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The SportsTalk Shop: Calling for “Year-in-Review” Nominations

December 11, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 

Calling for “Year-in-Review” Nominations

One of our annual traditions on the “RCN SportsTalk” show is our sports “year-in-review” show. We try to spotlight the people, teams, games, stories and memories, both positive and negative, that highlighted the past calendar year. We try to come up with new topics for this program each December while keeping some of our favorite questions. This year, we’d like to include our RCN-TV website audience and incorporate your opinions in shaping this year’s show, which will be live on RCN-TV on Thursday, December 19th from 6-7 pm.

Here’s a look at some of the potential topics for this year’s program:
• Most Unique Athlete of 2013
• Toughest Challenge Overcome in 2013
• Most Unique HS Game ‘You Saw’ in 2013
• Most Frustrating Thing About 2013
• Best Surprise of 2013
• Biggest Local Story (Lehigh/Delaware Valley) of 2013
• A “Shout out” for one person/group who did something exceptional during the year
• Biggest National Story of 2013
• Best Sports Decision Made in 2013
• Biggest Loss In 2013
• Sports Personality You Saw Too Much Of in 2013
• Sports Personality You’d Have Like to See More Of in 2013
• Best Team You Saw in 2013
• One Thing You’d Like To See in 2014
• Team/Player to Watch in 2014
• Resolution Advice for 2014
• A ‘Guaranteed’ Sports Prediction for 2014

We’d appreciate your feedback! Which topics are your favorites? Do you have a unique athletic, a memorable game or another answer to one or more of these questions that we should include on our year-in-review show? Email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.net and tune in for our final live show of 2013 on December 19th at 6pm!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: District XI Football Recaps

December 2, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 

District XI Football Recaps

It was our pleasure to cover the District XI football playoffs once again this fall on RCN-TV. While some games were one-sided, there were some great contests with many outstanding individual and team triumphs en route to this year’s championships.

CLASS 2A PLAYOFFS
Catasauqua accomplished what it couldn’t do a year ago–when Pen Argyl defeated the Rough Riders in the District title game.

Like many of the great head coaches in our viewing area, Tom Falzone used this experience as a life-lesson. In speaking with his players before the game, he talked about not always having a second chance in life, being appreciative when you do, and making sure you focus on your priorities when given opportunities. Several of the Catty coaches and administrators have talked about what a special, respectful and fun group of players they have had for the last two years, and it was great for their program to finally have the gold metal placed around their necks.

Palisades, Catty’s opponent in the championship, also had a great year…exceeding everyone’s expectations but their own. Head Coach Kevin Ronalds got an extra special gift this fall, as his son, serving oversees in the military, came home to see his family and got to spend a few weeks in the Lehigh Valley before returning to an “undisclosed location.” Ronalds is one of a handful of coaches in the area who have successfully rebuilt their football programs this fall. In my long-range crystal ball, I see an even more competitive 2014 season in the Colonial League. The Pirates, Southern Lehigh, Saucon Valley, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and perhaps one other team all have legitimate chances to fight for the league crown.

CLASS 3A PLAYOFFS
In the District XI semifinals, Southern Lehigh dominated in its win over Pottsville with a very balanced attack. While Bethlehem Catholic also won by a significant margin, I was impressed by Lehighton and how they battled the Golden Hawks, especially after sustaining an injury to one of their key players.

The championship was one of the most competitive games all season. Perhaps most impressive to me was the Southern Lehigh secondary. Despite giving up between 5 to 9-inches in height to a quicker group of wide receivers, the Spartans held Becahi to 7 passes for 24 yards–one of their lowest outputs of the season. Likewise, Collin Kendricks and company contain the Hawks’ ground game, but Becahi’s defense was also up to the challenge. Guys like Will Ward, Antwon Keenan, Dante Lonardo, Josh Heron, Searn Moroney, Mike McDanniel and others stepped up in key moments, enabling the Hawks to win the title in overtime:

CLASS 4A PLAYOFFS
In the first round, both Parkland and Whitehall looked solid, although Stroudsburg and Pleasant Valley both played valiantly and did not disappear after the Trojans and Zephrys took early leads. The big story for me was the development of Parkland’s DeVante Cross as a passer in this game:

For Whitehall versus Pleasant Valley—two teams that love to run a hurry-up, fast-tempo offense—it was an entertaining game, with lots of highlights on both sides of the football:

In the district semifinal, Parkland’s defense stepped up big time as I thought they would (see my blog entry from the second week of September) and held the vaunted Whitehall offense in check until the Trojans had built a solid cushion:

Easton, playing without some key players, defeated Wyoming Valley West by one point in their first round playoff game. A week later they dominated its matchup against undefeated East Stroudsburg South, setting up the championship faceoff with Parkland.

For the second straight year, it was Parkland avenging a regular season loss to Easton in the championship. Another irony, the District XI season ended almost identical to the way it began–with the Trojans dominating a team on both sides of the ball. The win over the Rovers was vastly more impressive than their week-one blowout over a rebuilding Del Val team. Easton had looked as the most well-rounded team of all the schools I visited during August double-sessions. Parkland’s offense and defense have been improving all season and was just too strong last Friday as the Trojans made the title game win look easy.

Which team do you feel had the most impressive run during the district playoffs? Which highlights do you think were the best? Send us an email with your opinions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and join us for our next live show on December 5th at 6pm. Among out topics on that program, we’ll be updating the PIAA playoff pictures and also talking Eagles and NFL news with beat writers Nick Fierro and Al Thompson.

Check back to our blog soon as we’ll be looking for your help in nominating the top teams, athletes, games and more for our sports “year-in-review” program.

The SportsTalk Shop: Phillies Pitching Projections

November 18, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 

Phillies Pitching Projections

Last week, we examined what I hoped the Phillies’ lineup and position players roster would look like. This week, it’s the pitchers’ turn.

Starting Pitchers
• Cole Hamels
• Cliff Lee
• Matt Garza / Ricky Nolasco / David Price
• M. A. Gonzalez
• Doc Halladay (only on an incentive-laden contract)
• Kyle Kendrick
• Jonathan Pettibone
• Zach Minor (or another free agent “swingman”)

The Bullpen
• Closer — Jonathan Papelbon (if he’s not traded)
• Set-up — Joe Smith
• Lefty Specialists — Antonia Bastardo & Jake Diekman
• Long Men — B.J. Roseberg & Justin DeFratus
• “On the Bubble” Guys — Michael Stutes, Luis Garcia, Ethan Martin, Cesar Jimenez

First of all, you’re probably asking yourself why I listed eight starting pitchers when there’s only five starting slots. When I covered the Phillies back when Larry Bowa was managing, I remember him prophesying that the game was changing, stating teams need to have eight reliable Major League arms entering a season. His words have become commonplace for most teams, as evidence by the ten different starting pitchers (not including their “bullpen games”) used by the Phillies in 2013. The team needs to be proactive in acquiring enough talent going into the season. They must avoid sending out mediocre Triple-A hurlers in (what will hopefully be) meaningful July and August games, as they were forced to do in 2013.

Secondly, Garza is the best available free agent pitcher available, but there are a few other options I would pursue, both via trades and free agency. As stated in my analysis of the position players, I think you listen to offers for Dom Brown. Coming off an All-Star “breakout” season, I think you could package him (and additional prospects not-named Mikael Franco) to get a long-term “number-3” starting pitcher whom you can have under club control for the next couple of years.

Thirdly, for fans calling on Adam Morgan or Jesse Biddle to start the season with the big club… cool your jets. Morgan had injury problems throughout 2013, and each time he came back he pitched less effectively. Biddle also looked stellar at times, but battled with his control, and you simply CANNOT rely on a young, unproven arm in a year in which so much is at stake.

Finally, I would not simply hand Ethan Martin a spot on the roster. I know fans salivated at the mid-90s fastball and knee-bending curve he put on display in Philly this past season. However, I saw him battle the strike zone while with the IronPigs and think he has to develop some consistency in throwing strikes before becoming a later-inning reliever.

What do you think of my ideas for Phillies 2014 pitching staff? What players do you think the team will add before spring training? Post a comment and let us know what you would do if you were the Phillies’ general manager this winter!

