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A Real Early Look at Suburban One

Written by: on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014. Follow KMac on Twitter.


Readers probably know that I live in District One and follow the Suburban One League although I support, “May the better team win”, concept and try to give each team, league, and district its due respect.

I got thinking about the recent realignment to the Suburban One League and the possible affect it might have on the District One AAAA playoff scenario.  I am also a “big school” follower, because that is what most of the power school programs around here are; 4A and 3A; with very few 2A and 1A programs that have been competitive with those of some other districts so far.

The fact that the Sub One placed half or more (8 or 9) teams in the 16-team D1 4A playoff bracket each year thrilled me until I came to the realization that the Sub One contains half (nearly – 21 of 44) of the 4A teams in District One.  Duh!  Why shouldn’t Sub One then have half the playoff slots?

Of course it is true that you must post a record good enough to earn the points needed to get there.  If every Sub One 4A team lost its 3 non-league games and then shuffled through a somewhat round-robin league schedule of 7 league games; all teams going 4-3, you would have a league of 21 (4A) teams with a record of 4-6 each.  Conceivably, all 16 playoff entrants could come from outside of the Sub One in this case.  This does not happen in real life however; few leagues do not have an assortment of power teams, .500 teams, and struggling teams in their respective leagues.

Last season Sub One National placed four teams in the playoffs (records are pre-playoff) – Abington (8-2), Council Rock North (7-3), Neshaminy (9-1), and Pennsbury (9-1).  Sub One Continental placed two – C B West (8-2) and North Penn (7-3).  And Sub One American placed two – Plymouth-Whitemarsh (8-2) and Upper Dublin (9-1).

Four of these eight went 3-0 versus non-league opponents.  Two went 2-1 versus non-league.  Two of the teams bucked the trend; P-W was 1-2 non-league, but against two teams that also went to the playoffs – Abington and Perk Valley.  We know the North Penn story – they lost to two eventual state champions and a third strong PCL contender.  Then they ran the league table to attain their 7-3 record and enough points as an 11th seed.  Council Rock North’s 7-3 record and points made them a 16th seed; and they were the 4th team from Sub One National.

Another Sub One (Continental) team – Pennridge (7-3) was first team out on points last year.  If Perk Valley (15th seed), or Unionville (13th seed) had stumbled late, conceivably Suburban One could have had 9 teams in.  But they did not stumble, and Perk Valley advanced two playoff rounds.

The Sub One realignment for 2014 is most intriguing.

The National Conference is Abington, Bensalem, Central Bucks South, Neshaminy, North Penn, Pennridge, Pennsbury, and Souderton.  (C B South, NP, Pennridge, and Souderton in).

Continental is Central Bucks East, Central Bucks West, Council Rock North, Council Rock South, Harry S. Truman, Norristown, Quakertown, and William Tennent.  (CR North, CR South, HS Truman, Norristown, and Tennent in).

American is Cheltenham, Hatboro-Horsham, Plymouth-Whitemarsh, Springfield, Upper Dublin, Upper Merion, Upper Moreland, and Wissahickon.  (Hatboro-Horsham in).  The teams in this conference are the most distant from me, none are in Bucks County, and I have never followed any of them; so I can only talk of the National and Continental Conferences.

If the expected National strength turns out to be Neshaminy-North Penn-Pennsbury; the round robin among these three will be most interesting and important match ups.  If they were to all go 1-1 versus each other, their 3 non-league games results will be critical.  Pennsbury might have an edge there.  They have Frankford and both Council Rocks, while North Penn has LaSalle, West Catholic (AA), and Archbishop Wood (AAA).  Only one non-league for Neshaminy is known so far, and it is Downingtown West.

Additionally, Pennridge, Abington, and C B South have been playoff-contention teams over the last few years.  The Ghosts’ were in the playoffs in 2013 and their losses were only to Pennsbury, Neshaminy (twice including playoff), and a Thanksgiving upset to Cheltenham (6-6) 35-34.  The Ghosts may have been deflated after their prior Friday night playoff loss to Neshaminy when they played Cheltenham, but give the Panthers credit; they won the game.

