proven magical mystery ability that Dom Brown displayed frequently in chasing down balls in the gap. Ben Revere will need more than a speedy horse to cover all that extra open terrain, and while there’s always “defensive replacement options,” those might not always be available. Assuming John Mayberry, Jr. isn’t used as a pinch-hitter, he can replace one spot, but your other “best defensive option” is probably Rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte, who, because of a numbers crunch in the outfield, isn’t even likely to stay on the team, barring injuries.

There’s also Michael Young’s “D,” which, undoubtedly, will be a step back from former multiple Gold Glove winner Placido Polanco, which means Freddy Galvis’ learning a new position for the second straight spring becomes another key to watch as he looks to provide late-inning insurance at third base.

2. THE YOUNG RELIEVERS.
Everyone agrees that the bullpen is much more fortified than a year ago, and I agree. But how much improved is the big question. Last year in front of Jonathan Papelbon, the Phils had the oft-injured Jose Contreras and the low-risk, high-reward Chad Qualls, who signed for just over $1 million on a one year deal. This year, the Phils have a younger and more pedigreed Mike Adams, who is also coming off an injury and may not be ready for Opening Day. In Chad Durbin, they have a former pitcher they let go, who passed through three other cities, and who signed a Qualls-like contract for just over a million dollars, later in the off-season than did Qualls. Any delay in Adams return and a hiccup by Durbin and the Phils must resort to the same options they had a year ago, in Antonio Bastardo, Mike Stutes (who’s also coming off an injury), B. J. Rosenberg and Co. as the primary setup men. Granted, these pitchers have an extra year of maturity under their belt and were starting to improve as the 2012 season waned, but their continued progress this spring could go a long way in seeing if the team has in fact improved on one of its biggest weaknesses from a year ago.

3. THE BENCH.
This time last year, the Phillies were looking at Jim Thome and Nix as your left-handed power options, off the pine and the proven bat (but no defense) of Ty Wiggington and Mayberry, Jr., who impressed everyone with a solid 2nd half of 2011, as their right-handed options. Assuming—and there’s some major questions here—that Young, Brown & Ruff are your everyday options in the corner outfield, you have Nix (coming off an injured year) and Mayberry, coming off a very lackluster performance, as your main options, which is certainly a step back. If D. Young isn’t ready to go, and either Brown or Ruff lacks the ability to show that he can play every day and gets shipped back to the minors (a succinct possibility, especially in the case of Mr. Ruff), you now have to use Mayberry and perhaps even Nix in regular roles. This is not just a cataclysmic disaster offensively, but it leaves you with … gulp, Freddy Galvis, Kevin Frandsen and/or Pete Orr as your late-inning power guys? Clearly, some of these corner outfielders HAVE to step-up to avoid the doomsday scenario listed here, but it’s something you definitely have to keep your eyes on as spring training unfolds.

What concerns you most about the Phillies, and what “plan B” players are you focusing in on? Post a comment here and email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll discuss it on our upcoming shows, live on Thursdays at 6pm on RCN-TV.

The SportsTalk Shop – February 11th

February 11, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

SportsTalk Shop: Basketball Playoff

High school basketball playoff time is here!

After a very long, cold and dreary winter weather season (it wasn’t really that bad this year, was it?), it’s time to turn our attention to the 2013 winter sports playoff season. With the boys’ basketball players getting underway, here’s a look at some of the top teams in both the Colonial League and Lehigh Valley League who either clinched a spot in their respective conference playoffs, or teams that came close and could still be very formidable come district postseason time. In no particular order:

Central Catholic – Probably the best team in the area right now, and why not? A dynamic player in Muhammad Ali-Abdul Rahkman who can score from anywhere on the court, along with several other talented guards up front, an inside force in Jean Lee Baez, and underrated players in David Stevens and Jimmy Vaughn. The Vikings seem to be the most balanced and deepest all-around team in the LVC, and could do some major damage in states—assuming they don’t get tripped up en route to the 3A title game.

Wilson – Maybe the biggest surprise of the “elite” teams this year. It’s no wonder they’re good, but I don’t know how many people outside of Wilson thought this team might just end up as the greatest Warriors team ever. After a league opening loss to Southern Lehigh, Wilson has basically had a ‘take-no-prisoners’ approach in nearly every game played, including a win over rival Easton, winning most of their games by double digits. With exciting players like Gerald Terry and Daye-Shawn Bailey slicing & dicing to the hoop, the soon-to-be-top center in the Colonial League Phil Pierfy in the middle, and great depth throughout, this might be the year in which Wilson tops CCHS for the 3A crown.

