The Leopards Roar

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.

DREAM COME TRUE TELETHON RAISES OVER $100,000 – THANK YOU!

It’s not very often that I have a week with no broadcasts.  But, with the early exits of our high school football teams, that is exactly what happened last week.  So faced with either going cold turkey or finding a game or two to attend, I decided on Tuesday to accompany the Lafayette Men’s Basketball team to St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Coach Fran O’Hanlon was kind enough to allow me to ride the bus with the team.  Fran is well-known in the Philadelphia area, having grown up there, playing high school and college basketball (Villanova) there, and coaching there.  And friends like 76’ers coach, Brett Brown, and former Temple coach, Fran Dunphy, amongst many others, were there to welcome the coach and retell many stories.

Lafayette was going for their third straight win, but their first over the Hawks in 44 years.  They last beat St. Joe’s on December 3, 1975.  The Leopards were on fire from the very beginning and led by 23 at one point in the first half.  Then they went into a scoring drought and did not score the last 5½ minutes of the first half and the lead was reduced to seven.  They had no lulls in the second half and went on to win 94-71.

This past Saturday the same Leopards traveled to Ithaca, NY and, despite not playing very well, they beat their third Ivy League opponent with a last-second three to win by three over Cornell 62-59.  They had previously beaten Penn and Princeton.  Their record improved to 6-2 as the players head into final exams.

This got me thinking that Lafayette athletics are on a bit of a roll.  The football team beat Lehigh on November 23 and stopped a four-game losing streak to the Mountain Hawks.  It took a last-minute field goal to win the game 17-16, but it was a sweet victory in game # 155 of college football’s most played rivalry.  With the win, the Leopards finished second in the Patriot League.

The Women’s basketball team is off to a good start with a 4-4 record, having won three straight before losing this past weekend to Monmouth.

In fact, the entire Lafayette Fall athletic program jumped six places in the President’s Cup Fall Standings.  Their field hockey, men’s soccer, and football teams all finished in second place.  The men’s teams finished second overall and the women finished sixth.

The President’s Cup is awarded to the Patriot League program that earns the most points overall for the year.  There is no question the Leopards are “roarin’” right now and the athletic program is moving in the right direction.

Much like going to St. Joe’s this past Tuesday, I am glad that I am along for the ride, too.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I know you know that New England lost at home this weekend to the Chiefs. But did you know that they had won 21 straight games (including playoffs) at home?  The loss, for the moment, took away their home field advantage for the playoffs.  The Pats are 10-3 while the Ravens are now 11-2 in the AFC.
  1. Despite all the replays and looks from every angle, it appears that there is still about five plays each game that have no clear-cut decisive outcome. If you watch game after game, I defy anyone to tell me what pass interference is.  Even when it goes to replay, the decision very often makes no sense.
  1. So which team is the best in the NFL right now? Is it Baltimore or is it the 49ers?  Is it still New England or maybe the Chiefs?  Do you like the Packers or the Saints?  I am not sure there has been a better example of “on any given Sunday” than this year.  With all the upsets, it appears anything can and will happen in the playoffs.
  1. You know by now, I have been a proponent of having an eight-team playoff for the college football championship. Ironically, it probably does not seem necessary this year.  LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson are certainly the best.  If there is any argument at all, it is whether Oklahoma should be #4 over Georgia or Oregon.  It hurts me to say this, but I think they got it right this year.
  1. High School basketball and wrestling begin this week and it appears, much like football, it is going to be a very entertaining year. Both the Steel and Skyline divisions look very competitive and the Colonial League is shaping up as interesting as ever.  Wrestling is always dramatic.  Get out to a gym, cheer your team on, or follow the action on RCN-TV.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 11-5)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 132-74-1  (64%)

BALTIMORE

PHILADELPHIA

MIAMI

TAMPA BAY

GREEN BAY

NEW ENGLAND

HOUSTON

SEATTLE

KANSAS CITY

BUFFALO

OAKLAND

CLEVELAND

NEW ORLEANS

RAMS

MINNESOTA

NEW ORLEANS

 

 

Phillies Off-Season 2019

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. 

A lot has been said and written about what went wrong for the Phillies this past year–you don’t commit to adding over $660 million to your payroll and expect your team to finish with the exact same record it did a year ago.