As mentioned, Pennridge just missed the 2013 playoffs, but will miss sensational running back Mike Class this season.  The Rams’ played in one of the District One semi-finals in 2012.  In addition to Class, the Rams will miss QB Matt Pasquale, who ran the Wing-T well his senior season.  Two running backs return in Knepp, 5-7, 190 and Simmons 6-0, 200.  Fine wide receiver Micah Stutzman has graduated, but two junior receivers return in Garis 5-9, 165, and Mosser 6-3, 200.  Both lines will need replacements; Hockman 6-1, 220 and Kracz 6-1, 255 return on the offensive line, and Good 5-11, 215 returns to the D line.  Simmons, Knepp, and Hockman also do linebacking duty for the Rams.  Garis, and three-sport standout Joe Unangst 5-9, 170 return to the defensive backfield.  Unangst also handled the punting chores in 2013.  A new placekicker will have to be found.  The Rams appear to have a nucleus of experience to build on for 2014; but have standouts to replace in Class, Pasquale, and linemen Ryan Anton.

Abington had an injury-laden season in 2013 as sometimes happens.  And they happened to the Ghosts’ outstanding back Craig Reynolds for a while, starting QB Anthony Lee, and the first backup quarterback as well.  I saw them only once in the 8th week of the season at Council Rock South when I believe it was the third QB Kretschman who threw three TD passes to three different receivers to handle the Golden Hawks 41-14.  Kretschman certainly looked to have potential if he was an underclassman.  The Ghost O line in 2013 went 313, 260, 234, 304, and 287.  All were seniors except sophomore Terell Tolbert 6-2, 304.  Abington almost always brings speed to the table.  The last six seasons have seen the Ghosts’ go 56-19 and appear all six seasons in District One playoffs.  In league play they were 2-4 versus Neshaminy, and 3-3 versus Pennsbury this same period.  Versus North Penn the Ghosts are 0-14 since their last victory over the Knights 14-13 in 1994.

Central Bucks South just recently lost four-year coach Dave Rackovan, and as at Neshaminy, we will have to see who takes the reins.  But running back Josh Adams is back for his senior year, reportedly all repaired and bulkier, and should be a force for the Titans.  The Titans were 10-2 and playoff contenders in Adams’ sophomore term.  Last season they started 4-1 and when Adams was injured seemed to deflate, finishing 4-6.  I do not know the graduation situation at CB South, but they are the 18th largest high school in PA and should be able to find some talent to support Adams.

I do not know what happened at Souderton.  I have never been to the new school and last saw the Indians in a playoff game at Council Rock (North’s field against South) in 2010.  For the 2004 – 2007 seasons they were 9-3, 9-3, 9-3, and 9-2.  Since then, the Indians have gone 5-6, 6-5, 7-4, 6-5, 7-4, and 2-8.  Four of these past six are winning seasons, but far from the four consecutive 9-win seasons earlier.  It would appear that the Big Red and also Bensalem, who is 34-74 for the past ten seasons, will have an uphill battle in the realignment.

Even more intriguing may be the Continental Conference realignment however.  There are 5 new teams in this conference.  On paper this may be one very level, competitive conference.   Almost automatic losses for many of these teams to Neshaminy, Pennsbury, Abington, North Penn and Pennridge in most seasons have been eliminated unless any of these teams have been carried on schedule as non-league opponents.  Both Council Rock’s, Truman, and Tennent could have eliminated the first three, while it is both Central Bucks East and West and Quakertown that could eliminate the last two.  But it appears that the Pennridge-Quakertown Turkey-day rivalry will now live on non-league.

Perhaps the favorite role here should go to the Council Rock North Indians.  One of the premier QBs of the area in junior Brandon Mcllwayne is one big reason.  He has interest from about seven Division One Colleges including Temple and Auburn for two that I remember.  Also, the team was in the playoffs in 2013, giving first seed Garnet Valley a good game out there in a loss 35-21.  They finished 7-4.  They return a fine RB Chris Welde, two offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, a linebacker and 3 of 4 defensive backs.  McIlwayne also punts, and Rock North seems to always have a fine place kicker. Their 2013 kicker, Adam Greenberg returns.

Central Bucks West was 9-3 in 2013 and also made the playoffs; but unlike Rock returning a third-year QB, the Bucks’ lost their great QB from 2013, John Fitz.  They also lost their outstanding RB, Truman transfer Marvin Todd along with another starting back, Connor O’Hanlon.  A capable group of four wide receivers was reduced to one, Matt Kilkenny, by graduation.  Outstanding linemen Anders Warfel also graduated; and two offensive linemen return.  Two defensive linemen and one linebacker return to anchor the 4-3 defense.  Only one of four defensive backs return, Matt Kilkenny, the aforementioned WR.  Both placekicker and punter have to be replaced, as Fitz also did the punting.

