Chris Michael

About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet. Click here to listen to the weekly Sports Talk podcast.

The SportsTalk Shop: “Catch-up Time”

First and foremost, I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday seasonyou’re your New Year is off to a flying start!

We have some big plans with our sports coverage coming down the pike here at RCN in 2017 and are glad you are on-board for the ride.

Before we get back into the swing of things and resume our double-header high school basketball coverage and weekly “SportsTalk” programming, I thought it would be good to play a little “catch-up” on some of the last video highlight packages we produced for our games and broadcast right before the holidays. Then we’ll get back to the “conference” basketball games on RCN-TV.

In addition to these highlights, don’t forget to check into “The Shop” next week as we resume our full-time coverage of high school hoops—and also give our insights, predictions and interviews about the second half of the high school basketball season.

As always, we appreciate you feedback and opinions of our sports coverage and any team or individual achievements during the first month of the winter sports season that might deserve some extra attention and/or mention during our “RCN SportsTalk” program.  Any sports comments about pro, college and high school sports are welcome as well.  Please email your thoughts to rcnsportstalk@rcn.com.

Also, don’t forget to catch our first “SportsTalk” show of 2017 as our in-studio guests will be Head Coach Doug Snyder and members of the Allen boys basketball team—recently named the #1 scholastic team in all of Pennsylvania.  The Canaries will talk about their season today and look ahead to a tough league schedule, this Thursday at 7pm on RCN-TV.  The show will also be available to watch through RCN On-Demand and you can hear the podcast at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk.

Be sure to tune in and support the Allen basketball team!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: 2016 Year-in-Review: Part Three

Thanks for checking back for our third and final installment of our reflections of the past year (please check out the last two weeks’ worth of blog entries for even more insights and memories of the year gone by).

Here are more of the sports categories that co-host Keith Groller and I came up with, in addition to topics suggested by our viewers, along with my “two-cents worth”:

Most Overplayed Story of 2016 (any level)
Athletes and coaches giving their political opinions and commentary on the Presidential race. Many have NO clue of what they are talking about. I could tell you many stories from when I covered pro athletes proving that they truly do not have a sense of the “common person issues.” For example, one Major League player once said the average person’s yearly salary was about $600,000!

Biggest Turnaround in 2016 (any level)
Penn State football

Most Lasting Image of 2016 (Local/National)
Local – Solehi girls basketball dominance in the local playoffs (both league after districts)
National – Penn State fans storming field after Ohio State game

Best Coaching Job of 2016
Nazareth Girls Basketball Head Coach Rich Bickert

Most Outstanding Individual Performance of 2016
Nazareth’s Travis Stefanik — in two sports … at the wrestling EPC Challenge (I think) … and in the 2nd half of his football game vs. Freedom: a force, just wouldn’t quit, took a few hard shots and just kept going and almost led his team all the way back from a 28-0 deficit.

Most Impressive Team Performance of 2016
Parkland boys basketball

Favorite Sports Moment of 2016
The many examples of teams getting involved in the community, out at young kids’ events, going to homeless shelters and other great charitable work I heard about this year!

And, for the “New Year” Predictions…

Toughest Coaching Challenge Looking Ahead
Dieruff football’s Kyle Beller

One team and player to watch in 2017
Players: Bangor’s Isaiah Jones (So) and Catty’s Jaylen Green
Team: Pen Argyl Girls Soccer program

Something “New” You’d Like to See in 2017
“Real” football playoff doubleheaders

One Piece of Advice for an Athlete/Coach in 2017
Head Coaches: “Hang in there” through adversity and other “strange stories” that they share with me — some of them VERY hard to believe what they have to go through!

These topics plus many more are discussed in much greater detail, along with some discussion/debating going on between Keith and me on the 60-minute special program. Be sure to catch the encore edition of our special “Year-in-Review” show that will be airing a couple more times over the next week. Check your RCN on-screen guide for details on when this show is airing.

In addition, you can also hear the podcast of our “2016 Year-in-Review” show at: rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk and RCN customers can watch the show, for free and at anytime, through RCN On-Demand.

I hope everyone has a great start to 2017 and joins us next week for more coverage, videos and sports highlight of teams in the RCN viewing area!