With a new manager, pitching coach, hitting coach all now in place, along with a nice (but somewhat expensive) free agent pick-up in Zach Wheeler, it’s time to take a look at what the Phillies do the rest of the off-season in terms of their on-the-field personnel.

(This is where I could point out some of the ideas I suggested the Phillies do last December, but didn’t do.  Things like, signing Anibal Sanchez.  You know, one of the most dominant pitchers in this year’s NLDS who flirted with a no-hitter in a playoff game? But who’d want someone like that on your roster.)

While some of the upgrades that need to be made are rather mundane to discuss (backup catcher, the fifth outfielder/pinch-running option, et al), I wanted to focus on three major things that MUST happen for the Phillies to become playoff contenders in 2020 (and no, I am not one of those writers who think this team is still several years away from the playoffs…with the money they’ve spent and have available, there is simply no excuse why this team shouldn’t be in the post-season next fall.)

#1: SIGN RENDON 

One of the biggest free agents available needs to be wined-and-dined as much as Bryce Harper (who also has Scott Boras as his agent) was a year ago.  The former National is the obvious main target for the Phillies this year because signing him:

…gives you a player with intensity/sense of urgency–something lacking from many Phillies in 2019

…a perfect complement to Harper in middle of order

…a much-needed improvement both offensively and defensively  (something that many people are pointing out that desperately needs to improve this off season)

The Phillies–despite all their offensive upgrades last “hot stove” season–still was not one of the top performers offensively and you need to add a major bat to their lineup.  No other free agent gives you as much of an upgrade as Anthony Rendon and he is probably the more likely of the two biggest free agents of the winter season to leave his former team (Gerrit Cole being the other).

NOTE TO ALEC BOHM FANS:  No, I didn’t forget the team’s former #1 pick did have an excellent year offensively in Double-A this past summer.  IF (and remember he struggled mightily in 2018) he continues to progress with the bat, he can always be moved to first base, where he may be better suited anyway, since some scouts have not been impressed with this work at the hot corner.

But what about the incumbent first basemen? That bring us to… 

#2: PACKAGE HOSKINS FOR MORE PITCHING–BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE 

First of all, another major area the team must make is in ALL aspects of their pitching, even after adding Wheeler, whom I view currently (given his track record of injuries) as a strong #3 pitcher on a World Series championship team (that is the goal now, isn’t it?).  The Phillies probably cannot afford to add BOTH of the biggest free agents available on the market and the organization been reluctant to make major financial commitments to pitchers.  Therefore, the team must get creative in terms of upgrading its bullpen and starting pitching staff through trades.

Rhys Hoskins remind me a lot of Pat Burrell–a power hitter with great potential and some big at-bats, but one who never fully developed into a proven, 3-4-5 bat in a championship caliber lineup.  Burrell, at his best, hit sixth during the Phillies’ best years–where he could shine in some big moments when he was hot, and his inconsistent slumps wouldn’t be nearly as noticeable by hitting lower in the order.  When “Pat the Bat” hit higher and in more key spots in the order, (before and after the 2018 World Series year) he wasn’t nearly as effective, which is similar to what Hoskins has shown over the last two seasons.

Also, if the Phillies add Rendon (or even Josh Donaldson), Hoskins is probably pushed to the sixth spot in the batting order–you really want to pass up a chance for a major pitching upgrade for a guy who hits sixth in your lineup?

Plus, Hoskins has been trending downward in each of his first two seasons.  Initially in 2018, the excuse was he was forced to play out of position in left field and this affected his hitting.  To that end, they jettisoned an All-Star First Baseman (Carlos Santana) to “help” Hoskins, who returned the favor by hitting WORSE in 2019.

I know Hoskins is a fan favorite with lots of potential, but you don’t get major pitching help without giving up significant talent in return.

Given Hoskins’ ego and declining numbers (and is he one of the nameless players that was bad-mouthing Gabe Kapler at season’s end?), it’s time to cut Hoskins lose while his value is still rather high and avoid suffering a third consecutive year of declining numbers.

And if he rebounds?

Again, you have to give up talent to get talent…and the Phillies MUST add to their pitching staff.

Speaking of pitching…

#3: Supplement Your Pitching Staff with SEVERAL Proven Veterans

One of the biggest head-scratching decisions by the Phillies’ front office last winter was their decision to spend “crazy money” on position players, yet didn’t spend ANY money on pitching (except for injured reliever Dave Robertson, who turned out to be a bust).