The SportsTalk Shop: Phillies Position Player 2014 Projections

November 11, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 

Phillies Position Player 2014 Projections

Back in September, I gave my annual suggestions on what moves the Phillies should make for the upcoming winter trading and free agent season. With the World Series completed and offseason moves in the works, I want to give my take on the Phillies’ projected roster for position players, given the latest news, rumors and insights.

CF Jacob Ellsbury / Curtis Granderson
SS Jimmy Rollins
2b Chase Utley
1b Ryan Howard
RF Mike Morse / Nelson Cruz
C Carlos Ruiz / Dioneer Navaro
3b Cody Asche (might alternate with the catcher depending on if a right or left-handed pitcher is starting)
LF Ben Revere
Right-handed PH — Darin Ruff; Kevin Frandsen, Mark Reynolds or Chris Young
Left-handed PH — Cesar Hernandez or a Free Agent—preferably an outfielder and a ‘power bat’
Utility IF — Freddy Galvis
Backup C — Erik Kratz or Cameron Rupp

ANALYSIS:
First of all, I know you are saying: “Wait…where’s Dom Brown?” I think it’s very possible that the Phillies look to trade Brown for a quality starting pitcher (perhaps included in a package for Tampa Bay’s David Price?). The Phillies’ needs include improving their outfield defense, adding a consistent bat and improving both their bullpen and starting rotation, all at the same time. You have to trade somebody and Brown’s stock will never be higher. I saw him play for years in the minors, and he was very inconsistent, both at the plate and in the field. With the Phillies this year, he hit over .270 with 24 HRs the first half of the year, then hit under .250 with 4 HRs the second half. His defense? Spectacular one minute, botching routine plays the next. You can’t improve this team while keeping it the same, and Brown can get you the most among the trade-able players.

Ellsbury is a guy the Phillies have coveted for some time. Although he’ll be EXTREMELY expensive to acquire, he adds power and a consistent bat to your lineup and is less likely to get resigned by his former team than some of the other free agents the Phils are looking at. Granderson is a cheaper option to play center field, and he should require a shorter deal if the Phillies want to go that route. Cruz is a question mark coming off his PED suspension and his offensive numbers in pitcher-friendly parks are dramatically lower. Morse is a quality clubhouse guy and is coming off a down year—meaning he’ll be affordable and allow you to add a right-handed power bat while allowing you to still spend money elsewhere. Young could also be a right-handed addition who is not a liability defensively. Adding any two of these players improves your outfield defense in THREE spots (moving Revere to left field helps solve his “weak arm” issue that he had in center field).

I’ve heard several other media members strongly suggesting the Phillies will trade Revere instead of Brown, but consider this: what did the Phillies give up last season to acquire Revere…and is that what you really want to have back in return? Trading Brown is not a popular move, but one that must be considered for the right value in return.

The Phillies could also kick the tires on free agent outfielders Carlos Beltran (who I suggested on RCN SportsTalk two years ago when he was available) or Corey Hart, but both have injury issues and the Phillies have enough health-questions already on the roster.

I think the Phillies will try to upgrade by adding a better left-handed bat of the bench than Roger Bernadina, although he did add speed and quality defense. The Phillies were hoping that Bernadina could rebound from his sub-Mendoza batting average in September, but weren’t exactly impressed with what they saw. Because of the lack of outfield depth, I kept Cesar Hernandez off my projected Opening Day roster for now. Major League baseball ruled that he can have an extra option and therefore be sent to Triple-A for the upcoming year. The Phillies were impressed by his bat and the way he adjusted to center field. The plan is to send him to winter ball to see if he can play shortstop. If he can adjust to another new position, he might give Galvis a run for the backup infielder spot.

Ruff still needs to learn to better handle breaking pitches at the major league level and will provide insurance at both first base and the corner outfield positions. In extended playing time, Frandsen didn’t exactly have an explosive second-half at the plate. The Phillies could look to add an extra bat if they have money available, but Ryne Sandberg did talk glowingly about Frandsen’s approach at the plate on several occasions, and his double-digit pinch-hits this year were among the best in the Majors this season.