The Sports Talk Shop: 2016 Year-in-Review: Part Two

Happy Holidays to you!

I hope everybody is enjoying this special time of year. This week we have the second of three installments in looking back at some of the top players, teams, moments and events that made the 2016 sports calendar year so fun to cover for us here at RCN.

Here are some of the sports categories that come to mind when reflecting back on the last 12 months—along with a few of my thoughts on each (we go into more detail on our special TV program—see below for details)

Best Defensive Football Player in Eastern PA this fall
Jahan Worth. For the record, I touted his defensive on our football season preview show in August. I hope you heard that show; you can check out that show’s podcast here on the RCN-TV website if you’d like proof

Most Intriguing HS Teams
Dieruff boys volleyball / CCHS girls volleyball

Best & Worst Sports Decision Made in 2016 (any level)
Best – Emmaus hiring Harold Fairclough as their head football coach Worst – Just about every programming decision ESPN made this year

Best & Worst “Professional” Sports Story in Philly or DC
Best – Nationals making the playoffs and advancing to Game 5 in NLDS Worst – Caps losing in the 2nd round of the playoffs for 2nd straight year

Most Underrated Story (any level)
Successes of the Bangor baseball a and softball programs

A “Shout-out” to one sports personality this year
Catty’s Hanna Edwards (named one of the top 9 softball players in the entire country)

Sports Personality You Would Have Liked to Have Seen More Of
Liberty’s Carlo Perugini (overcame three ACL injuries to play in his first—and last–varsity football game this past fall). Carlo graduates in the spring.

Most Disappointing News of the Year (Any level)
Kyle Haas won’t be coming back to Becahi

Something Witnessed That You Hope To See Again In 2017
Great support for Colonial League title games…jammed packed McIntyre Gym for the Colonial League Basketball championship and a “more than half full” BASD Stadium for Notre Dame/Pen Argyl football championship

Something You Hope Doesn’t Repeat Next Year
Anti-private school comments directed towards kids during games/matches

Best Performance By An Underclassman
Beca’s Alec Huertas and Notre Dame’s Mikey DeGaetano

Don’t forget to check back for our next look-back installment of the top 2016 sports moments in the RCN viewing area, coming up in the next week here at the “SportsTalk Shop.” We are also presenting a special “Year-in-Review” show that is airing throughout this holiday season, in which we touch on even more of these great moments and special people in the Lehigh Valley, Delaware Valley and Washington DC/DMV region from 2016. Check your RCN on-screen guide for details on when this program airs.

You can also hear the podcast of this “Year-in-Review” show at: rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk

And, once again, a very happy holiday season and prosperous New Year’s to all of you faithfully following us here on the blog in 2016!

The SportsTalk Shop: Year-in-Review: Part One

As often as I try to do this—but probably still don’t do it enough … a HUGE THANK YOU to the wonderful women and men we’ve been so fortunate to have on “SportsTalk” as our guests this past year.  Here’s a quick look at only some of the very memorable people on our program during 2016 (in no particular order):

