Mid-Winter Highlights (Part 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.

It’s just about time to get ready for the winter scholastic sports playoffs with our coverage on RCN-TV.

Before the post-season gets underway, here’s a look at our recent high school sports broadcasts on RCN (a reminder that all of RCN’s productions are available to watch for free for RCN video customers for two months following their initial air dates.  Be sure to check out these games in their entirety through RCN On-Demand).


Stephon, briggs

Also, as our post-season coverage gets underway, make sure you bookmark the RCN High School Sports Schedule page here on the RCN-TV website.  Our schedule will be updated regularly with our broadcasts of your favorite teams though the league, district and PIAA state playoff season!

Ballou/HS Football Week 7

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.

People in the DMV have probably heard about the controversy surrounding Senior Running Back Jamal Speaks this fall—the player who became homeless and, by rule, was determined ineligible to play football for Ballou High School—until last weekend.

But rising from that dispute were several great stories about the Knights football program—many Head Coach Minoso Rodgers addressed with me on last Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk” show (available to watch On-Demand and at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk .)

Among those highlights include…

  • The outstanding character exhibited by Speaks and his teammates through a trying first month of the season
  • The support of Ballou’s students and the community for speaking out and bringing pressure for him to be reinstated
  • The Knights’ ability to brush off the controversy and win its most recent two games against tough rival opponents

Not to be lost is the outstanding achievements from last year’s squad—one that captured its first Public League, and DCSAA championship in 12 years.  And, one that saw its first-year head coach named the “USA Today” DC Coach of the Year.

I had the pleasure to speak with Coach Rodgers a number of times over the last 10 days and I could truly hear that he cares deeply about his kids.  In our conversations, it was very evident that he was constantly looking to promote his student-athletes and give them the credit for the program’s successes, even above his own efforts.

Hopefully, eligibility issues are now behind the team and sports fans can concentrate on these positives about the Ballou program going forward!

Last weekend was not the most competitive collection of games we’ve ever had on RCN-TV as Parkland, Freedom and Emmaus all reached “mercy rule status” in their victories by either the second quarter or on their first possession of the second half…

It’s time for this week’s edition of our high school football polls for teams in the District XI  region…

“Big” Schools Poll

1)   Freedom

2)  Emmaus

3)  Easton

4)  Parkland

5)   Northampton

 “Small” School Poll

1)  Bethlehem Catholic 

2)  Saucon Valley

3)  Northwestern

4) Notre Dame

Our poll remains with the same structure that we’ve utilized for many seasons.  We take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN-TV broadcast area.  All of the schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. These schools consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, DieruffPocono Mountain West, Freedom, StroudsburgPleasant ValleyNorthampton, Nazareth, WhitehallSouthern LehighEast Stroudsburg-South, and Pocono Mountain East.  The five schools receiving the most votes are listed above.

“Small schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of both Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and Colonial League teams —  Bangor, Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, NorthwesternWilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.  The top four vote-getters are named.

Now, RCN’s Gary Laubach, Tony Cocca and I team with The Morning Call’s Keith Groller to weigh in on four of the biggest District XI high school games coming up this weekend…

The
“PICK 4”
Emmaus vs. Freedom Easton vs. Bethlehem Catholic Liberty vs. Central Catholic Palmerton vs. Wilson
Gary Laubach Freedom Bethlehem Catholic Liberty Palmerton
Tony Cocca  Freedom Bethlehem Catholic Liberty Palmerton
Keith Groller  Emmaus Bethlehem Catholic Central Catholic Palmerton
Chris Michael  Freedom Bethlehem Catholic Central Catholic Palmerton

Check back next week here at “The Shop” for more high school football notes, polls, video highlights and predictions.

 

 

 

 

Summer Hoops ’18 (Part 3)

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 Cedar Beach Summer Basketball League wrapped up this past weekend, culminating with a thrilling championship game!

First of all, huge congratulations are in order for the 2018 summer champs–the Easton Red Rovers boys’ basketball team.

Easton features a number of talented players who got valuable experience on the varsity level last year and probably didn’t get the attention they deserved for having a great winter season (we saw a number of impressive victories by the Rovers on RCN-TV last year).

Those returning players held off another team we’ll be talking about this winter–Emmaus–who had the distinction of playing in all three major boys title games held within the Lehigh Valley area.

Check back to “The SportsTalk Shop” next week for our gallery of the summer hoops in-game action.