In an upcoming blog entry, we’ll take a look at the projected Phillies pitching staff. In the meantime, send us your thoughts on the Phillies lineup and position players for the 2014 season and post your opinions on what you think of my roster projections.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: The Shop’s New Wrinkle

November 5, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 

The Shop’s New Wrinkle

One of the major driving forces behind the RCN SportsTalk show and this blog is highlighting the tremendous accomplishments of athletes, coaches and administrators in the RCN viewing area. Each season we try to spotlight different teams, schools and sports. We’re always looking for ideas and suggestions to better honor the special people who work so hard at their given talents. So with that said, we’d like to unveil a new dimension to our SportsTalk Shop blog.

Periodically, we’re going to post highlights of our sports productions seen on RCN-TV. By doing this, we hope to reach a new audience in showcasing young men and women’s outstanding efforts in the sports community. Some of these highlights are also shown on our live Thursday show, in which we discuss these teams in more detail.

To launch this new addition, we’re presenting highlights from a few of the “rivalry contests” RCN covered the last couple of weeks. We’ll start with highlights from the Parkland/Emmaus game:

Here’s some of the highlights from the “Christmas City” battle between Liberty and Freedom:

Finally, highlights from the big Easton/Whitehall game—a contest featuring two teams who were tied for first place in the Lehigh Valley Conference when they faced each other at Cottingham Stadium.

What do you think of this newest addition to our blog? Which RCN-TV broadcast playoff games would you like us to focus on for our next set of highlights? Post your votes here and check back soon for more blog entries and highlights!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: ANTI-Poll Small Schools Regular Season Wrap

October 30, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 

ANTI-Poll Small Schools Regular Season Wrap

Last week, we broke down the playoff possibilities and reviewed the regular season performances for the larger schools in the Lehigh Valley. This week, we’ll examine the Class A, 2A and 3A teams in the RCN coverage area.

PIUS X – The Royals have once again battled a very challenging independent schedule and find themselves in the fourth and final playoff spot in the Class A District standings. They enter their regular season finale against Colombia-Montour on Saturday. They have gotten great efforts by sophomore quarterback Tre Jordan and senior back Dashon Russell. Jordan is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes and has thrown for over 1,200 yards; while Russell eclipsed the 1,000 yard rushing mark in Pius’ game against Carson Long. Their chief competitors, Williams Valley, Tri-Valley and Schuylkill Haven all have some very strong skilled-position players themselves. The Class A playoffs just might be the most competitive race of any within District XI this fall.

PEN ARGYL – For the second consecutive year, some people started counting out the Green Knights after they picked up their second loss early in the season. That was before they had to battle Catasauqua and Northwestern in consecutive weeks. Pen Argyl also had significant injuries during the first four weeks of the season which resulted in some underclassmen gaining valuable ‘under-fire’ experience. As of today’s standings (not including their traditional rivalry game with Bangor this weekend), Pen Argyl would play Pine Grove in the first round of the playoffs, and then the winner between Catasauqua/Palisades for the title. Here’s the issue: I think Pen Argyl has a great shot at advancing to the championship game, but must beware of a rejuvenated Slater ball club this Friday. Bangor is playing much better than they did in the first half of the season and just missed upsetting the Tigers last weekend. It’s one of the most passionate rivalry games in Eastern Pennsylvania and Pen Argyl still needs to get a win to clinch a playoff spot. That being said, they can’t leave Bangor with any big injuries if they want to extend their season beyond next weekend.

BETHLEHEM CATHOLIC – The Hawks had a major struggle beating Freedom last weekend. The win meant a “Christmas City Championship” and guaranteed spot in the district playoffs. I think this Becahi team has the talent to go deep in the state playoffs – IF they play the way they did in the first half of the season and the way I saw them battle in the first half of their game against Whitehall. The team has already rejuvenated the Hawks fan base with its five wins so far. They have an opportunity to really deliver a message to all detractors if they can remain focused on the team-concept for the next month.

