HS Football: Things To Watch

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 RCN Sports staff members are busy preparing for another great season of high school football.

With “double sessions” in full swing, it’s time to take a look at some of the great storylines to follow for teams and schools within the RCN-TV viewing area.

NEW COACHES:

  • There were seven coaching changes in the Lehigh Valley alone this off-season.  We’ve already featured most of them on our “SportsTalk” show (and are trying to schedule dates for those we have not as of yet had on), but I think all of the school districts with new hires have reason for optimism.
  • Whitehall, Bangor and Central Catholic all have up-and-coming programs.  New head coaches typically need a few years to fully implement their system–both on the field and off–and the fact that all three of these teams have quite a bit of talent that will return beyond next year bodes well for the overall health of the programs.
  • All three may not challenge for league honors in 2019, but keep an eye on the players who develop over the course of the fall to see which players might have “break out seasons”, which should help these schools be playoff contenders by 2020.

WILSON (DC) FOOTBALL:

  • Our friends at “DKN Sports” in the Washington DC area recently produced a feature on the Wilson high school football program and their successes in recent seasons (a portion of their story will be featured on an upcoming edition of “RCN SportsTalk” to hear more about them.)
  • While there will be a number of competitive teams in the DMV on the gridiron once again this fall, Wilson has a ton of talent returning for this year’s squad and should be posting some impressive wins in 2019.

PEN ARGYL/BANGOR’S “100th”:

  • These two long-time rivals will be meeting for the 100th time this fall.  While the Bangor/Green Knights game sometimes gets overlooked by other key rivalry match-ups (Easton/P’burg, Northampton/Catasauqua and other traditional “Thanksgiving Day” games), expect this event to be much bigger than any previous meeting between these two schools.
  • Both programs took some lumps last year but both head coaches have told me that their kids have been working hard and vow big improvements for the new season.
  • We’ll be talking more about the 100th meeting between Bangor and Pen Argyl on one of our three “SportsTalk at the Allentown Fair” shows coming up in two weeks.  Keep checking back to the RCN-TV website for more details on these special programs that will be shot “on location.”

Next week, we’ll commence with our usual high school football polls and game predictions contest, which include RCN announcers, local media and coaches and administrators that will continue through the scholastic football season.

Blue Mountain League Baseball Wrap-Up

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 was another fun season of watching and announcing Blue Mountain League games on RCN-TV once again this year.

The level of play seems to get better every year and there’s no shortage of young talent in the league, as evident in many of our “Game of the Week” broadcasts during this recently completed regular season.

I believe the speed of the game has picked up a few notches in recent years, with lots of excellent high school talent making the quick transition to the league.  Teams are also bringing in talent from not just the Lehigh Valley, but from the Poconos, Berks County and New Jersey .

In case you missed any of the games, RCN customers can watch all of this summer’s games for free through RCN On-Demand (games are available for up to 60 days after their initial air date).

Here are video highlights of all of this summer’s RCN-TV games:

 

 

 

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve already starting preparations for our coverage for the fall high school football season.  Check back to “The Shop” next week for our first peak at what to expect this year!

Also, tune in to “SportsTalk” next Thursday  at 7pm on RCN-TV for the first of several fall sports preview shows, beginning with stories featuring the defending champions from the sports of girls tennis and boys and girls golf.  More sports to come in subsequent weeks.

 

Blue Mountain League Mid-Season Report

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 hope you are enjoying RCN-TV’s Blue Mountain League baseball coverage this summer!

There’s always some interesting storylines as the BML season unfolds and this year is no exception.

Here’s a few of the highlights:

  • This clearly isn’t your father’s BML

When I would attend games as a kid, teams were comprised of the same players on the same teams in the same positions, year after year, and sometimes, decade after decade, with very few contributors under the age of 22.  It was very rare if you ever saw more than one or two position players NOT in the same spot, day after day, week after week. Now, the league is seeing an abundance of recent high school grads and college-aged players not just playing, but making impacts and, in some cases, being the cores of various franchises.  Furthermore, most teams feature a steady rotation of different starters each game, and it’s a rarity to see the same people from each team playing in the same spots on a daily basis.