Quakertown is an enigma to me.  I cannot talk with near the same confidence about the Panthers as I can of the lower Bucks schools that I have followed for 63 years.  I have seen the Panthers but 10 times, starting only in 1993.  The Panthers had a 1-10 season in 2012, but bounced back in 2013 to 7-5.  New league rivals for them will be both of the Council Rock’s, Norristown, Truman, and Tennent.  And, except for Rock North, this might be a better mix for Quakertown then NP, Souderton, and Hatboro-Horsham which were three of their five losses in 2013; plus another loss was to Pennridge, who will now be non-league on Thanksgiving and beyond the point-calculation period for playoffs.  Quakertown could quite likely move up.

It appears that some who said that the opening of Central Bucks South in 2004 would have the greatest negative impact on Central Bucks East was on the button.  South is at once the biggest Central Bucks high school and certainly seems to have negatively affected at least the football at East.  Not immediately evident, the CB East Patriots were 10-2 in 2005.  After a 6-4 season in 2007, the late Larry Green’s last as coach; the Patriots have failed to achieve a winning season in the last six tries.  And the 1-9-0 2011 season was the lowest in the 26 years that I have followed this team.  The Patriots lost a lot of talent from last year’s exciting club, but from looking at these reviews as I have been it is evident that all teams start seniors in large numbers, and a study of backups is the key issue which is usually difficult.  A real good lineman in 6-2, 270-lb Alex Jordan returns, and sophomore Alex Gibson, a fine runner also returns.  Abington and North Penn, two losses from 2013 are no longer on the schedule.

I enjoyed watching the Truman Tiger’s play three times last season.  They were numerous, talented, and experienced.  They went 6-6, a great year for the Tiger’s as they had always struggled while in the Sub One National.  Five of the Tiger’s 6 losses were to playoff-bound teams Upper Dublin, Neshaminy, Pennsbury, Abington, and Council Rock North.  Council Rock South (2-8) beat the Tiger’s 28-13 also; which probably should be considered an upset with the records each team finally posted.  But 19 returning seniors in 2013 made the team what it was and Truman will have to rebuild.  Only 8 of their games are known for 2014, but they do play Upper Dublin again non-league and both Rocks’ league; but the Redskins, Falcons and Ghosts appear gone.  A coaching change was also made for the Tiger’s for 2014, so the season is a bit nebulous to predict.

Council Rock South posted their second consecutive 2-8 season in 2013.  They beat Truman and Tennent who return as league foes plus they will have Norristown coming off an 0-11 trip.  They will open with Pennsbury, no easy assignment.  Their other two non-league games are not yet known.  Three more of their 2013 losses are no longer league – Abington, Bensalem, and Neshaminy.  The new league matchups with C B East and C B West are the swing factors for Rock South, plus the other non-league opponents not yet known.  Regardless of records the last game versus sister school Rock North can be a tough one.

William Tennent was also 2-8 in 2013.  Neither of the two teams they beat in 2013 returns to their schedule.  But also three teams they lost to are no longer flies in their ointment – Abington, Neshaminy, and Pennsbury.  And 2014 league opponent C B West was only a 19-12 non-league loss last season.  Likewise, Council Rock North only got by the Panthers 29-27 in 2013 at Tennent.  It was Bob Rosenberger’s first season as Head Coach at his alma mater and his roster shows more returning players than most for 2014; perhaps a good sign.

Norristown has moved up from the American Conference to the Continental.  They suffered an 0-11 season in 2013, and a 1-10 year the season before, so this may not be considered a highlight move for them.  But Norristown has played across all three conferences in the past and should prove a worthy game for their new opponents.  I also do not know what happened to the Eagles.  I have never visited Roosevelt Field as with the new Souderton situation.  I have seen Norristown play 22 times, as early as 1977, but always at local venues.  My contact newspaper does not cover out in Montgomery County that far.  But I know Roger Grove did a fine job coaching there, and I have spoken with him after he came to Neshaminy a few years back.  He might have still been at Norristown in the fine 9-2 season of 2009.  But since that time the Eagles have gone 4-6, 5-5, 1-10, and 0-11.  I believe that the coaching situation is changing currently at Norristown also.

I think the changes in the Suburban One League this year might make for some great, interesting games within the league; with possibly a couple of strong district playoff contenders emerging.

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