Gary Laubach

About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

Among the Great

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Sunday, October 14, was a special night at the Holiday Inn in Fogelsville.  The District XI held their inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  Fourteen outstanding individuals were honored for their contributions to field hockey, boys and girls basketball, football, wrestling, swimming, and coaching.

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Gary Laubach and Larry Miller of Catasauqua

Space does not allow me to present their complete resumes, but let me try to briefly describe their contributions to District XI high school athletics:

Sue Butz-Stavin – Emmaus Field Hockey Coach

  • 42nd year as the coach
  • Career record – 937-80-35 – 92%
  • 12 State Championships
  • 27 straight District titles (32 total)
  • National record for career wins

J Birney Crum – Allentown High School Football and Basketball Coach

  • 24 years as head coach of football: Career record – 190-51-27
  • Basketball : Career record – 490-109 with a winning streak of 60 games

Diane Decker – Marian Catholic Basketball

  • Scored 2,377 points with 1,116 rebounds
  • Led her team to two District Championships and the 1984 State championship

John Donmoyer – William Allen Basketball Coach

  • Coached for almost 60 years
  • Won five EPC championships; 6 District titles; and twice a State runner-up
  • His 624 wins is the most by any District XI boys basketball coach

Al Erdosy – Northampton Football Coach

  • 28 years as head football coach at Northampton
  • Career record – 194-55-10
  • Teams won 16 Lehigh Valley League titles and shared 5 more
  • Winning streaks of 58 games and 47 games
  • Four unbeaten and untied seasons

Matt Gerhard – Catasauqua Wrestling

  • A four-time State wrestling champion (one of only 13 to accomplish that feat)
  • Overall career record – 127-3
  • Was named to the first team of Wrestling USA

Michelle Marciniak – Central Catholic Basketball

  • Scored 3,025 points, the record for both boys and girls at Central Catholic
  • Led her team to 4 District titles and 2 State championship finals
  • USA Today All-American and National HS Player of the Year as well as Gatorade and Naismith National Player of the Year

Ed McCaffrey – Central Catholic Football and Basketball

  • Basketball – 3rd highest scorer in Central Catholic history – 1, 637 points
  • Won 2 PIAA State Basketball Championships
  • Football – All-State honors; went on to play in the NFL winning 3 Super Bowl Championships

Larry Miller – Catasauqua Basketball

  • Arguably the greatest high school player in District XI ever
  • Scored 2,722 points and had 2,062 rebounds
  • Scored 911 points as a senior
  • Team won 4 straight Lehigh Valley titles and 3 straight District XI championships
  • 1st team All-State twice; Parade All-American
  • All-American at North Carolina; and played in the ABA

Bob Mlkvy – Palmerton Basketball

  • Scored 1,963 points, a Palmerton record that still stands
  • Team won 44 straight games and 3 Lehigh Valley League titles
  • Scored 48 points in one game
  • All-State twice and All-American twice

Ray Nunamaker – Nazareth High School Wrestling Coach

  • 34 years as head coach at Nazareth
  • Career record – 468-95-7
  • Teams won 8 District titles and 110 consecutive dual meets
  • Coached 9 PIAA state champions, including 1 by his son
  • A member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Artie Owens – Stroudsburg Football

  • Ran for 2,061 yards in his senior year scoring a state record 41 TD’s
  • Led his team to an 11-0 season in 1971
  • First team All-State and an All-American
  • Played in the NFL and the USFL

Milo Sewards – Allentown High School Basketball Coach

  • 23 years as the head basketball coach
  • Career record – 408-167
  • Team won 35 consecutive EPC conference games
  • Won 9 league championships, including 5 straight
  • Won 4 District titles
  • Won the 1950 PIAA State Championship

Alyssa Vavra – Panther Valley Swimming

  • Most decorated swimmer in District XI history
  • 16 time District XI champion
  • Won 5 PIAA championships and 4 PIAA silver medals
  • A 17-time All-American
  • Currently holds every girls swimming record at Panther Valley
  • At Indiana University, she was the Big 10 Swimmer and Athlete of the Year

As you can imagine, it was a wonderful night, with so many potential inductees to go.  The District XI has done itself proud.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I hope you were not part of the many people who told me they either left the game or turned the channel Friday night during our state-wide Freedom-Emmaus football game. With 127 seconds to go, Freedom was trailing by 15 points.  Due to a number of unusual happenings, they scored with 1:11 to go and scored again with 27 seconds to go and then got a 2-point conversion to tie the game and send it into overtime.  Freedom won on another 2-point conversion 32-31.  If you missed it, there’s always Video On Demand.
  1. My “Gary’s Guesses” are a good indication of how difficult it has been this year in the NFL to pick winners. It is no different in the gambling world.  A report out of Vegas on Monday morning said that Bears-Dolphins game garnered double the interest of any other single game.  85% was bet on the Bears including two $100,000 bets.  The Dolphins won 31-28 in overtime.
  1. You decide – Who is the best running back in the NFL right now A) Todd Gurley of the Rams; B) Ezekial Elliot of the Cowboys; or C) Saquon Barkley of the Giants?
  1. It was great seeing Larry Miller at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday. Larry is, in my opinion, the greatest basketball player ever in the Lehigh Valley.  He was part of the District XI 1963 championship win.  Catasauqua beat Wilson High School in the final.  It was played, believe it or not, before 12,000 people at the Harrisburg State Farm Show Arena because there was no venue large enough in the Lehigh Valley.  I was part of the starting five for Wilson in that game.  We had beaten Bethlehem High School in the semi-final, also played in Harrisburg.  Wilson was the first small school to beat a large school (there was only one classification back then) in Districts.  Larry scored 42 points against us.  I had quite a few less.
  1. RCN-TV Sports will be broadcasting the big Colonial League game between Saucon Valley and Notre Dame on Friday night at 7:00pm. RCN-TV will have the Lafayette at Bucknell game on Saturday at noon.  At 7:00, we will present the Emmaus-Bethlehem Catholic matchup.    That game is, also, LIVE on RCN.