SOUTHERN LEHIGH – The Spartans continued to steamroll their opponents in the Colonial League by defeating a very strong Palisades team last Friday night. Their offensive line, which was a question mark at the beginning of the season, played about as well as any line in the league. It has proved to be protection for Travis Edmond, Jacob Del Priore and company to have excellent seasons. Southern Lehigh has been knocking on the door of a championship for some time. Any letdown by the Golden Hawks should pave the way for the Spartans to capture a long-awaited title.

CATASAUQUA – We have spent a ton of time and blog space this year discussing the Rough Riders, and rightly so. They have easily disposed of every team on their schedule this fall and are coming off another shutout, 40-0, over Northern Lehigh last Friday. Every week we get emails on RCN Sports Talk asking us to analyze this team and give our opinions of whether this team is good enough to win a state title. We received another one last week and we’ll address it on our October 31 RCN Sports Talk show at 6:00 PM. In the meantime, I want to give a shout-out to the Catty offensive linemen for their outstanding efforts so far this season. With exceptionally skilled guys like Burton, Bradley, Marshall, Stopay and others seeing their names in the spotlight (both for their offense and defense), the guys up front have been buying time for their teammates to do what they do best. They are a huge reason why this team will likely come home with at least one, if not more, championships this fall.

Which teams do you feel will bring home district gold medals in two weeks? Which players from our “small schools” in the RCN region deserve some extra mentions? Email your comments to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll respond to your insights on RCN Sports Talk every Thursday at 6:00 PM. During the district playoff season we’ll have special guests break down each of the playoff match-ups.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: FB Anti-Poll: Big School/Playoff Picture

October 22, 2013 By Chris Michael 1 Reply

 

FB Anti-Poll: Big School/Playoff Picture

We’re closing in on the home stretch of the high school football “first season”. The regular season wraps on November 2nd with the all-important playoffs on the horizon. Here’s a playoff outlook for the 4-A schools in the Lehigh Valley region.

EASTON — The Rovers have two big ball games coming up: this Friday against Whitehall (broadcast live on RCN TV at 7:00 PM) and Nazareth next week. Both of these teams will need a win to enhance their playoff chances. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with a number of Easton players this year (including the week after their loss to Emmaus). They seem like a group that does not want to taste defeat anytime soon. They are also smart enough to study film and go the extra mile in the weight room and on the practice field to do what it takes to keep winning. I know they would like another post-season shot at Parkland, the team that ended their 2012 playoff hopes. It’ll be a tough 4-A playoff field. However, it’s very possible we can see a rematch of Week Two between the Rovers and the Trojans in the playoffs.

PARKLAND — The Trojans will also be fueled by revenge and hope to take another crack at Easton in the playoffs. Since their only loss, they are steamrolling the competition and appear to be on track, on both sides of the ball. With all the outstanding backs they have running the football, they should be a very dangerous team in the playoffs if DeVante Cross continues to develop as a passer.

WHITEHALL — To have a long playoff run, the Zephyrs will have to play better offensively than they did against Emmaus last Friday. The question with Whitehall is depth. They hope to have key, two-way player Nick Nejad back in time for the playoffs. If they can avoid any other major injuries, they can contend for a district title. A win over Easton Friday would give them a shot at home-field advantage for the first round of the post-season.

EMMAUS — The Hornets must recover quickly to fight for a district playoff berth. I was impressed by their game-winning/last possession drive against Central Catholic in Week Three, which seemed to propel their five-game winning streak. That said, I was surprised they couldn’t muster more offense against Whitehall, even without their top running back Wyl Miller. Their regular season finale against Parkland looks like a must-win game right now if they want to reach Districts. I still think the future is bright for this team and they could be the team to beat if they have to settle for the Eastern Conference playoffs.

NAZARETH — Two solid wins over Bethlehem Catholic and Central Catholic have the Blue Eagles back in the district conversation. Their offense has found its stride and still boosts a ton of scoring weapons, including Matt Tuerk, Jordan Gray and Max Wasilewski. Right now, they need some of the teams in front of them to lose and would still have to upset Easton to qualify. The Nazareth offense is fun to watch and could also be a dangerous unit in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

Entering Week Nine, East Stroudsburg South and Wyoming Valley West own the top two playoff positions, with Stroudsburg, Scranton and Pleasant Valley also capturing spots. It seems unlikely E.S. South will lose a game during the regular season. If they capture home-field advantage through Districts, it means the road to the championship, depending on how the teams match up, could run through the Poconos this fall.

