Districts 1 and 12 Report
August 25, 2013
It’s late August and yet another season of high school football is about to set upon all of the hard core fans, players, coaches and parents in the commonwealth. The major difference every year at this time between football in districts 1 and 12 is that (at least in the last 5 to 10 years) the discussion about how far the major powers in District 12 can go and how no one really has any inkling as to who will emerge in District 1 when all is said and done. District 12 has the usual suspects: West Catholic (and more recently, Imhotep) in AA, Archbishop Wood in AAA and LaSalle and St. Joe’s Prep in AAAA. As usual in district 1, there does not seem to be a consensus as to who will rise above all others in the AAA/AAAA classifications although North Penn has eventually emerged after slow starts in more recent times.
Before we even get started here, a major institution in District 12 reporting has retired from the Philadelphia Daily News. Ted Silary has been synonymous with the PCL and Pub leagues in Philly for the last 36 years. His retirement will leave a serious void to all those who’s lives he has affected in high school sports here not seen ever (at least in my lifetime). There will never be another Ted Silary. He will be missed by the generations of players and parents he has covered. It is still hard to believe that he is leaving.
Now with the 2013 season about to start, let the second guessing begin.
Imhotep and West Catholic should once again rule the roost in D12/AA. West’s Brian Fluck has done a marvelous job with this group and has things going strong again especially since the school nearly closed last year. Leading skill players Greg White and Antwain McCollum return which should in part have them vie for a shot at getting to Hershey this year. Albie Crosby returns for his second season at Imhotep and this year’s team appears to be one of the biggest squad’s in all of Pa., regardless of classification. Three of their projected OLinemen are 6’5″ or bigger and with RB David Williams gone for South Carolina the RB situation will be by committee headed by Jr. Nasir Bonner.
Archbishop Wood coach Steve Devlin has made high school football fun again to watch in Philadelphia. Priding themselves on the constant development on the offensive line they have thrived as a premier AAA program in the state and arguably the best Philadelphia area team these parts have ever seen with the play of their 2011 squad. The development of Soph QB Tom Garlick will be key to this year’s success. There were not many (if any) starting Frosh QB’s in Pa., high school state championship games. Garlick looks to be a great QB for this team the next couple years.
Do not count out Dan Algeo’s Cardinal O’Hara squad. The talk last year with this team was that they were a year away. Well, this year is here and they are absolutely loaded with players who can take it to the house. Thaddius Smith, Dashawn Darden, Lamont Veal and recent transfer J.T. Blyden are now in place. Are you kidding me? This could be their year.
In AAAA, LaSalle and St. Joe’s in the PCL and Frankford and George Washington in the Pub once again appear to be the front runners. Although the Prep lost in the PCL final they were one of the best overall defenses seen in these parts over the last 20 years. The majority of their defensive line is gone to graduation and although they keep virtually their entire WR, QB and RB core, coach Gabe Infante will be the first to tell you that the defensive and offensive lines were what carried this group last year. Returning JR’s Olamide Zaccheaus and superstar John Reid will provide highlight reel plays and will be recruited by many D1 schools.
LaSalle also lost the majority of their offensive and defensive lines. This year’s big ugglies should be smaller but quicker. The addition of Cleveland, Ohio area quarterback Kyle Shurmur should strengthen the Explorers in three positions. Shurmer’s presence will allow this year’s projected QB starter Chris Herron to go back to being a receiver, wildcat runner, safety and kick returner.
Big time kudos goes to Frankford coach Will Dogget for scheduling games against powers Downingtown East, Pennsbury, Archbishop Wood, George Washington and Imhotep. Dogget and longtime Washington coach Ron Cohen should battle again for the Pub crown.
Actually all the major powers in District 12 have tough schedules. They can afford this because unlike other districts, these teams don’t place by power points once the playoffs roll around.
A different approach will be taken with District 1 in this article. Its just as difficult as in years past trying to determine who will stand out in the end especially in AAA and AAAA. Here are some storylines from 2012 and the upcoming 2013 season.