Unfortunately, this glaring error was put on display when injuries occurred and most of the younger players the Phillies were counting on failed to live up to expectations.

The Phillies cannot afford to make the same mistake this winter.  They simply cannot put their faith in having a pitching staff consisting mostly of unproven talent.

You still have to add a proven veteran starter to the staff (to join Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin and Jake Arrieta) plus starting depth AND pieces to the bullpen, to be ready for when the inevitable injuries occur.

Worst case scenario?

You have too many tough choices to make in spring training and can’t take  all the pitchers you have on your Opening Day roster.  Pitchers have options for a reason – use them!  And if the young talent develops and progresses well in the minors over a long period of time (another issue this year was young arms being rushed to the Majors), THEN you can bring them up.

Here’s a look at how my plan would work amongst the starters:

The Lineup

McCutcheon       LF

Gregorius            SS

Rendon               3B

Harper                 RF

Realmuto            C

Segura                2B

Kingery                1B (or Harrison or Boehm, which moves Scott to CF)

Haseley               CF *

*(McCutcheon could also move to CF to make room for Jay Bruce)

The Rotation

Nola

Player X (who you’d acquire for Hoskins)

Wheeler

Arrieta

Efflin

Yes, the team would be over the salary cap, but you can’t brag about all the money the team is bringing in to spend on players and then not spend that money on players!

And, Hoskins would be due for a big pay day in a year or two, so you’re “saving” money for next year, while bringing in much needed talent NOW.

Hopefully, the Phillies front office takes these steps this off-season.  I REALLY hope I don’t have the opportunity to say “I told you so” again next winter!

Pick 4: 2019 FINAL STANDINGS

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.

Before we get to our final standings for this year’s “Pick 4” event, let me thank this year’s participants: Gary Laubach, Tony Cocca, John Leone and Keith Groller for participating in this year’s “contest.”

Gary, Tony and Keith have been doing it now with me for several years and to have all these guys on board is what makes this annual event fun for both us and the RCN viewers.  While other media outlets do football predictions each week, our event is a little more special than the rest because we actually have something “at stake” (in many cases, our dignity), which makes it connect more with local sports fans.

Since Keith lost last year’s event (and, by the way, after MONTHS of him whining that last year’s high school football games’ outcomes were rigged just so he could lose the contest, he recently thanked me on a recent show for all the positive publicity it generated for him), I ask him to select this year’s “prize” for whomever lost this fall.

He turned that responsibility over to the Pen Argyl football team who were our guests on a show promoting their 100th game in their rivalry with the Slaters.  After some thought, the players decided that the loser would run a lap around the track.

As the season wore on, I enjoyed my exchanges with our viewers who were following along with our contest here on this blog and on our “SportsTalk” program and podcast, along with some of the questions I would be asked:

“Are you guys really going to run around a track on camera?”

“Is Cocca going to run with a hat if he loses?”

“What size running shoe does Leone take?”

…and many more!

While the results are really insignificant, it makes for an entertaining side story to follow during the season.  John Leone actually complained to me last year that he was missing out on the “fun” and demanded that he be one of this year’s participants…something I was more than happy to accommodate!

So when we reveal the final results on an upcoming show (we are off this Thursday for the holiday), please remember that it was all for amusement purposes only and it wouldn’t have been possible without the stars of our contest–Gary, Tony, John, Keith and our viewers who followed along–and for everyone being a great sport about it (as long as Keith wasn’t in last place).

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday everyone!

“Thanks” Giving

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.

Below is a blog I wrote last year. Since my feelings have not changed, it is still quite appropriate so I have decided to repeat it again:

I heard two sentences this week that really hit home. The words were even more poignant since this is Thanksgiving week.

The first sentence came from a gentleman in his 80s. He said, “Growing old is good.” I thought about that since I am getting up there or, as my younger friends constantly remind me, I have already gotten there. It is good. Every day is a new challenge but every day is welcomed.

Sunday night on 60 Minutes, a former NFL player who now suffers from ALS said that when others listen to his optimistic outlook despite being diagnosed with a shortened life, they very often end their encounter with him by saying, “God bless you.” His response is always the same, “He already has.”