Parkland – Might have the best overall backcourt in the league (I’m still hoping Jimmy Hahn gets into broadcasting some day). They have a very versatile combination of guards who can do a ton of things well, and are an unselfish group with different players capable of stepping up on any given night. Very tough to defend. However, for the LVC playoffs, I think Central Catholic is a tough matchup for the Trojans, and the team I think you have to get through to win the league championship.

Freedom – Maybe the most talented single player in the league is Nyreef Jackson (he nearly scored 16 points in a row a few weeks back at Sewards Gym), and some very good Patriot players right behind them. (Maceo Connor is VERY underrated in my book). They don’t seem to have as much “fire” or at least the “gusto” as last year’s team, which might account for some of their inconsistencies this year. On any given day they could beat anyone, but will it be on a playoff championship night?

Easton – They’ve had an adventure trying to find their third-scorer, normally a necessity for a team to have post season success. I only saw DeVante Queen once this year, but he REALLY impressed me with his ability to score, his court vision, and his unselfishness in giving up the ball to a hot teammate (see Ezra Gaines in the Allen game). Also, Xavier Jenkins, who just announced he’ll be headed to Central Connecticut State, is a very steady player at both ends of the floor. They have some tough matches against LVC opponents, but if they play their usual top-notch defense and develop some consistency offensively as they did last season in the playoffs…? Remember, the Red Rovers were the last Lehigh Valley team standing last year.

Liberty – A team so good, I haven’t been able to see them (Gary Laubach always gives himself the top team each year =), but a team nearly as inconsistent as any in the LVC. Great guards, great post presence, poised players with experience in big games (and the fortitude to win some close games this year), this SHOULD be the team to beat. They have also had some issues that have really kept them from getting in a solid, sustained rhythm without everyone in the lineup. I’m looking forward to seeing them in the playoffs, especially if they play the way they did against Easton on Tuesday.

Emmaus – Another “enigma” team that looks fabulous one minute, then loses a game you would think they would win. Three solid players in Derek Tannous, Nate Feiretag and Joe Nicolini, as well as a nice supporting cast make the Hornets a team to watch. However, they may still be a year away from being contenders for a championship. Their JV and Freshmen teams, at last check, were raking in the wins. They could be laying the groundwork for a potential mini-dynasty if they can win some tough games this postseason.

Bangor – Includes my vote (as of now) for league MVP in Alex Colton, based largely on what he did without four key players in guiding his team in a close loss to Wilson—probably the grittiest game I’ve seen all year. They have the depth to win the Colonial League, but as Bron Holland correctly stated on a recent “SportsTalk” show, until they win the big one, they’ll be questions about them.

Notre Dame – Vincent Eze had some ups-and-downs early this year, but seems to be back and gives the Crusaders another well-rounded team. Behind Whitehall’s win over the Canaries, Notre Dame had the comeback win of the year over Salisbury in their first meeting, and is deep enough to be able to run and gun with the other teams in the Colonial League. Don’t know if they have enough firepower to beat Wilson, but counting out Notre Dame is always a very dangerous thing to do, especially come playoff time.

Salisbury – Their win over Northern Lehigh was the single most dominating performance that I saw in-person all year long. Perhaps the most underrated head coach in the valley (Jason Weaver keeps his own team’s stats), his team has some outstanding guards that love to push the tempo, and are eager to avenge a district-opening loss that ended their season a year ago. Don’t know how well they will fare in the 3A level this year, but if their “bigs” can stay out of foul trouble, they could very well contend for the league crown.

Catty – I always thought they would be in the mix for the Colonial League playoffs and they’re making a great run at just the right time of year. I think the winning atmosphere from the football season is carrying over, mixed with one of the top coaches in the area in Eric Snyder and some very good athletes. This makes the Roughies a fun team to watch this post-season. Hope they don’t suffer from the long layoff for the 2A district playoffs.

What do you think of my assessments of the top teams this year? Which teams are underrated? Which teams will win titles? Post your opinions here and/or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll read and respond to your comments on our upcoming shows on Thursdays at 6pm, in which we’ll be recapping & previewing the next wave of playoff matchups.