  • NFL/MLB Associated Press Writer Rob Maaddi
  • Hall of Fame/Philadelphia Eagles Radio Play-by-Play Voice Merrill Reese
  • Redskins Radio Announcer/Host Scott Jackson
  • ABC7 (DC) Sports Director Alex Parker
  • Detroit Pistons’ Guard Darrun Hilliard (former Liberty HS great)
  • Dallas Cowboys’ Wide Receiver KJ Williams (former Liberty HS great)
  • MLB.com Sr. Sports Writer Jim Callis
  • Nationals’ Beat Writer Bill Ladson
  • Nationals’ Play-by-Play Announcer Charlie Slowes
  • Olympians Marty Nothstein & Joetta Clark-Diggs
  • DCIAA Women’s Official/Fmr. Pro Football Player (and one of only three Varsity Head Football Coaches ever) Natalie Randolph
  • Joseph Basketball Standout / Fmr. DMV Star Isaiah Miles
  • George Washington Men’s Basketball Head Coaches Mike Lonergan
  • George Washington Women’s Basketball Head Coach Jen Rizzotti
  • Longtime Georgetown Men’s Basketball Play-by-Play Voice Rich Chvotkin & other Hoyas athletes
  • Lafayette College Head Basketball Coach Fran O’Hanlon
  • American University Head Basketball Coach Mike Brennan
  • Washington Times Redskins Beat Writer/CBS Radio’s Rick Snider
  • Washington Post Beat Writer’s Eric Goldstein
  • Philadelphia Daily News’ Jeff Moeller
  • Play-by-Play Announcers for Phillies & Nationals Minor League Affiliates: Mike Ventola, Matt Provence & Terry Byron
  • Head Coaches from HD Woodson, DeMatha, Sidwell Friends, Gonzaga High Schools
  • Championship teams including Parkland boys basketball team, Nazareth girls basketball team, Notre Dame football team, Emmaus field hockey team, Parkland volleyball team and others
  • NY Giants Beat Writer James Kratch
  • Washington Times Redskins/Nationals Beat Writer Todd Dybas
  • ESPN Radio (DC) Morning Show Host Kevin Sheehan
  • ESPN Radio (Philly) Morning Show Anchor/Host Eytan Shander
  • Redskins “Breaking Burgundy” Creator/Fmr. Comcast SportsNet “Insider” Ben Standig
  • “FootballStories” Magazine Editor/Show Hosts Al Thompson & Rock Hoffman
  • ESPN Draft Analyst/Fangraph’s Eric Longenhagen
  • Members of this year’s PA Football Hall of Fame Inductees
  • Writers from The Morning Call, Express-Times & LehighValley.com
  • All the RCN Sports Announcers & Commentators
  • Interviews with current Phillies & Nationals players & top prospects

Also, a reminder to watch our special “SportsTalk: 2016-in-Review” show that will be airing at different times on RCN-TV around the holiday season as Senior Morning Call Sports Writer Keith Groller and myself will take a look back at the top players, coaches, teams, special memories and more.  Our subject matter will be focused primarily on teams in the RCN-TV coverage area in the Lehigh Valley, Delaware Valley and Washington, DC regions, but we will mix in a few national topics of conversation as well.

You will also be able to hear the podcast of this show at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk as it will be made available over the next few days.

Now for “part one” of my year-in-review thoughts/reflections for just a few of the most requested topics of conversation over the last 12 months.

  • Pennsylvania’s New Classifications & Playoff System for HS Sports

No Lehigh Valley sports story came close to the interest (and complaining) of the revamped classification for PIAA sports and the outline of the playoff system.

 

  • The Rise & Fall of the Philadelphia Eagles


After having covered the Philadelphia Eagles for several years, I know that there’s no fan base that goes to greater extremes than the faithful followers of Philly’s NFL franchise.  Once the Eagles defeated (destroyed?) the Steelers Week 3, there was no containing the (insane?) amount of the enthusiasm for this team and its first-year head coach, first year quarterback, suspect wide receiving core, weak secondary, et al.  It was practically assumed a deep trek into the NFL inevitably and anyone (like, perhaps, me?) suggesting that the team was still a year away was dismissed as being an “overly negative media opinion.”

Then, reality sent in, sending the Eagles’ into a tailspin in which they have yet to recover, with everyone from Doug Pederson to Carson Wentz to Fletcher Cox falling under heavy scrutiny.

  • The Nationals Finally Getting to the Playoffs

The “SportsTalk” camera crew and I had the good fortune of seeing the Nationals’ top prospect Trea Turner play for Triple-A Syracuse (boy, did he put on a display!) and talked with him after an April game just shortly before he received his call-up to the Nationals.  Turner did not disappoint once he got to the Major Leagues—even with a position change from shortstop to center field while at the game’s highest level–and showed the same amazing abilities in helping Washington advance to the NLDS.

Don’t forget to check back for “part two” for more commentary on sports highlights from the 2016 calendar year in the next installment of the “SportsTalk Shop.”

And, of course, a very happy holiday season and prosperous New Year’s for all of you faithfully following us here on the blog in 2016!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Year-in-Review 2016: LAST CALL!!!

The holiday season is in full swing (along with high school basketball season, the wrestling season,  crunch time for the NFL, the Hot Stove League, the NBA, NHL…but I digress).

