Districts 1 & 12 Pre Season Report
Here we go again. The 2014 SEPA football season is upon us and as we dwell on who will shine this year may I be the first to say “let the second guessing begin.”
Archbishop Ryan: Lost in the shuffle during the Philadelphia Catholic League’s success at Hershey last year was the job coach Frank McArdle did with this group. The Raiders ended their season at 8-3 without having an opportunity to play in postseason. All three losses were to conference foes ( I was at all three) and they were in each game. They sandwiched those three losses with a 7-0 non conference record, outscoring foes 267-58 while defeating AAAA state champion St. Joe’s, 27-14 and AAA state champion Archbishop Wood. 22-7. This year the PIAA gods moved Ryan to AAA where they will compete with Wood in what will be a more competitive PCL, AAA conference. Look for lots of fireworks this year with all state RB Samir Bullock, plus two stars in the making, sophs Matt Romano (QB), Jeremy Smith (WR) and a solid rebuilt offensive line.
PCL-AAAA: As Ryan moves down to AAA, the most competitive conference in the state of Pa will now be down to four. Without question, all four teams (Roman Catholic, St. Joe’s, Father Judge and LaSalle) will have the most skill talent for any conference in the keystone state, bar none. The Prep bring back Olamide Zaccheaus, D’Andre Swift, John Reid, Justin Montague and newbie Bennie Walls (wait till you see this guy). LaSalle counters with arguably the state’s premier QB Kyle Shurmur, Jimmy Herron, Jordan Meachum, Nick Rinella and Charles Headon. Rinella looks to be the 2014 version of Tim Wade and could very well be the Explorers X-factor. Roman’s 2014 version has three players who can take it to the house at any time, Dimetri Kelly, John Chaney and A.J. Frazier. Yeedee Thaenrat is one of the most complete football players ever to put a blue and red uniform on at Judge. Returners Zack Carroll and Prince Smith will make this a trio that will produce serious fireworks all year long in coach Mike McKay’s scheme.
In District 12, power points do not come into play as to who will or will not make the playoffs. This is a distinct advantage these teams enjoy and as a result you have the ability to schedule non conference showcase classics that helmet-head fans treasure. As a primer, how’s this for LaSalle’s non conference schedule: North Penn, Bergen Catholic, Maryland powers Dematha Catholic and McDonough, Inter-Ac favorite Malvern and Archbishop Wood. After this their reward is a conference game vs. St. Joe’s Prep. Are you kidding me? This has to be one of the most difficult season schedules ever and it will prepare them (and the Prep as well for their schedule) for the games that really count down the road.
It is absolutely not a given that Prep boss Gabe Infante will roll onto the state championship game. He knows that just getting out of the conference will be a chore in itself. Their defense, which played stellar in the second half of the state championship will be rebuilt but we saw a glimpse of the havoc OL Jon Runyan can do on the defensive line. Runyan will be there when it counts. As for LaSalle, their achilles heel was their run defense which has Coach Drew Gordon concerned.
District 12-AAA- As Pub power Imhotep moves up to AAA, we are poised to have a potential serious competitive city title game with Wood patrolling the PCL portion. Do not count out Ryan and McArdle though. Albie Croby’s Panthers should have little trouble in their conference and with a plethora of skill players whom will give defensive coordinators fits. Their defensive speed should also be a key something Crosby prides himself with by having them do numerous wind sprints during camp and season. Coach Devlin as expected will have Wood’s power run offense generate off the chart numbers running behind line coach Mike Carey’s always powerful and explosive offensive line. Villanova commit Jarrett McClenton probably will not be anywhere near the 3,000 rushing yards he should generate because many of their games will be out of reach by halftime.
Suburban One National- The SOL shuffled their conferences and the National will now have North Penn competing with Pennsbury, Neshaminy and Abington. When all is said and done we very well may see these four teams qualify for the playoffs in November. North Penn will have Nyfease West run behind a line that includes four returning OLineman but the major question mark facing coach Dick Beck will be figuring out who will be under center. This team will need a passing game so that opponents will not load the box against the success this team should possess running the ball. Mark Schmidt retired from Neshaminy and Mike Frederick comes in with a line (always the Redskins strongpoint) that lost four to graduation but one of the best (if not the best) running backs in D’Andre Pollard running behind them. If there was a year for Pennsbury to step forward and be the team, this is the year. They lost QB Breon Clark (moved to Maryland) but replace him with Conwell-Egan tranfer Mike Alley, whose size and arm should be a perfect fit for coach Galen Snyder’s scheme. Snyder, who has a penchant for being pure ground and pound with the Wing-T may opt to have Alley pass more to set up the run with returners Charles Snorweah and Raheem Thompson toting the rock. Finally, these four names should determine how far this team will go: LB’s Jordan O’Neill, Dalton Hose, Vic Delgato and Luke Snyder. They are the most physical group that gets to the ball carrier in a hurry.