For some reason, these two sentences meant a great deal to me. I know I often try to fill these pages with sports stories, but not this week. I have plenty to be thankful for. I, along with many others, I’m sure, rarely verbalize it. Since I have this venue, this is as good a time as any to say “Thank you”.

Thanks to my wife of 56 years. She has always been my rock. I’m not so sure about me. People who know me, and then see her, often say to her, “You must be a saint.” I can tell you she is.

Thanks to my children and grandchildren. For my wife, Luba and I, they are our pride and joy. They are all successful, caring, and nice people. And they are happy. What more could any parent or grandparent want?

Thanks to RCN. My occupational ventures have taken me from the classroom to the broadcasting booth. The ride has been spectacular. I started with Twin-County, stayed on with C-Tec, and continue the journey with RCN. Vocationally, it is the best time of my life and the company continues to allow this guy to represent them in public. I really appreciate that.

Thanks to the viewers. They are appreciative. They complain when we do not games, but even that is a compliment in a way. And when they offer criticism, we take it to heart and try to get better.

Thanks to the athletic directors, the coaches, and the statisticians. This job would be a nightmare without their help. Luckily they ALL help.

Thanks to the student-athletes. If you want to feel and stay young, hang around young people. I know every time I interview a Lafayette student, I come away thinking these are the citizens who will fix the world.

Special thanks to the RCN television team. There are so many workers (and, boy, do they work) who run the wires, set up the cameras, the audio, the graphics, and the booths for every game only to tear it down and do it all over again many times each week.

Thanks to Joanne G. She has to read and edit this blog every week. So at least I know one person has read it and corrected it. She keeps me out of trouble and I thank her for that and feel a little sorry for her.

Making this list felt good. And, to review, “Growing old is good” and God has blessed me.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. Once again the Lehigh Valley District football champions were subjected to the annual pounding by the Philadelphia Catholic schools. Nazareth was soundly beaten by St. Joe’s Prep, ranked #1 in the state and Southern Lehigh was beaten 41-7 by Archbishop Wood. This IS NOT a level playing field. Both of our teams were outstanding this year and yet they could not compete with the non-boundary schools. It is time for a change. Let our public schools compete against public schools.

2. It felt really good to finally call a Lafayette victory over Lehigh! The last time I was able to do that was in 2013. Even though I did a 2-hour pregame at Yankee Stadium in 2014 and Lafayette dominated Lehigh 27-7, I was not part of the broadcasting team.

3. Speaking of Lafayette, their athletic program had quite a week. On Tuesday, the men’s basketball team upset Ivy League favorite Penn (and they had already beaten Princeton); the women beat LIU on Wednesday and won again with a win over Albany on Saturday. The men beat a very good Fairleigh Dickinson team on Sunday and, did I mention, that the Lafayette football team beat Lehigh 17-16 on Saturday. I may have mentioned that.

4. I came home on Saturday and watched the Penn StateOhio State game. I thought that Penn State at least made Ohio State look vulnerable before losing 28-17. One player who is not vulnerable is Chase Young, the defensive end for the Buckeyes. He is spectacular and is being mentioned as the #1 NFL draft choice. It would be a good choice.

5. The Eagles’ offense was awful again this past Sunday. Until their wide receivers get healthy, they will continue to struggle scoring. Hopefully, they will be able to win their games in the next few weeks against weaker opponents. That would leave the Dallas game in Philadelphia as a must win.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 8-6) (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 117-57-1 (67%)
DETROIT
DALLAS
NEW ORLEANS
GREEN BAY
CAROLINA
SAN FRANCISCO
INDIANAPOLIS
PHILADELPHIA
KANSAS CITY
JACKSONVILLE
JETS
RAMS
CHARGERS
CLEVELAND
NEW ENGLAND
MINNESOTA

 

 

Addicted to Competition

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.

 

My job allows me to watch competition every single week. I have always loved to compete myself and my family has, at times, accused me of being somewhat ruthless in any game I play. I do not like to lose.

In my career, I have probably worked, conservatively speaking, 5000+ sporting events. It never gets old. There was no better example than the  ParklandNazareth football game on Friday night for the District XI championship. It took overtime to decide the champion.

I was treated to another great competitor this past week – James Holzhauer. If you do not recognize the name, you must be under 50 and would never watch a television game show (I get it –you’re probably texting or tweeting). This past week, Holzhauer appeared on the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions, which pits the past year’s best players against one another in a two-week competition (there’s that word again).