Because of space, I’m hoping to be able to talk about more teams in a future blog post (including Whitehall, Bethlehem Catholic and Northern Lehigh) … so keep winning guys! I hope to have the chance to watch (and type) more about you in the coming weeks!

The SportsTalk Shop – February 4th

February 4, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

That might just describe the state of Philadelphia pro sports right now. With the Flyers (as of this writing on 2/4) mired in last place in the Atlantic division, the 76ers six games under .500 and out of the top 8 playoff spots, and the Phillies coming off an off-season in which they did not acquire a “big name” power bat, following a season in which they finished out of the playoffs and a very mediocre 81-81, it’s easy to be pessimistic.

Those are the bad numbers … now, let’s check out the other side.

First, the Fly Guys are currently just 2 points behind the Rangers and 3 points away from the last playoff berth with one of the most aggressive front offices in all of sports. You know they will make moves (for better or for worse) to try to ride the ship and improve some areas in need of strengthening, especially help on the power play. They’ve also had more than their share of injuries and you can hope that would balance itself out with other teams, especially with the very aggressive four-games a week schedule teams have to endure because of the lockout. And about that condensed schedule, it does make it easier for a quicker reversal-of-fortunes than in normal years. Given continued solid performances by Ilya Bryzgalov in the net, a “hot” week or two could give the Flyers a 10 to 12 point bounce which should calm the anxiety of some of South Philly’s most loyal fan base.

The Sixers, of course, have their big man Andrew Bynam soon to make his long-awaited debut in Philly. He will certainly need time to adjust to his teammates and the new offense, but maybe the team doesn’t need him as much as fans think—at least right now. They certainly need a reliable — and consistent — presence in the paint. But even at 10 to 14 minutes a game to start will help with the team’s depth up-front. I also think his return will light a much needed fire under some other members of the frontcourt (see Spencer Hawes & Lavoy Allen) that have shown flashes of solid play, but not on any kind of regular basis. The team has been gelling better of late with all the new pieces to this year’s team. If their play improves, it will allow Bynam time to get his legs back to as-good-as-its-going-to-be condition for the playoffs, at which time he will have to step and deliver his much need his in-close to the basket skills.

And for the Phillies, who open spring training on February 13th, it is true that Ruben Amaro Jr. spent less money this offseason than the majority of other teams in baseball. He did, however, address every need the Phils had, albeit with some very questionable players. But his moves give the Phils some extra depth that he didn’t have last year at this time. For example, if Dom Brown slips again going after a routine fly ball and breaks his wrist, John Mayberry again can’t establish plate discipline until July, or Delmon Young develops an affinity for Tony Luke’s cheese steaks, the team does have a young stud in Darin Ruff, just chomping at the bit for a chance to bring his big bat to the Bank. The Phillies also have a multitude of options for the bullpen—the candidates for the remaining roster spots NOW have some big league experience. And if all of the options for the corner outfielders and third base positions fall apart and/or if health issues once again crop up for Halladay, Utley and/or Howard, Amaro still has an ace card to play. The team is roughly 7-million under the cap, and the team didn’t go over the luxury tax in 2012, meaning the team can go over in ’13 and not be penalized too harshly. With free agents-to-be like Utley, Halladay, Ruiz and others coming off the books at the end of this season, it wouldn’t surprise me if a big addition would be made during the year, if the team needs one.

Do you think any of these teams and make run for the postseason, and which teams have the most upside? Post a comment on our blog here or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and join us for the hottest local and national sports conversations live on Thursdays at 6pm on RCN-TV. Don’t forget, Villanova and LaSalle surprised us with some rays of sunshine over nationally ranked teams a few weeks ago. It isn’t that far out of the realm of possibility that the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies all make the playoffs this season…even if optimism’s not burning brightly here on these cold February nights.

The Sports Talk Shop – January 22nd

January 22, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

“SportsTalk Shop: HS Basketball Parody vs. Mediocrity”

Every few years, we have a high school basketball season like the one we have this year – lots of teams with similar records and “common opponents” knocking each other off with seemingly no single team, or even a couple squads, distancing themselves from the rest of the pack. Inevitably, we, as local sports fans, start to debate. Do we have a lot of really good teams this year, or are most teams merely average?

I actually feel we have more of the former. Here are some of the reasons why: field goal percentage, defensive points allowed, average, and turnovers.