In the meantime, here are a few more notes of interest for Lehigh Valley basketball fans from this summer’s action…

  • There is certainly a lot of balance since Bethlehem Catholic boys’ Golden Hawks continue to be the area’s most dominant Lehigh Valley team. Allentown Central Catholic, last year’s “#2” squad, so far, look like it has come back to the pack a bit. In talking with Dieruff Head Coach Joe Jarjous recently, he’s among those believing that a number of teams (including his own) will be improved and that several programs featuring an abundance of youth have really played well and will show great improvement by the time the school year starts.
  • The Becahi girls have been equally as dominate as their boys teams, although Nazareth is taking great strides. They’ve been participating in tournaments both inside and outside of the Lehigh Valley region. Among the Blue Eagles’ top efforts…they ran the table in the “June” edition of the Holy Name basketball tournament and finished with a perfect 9-0 record in a pool against a number of strong programs.
  • The Northampton boys’ team lost two of its’ biggest scoring machines (Cody Weisenberger and Aiden Ellwood) from last year’s team. I talked with Head Coach Coy Stampone and he said he thought there’s definitely some rebuilding that will have to be done with his program this year. However, upon a closer look at the way his team played this summer:

…He’s playing a couple players who actually will make his squad bigger than last year’s (thanks to my “SportsTalk” co-host Keith Groller for pointing that out).

…Stampone is very high on some of his JV players from a year ago who look like they’re progressing at a nice rate and could contribute more than initially projected.

…Don’t forget, the K-Kids played tremendous defense a year ago, leading the team to some of the biggest wins of the season. Most of those defensive-minded players are returning, so if they can find a couple sure-handed scoring options (especially among the big men), don’t count on Northampton’s “rebuilding” taking very long.

We’ll have our final look at high school summer league action and more news, notes and images next week here at “The Shop.”

For more local summer basketball action, be sure to check out this year’s “Tournament of Champions” held at the Catasauqua playground. RCN-TV’s Gary Laubach and Tom Stoudt will have the call and all the excitement of this year’s event…this Thursday evening on RCN-TV.

And…coming up over the next few weeks on “SportsTalk,” we’ll be featuring defending District XI boys and girls fall sports champions, along with high school and Lafayette College football interviews as we get you ready for the upcoming fall sports season. “Official” high school sports practices commence this Monday–where did the summer go?

The Dog Days

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.

Despite the fact that NFL training camps are in full swing and football never seems to take a backseat to any sport here in the USA, this is the time to focus on baseball.  When August rolls around and the waiver deadline comes and goes at the end of July, fans are gearing up to follow their favorite teams to the bitter end of the regular season.

As we wind down, here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Can the Yankees catch the Red Sox? With the Aaron Judge injury, which is supposed to sideline him for at least three weeks, can the Yankees keep pace with a team that just keeps on winning? The Yankees will NOT catch the Red Sox, but should be healthy at the end of the season to garner the Wild Card and battle through the playoffs.
  2. At the beginning of the season, I predicted the Yankees and the Cubs would be in the World Series. I do not dislike my picks right now, but the Astros and the Red Sox look like the two best teams. I can possibly see the Red Sox fading a bit, but the Astros have pitching and hitting. However, in early August, the Astros play 18 of their next 20 games against teams with .500 records or better.
  3. Just when a fan can start to feel really good about the Phillies, they lose three of four against the last-place Reds. The Phils did not hit at all in this series after their opening game win where they hit seven home runs. They have weaknesses – shortstop and relief pitching being the biggest – that are hard to overcome. The good news is that the Braves are not consistently winning either.
  4. How important is the two-game series between the Phillies and the Red Sox this week? Well, the Phils have lost three straight and the Red Sox have won 13 of 15. The Sox can afford to lose a couple of games. You decide who needs the wins more.
  5. With the Cubs’ starting pitching collapsing, it will be interesting to see if former Philly Cole Hamels can be a savior in Chicago. The Cubs are near the bottom in innings per start and need someone to take the pressure off of the bullpen.
  6. The Dodgers and the Indians are very capable of putting together a great August and battle to the very end.
  7. Are the Nationals done? As I write this, they are 52-53 and, if they believe the hill is too high to climb to get back into the race, they might start dealing. I think if they are patient, the Phils and the Braves will come back to them.
  8. Is there a better player than Mike Trout? No.
  9. Is there a worse team than the Baltimore Orioles? Well, there is a little competition here – the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox, and the Miami Marlins. It will be a battle until the end to win the title.
  10. I’m also thinking that by now you want to know when the Eagles open their season – September 6 vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

    1. Have the Cleveland Browns finally found a quarterback? There has been quite a bit of early praise for first overall draft- pick Baker Mayfield. Tyrod Taylor is the starter right now, but the Browns need Mayfield ASAP.
    2. Speaking of the Browns, in case you forgot, the Browns went 0-16 last year following a 1-15 record the previous year. They should certainly improve – the bar is not very high.
    3. Alabama football coach Nick Saban just extended his contract through 2025. He has won five national titles in the past nine years. It is worth $74.4 million. They REALLY love their football at Alabama.
    4. Penn State’s Trace McSorley might just be the best college quarterback in the nation this season. He should have another record-setting year and could keep the Nittany Lions in the national championship hunt. However, beating Ohio State and Michigan State in the Big Ten will be a major challenge.
    5. For the second straight year, we wanted to bring you a Lehigh Valley Men’s Baseball League game on RCN-TV.   And for the second straight year, the game was rained out. President Ron Cahill does a marvelous job putting together a league that has nine divisions, 47 teams, and over 1,000 players. It is the largest men’s baseball league in Pennsylvania. We hopefully will be able to showcase it to you at some point.