 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 12-3)  (Overall: 55-36-2  60% ) 

Week SEVEN

ARIZONA

PHILADELPHIA

MINNESOTA

CHARGERS

NEW ENGLAND

TAMPA BAY

MIAMI

INDIANAPOLIS

KANSAS CITY

JACKSONVILLE

BALTIMORE

DALLAS

RAMS

ATLANTA

 

 

 

 

 

Game of the Year?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.  

I usually take up my blog space writing some thoughts about the national sports scene.  The local stuff I leave for Chris Michael.  This week, however, will be different because I am anticipating a great high school game on Friday night – Freedom at Emmaus.

Both teams come into the game with a 7-0 record.  That is not the only similarity between the two.  Their profiles are amazingly similar.

Emmaus has 2,645 yards of total offense; Freedom has 2,601 – that’s right – just 45 total yards separate the two.  The Emmaus defense has yielded 1,807 yards; Freedom has yielded 1,751 (a 56-yard difference).

Both teams have outstanding quarterbacks:

Emmaus – Ethan Parvell – 61% completions, 14 touchdowns

Freedom – Jared Jenkins – 59% completions, 18 touchdowns

Both use three running backs, all with exceptional skill; both have excellent receivers with touchdown speed available after every catch.

Even though there is so much offensive skill on the field for both teams, the defenses are just as strong and athletic.  Freedom is led by Tristan Wheeler, perhaps the best linebacker in the EPC.  On the Emmaus side is Jacob Weider, who could make the case that he is better.  Both have over 40 tackles this season.

The coaches have combined for over 20 years of experience, so there will not be much they haven’t seen coming into this game.

Keith Groller of The Morning Call wrote a story this week about former WFMZ sports anchor, Jeff Fisher, whose job has taken him to a number of sports markets across the country.  He is a former English student of mine, so I will proudly say (despite having no proof I had any effect on his writing skills) that he has written a book on Texas high school football.  He is probably right when he says there is nothing like it in the country.  But, even he admits that Pennsylvania is probably second.

This Friday night should be a good example of that.  These teams appear to be the best we have to offer this year and, if you are a high school football fan, this one deserves your attention.

Friday night lights don’t just burn in the Lone Star State – they burn just as bright in Pennsylvania.  May the best team win!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. How about them Browns? After going 1-15 in 2016 and 0-16 in 2017, they have already won two games and tied one this year.  In their division they are tied with the Steelers and a half game behind the Ravens (they beat them).  Cleveland has a football team!
  1. If you are depressed and really concerned about the Eagles, you should be. First of all, no team has repeated as the NFC champion since 2003-04 (that WAS the Eagles, by the way).  And no team has repeated as Super Bowl champions since New England did it in 2004-2005.  There is a long way to go, but “success hangover” sure seems real.  The Eagles have matched their loss total for last year already.
  1. The NFL was extra special this past Sunday for me. The early game featured the Carolina-Giants game so I got a chance to watch Saquon Barkley again.  And, once again, he had over 100 yards rushing and receiving for the fifth straight game as a rookie.  He is one of only three NFL players in history to accomplish that feat in their first five games.  He also had two touchdowns and looked like he would be the hero of the game when he scored on a leap into the end zone with about a minute to play.  The Giants lost on a Carolina 63-yard field goal on the last play.  In the same game, Carolina was led by RB Christian McCaffrey, the son of former Central Catholic great, Ed McCaffrey.  It was fun to root for two guys with local ties and not care who wins.
  1. Alabama remains #1 in the college football polls and it sure looks like they will stay there all year. They are outscoring opponents by 240 points, the most in SEC history.  They are so good that their backup quarterback was an SEC Offensive Player of the Year and now does not start.
  1. RCN-TV Sports will be broadcasting across the state of Pennsylvania this Friday night on PCN when we bring you the Freedom-Emmaus football game at 7:00pm (see the blog). It will be followed by Bethlehem Catholic at Easton at 9:30pm.  Lafayette will try to win their second straight game on Saturday at 3:30pm when they take on Georgetown.  That game is LIVE on RCN.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 9-6)  (Overall: 43-33-2  57% )

 Week SIX

PHILADELPHIA

CHICAGO

MINNESOTA

CLEVELAND

CAROLINA

JETS

PITTSBURGH

ATLANTA

SEATTLE

HOUSTON

RAMS

DALLAS

BALTIMORE

NEW ENGLAND

GREEN BAY

 

ZZZzzzzz!

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.  

Please forgive me if this blog sounds like I am just rambling, because I am just not as lucid (cough!) as I usually am.  It’s just as I come to work on a Monday morning, I suffer from sleep deprivation.  It’s not easy being a sports fan and sometimes it’s down-right exhausting.  This weekend was tortuous.