I am a regular Jeopardy watcher. I TiVo the show every night and manage to find the twenty minutes necessary to watch it. What is great about the show is you can sit in the recliner and compete yourself by offering up correct or, in many cases, incorrect answers. Some nights, I feel pretty good about my cache of pretty useless knowledge. Other times, I don’t do well – you know on the “Lakes of Europe” or “Architectural Design” type categories.

I had a good laugh this year when the category was The NFL. None of the contestants offered up a correct answer – they were 0-5 (those nerds!) I could have won that night (but probably not since there were other categories – “French Artists”, for example).

Back to James Holzhauer. When he was on in the spring, he captured the Top-16 money totals of all time. On April 9, he won $131,127 in one night, the highest ever. His total winnings in the spring were $2,462,216. During that time on the show, he became a cult hero and Jeopardy garnered their highest ratings ever.

For his latest victory this past week (yes, he won again), he got the top prize of $250,000 bringing his total winnings to $2,712,216. It is the third highest total in show history.

I guess it is appropriate that he lives in Las Vegas. They gave him the key to the city after his initial appearance. And it is also appropriate that he is a professional gambler. He often would bet his entire pot on the Double Jeopardy questions. Now he says he is very busy making bets on the NFL.

I’m sure Jeopardy will find a way to bring him back on the show again. After all, who doesn’t like high ratings and, in my case, a great competitor?

P.S. It was just announced after I finished writing the blog that “Jeopardy James” will face Ken Jennings, who won the most games, and Brad Rutter, who has won the most money, in a Greatest of All Time Jeopardy tournament in January in prime time. I know I will watch.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. I hope you saw the Nazareth- Parkland game on Friday night. Two very different teams – one, a strong, physical, in-your-face squad (Parkland); the other, loaded with skill position talent, speed, and creative plays (Nazareth). It was tied in regulation and that was appropriate. Parkland led by seven in overtime. Nazareth scored; they went for two; got it and won by one! It was high school football at its best. Congratulations to both schools.

2. It seems like every week, I have a “what are you thinking” segment directed towards athletes who make millions of dollars and risk it all acting like idiots.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2SJYya3hyc

Should Myles Garrett be allowed to play in the NFL again? I vote “no”.

3. If you had to bet on a Super Bowl winner today, would you take New England (way to go out on a limb), San Francisco (great offense), Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers), the Seahawks (Russell Wilson), the Vikings (Cousins looks good) or might it just be the Ravens (beat New England)? Notice I did not list the Eagles – no wide receivers.

4. There appears to be at least nine teams better than the 76ers right now. They are not consistent and their coach says it may take them until December to jell. He better make sure they do jell or he might be looking for a job.

5. The PIAA 6A quarterfinals start this Friday on RCN-TV at 7:00pm. The game features Philadelphia powerhouse, St. Joe’s Prep, taking on the Nazareth Blue Eagles. Saturday afternoon at 12:30pm, it’s Lafayette Lehigh on RCN-TV. This is college football’s most played rivalry – game number 155. As always, you are invited to join us.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 10-3) (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 109-51-1 (68%)

HOUSTON
PHILADELPHIA
GIANTS
OAKLAND
CLEVELAND
BUFFALO
CINCINNATI
NEW ORLEANS
ATLANTA
DETROIT
TENNESSEE
NEW ENGLAND
SAN FRANCISCO
BALTIMORE

 

 

 

Final Polls & Picks

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.

It’s time when only the top teams in the state of Pennsylvania are still in action (plus those that still play traditional Turkey Day games).

It’s also time for our final “Big School” poll (we did the final “Small School” poll in our last entry), AND…

It’s also time for our football experts (and myself) to make our final high school football predictions, and out last chance to avoid doing something incredibly embarrassing to ourselves (or at least, those of us who are not in the best of shape).

So before we unveil our final “Big School Poll” of the 2019 campaign, here’s a look at how we saw things for these team way back in early August–a few weeks before the season began.

