Skip to content

The Sports Talk Shop: 2013 Recap & 2014 Predictions

January 3, 2014 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

First of all, a big thank-you for all the comments, suggestions and feedback we received prior to, during and following our “Year-in-Review” edition of “RCN SportsTalk.”  It takes a good deal of time to go back through all the games, tapes, files, et al, trying to review all of the sports events covered over a twelve-month stretch.  It is extremely rewarding when our viewers call us asking in advance for the show and then let us know afterwards how much they enjoyed looking back at many memories, one last time, at the end of the calendar year.

Since it is a very busy program, we inevitably run out of time before we get through every item we hoped to address.  Here are a few of the year-end topics and my responses that didn’t make it to this year’s show, along with a few predictions for the new year. 

  •  “Most Underrated Coach in 2013.”  Northampton softball head coach Sally Whittaker-Kahan guided her team to winning its first 19 games of the season.  Led by an outstanding pitcher in Marly Laubach (no relation to RCN’s own Gary), they entered the league playoffs as the number-one team.  Despite a semifinal loss in leagues, the K-Kids bounced back to capture the District XI title.  After the season Whittaker-Kahan announced she would be stepping down due to a medical issue, ending a long run of success as a player at Parkland High School and Temple University, and finishing her coaching career on top.
  • “Biggest Challenge Overcome in 2013.”  The Allen girls and boys basketball teams each had major hurdles they had to overcome in 2013.  The girls team found themselves without a coach, and retired head coach Tom Gallagher came on board late in the offseason.  The Lady Canaries did not have high expectations nor returned many players from the previous year.   Gallagher gave the program a huge lift by agreeing to take over in a very tough situation.  Boys’ head coach Doug Snyder had to deal with several players leaving the team for various reasons throughout the 2013 season and still found a way to make the district playoffs.  They lost more players prior to the start of this current season – not all of their losses due to graduation.  But between Snyder’s coaching and the outstanding players that remain with the program, I am sure the Canaries will once again be a force in 2014.
  • “Top Underclassman for a Team We Saw on RCN.”  To be honest, I had a tie between Liberty’s Doug Erney and Nazareth’s Justin Albert.  I think both teams had some off-field issues that may or may not have affected the rest of their teams.  I feel both Erney and Albert grew into their roles as quarterbacks and showed solid decision-making ability combined with strong throwing arms.  I think both the Hurricanes and the Blue Eagles will have better records in 2014 and those two players will be a big reason why.
  • “Worst Decision Made by a Sports Personality.”  Basically every move Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. made during the last few months of the year.  He not only resigned nearly all of the aging core of players who have been underperforming over the last two seasons (with the exception of Roy Halladay, who retired), but also added older, inconsistent players (Marlon Byrd, Roberto Hernandez) via free agency.  The list of question marks for next year’s team has only grown since the season concluded, with a series of head-scratching moves and acquisitions.  Amaro needs nearly all those questions answered very positively in 2014 if the Phillies are going to have any chance at the playoffs — and to save his job.
  • “Best Sports Addition in 2013.”  Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.  I normally wish fans would give head coaches at least one year (at the professional level) to adjust to a new team and implement his/her system.   Birds fans were all over Kelly for his moves early in the season and his 1-3 start, and questions were raised if he was going to be a long-term answer to running the team.  2013 was a huge success for the Eagles and the team will be even better in 2014.  Our co-host Joe Craig’s “Stone-Cold Prediction” for 2014, if time had allowed on the show, was that the Eagles will go to the Super Bowl.
  • “Stone-Cold Lock for 2014.”  There will be much greater interest in the Dieruff football program in 2014.  While most local football experts thought a “good” season for the Huskies in 2013 would have been one or two wins, Dieruff exceeded everyone’s expectations this past year with five victories.  They almost won a sixth game, which would have qualified them for the playoffs.  The team looks to build on the success it developed in ’13 and, for the first time in quite a while, they will head into the this fall season as a team to watch.  I envision Dieruff winning more games in ‘14, thanks, in part, to the new LVC, which will grant a more lenient and stable schedule for the long-term.

We’d love to hear your responses to these topics, along with your sports predictions for 2014.  Please post your comments below and we’ll see if your predictions come true in the new year.

Don’t forget, you can see the entire show for free on RCN On-Demand by going to channel 1 or hitting the VOD button on your remote control, then click on RCN-TV, sports and then “RCN SportsTalk.”  Be sure to check out all of RCN’s local programming, along with the latest movies and special events that are offered on RCN On-Demand. 

Happy New Year everyone!

The SportsTalk Shop: 4 Observations From This HS Football Season

December 31, 2013 By Chris Michael 2 Replies

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.