With Regrets…

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.

On Saturday, August 4, in Canton, Ohio, the newest inductees will be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame. This year, eight new members will be added, the maximum allowed in any given year.  Seven will show up.  One will not.

There will be 318 members following this year’s induction. The selection committee is made up of 48 individuals, mostly media members and each NFL city is represented by a media person.

Eligibility for a player or coach begins five years after retirement. Fans actually can nominate a player, coach, or contributor to the Hall.  The committee narrows the list to 25 semifinalists and then down again to 15.  The Selection Committee meets again and, if a nominee receives 80% of the votes, they will be inducted.  There must be at least four and no more than eight new inductees.

This year, Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, and Terrell Owens will make up the Class of 2018.

All but Terrell Owens will attend. Although he has not publicly stated his reasons, most believe it is a response to not making the Hall in his first or second year of eligibility.  His statistics certainly merited induction and many felt it was his on- and off-the-field exploits that kept him from garnering the necessary votes the first two years.

Owens is in the top ten in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. He was a part of three Super Bowl teams with the Dallas Cowboys.  He also was a thorn in the side of almost every team he played for and there were many.  Suffice it to say when he left a team, tears were not shed.

So despite being invited and calling the moment “one of the most memorable days of my life”, he will instead give his acceptance speech at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga on August 4, the same day as the ceremony in Canton.

So, how has the Hall responded to the snub? They will not acknowledge Terrell Owens at all during the ceremony.  Hall of Fame wide receiver, Michael Irvin, said it best, “We can’t spend this moment for all these other guys talking about the guy that is not here.  You cannot do that and take that away. He’s doing his own thing wherever he’s doing his own thing, and God bless him. And when they mention the class they’ll mention him, but why should you steal those other guys’ moment because of the decision of this one?”

“I think it’s the right move. They’re not saying he’s not going to have a bust in the room. They’re not saying he’s not getting his jacket. They’re saying, ‘We’re honoring his wish. He doesn’t want to be here with us, we’re going to mention him as little as possible.’ I think it’s the right move.”

Terrell Owens has a right to not attend a party he was invited to and the Hall has the right to pay as little attention to the no-show as they want.

Both can respond to the invitation as many often do, “With regrets”. Only this time, I think both parties will eventually truly believe it.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

    1. Speaking of the Dallas Cowboys, retired quarterback Tony Romo won the American Century Championship this past weekend. This was part of a celebrity golf tour that now exists for sports personalities. Romo won $125,000, but plays as an amateur, so he donated his winning check to charity.
    2. Back in April when I made my baseball predictions, I could not fathom a stronger team than the Yankees in the American League. But the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros have been amazing. Going into the All-Star break only the Red Sox (68 wins), the Astros (64 wins) and the Yankees (62 wins) have more than 60 wins. The best record in the National League belongs to the Cubs, but they would be 13 games behind the Red Sox in the standings if they were in the same division.
    3. Speaking of the Cubs, they have quietly moved past the Milwaukee Brewers in the standings and the media in Chicago and the players give most of the credit to the locker room culture created by former Lafayette student Joe Maddon. If you are a Maddon or Cub fan, Lafayette is auctioning off two “Joe Maddon Baseball Tours” to the highest bidder. For details, go to:https://goleopards.cbsi-auctions.com/
    4. The Phillies are in first place at the All-Star break. They have done it by winning at home where they are 30-16. Only the San Francisco Giants have won more home games (31) than the Phils. Nothing is better than keeping the Philadelphia fans happy at home.
  • Our final Blue Mountain League Game of the Week will be on July 24 when the Martins Creek Creekers travel to Egypt to play the Northern Yankees. Watch at 9:30pm.

 

 

Lafayette’s New Era

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’s a great story involving sports fans in both the RCN DC and Pennsylvania viewing areas.

A new beginning got underway at Lafayette College as standout DMV player and coach Caitlyn de la Haba is completing her first year as the school’s head softball coach. 

Team_7

As a player, de la Haba posted some ultra-impressive numbers in both high school in Virginia and at Villanova University:

  • HS team compiled an overall record of 82-1 (she was a four-year starter, three as a pitcher)
  • Team Ranked #1 in the country by USA Today
  • As a pitcher, registered 65 shutouts, 26 no-hitters and 13 perfect games
  • Earned Back-to-back Gatorade Player of the Year honors
  • Led Villanova in appearances during all four years, winning 55 games
  • Finished on the Wildcats’ all-time leader with 75 complete games and 3rd with 660 strikeouts 

de la haba
We had the opportunity for “RCN SportsTalk” recently to talk with Coach de la Haba and three of her key players.