One of our annual traditions is to reflect back on some of the most interesting programs and events from the past year.  RCN-TV is once again doing a marathon of some of your favorite programs and will be showcasing them for your enjoyment around the holidays.

Likewise, we will be continuing our look back at our viewers’ favorite sports moments from this past year.  Senior Morning Call Sports Writer and new “SportsTalk” co-host Keith Groller and I are asking for your votes and suggestions for your favorite topics, standout players, the teams and memorable sports moments involving participants in the RCN viewing area—dealing primarily with the scholastic, collegiate and professional levels.

Right now, the ball is in your court to nominate and vote!  Email us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com with your suggestion for favorite 2016 sports moments that you would like us to mention and/or video clips and features that you might like to see again.  Keith and I will huddle next week and review the top nominations to determine what you, our viewers, would prefer to see one more time before we turn the calendar year.

Then, check back to the “SportsTalk Shop” for the final weeks of blog entries for the year, along with our “RCN SportsTalk: Year-in-Review Special” podcast and TV program that airs at various times during the holiday season (check the broadcast schedule here on the RCN-TV website or your RCN on-screen guides for the specific dates and times of this show’s airings).

In a previous blog entry, we posted some of the categories of which we are looking for your feedback.  But we also appreciate your feedback on any other subjects you’d like us to address on this year’s special program.

To help “stir the pot,” here are a few of my memorable moments from 2016, in no particular order:

    • Joel Embiid finally plays in a regular season NBA game for the 76ers
    • Nationals finally make the playoffs (and lasted until the final game of the NLDS)
    • Eagles trades paving the way for Carson Wentz and his subsequent rise to becoming the team’s #1 quarterback and instant popularity with the fan base
    • After a spectacular 3-0 start, playoff expectations rise and praise abounds for new Eagles head Coach Doug Peterson … the team then sharply reverses course, loses eight of their next 10 and fans call for Peterson dismissal following the November 29th loss to the Bengals
    • DeMatha HS football’s preseason “Top 5” national ranking in USA Today (and other publications)—and then staying there the entire season
    • The new classifications and expanded PIAA HS playoff system for all sports
    • The Capitals’ early exit (again) from the NHL playoffs
    • Nazareth girls basketball’s second District XI championship in three years (followed-up by a summer league title with very stiff competition). With many high-level players returning for both the Eagles, Easton, Northampton, Parkland and other top teams, it’s going to be an exciting girls hoops season in the Lehigh Valley this winter!
    • The Flyers quicker-than-expected resurrection and (near) playoff appearance this spring
    • HD Woodson basketball’s undefeated, championship season (check out last week’s “SportsTalk” podcast or RCN On-Demand for an interview with head basketball coach Lawrence “Trey” Mines)
    • The Phillies “turn the page” and take several positive steps forward with trades, crafty (but not flashy) free agent signings and the development their younger players
    • The many examples of high school student-athlete participating in food drives, dance-a-thons, homeless shelter visits and other wonderful, charitable acts from various schools across our viewing area this past year. Fortunately, just the stories alone that I’ve been told are too numerous to mention in a single blog post, and it would be too difficult to identify a single team/action for this.

Also, here are a few highlight videos from recent games of RCN’s coverage of the Pennsylvania state football playoffs.

And…don’t hesitate to look back through the last eleven months-worth of our blog postings here on the RCN-TV website if you want to refresh your memory on some of the musings from Gary Laubach and myself and select one of your favorite discussion points or videos from the past year.

Again, the decision is yours for our annual program and blog postings…but don’t wait!  Feel free to vote on any of these above topics or suggest your own by emailing rcnsportstalk@rcn.com before voting ends this Sunday night (December 20th).  Have fun!

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Basketball Preview 2016

With all of the Lehigh Valley teams now out of the running for a PIAA state football title, it’s now time to fully devote our attention to the rapidly approaching high school basketball season.