First, field goal percentage. I don’t recall so many teams in recent memory that were shooting near 50-percent as a unit (no, I’m not going to bring up the woeful free-throw shooting percentage—that’s a whole other issue). The solid “FG” numbers indicate a good deal of high percentage shots being taken, which is a direct result of good execution. We’re seeing quite a bit of quality passes, good pick & rolls (yes, it’s back in style again), solid picks and some all-around good play. You could argue that this is a result of shoddy defense, but when you look at the points allowed, most teams’ numbers are down from a year ago, indicating an improvement in defensive performance. As for teams that are giving up more points than normal, like Easton, the Rovers have played in four overtime games, including two that went into double overtime. With the extra periods, it inflates their per game averages. However, if you look at quarter by quarter numbers, you’ll find nearly every team is playing better defense.

Secondly, the turnover numbers. Local teams are bucking the trend of actually cutting down on the number of turnovers per game. This despite a few teams trying to play a more up-tempo style of basketball. Most teams over the last few years averaged in the mid-teens, but I’ve seen quite a few teams averaging ten or 11 turnovers per game, which also supports the theory that teams are taking better control of the basketball, and, therefore, the quality is up from recent years.

One other point that supports more quality basketball in both the boys and the girls basketball teams, is that of depth. We’re seeing quite a few teams, shall we say “missing” players for various reasons (let’s just say I’ve heard a number of stories why players are not available to play this winter). Injuries or otherwise, teams are having to use their bench quite a bit more. In fact, both the Bangor girls and boys teams were without key players last weekend. Yet they got outstanding efforts from their reserves & younger players, and even members of their JV squad, that stepped up and battled some very strong teams last week. With more and more teams going deeper to their bench and getting quality efforts, it’s clear that there is an upswing right now in the level of play here in the Lehigh Valley. (Bangor, by the way, will be guests on “SportsTalk” this Thursday at 6pm to talk about their season).

Do I see any one Lehigh Valley team knocking off the powerhouse programs from the Philadelphia area, or even some of the top teams from the western part of the state? Probably not. But it has made for an entertaining season thus far. Do you think high school basketball is improving, or are we continuing down a trend of playing more of a ‘playground’ style that a number of long-time local sports fans have been lamenting the last several years? Send your comments to us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com & we’ll discuss on our upcoming shows.

The SportsTalk Shop – January 15th

January 15, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday season.  There were certainly lots of things—sports related or not—going on in the Eastern Pennsylvania area over the holidays.  Among the surprises were some very impressive high school boys & girls basketball wins—and upsets—between Christmas & New Year’s Day.

 With the new calendar year, it’s customary to make “New Year’s” resolution. I usually try to make—and stick to—a few of them each year.  Among them, related to “RCN SportsTalk” are the following goals I have set for myself as the producer of the program:

1.    To be a little more diverse in the planning/scheduling of each “SportsTalk” show as we get deeper into the winter sports season. 

In the past, we would do shows during the winter sports season that were completely Basketball or Wrestling or even Super Bowl related.  I have had people come up to me at a basketball playoff game and ask “who’s going to be on the show this Thursday?”  When I answer with names not normally associated with basketball, the viewer might say something like, “well, maybe I’ll catch the show next week” or “well, I’ll give your trivia giveaway game a look, but I’m not really into listening about wrestling.”  I’m sure there’s grappling fans that feel the same way about HS hoops.  Therefore, as I plan some of the later shows for the winter season (closer to playoff time) I’m going to try to include guests that have backgrounds in several different areas. We can go in several different directions on some of our shows over the next few weeks—especially when it gets to post-season time. This makes the show much more difficult for the host to prepare and to moderate, but no one cares about that guy, right?

2.    To consistently have a trivia contest winner

In December, we had a record number of people guessing for our prize giveaways—yet didn’t have a winner during a few of our December shows.  It certainly makes for a more entertaining program when lots of people make educated guesses and we allwait the whole show to see what the correct answer is. However, I have to try to mix things up a bit more so that we don’t have too many people out in the cold (figuratively speaking, of course) when it comes to giving away an RCN On Demand certificate to watch the latest movie releases.

