We recently wrapped up the high school football season by featuring the District XI Champion Parkland football team on “RCN SportsTalk” (the show is available for free on RCN On Demand). As we closed the books on the 2013 campaign, there were a few things that stuck out in my mind, along with an issue or two that might linger into the 2014 season.
1) This was NOT a “down year” for quarterbacks. The Lehigh Valley has been blessed with some awesome signal callers, especially in the last decade. Liberty, Whitehall, Wilson, Nazareth and a couple other schools have had multiple quarterbacks excel and move on to play at the collegiate level. With no clear “player of the year” coming into 2013, many fans thought the skill level of quarterbacks would suffer this fall. On the contrary, I saw a different type of QB quite often. Players like Doug Erney (Liberty), Jeff Charles (Whitehall), Travis Edmond (Southern Lehigh) and Justin Albert (Nazareth) were just some of the quarterbacks who grew into the area’s best in their positions. While they didn’t necessarily put up dominating rushing yards like a Brendan Nosovitch-type of player, the QBs mentioned above would often run to buy time for their receivers to get open. We also saw a slight decrease in the number of interceptions this fall, indicating smart decision-making by local passers this year. Perhaps no quarterback has more of an ‘up-side’ than Parkland’s DeVante Cross. Initially identified more as a rushing-type of back, he began to showcase a cannon of an arm and showed big-time play ability in the team’s district playoff wins over Whitehall and Easton. Most of these names return in 2014, and I’m looking forward to seeing them continue their ascension for the next season.
2) Score one for the “underdogs.” While we had a number of stars coming into this season, some of the players not expected to be in the spotlight are the players that I’ll remember the most. Becahi’s Will Ward, Whitehall’s Ryan Bonshak, Easton’s Cameron Casciole and just about everyone on Catasauqua’s line were some of my favorite players to watch this past season—not for posting gaudy offensive numbers, but for the things they did to set up the big plays. All of these players were forces on solid defensive teams and made key contributions on offense, defense and special teams. You need a key stop, a block or a turnover? These guys were the types of players who made their teams successful in 2013.
3) The Last of the One-Team Colonial League Domination. Over the last twelve seasons or so, we’ve seen one team dominate the Colonial League. First, Wilson was the clear team to beat for seven seasons. Then, Northern Lehigh, Pen Argyl and, most recently, Catasauqua took two-year turns as the clear-cut favorites. Catty was a fun team to watch, and the numbers they posted this season will stand in the record books for years. But with the Rough Riders graduating nearly their entire starting unit, I see a wide-open race for the League title next year. Teams like Palisades and Southern Lehigh took another major stride this year and found themselves in district championship games, with most players on those teams returning. Notre Dame and Northwestern, armed with up-and-coming talent, improved as the season unfolded and will look to increase their win total in ’14. Pen Argyl and Saucon Valley, each led by an outstanding group of coaches, will look to retool and be playoff contenders once again next fall. Northern Lehigh and maybe one other team that struggled this past season will look to shake things up and be much better a year from now.
4) The End of the LVC as we knew it. Regardless of whether or not the new “super-league” will keep the Lehigh Valley Conference name, there will be significant changes for 2014. There will no longer be non-conference games that coaches loved to use as a barometer to see how their team would stack up against squads from outside the area. This was the last season in which everyone in the conference will play each other. I know, in the near future, we’re going to have battles over the scheduling of games. Despite the league officers’ best efforts, it will be impossible to avoid conflicts over the crossover scheduling. For example, if Parkland ties Easton at season’s end, and one team had a more challenging schedule than the other, you know people from the “wronged” school will be unhappy. Teams that have to travel later in the year will feel slighted by other teams who made their long-distance travels during longer, warmer days earlier in the season. And good luck trying to figure out who will be the league champion with so many different variables at play. Eventually, things will work themselves out and the majority of teams will benefit thanks to the new conference. In the short term, it’s going to be an interesting 2014 school year, to say the least.
What are your memories from the past high school football season? Which players stuck out in your mind, and which teams will rise to glory next season? Post your comments on our blog and enjoy debating your points of view.