I understand the Ryder Cup needs to be in Europe every other time the Americans compete against the Europeans.  What I do not understand is why Paris?  Why not England?  I have no problem watching Wimbledon.  I kind of enjoy “Breakfast at Wimbledon”.  But The Ryder Cup golf came on at 2:00 AM on Friday morning!  2:00 AM!  There was a time in my younger days when I just might be coming home at that time, but I cannot remember ever getting up at that time.

I know – I know – I have TIVO.  I can get up at a reasonable hour and watch 6-7 hours of golf at my leisure.  But, there is no leisure on the weekend.  On Saturday, there is football and there is work.  Once the golf ended on Saturday midday, I was reviewing the game notes for the Lafayette-Central Connecticut State game (yes, I do research), taking a shower, and preparing to leave the house.

But wait, I had to go back to the TIVO.  Penn State-Ohio State was going to start while I was still at Lafayette.  Notre Dame was playing Stanford at the same time.  Thank goodness, TIVO is quick and easy to operate.  Set it up and exit.

My night was planned – do a game – watch a game and parts of another game and try to get some sleep.  But when I came home, my wife, rightfully, wanted to chat.  I gave her my undivided attention (most of it, anyway).  I did not start the Penn State game until 11:00 PM, with the hope that it would not be close and I could check in on Notre Dame and call it a day (and night and early morning).  The Penn State game came down to the very end; Notre Dame won without as much drama and it was 2:00AM when I rolled over, but a bit wired after the Penn State loss!!  Suffice it to say, sleep did not come right away.

Guess when the Ryder Cup started on Sunday morning?  6:00 AM!!  TIVO again, but the NFL starts at 1:00 – more TIVO.  Eagles at 1:00; Saquon Barkley at 4:30!  OMG!  OMG!  I am starting to lose it.  My wife would like to go to the Celtic Classic – What???

I am beginning to feel like a Stephen King character in one of his horror stories.  I’m running on empty, ready to crack.  Someone needed to slap me in the face and say, “Snap out of it!”  Then I realized, there is Sunday Night Football.  That can’t be.  I have had about 14 hours of sleep since Friday night.  Those games go to 11:30 PM.  I decided not to watch and check on the score from time to time.  But I did watch the end until (you guessed it) 11:30 PM.

So here I am on Monday morning – up at 6:25 AM and at my desk by 8:15, writing this.  My lids are a bit heavy; I can shut the door; and, if I don’t snore, then maybe….
ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. One thing did surprise me, besides the Ravens win against the Steelers, on Sunday night. Do you realize (I did not) that the Ravens have not given up a second-half touchdown this year?  No other team can say that.  Pittsburgh had only 47 total yards in the second half on Sunday night.  Very impressive.
  1. Through four weeks, the NFL is impossible to predict. Philadelphia loses along with Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh.  All were favored to win.  Cleveland looks like they may be better and then lose to OaklandDallas wins in the final seconds; three games go overtime, etc.  “Gary’s Guesses” are not what they used to be, mostly right – SO FAR!
  1. Carson Wentz was sacked four times yesterday and hit 11 times. The defensive secondary was not good.  And the Vikings are next – is 2-3 a possibility?
  1. Monday, Major League Baseball offered up two divisional tiebreaker games for the first time in history. There had been ten other one-game divisional tie-breakers, but never two in one year.  The last one was in 2013.  Another difference is that in previous tiebreaker games, the loser was done.  Here, the losers plays in the wild-card game.
  1. Lafayette won their first game of the season beating Central Connecticut State this past Saturday. They now have a bye week before getting into the heart of their Patriot League schedule.  There is no bye week for the RCN-TV sports team – Friday night has Easton at Freedom LIVE and Whitehall at Parkland at 9:30 PM.  On Saturday Emmaus will play Central Catholic at 7:00 PM.  Join us.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 8-7)  (Overall: 34-27-2  56% )

Week FIVE

NEW ENGLAND

BALTIMORE

KANSAS CITY

TENNESSEE

CAROLINA

DENVER

PITTSBURGH

DETROIT

CINCINNATI

CHARGERS

SAN FRANCISCO

PHILADELPHIA

RAMS

DALLAS

NEW ORLEANS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Mic: Age is Just a Number

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.
 

When you get to be my age (and, trust me, it takes a while), and you are still doing what you love to do, it doesn’t hurt to find some inspiration from time to time. You know, some examples of those who could have packed it in and moved on, but decided to continue to give it a try.  Three of those stories played out this weekend.

I will start with Adrian Peterson, a running back for the Washington Redskins. At Oklahoma, in three seasons, he ran for 4,245 yards, 73 yards short of the career rushing record.  He did not play his senior year, opting to turn pro.  That was twelve years ago.  Adrian Peterson is 33 years old.

He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. He stayed with the Vikings through the 2016 season.  In that time, he set or tied five NFL rushing records, and five Vikings’ records.

In the 2016 season, he needed knee surgery and he was released by the Vikings in 2017. The New Orleans Saints took a chance on him and signed him in 2017.  He played only four games and was traded to the Arizona Cardinals.  He injured his neck and did not finish out the season.   Great career, but it was time to retire, right?

Nope. The Washington Redskins took a chance and signed him this year.  This past weekend against the Packers, he rushed for 120 yards and scored two touchdowns.  He now has 102 touchdowns and it was his 52nd 100-yard game.  Thirty-three is old for an NFL running back, but, in this case, it’s just a number.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has played quarterback in the NFL for seven different teams. After graduating from Harvard, he was drafted by the Rams.  He has played for the Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans, Jets, and now the Tampa Bay Bucs.  For most of these teams, he was the backup given starting opportunities from time to time.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is 35 years old.