“Big” Schools Poll–PRESEASON

1)  Freedom

2) Parkland

3) Nazareth

4) Easton

5) Emmaus 

Other schools receiving votes: Northampton 

For the largest school districts within the District XI/RCN-TV footprint, they qualify as the “big schools” in our pigskin poll and consist of  ParklandLibertyAllen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, Dieruff, Freedom, StroudsburgPleasant ValleyNorthampton,  Nazareth, WhitehallSouthern LehighEast Stroudsburg-South, and Pocono Mountain East & West.  

Now, here’s our final results… 

“Big” Schools Poll–FINAL

1)   Nazareth

2)  Parkland

3)  Freedom

4)   Easton

5)   Northampton  

Just like with the smaller schools last week when we correctly identified ALL five of the top teams before the season got underway–we had six teams teams being mentioned in our pre-season picks and all five schools in our final poll selected back in early August.  In getting votes at both the beginning and end of our poll correct, I have to once again congratulate our “pollsters” (as I seem to do every year!) for doing a tremendous job with their pre-season opinions and choices on who would be the top schools in 2019! 

Now, here are our RCN football experts (along with myself) weighing in on four of the biggest high school games this weekend…

The “PICK 4” St. Joe’s Prep vs.
Nazareth
Southern Lehigh vs.
Archbishop Wood
Lehigh vs. Lafayette Lehigh vs. Lafayette TIEBREAKER (total points scored)
Gary Laubach  St. Joe’s Prep Archbishop Wood Lafayette 33
Tony Cocca  St. Joe’s Prep Archbishop Wood Lafayette n/a
Keith Groller  St. Joe’s Prep Archbishop Wood Lafayette 30
John Leone  St. Joe’s Prep Archbishop Wood Lafayette 27
Chris Michael St. Joe’s Prep Archbishop Wood Lehigh 31

 

 Tune into this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” for more on these games, and insights on the Patriot League’s football championship this weekend, the new NCAA basketball campaign and more!

Leopards in First

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 have been writing my blog for almost seven years and the last time I wrote about a Lafayette football team being in first place in the Patriot League was way back in 2013.  They won the championship that year.  It was their last.

In fact, since that championship season, Lafayette has gone 11-22 in the League and has not had a League-winning record since.  And after an 0-7 start to this season, it would be safe to say no one expected they would put themselves in a position to win the Patriot League championship.

But that is exactly where they are.  They are 3-1 in the League, the same record as Holy Cross.  This past weekend, the Leopards beat Holy Cross by a 23-20 score.  Thus, they now hold the tiebreaker should both teams end with the same PL record.

Lafayette has two games remaining – Colgate and Lehigh. Win both and Lafayette is the champion.  However, there is a sports adjective to describe the upcoming game with the Raiders of Colgate – it is called a “trap game”.  This game is the absolute definition of that term:

“A trap game in college football is loosely defined as a game against a lesser opponent that is sandwiched between or directly before a ‘big-time’ game such as against a rival or highly ranked opponent.”

The only shot to a championship for Lafayette started this past week by playing the team that was in first place – Holy Cross.  Therefore, that was the epitome of a “big game”.  After Colgate, comes the 155th game between Lafayette and Lehigh.  That game is ALWAYS on the minds of both teams.  After all, it is college football’s most played rivalry.  Lehigh has won the last four games, so I suppose it is just human nature to constantly be thinking about your arch rival.  There is a countdown clock in the Lafayette locker room that starts the first day of practice denoting when the Lafayette-Lehigh game will begin.

Now you see why Colgate becomes a possible “trap game” – a huge win last week; an even bigger game next week.  The problem here is the term “lesser opponent”.  You see, Colgate also started 0-7 this year.  They were chosen to win the Patriot League before the season started.  In fact, their quarterback was chosen as the pre-season PL offensive player of the year.  They seem to finally be playing at the level most felt they would, having won three of their last four games.  And they have won four straight over Lafayette by a combined scoring total of 138-36; 72-0 the last two years.

Kickoff for the “trap game” is 12:30PM this coming Saturday at Lafayette.  Let’s hope the Leopards are not thinking about the game in Bethlehem the following week.