We are extremely fortunate to have some incredibly insightful people giving their opinions on the 2016-17 scholastic season.  In addition to local media members (Morning Call’s Keith Groller, RCN Sports Director Gary Laubach, RCN announcers Tom Stoudt and Dennis Laub, and LehighValleyBasketballRankings.com’s Toomey Anderson), we have three distinguished head basketball coaches giving their takes on five important questions for the upcoming season.  We won’t reveal the names of the head coaches to avoid any “bulletin board” material, but, just like in fall with our football poll, we are blessed to have some long-tenured and well-established basketball names with us this year!

So…let’s get started with each of our pollsters giving their opinions on:

1) 3 KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH THIS WINTER
Toomey Anderson: We all know about the top players in the district.  Here are some others to expect good seasons from:
Lehigh Valley –  Jay Vaughan (ACC).  Charles Hudson (Whitehall),  Arnell Lewis (Easton);  Colonial League-  Dylan Benton (Bangor), Jack Reichenbach (Salisbury), Isaiah Graves (Catty);   “Mountain teams”- Jalen Vaughns (PM West), Shon Wilson (Stroudsburg), Darin Bellinger (ES North)

Keith Groller:  Talek Williams, Sam Iorio, David Kachelries
Dennis Laub:  Talek Williams, Sam Iorio, Dave Kachelries…although I personally like Logan McGinley from Whitehall
Tom Stoudt: Talek Williams, David Kachelries, Tyrese Martin
Mystery Coach 1:  Talek Williams and Tyrese Martin both of Allen; Sam Iorio of Parkland and the Kachelries twins of Emmaus. I know that is 5, but they are all special players.
Mystery Coach 2:  Tyrese Martin (Allen); Isaiah Wiggins ((PM West); Mickey Esquilin (Whitehall)
Mystery Coach 3:  Talek Williams (Allen), Sam Iorio (Parkland), Lance Singh (Poc. Mt. West)

2) “CAN’T MISS” GAME OF THE YEAR
TA: Salisbury vs. Bangor (Colonial) & Parkland vs. Allen (EPC)
KG: Parkland at Allen, Feb. 6
DL:  Allen vs. Pocono Mountain West (at least 150 points scored…if not 180)
TS:  Parkland vs. Allen (Oh, wait, they don’t play each other), Parkland vs. PMW (Oh, they don’t play each other, either), Parkland vs Allen on 2/6/16
MC 1:  Bangor vs. any of the EPC teams they play. A good way to see how Bangor, the biggest school in the Colonial League, “hangs” with the big boys of the EPC. Also, Pocono Mt. West vs. Allen should be a heck of a game.
MC 2: Allen vs PM West; Bangor vs Easton
MC 3: Pocono Mt. West vs. Whitehall

3) “NEWCOMER” THIS SEASON
TA: Mohammed Dunbaya (Easton). New to Easton last year but didn’t play much—he will be a force defensively this year.
KG: Chico Whyte, Dieruff
DL:  Aidan Ellwood returning to Northampton, where he’ll thrive again.
TS:  Zach Sabol, 6’7 Sophomore at Emmaus
MC 1:  Aiden Elwood and his return to Northampton. Also, the big kid Sabol from Emmaus.
MC 3:  Justin Paz (Bethlehem Catholic)

4) “TEAMS TO BEAT”
TA: Bangor & Parkland
KG: Allen and Bangor
DL:  Allen & Pocono Mountain West
TS:  Allen & Pocono Mountain West
MC 1: Allen in the EPC-South, Bangor in the Colonial League and Pocono Mt. West (in the EPC-North). They all have a lot of talent.
MC 2:  Allen; PM West
MC 3: Allen and Liberty

5) “SLEEPER TEAM”
 TA: Bethlehem Catholic
KG: Bethlehem Catholic in the EPC; Southern Lehigh in the Colonial
DL:  Emmaus (they have a huge advantage in their home gym)
TS:  Bethlehem Catholic
MC 1: Whitehall. They finished 2nd in the Stellar and Sportsfest tournaments and won the Allentown Summer League. Also, watch out for Northampton with the return of Ellwood from CCHS.
MC 3:  Parkland – people think they are down but they still have one of the best players in the league. I never thought I would say that Parkland is a sleeper, but this year they just might be

Don’t forget to catch RCN’s first broadcast high school basketball game this Tuesday, December 12, with Gary Laubach and Tom Stoudt and be sure to check out our winter sports schedule here on the RCN-TV website for all the top games!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Year-in-Review 2016: VOTE NOW!