Stop by next week for my insight on more schools in my next blog entry. In the meantime, I want to hear from you! Which 4-A teams do you think will make the playoffs, and which team will win the title? We’ll continue to break down the high school football playoff picture on RCN Sports Talk the next few Thursdays at 6:00 PM. Send your comments and questions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com. We’ll read and respond live on our next program.

The SportsTalk Shop: Nick or Vick?

October 15, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 

NICK OR VICK?

The most frequently asked question over the next week will not be about the government shutdown. It will have nothing to do with The Voice, Breaking Bad, or any kind of regular television show. And the most frequently asked question will have nothing to do with the NHL, the MLB playoffs or even the Halloween season. No, the most frequently discussed–and debated– question over the next several days in Eastern Pennsylvania will be: Who should be the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles–Michael Vick or Nick Foles?

The question is an old one, posed by fans in many NFL cities each year, every year, in the modern football era. It’s sometimes even discussed with regards to your favorite collegiate or scholastic teams. But Philadelphia is not your ordinary sports town, and sports fans in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys are the most passionate fans in the world. The fact that the Eagles find themselves tied with their NFC East rival Cowboys with a 2-0 division record, combined with Nick Foles’ solid play in Vick’s medically-induced absence this past Sunday against Tampa Bay, will push this question to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

While I’m not going to try to persuade you to root for one player over the other, there is a very important decision you have to first make before arriving at your pick:

“What should be the Eagles’ goal this season?”

There’s many reasons why people choose one quarterback or the other, but you first must answer that question before you consider whom Chip Kelly should select for this Sunday’s key game against another division opponent.

When a high school or college coach takes over a program, I usually encourage fans to give a new head coach at least three to four years to implement a system, and to establish their “type” of players. In the NFL, there’s not as much room for patience. However, Eagles fans must have expected 2013 to be a honeymoon year for Kelly, with no realistic expectations better than seven or eight wins–even in the incredibly inept NFC East. That being said, there is absolutely NO SHOT the Birds win more than one playoff game this year–AT BEST.

If you think this team, with its pathetic defense and insufficient wide receiving corp (without Jeremy Maclin), has any shot of exceeding that goal, your thoughts on the quarterbacks shouldn’t even be considered. The team could resign Vick at season’s end, so simply naming Foles as the guy because he’s younger and under contract for next season does not give you the best answer.

The Eagles have to worry about who will be the best signal caller for 2014 and beyond, and that’s what you need to consider. It’s not about winning this Sunday, or next Sunday, or the week after that. It’s not about dog-fighting, money or race. Foles’ age, his decision making, and his accuracy should be factored into your decision. For Vick, his dynamic presence, laser-arm, his favorable relationship with his teammates and his mobility are his assets. But which of these attributes will best lead this team a year or two from now? That should determine who you want to see start the rest of this season.

Unless you want the Birds to lose–and lose often–to enhance their draft selections in the offseason. A deficiency in this year’s quarterback could actually help Philadelphia’s rebuilding process by giving them the ability to draft a blue chip prospect–maybe even a quarterback–for next year and beyond.

But this constant battle that will be stimulating talk shows (and yes, we’ll be addressing this–briefly–on Thursday’s RCN SportsTalk at 6pm) over the coming days and weeks, will largely be a waste of time.

Besides, whichever quarterback doesn’t start for the Eagles this season could always play shooting guard for the 76ers.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: LVC Expansion Proposal

October 8, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 

LVC EXPANSION PROPOSAL

Last Wednesday, the presidents of the Lehigh Valley Conference  and Mountain Valley Conference  officially announced a merger of the two leagues for the 2014-2015 school year. We first mentioned the possibility of this event in January on our RCN Sports Talk show. We’ve also had different representatives from various parts of our viewing area discuss the “rumors” on our program over the last several months. I think the league presidents and school principals should be commended for coordinating a brief conference call to inform the local media and local sports fans of this major decision for the high school sports program in the District XI region.