In AAAA, Coatesville’s “greatest show on turf” took the district by storm last year. Three of the four star skill players are gone from that group and Penn State bound senior RB Daquan Worley must wait to see who coach Matt Ortega will anoint as this year’s signal caller. Most of the defense and offensive line return and with stud two way player Tyler Burke and a potential serious skill transfer from North Carolina, this team may pick up where they left off last year.
Pennridge was last year’s feel good story. Coach Randy Cuthbert endured an early season upset to Bensalem then went on a tear with their top rated defense and the best running back in SEPA in Michael Class. However a less than 100% Class (concussion the prior week) and a team that played with tired legs (due to the starters playing a Thanksgiving day game vs. Quakertown two days prior) were not enough to withstand Spring-Ford’s attack in the district semis. Cuthbert has gone on to Emmaus, the majority of the defense is gone, but old skipper Jeff Hollenback is back as head man and Class returns as well. Ironically, Cuthbert brings his new team to Pennridge for a week one match up in what should be a heartfelt reunion.
North Penn missed out on the 16 team field assembled for the District 1 playoffs but coach Dick Beck should be given credit for scheduling out of conference games vs. some of the toughest teams in District 12. In 2013, he has once again scheduled the Knights for games vs. LaSalle, Wood and St. Joe’s in the first three weeks. No matter how they fare after those games, they should be atop the SOL Continental by season’s end.
Spring-Ford has suffered the wrath of being criticized for playing in one of the weaker conferences in district 1. After getting shut out 26-0 by Pottsgrove, head coach Chad Brubaker righted the ship and ended up making a run through the playoffs by beating Pennridge and Ridley. This year they should once again be the betting favorite in the PAC10 headlined by skill standouts Tate Carter , Gary Hopkins and Jared Jones.
Ridley has the same type of talent going into this years as many of the others: a team without a ton of size but toughness and heart to be one of the top players in the Central league. They also added 200 meter state champion sprinter Malik Jones into the mix which will give their offense a real boost with speed around the edge. Garnet Valley figures to be there as well with coach Mike Ricci installing his 90 player deep roster where no one goes both ways including special teams.
In AAA, Interboro played inspiring football all season ending with their championship over a very competitive West Chester Henderson squad and a tough loss to Wood in the eastern semis. They have had two solid scrimmages and look to be solid on both lines as they begin play in the Del Val league. Pottsgrove also figures to be once again in the mix with nine returning starters on defense.
AA champion, New Hope-Solebury elected not to play D12 champion Imhotep and the same could happen again this year. In A, Bristol went on to soundly defeat a very good Williams Valley team from District 11 before succumbing to eventual EasternPa champion Dunmore. Bristol themselves have lost a lot up front but with the return of do everything RB Donte Simmons the Warriors should contend again and be the favorite in the Bicentennial league
Playing the cards you are dealt- Springfield Montco (AA) and Calvary Christian (A) both endured magical seasons in 2011 as they battled atop the Bicentennial league. Springfield eventually came out on top earning themselves a shot at D12 champ West Catholic, which they lost, ending a season for the ages for the Spartans. 2012 was a much different story as they were moved on from the Bicentennial to the SOL American conference, competing with schools that were one or two classifications larger. On top of that, the squad played half the season with heavy hearts when Shane Halligan died suddenly prior to their game vs. AAAA rival Norristown. Springfield did not earn enough power points to get into the playoffs because of their schedule and this year may prove to be as difficult. Calvary Christian coach Mike Riechenbach had to cancel last season’s schedule simply because the team did not have enough players to suit. They are back in business this year and Riechenbach’s reward; an opener against last year’s EasternPa runner up Bristol.
Serious kudos to both Riechenbach and Springfield coach Chris Shelly for their patience and ability to start again after all the adversity both coaches faced.
Quick Hitters-Star jr. running back Shamir Bullock has transferred from Father Judge to Archbishop Ryan where he should flourish. Judge has Yeedee Thanret as their own feature back and he has one of the better upsides for an incoming sophomore than most in the past. LaSalle QB Shurmur is the son of Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Coordinator, Pat Shurmur. Council Rock North soph QB Brandon McIlwain had one of the best freshman campaign’s ever and should start garnering Division 1 offers this season. He is an elite dual threat quarterback.
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