It’s almost time for our annual “year-in-review” special on RCN-TV and this year, we want to incorporate your opinions on the top team, players, games and more!

Senior Morning Call Sports Writer Keith Groller and I will be giving our picks for our favorite sports moments of 2016—and your votes will help shape who we will be featuring in the coming weeks as part of a special program.

Email us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com with your suggestions for favorite 2016 sports moments, video clips and/or features that you would like us to mention or you might like to see again.  Also, we’re taking your votes on the following topics:

1).Best Defensive Football Player in Eastern PA this fall
2) Most Intriguing HS Team
3) Best & Worst Sports Decision Made in 2016 (any level)
4) Best “Professional” Sports Story in Philly or DC
5) Most Underrated Story (any level)
6) Favorite Sports Moment of 2016
7) Sports Personality You Would Have Liked to See More Of
8) Most Disappointing News of the Year (Any level)
9) Something Witnessed That You Hope To See Again In 2017
10) Something You Hope Doesn’t Repeat Next Year
11) Best Performance By An Underclassmen
12) Most Overplayed Story of 2016 (any level)
13) Biggest Turnaround in 2016 (any level)
14) Most Lasting Image of 2016 (Local / National)
15) Best Coaching Job of 2016
16) Most Outstanding Individual Performance of 2016
17) Most Impressive Team Performance of 2016

And, predictions for 2017…
18)  One Team & Player to Watch in 2017
19) Something “New” You’d Like to See in 2017
20) One Piece of Advice for an Athlete/Coach in 2017

And…a “Stone-Cold” Lock To Happen in 2017.

Keith and I will be coming up with our own lists but welcome your input—you may just sway us with your votes/comments!

Then, check back to the “SportsTalk Shop” in a few weeks, along with our “RCN SportsTalk Presented by The Morning Call: Year-in-Review Special” that will air multiple times during the holiday season (check the broadcast schedule here on the RCN-TV website for the specific dates and times of this show’s airings).

Again, the decision is yours for our annual program and blog postings.  Feel free to vote on any of these above topics or suggest your own by emailing rcnsportstalk@rcn.com.

We also have some video highlights of recent District XI and PIAA state playoff games broadcast on RCN recently:

We also have a “Best of RCN-TV” contest here on the website for you to check out and vote on your favorite overall game/programs. The top choices will be shown again on RCN TV ON New Year’s Day.

Last, but certainly not least, make sure you mark your calendars, set your RCN TiVo boxes and make sure you tune in to the “Dream Come True Telethon” on RCN-TV, on Monday, December 5, from 6:00-9:00 pm to help one of the Lehigh Valley’s most worthwhile charities.  The auction is already active online! Click here to view and bid on lots of items, including one-of-a-kind donations from your favorite cable TV networks! It’s an excellent way to take care of your Christmas shopping list in addition to supporting a tremendous cause. Or just make a donation – no bidding necessary! And then tune in to the telethon next Monday night; it’s very entertaining with special guests from around the region.  Be sure to watch and thank you in advance for your donation!

The SportsTalk Shop: The HS Basketball Poll “Tease”

Sometimes I think I have a big mouth!

As we got to the end of the high school football season (a campaign that FLEW by this year), I mentioned both here at “The Shop” and on “RCN SportsTalk presented by The Morning Call” that our football poll season went by much too quickly and that maybe, if our audience was interested enough and would send me positive feedback, we might entertain the possibility of doing a scholastic hoops version of the poll for our viewers in the District XI area.  This suggestion caused me to once again prove something I’ve known down deep for years…

The Lehigh Valley LOVES their high school sports!

Needless to say, I did get a number of people who said they’d like to see a basketball poll for the winter.    So now, it’s time to put the wheels in motion (basketball practices did get underway last week, if you didn’t realize that in the middle of all this football playoff news).

First, we are going to present a “preseason” poll (we’ll publish this right around the start of our RCN broadcast schedule),  including a ranking of teams from one to five (#1 being the best, then #2 for the 2nd best, #3 for the 3rd, etc).