  • There were plenty of surprising starts and “streaky teams” for the first 5-6 weeks of the season.

Consider…

…the Royals, a perennial power, went their first eight games without a win (they did have two ties).

…the Orioles, another tremendous program, won just one of their first six games.

…the Bulls won eight of their first 10.

…the Creekers won just one of their first five games and two of first seven, BUT scored 20 runs EACH in both of those wins.

…the Dodgers were one game over .500 through the first few weeks of the season (one of their better starts in years) before losing five of their next six games.  They also have continued some rather curious streaks of pummeling teams ahead of them in the standings, while losing to the ones behind them, but have a decent shot at reaching their first post-season berth in several seasons.

  • The Giants and the Bulls look awfully good – again – this year.

The two teams that battled the full-five games in last year’s championship series may be on a collision course once again for this season’s playoffs. Both Northampton and Limeport have well-balanced teams, with several strong starting pitchers and a lineup that looks very hard to beat.

  • Don’t overlook the “Steel”

As we approach the final weeks of the regular season, Bethlehem has currently won five in a row, allowing just two runs (one earned) in three games this past weekend against some very good teams.  They’re not only one of the deepest teams (they sometimes have over 20 players active for a game) but they’re playing well in all facets of the game as they look to make their first playoff appearance in the five-year history of this franchise.

Don’t forget to catch our Blue Mountain League “Game of the Week” telecasts on Tuesday evenings on RCN-TV.  RCN video customers can see all of this season’s BML broadcasts for free and any time through RCN On-Demand for up to 60 days from the games initial airdates!

Last but not least, thanks to our awesome and very generous RCN marketing team, we will be playing our trivia game and once again giving away a nice prize this week on our “RCN SportsTalk” program to one winner who correctly answers the question.

Tune in to RCN-TV this Thursday at 7pm to learn more.

Viewing “Stranger Things”

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. 

Hopefully, by looking at the title, you’ve already realized that I am not going to be talking about “SportsTalk” this week.

Instead, for this Independence holiday, I wanted to share some thoughts on one of the most popular television series (some refer to it as an extended movie) that is available for RCN internet customers through Netflix (for details on how to view it, go to www.rcn.com/netflix to learn more.)

The series is called “Stranger Things.”  With two seasons already in the books, the entire third season launched on July 4th.

When it comes to drama, I consider myself a pretty tough critic and am hard-pressed to highly recommend television series to video viewers.  But after binge watching this show (several times, I must admit), I think it would be a great idea for you to check it once it becomes available this week.

This program is not your normal, everyday-type of mystery. It deals with supernatural forces, has an alternate dimension and features a few gory scenes from time to time.  It’s also inundated with 1980s pop songs, trends and “far out” references, both with a nod of respect and an air of sarcasm mixed in for some lighter moments.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!!!!

Before proceeding, here’s a brief rundown on the story and where we are approaching the beginning of season three (I won’t give too much away, just a few “basics” about the premise in case you’re planning on jumping right in on the series without viewing the first two seasons.)

  • The main storyline is set in the early-to-mid 1980s and has focused on four pre-teens (which has spawned several “friends” joining the group over the series’ run) as they advance to their adolescent years while uncovering an alternate dimension (the “upside-down”) in the otherwise sleepy town of Hawkins.
  • Winona Rider stars as the mom of one of the boys (Will) who was “abducted” into this parallel world in season one (and then inhabited by a monster in season two).
  • David Harbour (from “Hellboy” fame) co-stars as the town’s skeptical police chief (“Jim Hopper”) who also has been in the “upside down” while helping to rescue Will in season one.  In season two, he has adopted a young girl (“Eleven”) who has special telekinesis powers, which she has used on several occasions to save her friends’ lives from the “other-world” creatures.
  • Season two ends with the kids attending their first “Snow Ball” dance with several members of the kids’ group partnering up in an apparently normal school setting, only to have the camera pull back to reveal much more sinister happenings, which paves the way for the new season.

Publicity for the new season (set on and around, appropriately enough, July 4th) has included everything from character action figures, to a book focusing on Chief Hopper’s backstory, to a “new” release of 1980s songs (on vinyl, no less) that captures many of the hits used in the series.