No matter, it is fun to write once again – Lafayette is atop the Patriot League in the football standings.  It has been a long time!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. With sports betting now legal in many states, it is interesting to see how an NFL weekend outcome affects the payouts. It is estimated that 90% of all bets placed on the ChiefsTitans game were placed on the Chiefs.  The Titans won the game 35-32 after the Chiefs’ tying field goal was blocked with no time left.  It was estimated the bookies won $10 million on the outcome.  With all the upsets on Sunday, it was a good day to be a legal bookie. One bettor in New Jersey, however, put $440,000 on the Titans to win.  That same person also bet $440,000 on Tampa Bay and $420,000 on the Browns.  Both those bets were winners, too.  Oh, my! 
  1. And lest you think the NFL reigns when it comes to betting, more money was bet on LSUAlabama than any NFL game. Alabama was a 2-1 favorite to win the game so most fans put their money on LSU.  LSU won 46-41 in a thriller.  LSU and Ohio State are now 2-1 favorites to win the national championship. 
  1. It does not appear Saquon Barkley is fully recovered from his high ankle sprain. In the last two games, he has gained a total of 29 yards, with just one yard coming on 13 carries this past week against the Jets.
  1. If NBA basketball is beginning to show up on your radar, please note that after a 5-0 start, the 76ers lost three in a row. Ben Simmons is banged up and Joel Embiid was suspended.  Right now, they are barely one of the top 10 teams in the league.
  1. District XI championships will be decided this week on RCN-TV. Friday night features Parkland taking on Nazareth for the 6A championship.  Nazareth last won a District title in 2011 and Parkland won the next six straight before Freedom won last year.  On Saturday, at 7:00pm it’s the 4A final with Central Catholic traveling to Northern Lehigh to take on Pottsville. Saturday afternoon at 12:30pm, Lafayette entertains Colgate on RCN-TV.  See the blog. 

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 5-8)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 98-48-1  (67%) 

PITTSBURGH

PHILADELPHIA

JETS

DALLAS

NEW ORLEANS

CAROLINA

INDIANAPOLIS

MINNESOTA

BUFFALO

BALTIMORE

 SAN FRANCISCO

OAKLAND

RAMS

KANSAS CITY

 

 

 

 

HS Football: Week 13

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. 

For our smaller schools, it’s been an earlier than normal exit for most teams in our Lehigh Valley viewing area. 

Only one local team qualified for the 3A playoffs this year (Notre Dame) and the Crusaders made a rare early exit (they did have injuries and ineligible player which hurt their chances). 

In 4A, we are left with just one local team as Bethlehem Catholic and Wilson lost to Pottsville in consecutive weekends and left the Hawks’ rival, Central Catholic, as the lone Valley team in that classification–playing for a championship this weekend against the Crimson Tide. 

So before we unveil our final “Small School Poll” of the 2019 campaign, here’s a look at how we saw things way back in early August–a few weeks before the season began. 


“Small” Schools Poll–PRESEASON

1)   Bethlehem Catholic

2)   Northwestern

3)   Central Catholic

4)   Notre Dame 

Other schools receiving votes: Saucon Valley 

A reminder: “small schools” for our poll consist of schools from BangorSaucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, WilsonPalisadesPalmertonSalisbury, Notre Dame, Pen ArgylNorthern Lehigh and Catasauqua.

Now, here’s a look at how things shook-out here at the end of the season: 

“Small” Schools Poll–FINAL

1)   Central Catholic

2)   Northwestern

3)  Bethlehem Catholic

4)  Notre Dame  

Other schools receiving votes:   Saucon Valley 

WIth Central’s thrilling 17-point come-from-behind victory last Saturday over Northwestern, it gave the Vikings the top spot under first-year Head Coach Tim McGorry (you can hear our podcast with him and his coaches from before the season elsewhere here on this website). 

Bethlehem Catholic faded during the season’s second half after being ranked in the top spot (both in our poll and according to the District XI “power point” system) throughout much of the season. 

With all five teams getting votes at both the beginning and end of our poll, I have to congratulate our “pollsters” again this fall for doing a tremendous job with their pre-season predictions on who would be the top schools in 2019! 

*****

Now, we still have a couple teams in the mix among our “big” schools…

“Big” Schools Poll

1)   Nazareth

2)  Parkland

3)  Freedom

4)  Easton

5)  Northampton

For the largest school districts within the District XI/RCN-TV footprint, they qualify as the “big schools” in our pigskin poll. These schools consist of  ParklandLibertyAllen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, Dieruff, Freedom, StroudsburgPleasant ValleyNorthampton, Nazareth, WhitehallSouthern LehighEast Stroudsburg-South, and Pocono Mountain East & West.  