This season began with the Bucs’ starting QB, Jameis Winston, suspended for the first three games. Fitzpatrick got the start.  In week one, he threw for 417 yards and four TD’s.  His team upset the Saints 48-40.  He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.  In week two, he led the Bucs to an upset win over the Super Bowl champion Eagles 27-21.  He was again named the Player of the Week.

This Monday the Bucs lost to the Steelers, but Fitzpatrick led a second-half comeback. They lost 30-27.  Perhaps the game time was too late for this “old” QB.  Some would say he should be in bed!

And then there is Tiger. Tiger Woods is 42 years old.  He has won 14 major championships, 18 World Golf Championships, and has a total of 80 career wins, trailing only Sam Snead by two. Due to the wear and tear on his body AND his age, he went through four back surgeries and had not won a tournament in five years. Since his departure from the game, golf has become a young man’s sport with the real stars being in their early 20’s.  He was, more or less, written off as a future winner.

But this weekend, Tiger won again. At 42, he won the Tour Championship.  The five- year drought ended and golf had a resurgence of viewers.  The broadcast on Sunday drew three times the audience the same championship had last year.  And it was an NFL Sunday.  Since Tiger’s return, the size of the viewing audience has soared.  He was in contention for the PGA championship in August and the telecast drew the highest ratings in nine years.

And I just bet the audience was made up of all ages – young people who want to get to see Tiger’s greatness for themselves and the older viewers who can tell themselves, no matter what their age, that it is just a number! There is always more to accomplish.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
 

  1. When the Bills beat the Vikings 27-6 this past Sunday, it was the largest NFL upset in the past 23 seasons. The Vikings were favored by 17 points. According to reports out of Las Vegas, one gambler bet $18,000 on the Vikings with a payout of just $1,000 if he won. He didn’t. Another person bet $9,000 on the Vikings to win $450. He didn’t either. And after the Lions beat the Patriots, the bookies had a good day.
  2. Carson Wentz did not have a great day for the Eagles on Sunday, but they won, he scrambled like old times, took some hits, dove for a first down, and came away healthy. That checked off a number of boxes!
  3. I’m sure Eagles’ fans who have been around for awhile remember Tommy McDonald, the small, but fast, sure-handed receiver from the 1960’s. He was part of the 1960 NFL championship team led by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. McDonald passed away this past week.
  4. It’s officially over for the Phillies this year in terms of post-season play. The way this season is coming to a close puts a real damper on any enthusiasm the start of the year might have had on next year’s success. Here’s hoping…
  5. With the Celtic Classic part of the weekend schedule, RCN-TV will present one high school this Friday night, but it is a good one – Palisades at Notre Dame live at 7:00pm. Chris Michael and John Leone will have the game. Saturday, Mike Joseph, John Leone and I will bring the Lafayette-Central Connecticut State game to you at 6:00pm. You’re invited join us.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 8-8) (Overall: 26-20-2  57% )
 
Week FOUR
RAMS
NEW ENGLAND
INDIANAPOLIS
ATLANTA
GREEN BAY
DETROIT
JACKSONVILLE
CHICAGO
PHILADELPHIA
SEATTLE
CLEVELAND
CHARGERS
GIANTS
PITTSBURGH
KANSAS CITY

Kissing Your Sister

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

I know some of you may be a bit nervous about this title in this day and age, but I mean nothing out of place. The phrase “kissing your sister’ is how many in the sports world have described a tie game in sports.  It’s not all that bad, but it also is not all that good.  I mean – it’s your sister.  I hope mine is not offended.

I bring this up because in just two weeks of NFL football, there have already been two ties:  Pittsburgh-Cleveland (21-21) and Minnesota-Green Bay (29-29).  I also bring this up because of the four major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB), the NFL is the only one that finishes a regular season game without deciding a winner.  And I don’t like it!

According to Wikipedia, tie games in professional football were common prior to 1974 because there was no overtime provision.  The sudden death overtime period was instituted in 1974 and allowed a 15-minute period where sudden death was the rule.  If one team scored, the game was over.

I hated this rule, also.  There was a huge advantage to any team that won the toss to start the overtime period.  Score a point – win the game.  The opponent did not even get an offensive possession. Sure, they could defend against the score, but since 50+-yard field goals are not that uncommon today, the offense did not have to do much to garner a win – maybe just win the coin toss.

That stupidity continued until 2012 when the rule changed to the current situation, but it did not completely change for the better.  Now if a team scores a touchdown, they win, but if they only get a field goal, the other team gets a possession to see if they can score.  This is still not fair.

Seven ties have occurred since 2012 and two of those in the first two weeks of the 2018 season.  Conversely, there are no ties in college football or in Pennsylvania high school football.

In college the ball is placed on the 25-yard line and teams get equal possessions until a winner is decided.  That seems very fair.

In high school, the ball is placed on the 10-yard line and each team gets an equal number of possessions.  Equally fair.

So, can we learn something from these two non-professional levels of football?  We can.  Instead of a timed overtime period which could decide nothing and take a long time (I know the NFL wants to get to the other games and the networks want to get to their regularly scheduled programs), let’s do what the others do.  Since the pros are more skilled, have the ball placed on the 40-yard line of the team with possession and allow equal possessions until we have a winner.  A team always starts a possession from the other team’s 40-yard line.  There will eventually be a winner.