There is even a “fake” commercial posted on YouTube for Hawkins’ new, “state of the art” Starcourt Mall that will be opening in time for season three (1980s teenagers at a mall–what a shocker!!!)

There’s plenty of rumors out there as to what might happen for the new series (are the Russians really involved in this?), but I don’t want to spoil any of the additional elements of the show for you.

Would I consider “Stranger Things” the greatest mystery event of all time…or even the very best show on TV over the last decade?

No.

But I would certainly recommend this series for anyone who likes horror, clever writing, atypical mysteries with appropriate twists-and-turns and some tongue-in-cheek laughs about an era gone by (word was the show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers, were incredibly intimidated by Rider when they approached her about the role because they grew up watching and admiring her iconic roles in 1980s films).

Be sure to check out “Stranger Things” and other streaming programs by using your RCN interview and visiting: www.rcn.com/netflix

Summer Hoops 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.

While summer officially got underway just last Friday, the “summer” hoops season has actually been going on for weeks.

It’s been fun heading out to local venues and playgrounds to see some great girls and boys basketball, and we’ll have more videos, news and commentaries coming up again on an upcoming edition of “SportsTalk.”

In the meantime, here are some pictures from recent action on local basketball courts.

picture11 picture12 picture13 picture9 picture8 picture10 picture7 picture6 picture5 picture4 picture1 picture2 picture3

 Special thanks to my son, Connor, for accompanying me to several of these locations and for providing most of these pictures.

(I did take pictures myself, but my son felt his pictures were clearer and more in-focus, so most of mine ended up on the cutting room floor:).

 

 

Spring 2019: Final Thoughts

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.

As we officially welcome in the summer season – and start covering some of its corresponding sports teams and events – I wanted to take one final look back at a few outstanding accomplishments by the student-athletes and teams in the RCN viewing area this spring.

They should probably re-brand the local league titles as the “Parkland/Easton” tournament as both of these teams seems to always square off against each other for girls lacrosse championship games.  The Trojans did it again this year, capturing league and district titles – their fourth in a row and five championships in the last six years.  It’s an amazing run for a sport that wasn’t sanctioned by the PIAA just a little over a decade ago.

Parkland has also been dominating the local softball season once again this year.  The Trojans got to a state championship game last year and looked as strong—or better—than any team in the Lehigh Valley this spring.  They also won the EPC and posted a shutout in their District XI championship game (their second in a row and fifth in the last six years.)

Talitha Diggs, who was on our “SportsTalk” program several years ago with her mother, Olympic medal-winner Joetta Clark-Diggs, made history this spring by shattering a 33-year old record at the PIAA track championship, winning two gold medals.  A rising senior, Talitha will have another year of high school competition to add to her hardware before graduating from Saucon Valley High School in 2020.

Notre Dame-Green Pond’s baseball team also had a great run this year—capturing both Colonial League and District 3A titles this spring.  If you’ve been reading this blog regularly you’ll know I predicted early in the season great things for Notre Dame.  I also thought Crusader pitcher Steven Luke was going to be one of the most impressive pitchers in the Valley this season and he certainly did not disappoint.  The Crusaders have quite a bit of talent returning, so Head Coach Mike Bedics’ team should once again be one of the favorites in 2020.

Speaking of baseball, we are getting ready for our 2nd “SportsTalk” on location at Buffalo Wild Wings on Grape Street in Whitehall.  Our special guests will be members of the Blue Mountain Baseball League.

League President Bob Varju will be on hand, along with other league representatives, and coaches and players from several teams in the RCN viewing area.

The show will be on Thursday, June 27, from 7-8pm, and will be part of an event to raise money for a local charity.  You can find the flyer for this event right here on the RCN-TV website. Just print out that flyer and be sure to bring it with you so that the waiters/waitresses will be sure to dedicate 10% of your food bill to a great local cause.

And…we have a “make up” show at Buffalo Wild Wings THIS Thursday, June 20, as our first “on location show” with the Bethlehem Catholic girls basketball team was postponed due to bad weather.  Head Coach Jose Medina and his team will join us for this week’s program, which also starts at 7pm.