The SportsTalk Shop: Would Eagles Trade Nick Foles?

December 19, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

 

Would Eagles Trade Nick Foles?

I have a ton of respect for the Philadelphia Eagles beat writers. From the time I covered the team on a regular basis to the times where we are fortunate to have them on our “RCN SportsTalk” show, they always provide valuable insights on the team and on the NFL. They don’t buy in to starting wild or ridiculous rumors to try to sell their papers, nor do they start controversies just to put themselves in the news. They base their stories and opinions on solid facts and, whether you agree with their commentaries or not, they’re always thought-provoking, using logic and reliable gut instinct.

It is with this in mind that I mention comments raised by the Morning Call’s Eagles beat writer Nick Fierro on last week’s “SportsTalk” show…

At first, I was stunned at the thought of the Eagles trading arguably the most popular personality in Philadelphia right now (for the record, co-host Dennis Laub wholeheartedly agreed with him). When Nick offers his sage wisdom, I’ve learned to consider his observations and think long and hard before disagreeing with him. So let’s consider the upside to trading your starting quarterback:

• Foles’ stock will never be higher than it is right now, and he’s not likely to continue playing at this high a level going forward.

• Trading Foles now would get you two or three other quality pieces (with one being a draft pick that could be packaged in a deal to get you a new starting QB or a stud pick for another position).

• There are some quality signal callers available in the draft that might be closer to Chip Kelly’s “ideal” quarterback to run his spread offense. (Although Kelly has said publicly and repeatedly that Foles is his guy, there are indications that Foles is not the typical back to run this offense).

Would this be enough reasoning for the Eagles to trade Foles after the season? It would open the door for a possible return of Michael Vick, perhaps as a stop-gap starter and mentor to the quarterback you’d select in the draft. Even though most fans and critics have called the 2013 a success on many levels, the next few weeks might just determine what the front office decides to do with Foles and their plans going forward. One would think it’ll be harder from a PR standpoint to trade Foles if he leads the team to multiple playoff victories…or would it only enhance the value Philadelphia could get in return for him?

For the record, Nick did not say he would a proponent of trading Foles, nor did he say it was a done deal once the season concludes. But recent Eagles history indicates they’re not a team that stands pat very often, and if Kelly’s coaching style this year has taught us nothing else, it’s proven that he is not afraid to take risks.

What would you do if you were Eagles GM Howie Roseman? Would you ‘stick-with-Nick’ and make him your quarterback for the future? Or do you sell high and try to solve other issues with more proven players at other positions and take your chances on drafting a young QB? Send your comments to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com or post your views in our comments section. Have fun debating Foles’ fate in Philadelphia as the Birds look to continue Swinning games this winter.

 

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.

  • Watch Astound TV Network:
    Lehigh Valley – Channel 4, or 1004 in HD
    Delaware Valley – Channel 8, or 608 in HD
    Luzerne County - Channel 4
    Washington, DC - Channel 8, or 678 in HD
    ATVN Valley Connection - Channel 96

    Purchase a DVD copy of an ATVN program.

    Advertise on ATVN.

  • UPCOMING EVENTS

    🏀HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
    2/27 at 6pm:
    District XI 4A Boys Semifinals: Pottsville vs. Central Catholic LIVE
    2/27 at 7:30pm: District XI 5A Boys Semifinals: East Stroudsburg North vs. Whitehall LIVE
    2/27 at 9:30pm: District XI 6A Girls Semifinals: Liberty vs. Easton
    2/27 at 11pm: District XI 6A Girls Semifinals: Emmaus vs. Parkland
    2/28 at 9:30pm: 6A Boys Semifinals: Liberty vs. Emmaus
    3/1 at 6pm: District XI Girls 3A/6A Finals: Catasauqua vs. Notre Dame LIVE
    3/1 at 8pm: District XI Girls 3A/6A Finals: Easton vs. Parkland LIVE
    3/1 at 10:30pm: District 11 Boys 5A Final: Whitehall vs. Pocono Mountain West

    🏀LAFAYETTE BASKETBALL
    2/28 at 6pm: Womens – Navy vs. Lafayette
    3/2 at 2pm: Womens – Bucknell vs. Lafayette

    SPORTS ON ATVN

    🎥 LIVE STREAMING ON YOUTUBE 
    You can now watch ATVN live programing, including sports coverage, on the ATVN YouTube Channel! Subscribe and turn on channel notifications.

    Stay up to date with all of the happenings in our community, watch our Community Spotlight, Take 5, and The Halftime Show programs!

    Catch up on the awesome Sports Talk and Classic Video Showplace blogs, too.

  • Visit Astound.com

    Visit Astound.com to shop, select services or reach our 24/7 customer service.