And isn’t that why they play the game? 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I’m sure Eagle fans are not thrilled with Tampa Bay QB Ryan Fitzpatrick after he riddled their defense this past Sunday. For me, I have an affinity to him.  I was fortunate to broadcast two of his college games when he played at Harvard in 2003 and 2004.  Both were wins for the Crimson.  In 2004, Harvard did not lose a game.  He threw for over 5000 yards in his career and ran for almost 1500 yards.  The most interesting story prior to being drafted suggested that he, based on the NFL’s intelligence test, was the smartest player ever to play QB in the NFL.  He scored a 48 or 49 (out of 50) on the Wonderlic test in the fastest time ever (nine minutes).  Maybe Eagle fans shouldn’t feel too bad if he outsmarted the defense.
  1. Did you know that since the current NFL playoff system was put in place, 88% of teams that start 0-2 miss the playoffs? Buffalo, Oakland, Houston, St. Louis, Detroit, Seattle and the Giants are all 0-2.
  1. Carson Wentz will be back this week against the Indianapolis Colts so Eagles’ fans should not be apologetic for long after losing to Tampa Bay.
  1. A couple of nice stories came out of the Patriot League this past week. Colgate was to play football at Furman which is in Greenville, SC, this past Saturday.  Due to Hurricane Florence, the game was cancelled.  Colgate donated their hotel rooms, their pre-game and post-game meals to the relief effort for those in need.  Former Lafayette field hockey coach Andrew Griffiths brought his Old Dominion team up from Norfolk, Virginia, to Lafayette to play Providence instead of cancelling the game due to the hurricane.
  1. RCN-TV will present three good high school match-ups this Friday night. Live at 7:00pm, Mike Joseph, Tony Cocca and I will call the undefeated Easton versus the undefeated Emmaus game.  Chris Michael and John Leone will have the  Liberty at Parkland game at 9:30pm.  Saturday, Chris and John Breidinger bring you the Nazareth at Bethlehem Catholic game at 7:00pm.  As always, you’re invited join us.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 9-6-1)  (Overall: 18-12-2  60% )

Week THREE

CLEVELAND

MINNESOTA

HOUSTON

KANSAS CITY

ATLANTA

GREEN BAY

PHILADELPHIA

MIAMI

BALTIMORE

CAROLINA

JACKSONVILLE

RAMS

DALLAS

CHICAGO

NEW ENGLAND

TAMPA BAY 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday (and Thursday) Surprises

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

The first week of the NFL season never ceases to surprise.  I have always felt (and am, obviously, not alone) that pre-season games “wins and losses” mean absolutely nothing.  As you can see when you get to the results of “Gary’s Guesses” that it is very difficult to get a true handle on a team until they play a real game.

Here are some things I (and maybe you) just did not know going into the regular season:

  • That the Eagles defense could be even better this year than last year.
  • That Nick Foles always seems to look like a back-up quarterback.
  • That the Saints offense may not be able to overcome the weakness of their defense.
  • That QB Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Bucs could still look amazing (417 yards passing and 4 TD’s). AND he rushed for a TD.  What do the Bucs do now with Jameis

Winston when he comes back from suspension?  The Eagles will help answer that question this week.

  • Why the Chiefs traded Alex Smith to Washington – because Patrick Mahomes looks like he really fits as the Chiefs new starting QB.
  • That the Steelers running game could look the same WITHOUT Le’Veon Bell. James Conner had a Le’Veon game (192 total yards), despite not having anywhere close to what will be a Le’Veon contract.
  • That the Bills are AWFUL (sorry, I guess you knew that already).
  • That Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins would miss two years of football and look like he hadn’t missed two weeks.
  • That the Browns might win a game this year.
  • That the Giants offensive line would be so bad (when everyone was talking about Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr., they should have been talking about the O-line).
  • That Denver might be good again.
  • That Dallas can’t score more than 20 points (at least they haven’t done it in the last four games), including Sunday when they piled up eight!
  • That Alex Smith would play better in a Redskins uniform than in a Chiefs uniform.
  • That the dispute over which QB is better (Brady or Rodgers?) still goes on.
  • That the Vikings might have the total package to win it all.  That, by now, you would be sick of me telling you what you might not have known. 

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I now find myself having to watch the Giants games because of Saquon Barkley. He did not disappoint yesterday when he ran for a 68-yard touchdown.  It was an electrifying run, just like in high school at Whitehall and in college at Penn State.  He rushed for over 100 yards and, for a while, looked like that run might catapult the Giants to a win.  It did not.
  1. Which baseball team is better – the Red Sox (98-46) or the Astros (89-54)? It’s the Cubs (83-59) in the National League, for sure.  Baltimore (41-102) is certainly the worst.
  1. Remember when the Phillies were 15 games over .500 on August 5?  They are 10-20 since – they have lost seven series in a row, nine of the last 10.
  1. It’s bad enough not to have won a football game this year, even though the season is still very young, but not to have scored a touchdown? That’s the predicament the Lafayette Leopards are facing.  They’ll get a chance to change that this Saturday at 6:00pm against the Monmouth Hawks.  The game is LIVE on RCN-TV.
  1. RCN-TV will present two interesting high school match-ups this Friday night. Live at 7:00pm, Mike Joseph, John Bowman and I will call the Bethlehem Catholic-Parkland game.  Chris Michael and John Leone will have the Easton at Liberty game at 9:30pm.  As always, you’re invited.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 9-6-1)  (Overall: 9-6-1  60% ) 