3.    Discuss some different sports here in the month of January

Before we get to the winter sports post-season I’m looking to change things up a bit.  Among our theme shows & things to watch for this month include:

+   Central Catholic Football Team (the last team standing in the Lehigh Valley)

+   HS Wrestling Head Coaches

+   Basketball Coaches/Teams

+   Local Media/Winter Sports Updates

+   More Giveaways & Local/National sports conversations

As always, I’m always looking for your suggestions & opinions on what we should do on our “RCN SportsTalk” show every Thursday live at 6pm so feel free to email me at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com with your thoughts and ideas for shows during the winter sports season.

Finally, I want to take a moment to thank all the ‘well-wishers’ for the Christmas cards and nice comments to Joe Craig & me about the program.  We are very glad we have made the show entertaining & informative for you.  My favorite was the card with Joe’s & my images digitally edited to wear “Santa” hats. We had it on display during on our Year-In-Review episode – feel free to check that episode out on RCN On Demand!

The SportsTalk Shop – December 18th

December 18, 2012 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

With the holidays approaching, it’s only natural to take a look back at the past twelve months and do some reflecting, and for the 3rd straight year we’re going to be doing just that on December 20th’s “RCN SportsTalk” with our ‘year-in-review’ program.

The show is live and you’re welcome to participate with your memories of the 2012 sports calender year.  Our panelist on the program will reveal their top moments, players, teams, games and quite a few other topics and favorite moments from the year gone by.  Even though the Lehigh Valley had slightly less success in terms of state team metals, there was still plenty of great memories from the team, players and coaches in the area.  A few of mine include: 

 – Easton’s boys basketball amazing come-from-behind win over Emmaus to clinch the last playoff berth, and then to put a state playoff run together and be the ‘last team standing’ from the Lehigh Valley

 – Another amazingly competitive baseball & softball season and some very highly attended games.  The spring sports teams don’t even get close to the attention the fall and winter sports receive, but the games I saw had great turnouts (my favorite scene with Pen Argyl’s athletic director directing traffic because of so many people driving up ‘the hill’ to see the Salisbury/Pen Argyl baseball game

 – The championship season of the Blue Mountain League’s Hellertown Royals under the direction of long-time Skipper Bob Zerfass.  The team didn’t seem as dominating as in their previous championship seasons but always found a way to win, including an incredibly exciting championship series come-from-behind win after being down 2 games to none in a best of five series

 – The Central Catholic football team (who we’ll honor on “SportsTalk” on January 3rd) once again being the last football team standing this fall.  No one had them in their ‘top 5’ in the preseason predictions, but one of the smallest schools in the LVC once again dominated in districts and in the first two rounds of the PIAA and turned in a remarkable season by 5’11 running back Colin McDermott and assisted by an amazing effort by the blockers in front of him.

We’ll be recapping even more great moments on our December 20th show.  You’re welcome to give your opinions and thoughts on the 2012 sports-year by emailing us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com & we’ll try to read your comment on the air.  Happy Holidays!

The SportsTalk Shop – December 7th

December 7, 2012 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

This is one of the best (and busiest times) of the year.  Aside from the Christmas and holiday shopping (I wait until December 20) and everything else going in December, it’s incredibly exciting to follow the teams in our coverage area of the HS State Football Playoffs (when we can root—at least quietly—for teams).  It’s also hectic for everyone involved as the winter sports season is gaining momentum and league play gets underway.  I think it’s tremendous that the winter sports coaches are not only patient in having to put their season’s plans on hold while the football teams continue to play, but they genuinely look to cheer on their players on the football field—even if it does put certain teams well behind the eight-ball.

Both Parkland and Pen Arygl were a bit “un-herald” by some media personalities during this season.  Our “SportsTalk” preseason poll had those teams #2 and #1 respectively in their respective classes, but both schools received some grief—Parkland started the year 0-2 and Pen Argyl unexplainably was overlooked by some in both pre-season and post-season expectations.  Both the Trojans and the Knights lose some special kids, but return a ton of talent and look to be among the top teams once again in 2013.  And Central Catholic—once again—was the last team standing from the Lehigh Valley in 2012.  John Cupples and his tremendous coaching staff really deserve credit when not much was expected from them by outsides…but certainly not by the list of talented players headed up by Colin McDermott, who will go down as one of the premiere running backs in the area.

One other great note about the fall sports season—a special shoutout to the Parkland volleyball team for getting to the state championship round for the second consecutive year.  It was very enjoyable to stop by their practices this fall and interview them for “SportsTalk” and, after winning their firstever title a year ago, they have now established themselves as one of the premiere programs in Pennsylvania.