Also, for our pre-season poll, we’ll also be asking our voters’ opinions for the following questions…

  • Three players to watch for the upcoming season
  • A “can’t-miss” game to watch this season
  • “New” player to watch this season
  • Top two “teams to beat”
  • “Sleeper” team

Then, starting January 8 through the start of the playoffs, our voters will continue to rank their top-five teams each week.  All District XI schools are eligible for the poll and will be divided into either our “big schools” (5A & 6A classifications) or “small schools” (3A & 4A) polls within the RCN footprint:

The “small schools” consist of Wilson, Saucon Valley, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, Wilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame-GP, Palmerton, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.

The “big schools” are Bangor, Central, Southern Lehigh, Whitehall, Allen, Dieruff, Easton, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, E. Stroudsburg North & South, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Stroudsburg, Northampton, Parkland, and Pleasant Valley.

Last but not least, we are going to have some great basketball minds weighing in on our poll!

Among them:

  • RCN TV Sports Director Gary Laubach
  • RCN Basketball Commentators Tom Stoudt and Dennis Laub
  • Lehigh Valley Basketball Ranking’s (and former high school and collegiate standout player) Toomey Anderson
  • Morning Call Sr. Sports Writer/Lead HS Hoops Writer Keith Groller

PLUS…

We also will have local coaches giving their insights.  Like the football season, we will not divulge their names publicly so that they can give their honest impressions, without having to worry about getting negative push-back from the teams they play and avoiding any potential “bulletin board” issues.

So thanks for everyone’s feedback and input suggesting we do a poll for the winter high school basketball season (despite the extra work—it will be fun to see the results for me, too–but don’t tell anyone J. Don’t forget to check back to the “SportsTalk Shop” in two weeks when our new basketball poll will debut for the season!

Last, but not least, we hope everyone has an enjoyable Thanksgiving Day holiday and enjoys the state playoff high school football action on RCN-TV this weekend.  Also, please be safe if you do venture out and are traveling before Thanksgiving Day and/or on Black Friday!

The SportsTalk Shop: District Playoff Football

We are right in the middle of an exciting run of District XI high school football action on RCN-TV.

First of all, the EPC announced their All-Star class, so let’s take a moment to spotlight some of the outstanding high school players during the regular season.

EPC FB All-Star Offense

EPC FB All-Star Offense2

EPC FB All-Star Offense3EPC FB All-Star Offense4

EPC FB All-Star Defense1

EPC FB All-Star Defense2

EPC FB All-Star Defense3

Last weekend, the district’s 4A and 5A champions were crowned and will move on to the PIAA state playoffs, commencing on Friday night.

This weekend will also be the 6A and 3A title games.  Of course, this time of year is even more exciting as it’s “do or die” time, with the loser of these playoff games seeing their season come to an end.   For that reason alone, there’s a little more adrenaline running through the hearts and minds of the players, coaches and people associated with the football teams involved at this time of year.

Here is a look at RCN’s recent coverage of the final regular season games, along with the opening rounds of the district playoff season.

Don’t forget, you can see more highlights, along with insights, predictions and previews of our local teams in the state playoffs by watching “RCN SportsTalk presented by The Morning Call” live on Thursdays at 7pm and also by catching our podcasts at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk.

We hope to have a special guest on this Thursday’s show in which we’ll discuss the Lafayette/Lehigh game—both past and present, along with high school football talk and some commentaries on how this time of year used to mean some great Thanksgiving Day rivalry games.  Of course, we’ll also talk about a few of those traditional holiday game classics, like Easton/Phillipsburg, Catasauqua/Northampton and others that still exist.

Also, make sure you check out RCN’s broadcast schedule each week as we follow our local teams through the state playoffs.   Best of luck to all the teams still playing!

The SportsTalk Shop: Playoff Football Primers

The state high school football playoff season is officially underway in Pennsylvania (it actually started last week for Lehigh Valley teams due to the expanded playoff format, but we’ve talked about that in great detail before…)

There are several big matchups coming up this weekend.  Here are some insights on each of the games which feature teams in the RCN viewing area.