Week TWO

CINCINNATI

WASHINGTON

ATLANTA

MINNESOTA

CHARGERS

HOUSTON

PITTSBURGH

JETS

PHILADELPHIA

NEW ORLEANS

RAMS

SAN FRANCISCO

NEW ENGLAND

DENVER

DALLAS

CHICAGO

 

 

 

 

 

“Gary’s Guesses” Returns

 The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks

Week ONE

PHILADELPHIA

PITTSBURGH

MINNESOTA

INDIANAPOLIS

BALTIMORE

JACKSONVILLE

NEW ORLEANS

NEW ENGLAND

TENNESSEE

CHARGERS

SEATTLE

CAROLINA

ARIZONA

GREEN BAY

DETROIT

RAMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Did We Learn?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

The first weekend of high school football in the Lehigh Valley is completed.  And as in the past, we learned virtually nothing about the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and a great deal about the Colonial League.  This has been the case each year since the EPC was formed back in 2014.  The same can be said about the Colonial League.  Good for the Colonial League, not so good for the EPC.

The EPC South always opens up their football schedule against the EPC North and, with very few exceptions, the South routs their northern opponents every opening night.  This past weekend was no exception.  Just check out the scores:

Liberty 42 Pleasant Valley 0
Easton 56 Pocono Mountain West 7
Nazareth 35 Pocono Mountain East 7
Emmaus 62 Allen 6
Central Catholic 38 Allen 6
Freedom 68 East Stroudsburg North 14
Bethlehem Catholic 54 East Stroudsburg North 14
Parkland 41 Northampton  0

The lone North winner:  East Stroudsburg-South 37,  Whitehall  28

So what did we learn or, in this case after four years, NOT learn once again.  The EPC which basically forces this schedule upon the teams does neither division ANY good.  The South always opens up with a glorified scrimmage, which really helps neither team – one team walks to a victory while the other team starts with a demoralizing defeat.  The years of our powerhouses opening games against the likes of North Penn, or one of the Philadelphia schools, went away when this new league was formed.

It’s time to re-evaluate the independent schedules thrust upon the North and the South.  If you are going to keep this league as it is (and that is a topic for another blog), allow some leeway in the scheduling.  It would help both divisions.

Now the Colonial League is the direct opposite in their structure.  Due to the number of teams, there is no room for any independent games.  All games are League games.  The excitement of opening night far exceeds that of the EPC.  And that proved out with a big game between  Saucon Valley and Southern Lehigh.  Southern Lehigh was favored and Saucon won 27-13.  Northwestern upset Colonial League pre-season favorite in a nail-biter by a 42-41 score in overtime when they kicked an extra point.  Pen Argyl beat Salisbury  17-16.  Palisades,  Bangor, and Northern Lehigh won by larger margins, but each of those games were important because they count in the standings.

I am well aware that the EPC will not change their division alignments, but the time has come to allow the South to schedule more competitive games outside the Conference.  It would benefit everyone. 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. It looks like players and officials are beginning to understand what the helmet rule means. There were 51 penalties for lowering the helmet in the first two weeks and just nine this past week.  Officials are not penalizing “inadvertent or incidental contact with the helmet and/or facemask”.  If the initial contact comes from another part of the body (shoulders and arms), officials can ignore the helmet contact.  Rest assured, most fans will not understand this.  Let the booing begin.
  1. Imagine being asked the same question every single day when the answer is always the same. That just might get frustrating.  Just ask Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.  Every day after practice, Pederson talks to the press and every day he is asked about the health and expected return of Carson Wentz.  He cracked a bit on Sunday.  “I don’t know how many times I can answer this question… ask it a different way or you’re going to get the same answer.”  Everybody’s getting more tense – it must be getting closer to opening night.
  1. I am not one to put ANY stock into NFL pre-season games, but it would have been a bit comforting for the Eagles to beat the Browns or to maybe just score a point against the Browns or, perhaps, have Nick Foles look like he knew what he was doing against the Browns. Just saying…
  1. The Phils are fading, not just from the NL East, but also from the Wild Card standings. They certainly need to regroup and refocus.  Some timely hitting and better bullpen production wouldn’t hurt either.
  1. RCN-TV will present a great early season inter-city rivalry game between Bethlehem Catholic and Freedom on Saturday LIVE at 7:00pm. Mike Joseph, Tony Cocca, John Bowman and I will be there to call our first game of the season.  Can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

Pro Football Prediction – #2

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

The NFC looks to be much stronger overall than the AFC in the NFL.  For Eagles’ fans, that is not good news.  Add to that, even though there have been  seven repeat winners in the history of the Super Bowl, no team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since New England did it in ’04 and ’05.

Last week, I took a look at how I saw the AFC shaking out in their divisions.  This week, I will focus on the NFC.