Once the news of the merger became official, there was very little additional information presented. New league alignments, scheduling and other relevant issues were not discussed during the teleconference. The league officials instead stated that meetings will soon ensue to hash out all of the details. Without any indication of which direction this new league is headed, I would like to share my proposal on how the new conference could shake out.

THE ALIGNMENT
I can see three divisions based on geography, which would help in the area of travel expenses — an area in which some school districts have expressed concern. The divisions would be:
• Lehigh – Allen, Central Catholic, Dieruff, Emmaus, Parkland, and Whitehall
• Northampton – Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, Nazareth, and Northampton
• Monroe – Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, East Stroudsburg North, East Stroudsburg South, Pleasant Valley, and Stroudsburg

THE SCHEDULES
For the sports that feature schedules with maximums of 20 or 22 games (e.g., basketball, baseball, softball), I would offer the following scheduling points:
• Teams will play the other teams in their division twice (home/home series)
• Teams will play three teams from the other two divisions once a year for a two-year cycle (home/home)
• Teams will play the “other” three teams in the following two-year cycle
• Teams will have four to six non-league games to play in tournaments and/or face teams from outside the area

For example, Allen Basketball would play Central Catholic, Dieruff, Emmaus, Parkland and Whitehall twice a year, and could play Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Easton, Freedom and Nazareth once a season for two years (alternating home court during those two seasons). After the first two years, the Canaries could play the other six teams during the second two-year cycle. For football, you could do the following:

• Teams will play the other teams in their division once (alternating home field advantage each year)
• Teams will play two teams from the other two divisions once a year for a two-year cycle (home-and-home series)
• Teams will play four other teams (two from each division) in the following two-year cycle and the remaining four teams in the “fifth” and “sixth” year
• Teams would still have the benefit of one ‘non-conference’ game, in which they could schedule a team that don’t play that year, or can play a team outside the region (something I know head coaches like to have available)

For example, Pocono Mountain East could play their division rivals each season, and Liberty, Freedom, Allen and Dieruff for the first two seasons. For years three and four, they could play Central Catholic, Emmaus, Easton and Nazareth. For the next two years, they could play Parkland, Whitehall, Bethlehem Catholic and Northampton.

I think for some of the other sports, like wrestling, they could employ an idea of some of the other “super-conferences” and also incorporate the complex, but extremely effective, system used for districts. The “top-tier” wrestling programs compete against each other in one division, the “mid-level” wrestling programs compete in the second division, and the “rebuilding” programs compete in the third division. There are a number of wrestling tournaments that teams could incorporate into the “non-conference” portion of the schedule. I think the current committee has done an excellent job restructuring the District XI tournament in recent years. They could put a balanced alignment together that could be re-examined every two years, if necessary.

Please note: I am not a school administrator, and I’m sure each district would have individual issues that no doubt could arise and cause conflicts. I think our local athletic directors do an amazing and, most often underrated, job. This process will not be a simple endeavor. Nevertheless, I could see this as a starting point from which to work through other issues.

What are your thoughts on my proposal for the new league? What do you think the new conference should be named? Send your opinions and suggestions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com. Tune in to this Thursday’s RCN Sports Talk at 6:00 PM as we discuss this issue and take a look at all of the fall high school sports news this season.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Anti-Poll Halftime Standings

October 1, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 

“Anti-Poll Halftime Standings”

Hard to believe, but we’ve already reached the midway point in the high school football regular season. It’s time for our mid-term grades for the RCN Football “Anti-Poll.”

Before I give you my observations, we’ll first take a look back at some of the teams we’ve featured this fall on RCN Sports Talk, and let the coaches and players give you their insights on their respective teams.

Now, here’s my take on the teams in the RCN Eastern Pennsylvania coverage area I’ve had the pleasure of viewing in person, plus some views uncovered from my contacts throughout the region.