CLASS 6A
EASTON AT PARKLAND
Parkland is getting key people healthy—especially at running back—at just the right time.  During his tenure at Liberty, Head Coach Tim Moncman has often shown his desire to grind out long scoring drives if he has the horses available, and the improving health of Nick Suriel has allowed his Trojans to do that last week in their win over Nazareth.

This sets up an interesting issue:  Easton has had much more success stopping (or at least containing) the run against almost every team they’ve faced this year.  Even through injuries, the Red Rovers were the second best 6A team in points allowed this year during the regular season (Parkland was first), and they, too, are getting guys healthy—especially lineman—heading into the post-season.

This figures to be a low-scoring game.  Time of possession, turnovers and the ability to pick and choose your spots to throw deep will be keys and should make for one of the more entertaining games on Friday night.

FREEDOM AT EMMAUS
I’m really surprised it took a gutsy coaching decision by Emmaus Head Coach Harold Fairclough to put away his Hornets’ first round win over Liberty.  Both teams were missing key personnel and Liberty did a nice job containing Emmaus’ running attack.

In the first meeting between these two, the Hornets proved to be one of the few teams that found a way to pressure Freedom QB Joe Young and made him rush his passes.  If the Patriots’ offensive line can buy him more time—and I’m sure Head Coach Jason Roeder and his staff will also be making adjustments—Freedom could have much more success offensively this time around.

Emmaus’ Josh Artis helped to stretch the defense in the second half of the regular season matchup, which led to a Hornets victory.   As long as Freedom doesn’t hurt themselves with penalties/turnovers, a Patriot win wouldn’t surprise me at all.

CLASS 5A
Southern Lehigh vs. Whitehall
This is the matchup that surprised no one once the new classifications were laid out and both of these teams, along with East Stroudsburg North and South, were guaranteed playoff spots.

This is the game RCN will broadcast Friday.  We’ll be talking about this contest in much more detail on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” show, when I’ll be joined by The Morning Call high school football scribes Keith Groller and Steve Miller for insights, analysis and predictions.

CLASS 4A
Saucon Valley vs. Bethlehem Catholic
In my opinion, this championship game is the most intriguing playoff contest this weekend.

Becahi steamrolled through most of the top teams in the EPC and featured the best run defense in the area before hitting an injury wall in the last quarter of the regular season.  They had to bounce back from a Central Catholic beating the week prior to avenge the Vikings’ defeat in the playoffs (see video above).  They also accomplished last week’s victory without some of their top players due to injuries.

Furthermore, Becahi—a team last year predicted to go deep in the state playoffs—is looking to get revenge on Saucon Valley—the team that knocked them out of the post-season last fall in the district semi-final.  Both teams have had great success defensively this year and also feature solid players on special teams.  I think you would have to give the Hawks the advantage offensively, but the same was said last season and that didn’t stop the Panthers from using its underdog status to fuel a hard fought win.

CLASS 3A
Pen Argyl at Palisades
The Green Knights have been a tough team to figure out this year.  Pen Argyl was one of our top four Colonial League teams in our pre-season and scored some impressive wins.  They’ve also lost a couple games that surprised some of our football experts here at RCN-TV.  Palisades has really been playing well under Kevin Ronalds and looked strong last week in their win over Northern Lehigh.

I’d give the advantage to Pen Argyl given Logan Sterner’s running ability and the Knights having a more battle-tested group, but this should be another interesting match-up this weekend.

North Schuylkill at Notre Dame

Notre Dame took a while to get its motor running versus Lehighton last weekend, but once they did, it turned into the blowout that I had predicted it would on last week’s show.

The Crusaders clearly have the most offensive weapons of any in this classification and have been doing a better job defending the run over the last several weeks, which traditionally has been North Schuylkill’s bread-and-butter.

I haven’t seen North Schuylkill in person this season as they play outside our coverage area but already have some calls in and am waiting for more information and details on this year’s squad as this week’s blog goes to press.  Again, I’ll have to use the “tease” button here and invite you to watch this Thursday’s show (or hear the podcast at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk) for more on this playoff game.

Don’t forget to bookmark and check out RCN’s broadcast schedule here on the website and check back throughout our local team’s playoff run for more details on our featured games.