NFC West

  1. San Francisco 49ers– For me, they have gone from worst to first.  The 49ers did not make the playoffs last year, but they should this year with Jimmy Garopolo.  He was 5-0 as a starter last year and three of those wins were against teams in the playoffs.  Game one is against Minnesota so I will know early if I am dreaming that the 49ers make the playoffs for the first time in six years.
  2. Los Angeles Rams– I should pick this team to win the division. They did it in 2017. Their defense is outstanding.  Jared Goff looks to be a future star; the offense added more weapons; their defense got stronger (Ndamukong Suh now on the team); their young coach, Sean McVay, appears to be a potential genius.  So will they win their division again?  Probably – I don’t know why I picked the 49ers (but I did).
  3. Seattle Seahawks – Oh, remember when this was the team and the venue no other team wanted to face? No more.  Russell Wilson remains their greatest threat, but he has little around him and the historically great Seattle defense is no more.
  4. Arizona Cardinals – Steve Wilks is the new head coach. Sam Bradford will be at quarterback until Josh Rosen is ready.  The emphasis and strength should be on the defense.  This will not be their year.

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons – Their Super Bowl loss two years ago (a game they should have won) appeared to have carried over to last year when they were 10-6 and finished third in their division. They should be over it now.  Their offense looks to be unstoppable with talent at all of the skill positions.  The defense looks good enough.  I’m betting on this team again.
  2. New Orleans Saints– If the defense is good, this team wins. Drew Brees is still one of the elite QBs in the league and even with a decent defense, he usually will get you enough points to win.  And this year, the defense looks quite capable of getting the job done.  They will battle the Falcons for the title.
  3. Carolina Panthers – Remember that the Falcons, Saints, AND the Panthers all made the playoffs last year and could do it again. This is a good, solid all-around football team.  Cam Newton may still have his best years ahead of him.  The defensive secondary is somewhat suspect and may be their downfall.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – They were 5-11 last year and finished last in their division. It was supposed to be much better than that. Their defense improved in the off-season, but the big improvement needs to come from QB Jameis Winston.  We’ll know right away as they open with the Saints, the Eagles, and the Steelers.

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – This pick is completely based on the healthy return of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers were 7-9 last year and the primary reason was the broken collarbone suffered by Rodgers.  They added tight end Jimmy Rodgers, a real asset, and the defense looks better.  So, keep Rodgers healthy and they are my favorite to win the North.
  2. Minnesota Vikings–Watch out for the Vikings coming off a 13-3 season. Much of that success centered on the defense and Case Keenum.  Well, the defense is better, but Case Keenum is gone.  Veteran Kirk Cousins takes over and he can be very good with the right team.  They have won the division two of the last three years – could certainly do it again.
  3. Detroit Lions– I like Matt Stafford at quarterback. I also like the Lions (three winning seasons the last four years).  Head coach Matt Patricia is a defensive guru and that is really where they need to improve.   Can they beat the Packers and the Vikings in the four games they play against them?  If yes, then maybe…
  4. Chicago Bears – They have been the North’s last-place team four years in a row and this year should be no exception.  Matt Trubisky starts his second year at QB.  They added some nice pieces, but there aren’t enough to get out of the cellar.

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles won back-to-back East titles in 2004. They won the Super Bowl last year!  Can they repeat in both categories?  It looks like they are even better this year.  They have two solid starters at QB in Wentz and Foles; an outstanding running game; offensive line; defensive group, etc., etc.E-A-G-L-E-S!!!
  1. Dallas Cowboys – Speaking of QBs, Dak Prescott was not as good last year as he was the previous year and the Ezekial Elliot six-game suspension did not help either. They did not, however, improve their receiving corps.  Jason Witten went to ESPN and they lost Dez Bryant.  That’s their weakness.
  2. New York Giants – I so much wanted to pick the Giants ahead of the Cowboys. But they were 3-13 last year.  And their defense was awful – particularly in the secondary where they had some of the worst numbers in the league.  My hope is that Whitehall’s Saquon Barkley finds a way to electrify Eli Manning and the offense and it carries over to the defense.  Go Giants – beat Dallas!!
  3. Washington Redskins – They had two consecutive winning seasons before their 7-9 year in 2018. Kirk Cousins was their best player and he is gone.  Alex Smith takes over coming from Kansas City.  He is good, but Cousins was sacked 41 times last year.  Can Smith survive that?  My guess here is “No”.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Since this seems to be prediction time, before actual games are played, let me suggest to you my choices for the high school football season. Even though it appears that Emmaus should have the best skill position people this year, it is difficult to pick against six-time District champion Parkland.  I also like Beca to be in the mix for the EPC South title.  There are plenty of other teams in this extremely tough division to create upsets almost every weekend.  Until someone else proves they can do it, I like Parkland again.  Ho-hum!
  1. The Colonial league should be just as competitive with four teams with enough talent to win it all – Saucon Valley, Southern Lehigh, Palisades, and Notre Dame. Our opening high school game – Saucon Valley at Southern Lehigh – may answer some early questions.  I like the creativity of Phil Stambaugh’s Notre Dame offense and the throwing ability of record-setting QB Cole DeFranco.
  1. Northampton moves to the EPC North Division under first-year head coach Kyle Haas. This move is good for the Konkrete Kids and maybe not so good for the North.  Stroudsburg will battle for the title.  I’ll stay local and pick Northampton.
  1. I know the Eagles did not look very good against the Patriots on Thursday night. It was their second lackluster showing in the NFL exhibition season.  Don’t worry – except to shake off rust and complacency, these games mean absolutely nothing!
  1. The Astros looked like they were going to run away with their division in the American league much like the Red Sox were doing in the AL East. The Astros were ten games up over the Oakland Athletics back on July 10.  As I am writing this, the A’s are now tied with Houston for first place in the AL West.  The Phillies continue to hang in there, too, in the NL East and one can hope that they will battle the Braves and Nationals to the end.