Grade: A
Imhotep, Garnet Valley, Penncrest, and Catasauqua
Footballstories Editor/Publisher Al Thompson pointed out on last week’s RCN Sports Talk that, at that time, no AAAA team in our viewing area was in the “Top 100” national polls this year. However, that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of dominant football teams. Expect to see all of these teams in the PIAA playoffs. Imhotep fans might be inclined to go ahead and buy tickets to the state title game. In the Lehigh Valley, the Rough Riders continue to roll. Their offense seems to be able to score on anyone, at any time, and in a variety of ways. The word is that their defense must improve if they want to advance to the state finals, which would mean they’d have to find a way to stop the powerful Imhotep offense. I’ll find out for myself when I get my first look at the Rough Riders when I announce their game against Pen Argyl next Friday night, October 11, on RCN TV.

Grade: B+
Bethlehem Catholic, Easton, Emmaus, LaSalle, Parkland, Ridley, Whitehall, and Upper Darby
Emmaus and Parkland have a ton of momentum right now. They are both coming off wins against the Rovers and Zephyrs, respectively. One could argue that the Hornets had the best chance of any of these teams to be undefeated at this point. Both of their losses came late in the game due to strange plays. Parkland’s Kareem Williams might just be the most dynamic running back in the Lehigh Valley, which is saying something because I’m a big Shane Simpson fan. I was impressed how Whitehall was able to run the ball against the Trojans. The passing game looked good late, although by that point, Parkland was mostly in a “prevent” defense. They must have some other offensive weapons develop consistency to make a deep run in the postseason.

Bethlehem Catholic’s only loss was an impressive showing against the Rovers a few weeks ago. They can make a major statement with a win this Friday against Whitehall (watch this game live on RCN TV at 7:00 PM). LaSalle, Upper Darby and Ridley all suffered tough losses to very good teams early. However, they have bounced back and remain very much in the hunt for a district playoff spot.

And Easton? You can find out for yourself how they are doing by watching RCN Sports Talk this Thursday, October 3, live at 6:00 PM on RCN TV. Head Coach Steve Shiffert and his players will be my guests on the show. Feel free to email your comments and questions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com now and we’ll read and respond to your messages live on the air!

Grade: B
Southern Lehigh, Saucon Valley, Pen Argyl, Notre Dame, Northwestern, and Palisades
These teams have all played well and will most likely continue to do so. It will be difficult for any of these teams to vie for the Colonial League crown if Catty doesn’t get tripped up at some point. However, any of these teams could do damage in the district playoffs, as Pen Argyl proved last year. We’ll be focusing more on these teams on RCN Sports Talk on our October 10 and October 17 shows.

Grade: C
Nazareth, Liberty, Central Catholic, Palmerton, and Pius
Liberty and Nazareth have some major questions that they have to answer in a hurry to make the district playoffs. Don’t forget, at least two teams from up north must qualify for the District 2/4/11 Sub-Regional Playoffs. With both of these teams already having at least two losses, they can’t afford another “L” with half of their schedule yet to play.

Central Catholic is coming off a victory against Northampton. They have some major challenges coming up on their schedule, and are not locks to make Districts this year. Remember that Central refused a bid to play in the Eastern Conference playoffs several years ago. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings play ANY post-season games this year after several seasons of reaching the PIAA semifinals or better.

Palmerton played well but lost an offensive struggle to Palisades last weekend. A good effort against the Tigers this weekend can push them back into the top half of the Colonial League standings. Pius is coming off a solid win over Towanda, and can move back to .500 with a win against Wyalusing Valley Friday.

Special Award
Dieruff
I said after their first win that the Huskies are already the feel-good story of this fall season. Going five years without beating anyone other than their ASD rival, Allen, had not been fun. The entire Lehigh Valley football community was genuinely happy for those kids to get that first “W” after Week Two. The fact that their success on the field has continued has proven that they have exceeded everyone’s expectations — except, perhaps, themselves. Based on what they’ve overcome, I have to give them a weighted ‘A+.’ I’m looking for even more positive news coming out of Dieruff High School going forward.

What are your thoughts and observations on the first half of the high school football season? Which teams will have the best “Second Half?” Post your comments here and tune in to talk high school sports every Thursday at 6:00 PM on RCN SportsTalk, live on RCN TV.

 

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