Two of the senior leaders include Sam Sweigart and Miranda Skurla.

Samatha 1 (1)

Samatha 1 (2)

Samatha 1 (3)

Samatha 1 (4)

Samantha has been a constant for the team as the starting second baseman for the last three seasons.

Miranda has also been a key member of the team handling both first base as well as the hot corner for Lafayette the last several years.

Miranda (1)

Miranda (2)

Miranda (3)

Miranda (4)

Both have been key in bridging the gap between the gap to the “next generation” of players and have been part of a solid defensive infield. The Leopards have played a number of tough games late in the season but stressed that they were excited to be at the forefront of an exciting new era for their program.

We also spoke with junior shortstop Brooke Wensel, the Patriot League’s defending “Defensive Player of the Year,” who looks to lead the “next generation” towards more success for the 2018-19 campaign.

Brooke (1)diana

Brooke (2)

Brooke (3)

Brooke (4)

Brooke (5)

De la Haba said that the new direction of the team will be to build on solid pitching—a tried and true formula in this sport. With the renewed interest and excitement generated from the first year at the helm, it’s easy to see why there’s so much optimism on the horizon for this program’s future.

For more on the Lafayette softball program’s “new era,” check out their “SportsTalk” feature on RCN’s Video On Demand!

Franco’s Hot/Cold Month

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 Maikel Franco was climbing up through the Phillies minor league system, I remember talking with the hot, young prospect the day before Opening Day—on a particularly frigid April afternoon. It was Franco’s first spring in the Northeast. As I approached him, our exchange went like:

FRANCO: “Man, it’s cold out there. It’s not normally this cold up here in April, is it?”

ME: “I’m afraid so.”

FRANCO (smiling): “That’s no good…I’m not a cold weather hitter.”

True enough, Franco struggled for the first two months of that season until the weather did warm up for good. Once that happened, he made a rather quick ascension up the minor league ladder.

Since then, Maikel has battled issues of inconsistency—coming randomly over the last couple years—regardless of what the thermostat was registering.

I recently approached Franco in the Phillies clubhouse—a few minutes after he hit his fourth career grand slam and his fifth consecutive game where he hit a home run at Citizens Bank Park, a streak that dated back to the end of last September—another chilly time for baseball.

He beamed his big smile again when I recounted that story to him. He quickly pointed out he feels that he has figured things out at the plate, even on a night where the wind chill factor was in the mid-30s.

Here’s the rest of my conversation with Maikel along with his comments on how effective his new batting stance has been…

At the time of this conversation his batting average was .308. However, after the two series against the Reds and Rays (in the warm climate/indoor stadium of Tampa Bay no less) and one game in “Hot-lanta” (although it’s been anything but warm in Georgia this week), Franco’s season BA has dropped to .214 (as of press time) and his slugging percentage has dropped over a hundred points.

Clearly, it still remains to be seen if Franco is the proven, everyday, power-hitting threat the Phillies organization had clearly envisioned back when he was still in the minor leagues. With Scott Kingery’s strong acclimation to Major League pitching and Mitch Walding hitting well at Triple-A (currently with a slash line of .342/.405/.579), he certainly has to feel some pressure. But if he can hit like he did the first two weeks of the season in the cold weather, perhaps there is still hope that he can still be a part of the team’s future.

********

One of the top high school games we covered for “SportsTalk” last week was a great contest between Central Catholic and Northampton. Here’s a sample of the highlights and “players of the game” interviews from that contest.

For more features, be sure to check out to check out our show on Thursdays at 7pm, On-Demand and our podcast: rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk

 

 

Congratulations Gary Laubach

The Lehigh Valley High School Basketball Hall of Fame recently announced the Class of 2014 to be honored at this year’s Via All-Star Banquet at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center on March 26 at 6:30PM.   Among this year’s inductees is RCN TV sports commentator Gary Laubach.

For more than 30 years, RCN customers have enjoyed watching Gary cover Lehigh Valley high school and Lafayette College football, basketball and baseball.  Gary, a Wilson Area High School graduate, has broadcast over 4,500 local sporting events.  He’s also a member of the Member of the Northampton County American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame, along with the Valley’s football and wrestling halls.

“It has been a wonderful experience to be a part of Lehigh Valley sports for over 40 years.  And now to be honored by the VIA Basketball Hall of Fame Committee for that experience is both humbling and gratifying.  The recognition really goes to the RCN television team since they have been with me the entire journey.  I am certainly proud to be a member of that team.”

Please join us in congratulating Gary by leaving a comment on this post.