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Further analysis of the Suburban One National Division

Written by: on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016. Follow KMac on Twitter.


National Division

Neshaminy is my choice as the team to beat in the 2016 National. The reasons are many; but first they return 11 experienced players, 8 on offense and 3 on defense. Although Bensalem returns 14 and Abington 12; these two teams do not return near the numbers recognized for all league honors in 2015 as Neshaminy. If nothing else this indicates experience on the field; and should also indicate superior field performance.

The Redskin O returns 7 all-division players including 3-year QB, leading rusher, leading receiver, 3 of 5 O linemen, and a 4-year placekicker. Another running back listed as a starter also returns for 8 on O. Admittedly, the D was decimated and will have to be rebuilt, but still the 2 men returning at one LB and one DB were both all-conference in 2015. The placekicker was also the punter according to pre-season reports, so he is the third man back on D, and for a fourth season.

The 9 returning all-division selections cannot be near-matched by any other team in the division. For instance the other teams returning stalwarts – Abington 3, Bensalem 2, Council Rock North 4, Council Rock South 3, Harry Truman 0, and Pennsbury 2.

Further indications are the records for the last 15 games versus the teams in the new league realignment. These show the Skins versus Abington 12-3, versus Bensalem 15-0, versus CRN 11-4, versus CRS 4-2 (teams have only met 6 times), versus Truman 15-0, and versus Pennsbury 9-6. Adding the many woes of these same opponents coming into 2016 to be covered in each teams’ analysis; I think one can see my drift. But I repeat as always; the games are won on the field, not in any writers opinions.

Pennsbury is the rival of Neshaminy and the usual practice is that one or the other is picked to win their conference (if North Penn is not in it). But this year 14-season veteran coach Galen Snyder stepped down and additionally graduation wiped out a ton of talent that led the Falcons to a 32-8 record the last three years including a District One Championship in 2014. The Falcons will have to start 2016 with a new coach, and possibly a new system, and they return exactly 3 experienced players, 2 that had all SOL National honors in 2015. When I speak of experienced players I speak of pre-season projected starters and all-division honors recipients. I cannot know what subs, or how many subs, got some playing experience in a given year.   I do not know the placekicking situation; the Falcons optioned for 2-point conversions a lot in 2015 and I have no roster. Departing senior QB Mike Alley did the punting.

Make no mistake, there is pride in Falcon football, and it is a power football school. But just as at any school the Falcons are not above season’s that throw things such as coaching changes, or losing a huge experienced roster in a given year. The year following their 2006 D1 championship and 13-2 season, they were 4-6.

Neshaminy after the 2013 season at 13-2 including the District One Championship, Coach Mark Schmidt stepped down. Next season the Skins were 4-6; it happens.

A lot depends on the choice of new coach, but whoever it is will have a lot of inexperience to work with in regard to known returnees. By the look of the scores and opponents for the Falcons 13 games, it would appear that at most subs would get some good time for 4 or 5 games. The critical Pennsbury-Neshaminy game is at Heartbreak Ridge this season too.

I pick the Falcons second for 2016 based on their long tradition of being a winner in their division, but on paper, with a lot of uncertainty, the Falcons could be a lower finisher this season as well.

Of the teams that now make up the Sub One National I would think that Abington would be placed for strength third historically to the Skins and Falcons. They are 6-4 with CRN, 4-2 with CRS in the only 6 meetings; 10-0 with Bensalem, and 10-0 with Truman over the last ten meetings.

But as at Pennsbury, a coaching change was made at Abington as Coach Sorber has stepped down. And unlike Pennsbury, the Ghosts seem to be in a trough, or down cycle, in their program going 1-10 this season. A nucleus of 12 players return for the Ghosts’ in 2016. Five on offense include three 2015 all-division selectees plus two early-listed starters. On defense there are 7 returnees, but none were accorded all division honors, not strange for a 1-10 team. However, if they just did not get enough playing time to be recognized it bodes ill for 2016.

