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The SportsTalk Shop: Analyzing the “Big East”

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The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference’s first football regular season is heading down the home-stretch with several “big” (Class 4A) schools all looking impressive and making a run for the District XI playoffs. Here we take a look at some of the top teams in this category so far this season (we’ll take a look at the smaller schools in an upcoming blog post).

The Mountaineers proved their mettle with a hard-fought win in an “interesting” back-and-forth contest with previously undefeated, league-favorite Bethlehem Catholic last weekend.

S’burg rode the back of Gerald Douglas for a large part of the Becahi game and he responded, showing why he’s one of the top tail backs in the district. John Jakobsen delivered some clutch passes to Joel Ozoemena, Marcello Riccardi and other receivers when his team needed him to, and the defense led by Quintin Small stepped up and made some big-time plays in keeping the team undefeated. Riccardi also proved to be a key weapon and changed field position with his returns, and Nico Ruiz displayed one of the most powerful legs in the region. The Mounties have already taken a huge step in proving themselves in the new EPC (on our fall preview show in August, I promised they would) and, depending on who they match up against in the first round of the playoffs, the Mountaineers could advance past the first round this fall.

Patriot fans may not want to hear this, but regardless of what happens the rest of the season, you already have to count the 2014 season as a success for their tremendous turnaround. If you take an absolute worse-case scenario the rest of the season, the Pats finish 7-3 with a District XI playoff appearance. Objectively, to go from 2-8 a year ago and make that kind of about-face in the EPC 4-A classification is nothing short of remarkable. In my opinion, Jason Roeder deserves to be named “Coach of the Year” right now. I think they match up very well and can beat Liberty next weekend and could beat more than half of the teams that they could face the following week. They will miss quarterback Joe Young, but they have enough young talent still available (and many will return for 2015), and have shown me enough to buy in to this year’s team. Their highlights include a close contest versus Parkland, but their signature win so far this year was their overtime victory at Whitehall.

The Zephyrs impressed the entire area with their win over Parkland, and followed that effort up with one of the wildest games in recent memory against Easton. With two losses, people will forget about Whitehall come playoff time—which is a very dangerous proposition. Don’t forget, this was a team that featured perhaps the best back in the area, numerous explosive weapons on offense, and a big, fundamentally sound line that people were raving about two weeks ago. They should win their final two regular season games and clinch a district playoff berth. Once in the postseason, I think the Zephs will make the adjustments necessary to have a run at advancing in the tournament.

I have not had a chance to see a Parkland game in person so far this season, but RCN’s Tony Cocca has, and on our most recent “SportsTalk” show, he felt that the team was just not jelling the way Parkland teams normally do by this time of year. Their track record has been to lose to a team or two early, and then storm back and win when the games matter most. That could play out again as, on paper, they could be the best team in the area. The Trojans should defeat both Nazareth and Emmaus to finish the regular season with just two losses, which would put them directly behind Easton and Stroudsburg in the district rankings and could pave the way for an eventual rematch from their tight-fisted affair against the Rovers.

The Rovers will be able to talk about their successful season for themselves as they will be our guests on the October 30th edition of “RCN SportsTalk” (live from 6-7pm). We invite you to tune in to get their opinions on the 2014 season and their thoughts on the upcoming playoff picture. Plus you can contact us during the show with your comments and questions and perhaps win a nice prize. In the meantime, here’s a look at some of the highlights from their record-setting game against Whitehall.

While we invite you to keep watching the football playoff games the next two weeks as the teams jockey for playoff positioning, don’t forget to check out RCN’s special Halloween programming. It starts on Thursday, October 30th at 11:30 pm and runs through early Saturday morning (with a break for Friday night’s high school football games) featuring some of the greatest and most terrifying horror classics of all-time. And there’s a special surprise for this year’s movie marathon. You’ll have to tune in for yourself to find out what it is…if you dare!