2019 Spring Sports All-Stars

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. 

One of the really fun blog entries I write periodically is the one in which we publish the local “all-star” lists that come at the end of each high school sports season.

I say this for a few reasons…

  • It’s great to highlight truly special athletic performers
  • It’s a chance to spotlight athletes who play sports but may not always get much recognition
  • It’s a chance to see familiar names who show up in different sports throughout the year
  • In the case of scholar-athlete awards, a chance to recognize “student-athletes” for taking care of what school is truly meant for—getting a quality education

As usual, I also want to thank the local athletic directors and administrators of the respective leagues and sports for once again sending these lists to me each season, so that these athletes can get added recognition for their accomplishments.

So without any further delay, here’s the composite list of the “All-Star” categories that I received for squads in the RCN-Lehigh Valley viewing area…

Here are the Eastern Pennsylvania Conferences’ scholar-athletes All-Stars.

Baseball – Joshua LaRock – Allentown Central Catholic

Boys Lacrosse – Christian Combi – Easton

Girls Lacrosse – Anne Walsh – Easton

Softball – Courtney Grundauser – Easton

Boys Basketball – Adam Klinger – Parkland

Girls Basketball – Jenna Rogers – Northampton

Cheerleading – Julia Santos – Allentown Central Catholic

Boys Swimming – Matthew Gertner – Emmaus

Girls Swimming – Abigail Heilenman – Emmaus

Wrestling – Micheal Kistler – Northampton

Rifle – Sydney Jones – Emmaus

Boys Tennis – Kevin Ge – Emmaus

Boys Track and Field – Joseph Ozgar – Easton

Girls Track and Field – Abigail Heilenman – Emmaus

Boys Volleyball – Seth Fine – Parkland

Next, here are the EPC Girls and Boys Lacrosse All-Stars.

2018-19 EPC All-Star Voting Results – GIRLS FINAL

2018-19 EPC All-Star Voting Results – BOYS FINAL
The girls softball All-Star listing for the EPC.

EPC All Stars Official Media Copy

The All-Conference tennis All-Stars:

2018-19 Boys Girls Tennis All Conference

Here’s the link for the boys and girls Colonial League track-and-field championship records set:

http://www.colonialleague.org/files/2019/03/CLChampionshipMeetRecords19FAT.pdf

… the link for the Colonial League / EPC final results

http://www.colonialleague.org/files/2019/05/CL-EPC-TF-Results-050819.pdf

… and the track-and-field All-Stars:

19EPCTFAllStars

If there are any additional honors or student-athletes who should be singled out for outstanding achievements during this past spring sports season, please don’t hesitate to email me directly at chris.michael@rcn.net so we can recognize them here at “The Shop” and/or on our weekly “RCN SportsTalk” program!

 

 

Baseball Video Recaps

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. 

There was some great local high school baseball playoff action on RCN-TV once again this spring.

In case you missed all the action, here are video highlights from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference playoffs and the District XI Championships for Classes 5A and 6A.

Don’t forget …. RCN customers can still relive all of the baseball playoff excitement by watching all these title games—for free—through RCN On-Demand.  These games will be available to watch up for up to 60 days after their initial broadcasts dates.

Coming up over the next two weeks here at “The Shop,” we’ll take a look at some of the top student-athlete performances and top teams from this past spring sports season.

Also, if local athletic directors, coaches, administrators or statisticians would be so kind as to send the different “all-stars” lists to my attention, we’d love the opportunity to highlight the top players in the area here on this blog and/or on our weekly “SportsTalk” program!

Please email those lists to me at chris.michael@rcn.net and thanks, in advance, for your assistance!

Summer Hoops ‘19: What to Watch

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. 

There were some interesting storylines during our winter high school basketball season in the RCN coverage area.

Fortunately, a number of those storylines are returning—and should make for an intriguing “off-season” as summer basketball action starts to get going this week.

If you will be heading out to see some of the late spring/summer basketball action over the next few months, here are the key things to watch for (and if you can’t make it out to your local playgrounds, we will once again be out and about in our local communities covering the action).

Watch to Watch #1:  How Emmaus boys’ basketball responds

I think Steve Yoder has done a remarkable job turning this into a great and consistent program after decades of this team being less than relevant for more than any one-two year cycle.