 

 

 

 

Pro Football Predictions #1

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

The Super Bowl champion Eagles will start the NFL season in Philadelphia on Thursday, September 6, against the Atlanta Falcons.  Around here, there is no better way to open the new football year.  NBC will have the match-up.  Do I think the Eagles can overcome the hangover from winning the 2018 Super Bowl?  You will have to wait until next week for my NFC predictions.  For this week, the focus is on the AFC.

AFC West

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – There’s a new quarterback here – Pat Mahomes (Alex Smith went to the Redskins), but Andy Reid remains with a new defense.  This team is a regular in the playoffs and this division is not strong.
  2. Los Angeles Chargers – They finished a surprising second last year. Their defense is improved.  They play Kansas City in Week 15 in a game that could seal the fate of their conference standing.
  3. Oakland Raiders– Jon Gruden leaves the safety of the broadcasting booth and returns to the NFL sidelines. He is certainly not an analytics guy (he specifically said that) and it may take him a while to get comfortable as a head coach again.  This team has a young defense.  The good news is their schedule is pretty weak to start the season.
  4. Denver Broncos – The defense was solid last year, but the offense was not. This team could not win on the road at all.  The offense has to be better.  Don’t bet on it.

AFC South 

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars– If defense wins championships, give this team a chance. Their linebacker/secondary group is outstanding.  QB Blake Bortles’s numbers should impress due to an improved offensive line.  With veteran Tom Coughlin around again this year in the front office, the Jaguars are solid.
  2. Houston Texans – The last three offensive seasons have been run by three different quarterbacks. This year, it’s Deshaun Watson’s turn.  Bill O’Brien’s team had the worst scoring defense in the league last year, but they can only go up in those stats.  Dare I say, they may actually contend for a division title?
  3. Tennessee Titans – I really enjoy watching Marcus Mariota at quarterback. He is always exciting, but he threw 15 interceptions last year.  They look strong enough in all aspects and this could be my worst prediction, but I have more confidence in the two teams above them.
  4. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck? Andrew Luck?  What can he do coming off shoulder surgery?  He was shut down last season.  They open with the Bengals and with any Luck (see what I did there?) they might win and get rolling.  Without any Luck (I know – knock it off), their season looks dismal.

AFC North (PS – this is the same order I picked last year)

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben, Bell, and Brown make the offense superior. There’s a new defensive coordinator (Randy Fichter) and some defensive additions make them better on the other side, too.  This should be a lock.
  2. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens continue to be desperate for a playoff berth – it’s been three straight years that they have not played in the post season. Joe Flacco will be aided by the additions of three new receivers.  They shored up their defense last year. Ravens fans are desperate for a winner – so is Coach John Harbaugh.  They’re better and desperate – could be a winning combination.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals – Here we go again – I never know what to do with the Bengals. This team should be good – maybe even very good.  They often do not play to their capability, but, also, seem better than their record.  I picked them third last year and see no reason to change this year– so be it.
  4. Cleveland Browns – Three years – four wins: I always know where to pick the Browns. Dead last.  But they have another new starting quarterback – the #1 pick in the draft, Baker Mayfield, but it might take him awhile to become the starter.  The offensive line remains from last season, the receiving crew is adequate and their young defense is back and should be better.  They have not won a road game since 2015.  They will remain dead last.

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – This is a lock! They have won 15 East titles in the last 16 years.  Ten straight!  Even though they lost a number of players since last year, the division remains weak; but there is a Brady and a Gronkowski.  Oh, and there’s Bill Belichick.  They may have lost a bit of their luster, but not enough to lose this division.
  2. New York Jets – #3 draft pick QB Sam Darnold is in the fold and I have moved the Jets from a last place pick last year to second. The schedule doesn’t help any of the teams below the Patriots because they crossover with the AFC South and the NFC North.  Because of that, the Jets will improve, but they will not make the playoffs.
  3. Miami Dolphins – Is Ryan Tannehill healthy after knee surgery? If so, can he last a season?  They added Danny Amendola from New England to aid the offense, but lost some key defensive players.  They will not contend for the playoffs either.
  4. Buffalo Bills – There are no positives to report on here. Josh Allen was spotty at QB last season and with a porous offensive line, there will not be much improvement. They will not make the playoffs for the eighth straight year. 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. What would you pay for a signed baseball with the names Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, and Walter Johnson on it? This was the first group inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  It was sold this past week for a record $623,369.  The previous high was $388,000 for a Babe Ruth ball.
  1. The Red Sox (85-35) have the same number of wins as the Orioles (35-84) have losses. They are 50 games over .500.  Their season has been phenomenal.
  1. Years ago, we broadcast the PIAA state baseball championships from Williamsport’s Bowman Field. It was adjacent to the Little League complex where the Little League World Series is played.  The Phillies will play the Mets there Sunday, August 19, in what is being called the Little League Classic.  Phillies infielder Scott Kingery played in the World Series in 2006.
  1. Lafayette football media day is this week. The Leopards open their season at Sacred Heart, September 1, at 6:00pm.  Sacred Heart beat Lafayette 38-24 last year, racking up 504 yards of total offense.  RCN-TV’s first Lafayette game will be at Delaware with a 3:35pm start on September 8.
  1. We will start the high school season on Friday, August 24, when Southern Lehigh hosts the Saucon Valley Panthers. These two teams should be in the hunt for a Colonial League title.