Next week, we’ll look at our FINAL poll for these schools and unveil how we did in predicting the top teams in this category as well! 

******* 

Now, here are our RCN football experts (along with myself) weighing in on four of the biggest high school games this weekend…

The “PICK 4” Parkland vs.Nazareth Central Catholic vs.Pottsville Solehi vs. Oil City Colgate vs. Lafayette
Gary Laubach  Parkland  Pottsville Solehi  Lafayette
Tony Cocca  Parkland  Pottsville Solehi Lafayette
Keith Groller  Parkland  Central Catholic Solehi  Colgate
John Leone  Parkland  Pottsville Solehi Lafayette
Chris Michael Parkland  Central Catholic Solehi Lafayette

 

The “PICK 4” Parkland vs.
Nazareth
Central Cathoic vs.
Pottsville
Southern Lehigh vs.
Oil City
Lafayette vs.
Colgate
Gary Laubach  Parkland Pottsville Southern Lehigh Lafayette
Tony Cocca  Parkland Pottsville Southern Lehigh Lafayette
Keith Groller  Parkland Central Catholic Southern Lehigh Colgate
John Leone  Parkland Pottsville Southern Lehigh Lafayette
Chris Michael Parkland Central Catholic Southern Lehigh Lafayette

Keep following along each week here at “The Shop” for our predictions ahead of the weekend’s high school action and tune-in to our “RCN SportsTalk” television show for the latest “standings” to see which of our local football personalities are most correctly predicting the high school games this fall. Also, be sure to check out the “fan voting” section of RCN-TV’s games each week here on our website to let your opinions be known as well!

 

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High School Football: Week 12

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.

We’ve advanced to the second round of the high school football playoffs and, for Class 3A & 5A teams, we’ll see champions be crowned for the District XI playoffs.

“Playoff week two” also means that our weekly football polls will be coming to an end.  So as we head into the 12th week of the football season overall, here’s a look at where our pigskin experts (a mix of local coaches, administrators and RCN and other media members) stack up the teams in our coverage area:

“Big” Schools Poll

1)   Nazareth

2)  Freedom

3)  Parkland

3)  Easton

4)  Northampton

“Small” Schools Poll

1)   Northwestern

2)  Central Catholic

3)  Bethlehem Catholic

4)  Saucon Valley 

Our poll remains with the standard format that we have utilized for many seasons.  For the largest school districts within the District XI/RCN-TV footprint, they qualify as the “big schools” in our pigskin poll. These schools consist of:  ParklandLibertyAllen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, Dieruff, Freedom, StroudsburgPleasant ValleyNorthampton, Nazareth, WhitehallSouthern LehighEast Stroudsburg-South, and Pocono Mountain East & West.  

 “Small schools” for our poll consist of schools from BangorSaucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, WilsonPalisadesPalmertonSalisbury, Notre Dame, Pen ArgylNorthern Lehigh and Catasauqua. 

 Here are the “rules” for our voters: 

Each pollster identifies their top five teams among the “big schools” and the top four squads for the “smaller” group—the top school gets five (or four for the small schools) points, the second team gets four (or three) points and so on, with an average score determining the order of teams in both of the polls.   

Check back each week here at “The Shop” to see if your favorite teams make our list!  

Now, here are our RCN football experts (along with myself) weighing in on four of the biggest high school games this weekend…

The “PICK 4” Parkland vs.
Freedom
Central Cathoic vs.
Northwestern
Southern Lehigh vs.
E. Stroudsburg South
Lafayette vs.
Holy Cross
Gary Laubach  Freedom Central Catholic Southern Lehigh Lafayette
Tony Cocca  Parkland Central Catholic Southern Lehigh Holy Cross
Keith Groller  Parkland Central Catholic Southern Lehigh Holy Cross
John Leone  Parkland Central Catholic Southern Lehigh Holy Cross
Chris Michael Parkland Central Catholic Southern Lehigh Holy Cross

 

Keep following along each week here at “The Shop” for our predictions ahead of the weekend’s high school action and tune-in to our “RCN SportsTalk” television show for the latest “standings” to see which of our local football personalities are most correctly predicting the high school games this fall. Also, be sure to check out the “fan voting” section of RCN-TV’s games each week here on our website to let your opinions be known as well!