That being said, there’s no sugar-coating this—the 2019 Emmaus boys basketball season ended in disappointment.  They reached –and failed to win—four championship games over the previous nine months.

In districts, they lost their last three games and didn’t even win the District XI consolation game—a huge disappointment for a team that had eight graduating seniors and had great expectations…none of which were achieved.

That being said, the cupboard is not completely bare and it will be imperative for some players to step up this summer and show that they can fill in some of the many holes currently on the team, in order to keep this program just about the best in the Valley.

Watch to Watch #2:  Can the Allen Boys Basketball Team Do it Again?

As opposed to Emmaus, virtually no one expected Allen to win a District XI title last winter.  This includes Head Coach Doug Snyder, who admitted as much in a March appearance on our “RCN SportsTalk” show (if you missed it, you can check out the podcast at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk )

Now, with the target squarely placed upon a team that still features many underclassmen leading the way, can the Canaries handle the increased pressure and develop the consistency needed to take the squad to the next level?  This summer’s play could be what may very well be a landmark campaign for the  program—in more ways than one.

Watch to Watch #3:  Can anyone catch Bethlehem Catholic girls basketball?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll probably remember back before the winter season started that I predicted a competitive girls basketball season but one that would see Bethlehem Catholic girls advancing further in the state playoffs.

Fresh off the Lady Hawks’ state championship victory (I guess I can brag that my prediction from last December came true?), it should be interesting to see which of a number of talented girls basketball programs—many of whom have most of their team members returning, steps up their game over the next few months and gives us a good indication of where Becahi’s top competition will come from as they look to defend their title.

Keep checking back to “The Shop” over the next few months as we keep an eye out on the happenings on the local courts this summer!

HS Baseball Playoff Preview

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 Laubach, the RCN Sports crew and I will be out and about the next two weeks preparing for, and then broadcasting a number of District XI baseball championship games.

There are a number of interesting story lines for the high school baseball postseason, including:

WATCH OUT FOR YOUNGER TEAMS

Traditionally, the teams that have more experience are the ones that do the best this time of year.  This season might be an exception as I’ve seen a number of younger players, not only with exceptional skills, but also student-athletes with a high baseball “IQ,” at Notre Dame, Palisades and a few other schools.

KEEP AN EYE ON THE CHAMPS

Perhaps more than any other scholastic sport in the Lehigh Valley, baseball is probably the toughest sport to win both league and district titles within the same season.  I privately had a coach a few years ago admit that he did NOT want to win the leagues, because that traditionally puts the whammy on his team for districts—the latter playoffs are the ones that count towards the state playoffs.

The level of play in local baseball is so even that it’s been extremely rare over the last few decades for a team to win titles within a two-week span.  Northampton (in the EPC) and Notre Dame-Green Pond (in the Colonial League) won championships last week and are poised for a good run, but can they fight history and a strong collection of teams to win a district gold next week?

CAN LIBERTY BOUNCE BACK?

I stated on our high school baseball playoff preview show on the last edition of “SportsTalk” (which you can hear the podcast of the show right here on the RCN-TV website or watch it for free through RCN On-Demand) that Liberty’s undefeated run in the EPC during the regular season was one of the most impressive feats I’ve seen accomplished in some time.

Given the competitiveness and parity in the league (not to mention some outstanding pitching depth), to run the table in the league with so many strong teams…it would have been hard to believe the Hurricanes could accomplish a similar run throughout the playoff season.

Can Liberty come back and still be competitive in Districts?

Absolutely.

The ‘Canes still probably have the most depth (especially pitching) among all the 6A teams in the Lehigh Valley.  Liberty’s draw is not an easy one (they face Nazareth first and then the winner of Parkland/Pleasant Valley on Sunday) but certainly could see its way to the district championship game.

On paper, they are clearly one of the best teams in the area, but I believe a real key could be how well they play in their first game of the district post-season against the Blue Eagles.

It should be an exciting two weeks!

 

Be sure to check back here to the RCN-TV website to get the latest information on our broadcasts dates and times of the teams competing for District XI gold metals!