Kevin Conlin of LaSalle and Penn State fame was hired as the new coach at Abington. He has taught there for the past 17 years and was an assistant football coach there 1999-2013. Although his first HC job, fifteen years experience in the coaching system and teaching long-term at the school would seem to make for a good fit.

It would seem to me that just with tradition and state of the two programs at the present time, I would give the edge to Pennsbury over Abington at this time; but they could flip final position in the standings as well.

Now it really takes some fine (thought) tuning for CRN, CRS, Truman and Bensalem. The first two are somewhat historically stronger than the last two, but all four are in the many-player-graduated throes for 2016, plus CRN additionally needs a new head coach.

Let’s take Council Rock South for fourth; and possibly third over Abington as well. They have the only coach in their history and his systems in place back for 2016. Problems are that they only have 3 players back on offense, 2 that received all SOL honors; and 4 back on defense, one that was all SOL in 2015. And their JV squad was only 1-4-1 in 2015. But their Frosh of 30 players was 6-1 and will hopefully be the incoming class of sophomores for 2016.

Perhaps some standouts can be found in this group to fill some gaps. And also perhaps, this fine Frosh class is setting up the Golden Hawks as a “team a year or two away”.

In any case, there is stability in the program that will temporarily be missing at Pennsbury, Abington, and Council Rock North unless someone in their systems and same coaching philosophy as the departing coaches become the new coaches.

I would think Council Rock North for fifth, unless things really go south morale-wise with the loss of both coach and all-everything four-year QB. Unfortunately, you cannot say it any other way, one man was practically THE team for the Indians. Of course he couldn’t do it alone, and there was four years of various levels of talent and desire around him, but not enough to allow for outstanding seasons. The records for his four years were 5-5, 7-4, 6-5, and 7-4.

Rock North needs a coach, QB, wide receivers, placekicker, punter, and seven defensive players.

That said they are not without assets, the entire offensive line of 5 returns and that includes 3 all SOL selections for 2015. None of the other 13 teams in either division can say that. But the defensive return is pretty thin – one DL, 2 LBs one of which was all SOL in 2015, and 1 DB are it for the defense. However, the D has been weak for the last two seasons allowing 29.9 and 29.6 points per game; so maybe a new D will be instituted, but experience will be lacking.

There are arguments to be made for both of the final two division teams Bensalem and Truman. They share the dubious distinction of being the only two teams in the entire Suburban One League that have never tasted playoff football. Both have their coaches back and the Owl coach also had coached the Tigers.

But in my view, it appears that the potential is there for Bensalem to break their long skid and perhaps claim 6th, or better, in the league. My main reason – 14 returnees, the second most of the 14 teams in the two bigger Sub One divisions. This includes two RBs, 1 WR, 4 OL, placekicker, 2 DL, 2 LBs, 1 DB, and the punter. Only 2 of the 14 were SOL all-division last season, but that is not strange for an 0-10 team. Only the QB slot needs to be filled, a big spot; but 5 of the 7 teams in the division are in the same boat.

For a rebound to happen, the Owls will have to get interested again, come out in numbers, and hit the weight room. The team appeared low in numbers and small in size last season.

The problem at Harry S. Truman this season is that EVERYBODY that started last season was a senior. They return a QB that played 10 games last season when the senior starting QB was injured and out for the season. Also one linebacker, and possibly (?) a punter. The starting QB that was injured was the team punter so someone had to step in, but whether an underclassman or not; I do not know. Truman had players in 2015 that were all SOL division selections; but they were ALL seniors. It is a wipeout, the culmination of 6 years building up, some seniors with 3- and 4- year’s experience. It seems that the Tigers will be starting at square one again.

But we know that some players got experience last year and it will be up to the new seniors to step up and then we will see if it’s starting anew or just continuing the good progress.

I can’t see other than Neshaminy at the top of the National in 2016, but really the other 6 positions could be a real chase. Before this season (2015) is hardly history, it looks to me like all 6 other division teams are going to struggle in 2016.

And unfortunately, it looks like the weakest Suburban One National Conference in a long time. I hope the fine students, coaches, and players at all of these schools prove me wrong.

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