District 1- AAA-One team that may make noise when the District 1 playoffs arrive is Penncrest from the Central league. After an 8-3 season they return the majority of their players on both sides of the ball but lost their number one running back this year because he is no longer in the school. In addition the move in numbers from AAAA to AAA should make them an easy bet to make some noise in the eight team playoff.
Mike Class- The name says it all. His ability to make Pennridge a great football team in the district over the last three years will make many who watched him perform at Poppy Yoder reminisce with their grand kids one day. He garnered literally no D1 interest (because of his size) but was one of the most proficient football players on both sides of the ball. He was one player who always played better deep into the game. A lasting memory was his fourth down tackle vs. Pennsbury in their district quarterfinal that won the game for the Rams in 2012 and leaving Class with his second concussion in two weeks. He should be a major force at the next level with West Chester in the PSAC.
Mark Schmidt- It will be hard to imagine Schmidt, with his customary red Neshaminy cap and white towel on shoulder no longer patrol the sidelines at Heartbreak Ridge. It will be even stranger seeing him this year on LaSalle’s sideline in blue and gold prepping their offensive line. Schmidt was one of the most successful coaches in all of SEPA and his two state appearances (one title) attest to that. No one (and I mean no one) was more successful in working the referees to his team’s advantage. Call it great coaching but his tireless work in building the Skin program to what it is today make him an icon with the school. He will be missed noticeably by the Neshaminy faithful and be an immediate force to an already heady group of assistants coach Gordon has under him.
ESPN Anyone?- As I watched an ESPN high school football classic this weekend pitting three games featuring six of the best teams in Alabama a thought came to mind, “why can’t we schedule that here in our state?”
There’s no reason why a two year series on week 1 pitting three teams from Philly (District 1 0r 12) vs. three from the WPIAL in Pittsburgh (District 7). No doubt ESPN would eat this up and it would be a great season starting showcase. Why hasn’t anyone taken the ball and run with this idea? Two possible locations for an east venue would be Plymouth Whitemarsh considering the fact the school is off the turnpike and a few major hotels are down the road. One potential problem could be the stadium capacity. A more suitable location could be Villanova Stadium. If the issue holding this at Villanova regards money that can be countered with the fact that ESPN would contribute to this. This would solve the financial issue.
As a side note the forces at both EasternPaFootaball.com and WesternPaFootball.net have discussed the possibility of putting this together in the past but another small issue is the fact that many of the powers in the WPIAL schedule conference games in week 1. However most of these schools do schedule out of conference games during the season.
Our take on this: there is no doubt this can be worked out by both sides. Lets do a one time two year showcase, one in Philly the next in Pittsburgh. It would be a weekend that would bring so much more fanfare to the state of Pa high school football.
Second side note: we would like to get as many opinions of this as possible in the comment section whether you are from eastern or western pa. These comments will help us try to get this in the works.
Tribute to Coach Algeo-This report isn’t complete without a few words about a great icon, coach and person, Dan Algeo.
Back in 2010 I was just getting my feet wet writing for EPA football and I happened to be the only Philly area reporter at undefeated Cardinal O’Hara’s game vs. Delaware power house Red Lion Christian Academy, a team littered with D1 talent. The game had to be stopped in the 4th Quarter with O’Hara up by 30 due to a brawl by Red Lion’s sideline started by the Red Lion players. The toughness his team showed was a true reflection on the kind of coach he was and the tough love he showed his players. Afterward he took his team aside and implored his team to play by the rules but also made sure they were not to be intimidated.
Appearing obviously nervous this being my first reporting gig I approached Algeo and immediately his availability for me made me appreciate what I was doing there in the first place. He made me feel as important as the coaches whom all had the perfect game plan that day. He appreciated my efforts and the efforts of EasternPaFootball for the work we did in trying to recognize all the work that high school football players, coaches and parents put forth for their schools.
He treated his players like family, made them all feel as important as his three man fronts as well as me that September evening. Long time TedSilary.com contributor Ed “Huck” Palmer added: “Danny was a great man and coach, who always put the interests of his players first. His service toward his players and the Philadelphia Catholic League will be deeply missed.”
In conclusion, maybe the most memorable statement was made by long time O’Hara aid Willie McGonigle regarding his battles with Gil Brooks and St. Joe’s during the early 2000’s: “I wish I could see them do battle one more time.”
Don’t we all. RIP Coach
Note: As always, Ted Silary contributed to this report
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