Now, with the winter sports season underway, it’s time to turn the page and look ahead to playing/wrestling/swimming indoors.  What were your top moments from this past football season and which other teams deserve credit for their work?  And don’t forget to share your picks for the top players and coaches during the fall sports season.  Email them to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com or leave a comment on this post and we’ll read and respond to them on our next show.

SportsTalk Shop Salutes Local AD-s & District Officials

November 2, 2012 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

First of all, I’d like to offer a sincere wish and hope that all of our local customers and neighbors are all safe and secure and have survived the ravages of the “Sandy” storm…it could have been worse, and yet, there were many scary moments this past week and we lost a few local citizens due to yet another unusual Halloween-time weather event.

Secondly, athletic directors are similar to officials and referees—you don’t notice all the great work they do and only recognize them when things go awry (regardless if it’s their fault or not). I think we are very fortunate here in Eastern Pennsylvania to have some incredibly efficient people running our local sports program, but, and perhaps more importantly, you will frequently hear these men and women giving explanations why things are done “for the kids’ sake.”

The past week was a rather typical one for “AD-s” in that they had numerous events taking place and had to shuffle things around due to bad weather, power outages, schools’ requirements over practice times et al. As usual, they made decisions with the local students safety and well-being being the paramount concern, and took the initiative to reschedule events well in advance of the hurricane hitting the coast, and were also proactive in moving sports events from their regular Friday night and Saturday afternoon slots, to alternate times (including Monday night for HS football).

The PIAA also allowed schools to move games past their standard deadline of when games are to be played. (As luck would have it, the playoffs start next week and schools in the past have had to make decisions to play or have the games not count towards the postseason). Otherwise, because of many schools’ regulation that a team cannot practice when school is closed, some teams would have had to play with no “official” practice time, which includes studying film and injury treatment.

Do you think the local administrators made the right calls with their postponements and, in some circumstances, “unusual” game starting times? Post your comments below or let us know your sports opinions on our next live “RCN Sports Talk” show on Thursdays at 6pm.

The “SportsTalk Shop” Talks Non-Football Sports

October 26, 2012 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

So much of the time, the emphasis for the sports world is on football…football and then, some more…football.

On Nov. 1st, our “RCN SportsTalk” takes a week off so that we may highlight some of the other hard working individuals in the Lehigh Valley region. I have the pleasure of announcing the District XI boys soccer championships for RCN-TV, and for that reason, I’d like to discuss some amazing facts and accomplishments among our local athletes in that sport that I’ve begun to uncover in preparing for our broadcasts. It should be noted that we did spend a good deal of time and attention on all of the sports on our show this fall season, and every team’s accomplishments deserves a solid round of applause (insert applause sound effects here).

Southern Lehigh has dominated the 2-A district playoffs, winning 14 of its 16 appearances in the championship. Salisbury is 2nd in that classification with 5 titles and, like the Spartans, have been playing at a high level again this fall. Northwestern and Moravian Academy have both won multiple championships in this sport, and the latter school was playing well when we stopped by their practice field with our camera a few weeks ago for “SportsTalk.”

The 3-A classification is always an interesting tournament, and while Emmaus has won the most titles (14), its Parkland that most people believe is the team to beat this year. Freedom and Liberty had to play each other in the opening round of the tourney, which was a tough match-up out of the game and it’s unfortunate one of those team would have to be eliminated in round one. In an autumn season in which very little positive sports publicity has fallen on ASD because of the struggles of the football team (although congrats to the Canaries for getting their first win over Lehighton), it’s refreshing to see the Allen soccer team in the mix and a chance for their students to cheer-on a playoff team.

One other sport I wanted to give special props to, as I did during our broadcast of the Emmaus/Whitehall football game, is a special “congrats” to the continuing dominance of the Green Hornets girls field hockey team. They captured their 9th straight league title last week (the only nine in the LVC’s history), and have won more state titles (5) than any other school in our coverage area. When Liberty defeated them this year, they celebrated like they just won the greatest game of their lives—as well they should have. There’s only a couple teams in the state that ever get an chance to do that each season, and it was years—literally—since a local team had defeated them in the regular season.

Who’s your favorite non-football local sports teams and which teams would you like to recognize? Post a comment here or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll read and respond to it on our next live show, which will be November 8th!

 

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