Friday the 13th

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 am not a superstitious guy.  I have opened an umbrella in my office.  I’m sure I have walked under a ladder (although I was probably NOT using it).  I have certainly stepped on a crack and, as far as I knew, my mother never suffered any undue back distress.  I cannot remember the last time I spilled salt, but if I did I would just clean it up, not make a bigger mess by throwing it over my shoulder.

So, once again, I am not a suspicious guy.  However…

This past Friday was the 13th.  Yes, Friday the 13th.  I know the date has some history to it.  The number itself is supposed to be unlucky.  Many hotels avoid having a 13th floor.  Thirteen disciples came to the Last Supper and that did not turn out well at all.  Even Hammurabi (you remember him?) left the number 13 out of his famous code.

I bring this up because this past Friday was the 13th and I had a football game to do – undefeated Nazareth at undefeated Freedom.  I always plan to arrive at the venue by 5:00pm for a 7:00pm game.  When I get to Bethlehem School District Stadium I ALWAYS park in the same place – just across the street from the stadium.  It allows easy entrance and, more importantly, easy exit.  But, my space was taken!  That never happens.

I was forced to find another.  Okay, no big deal.

About 20 minutes before the start of the game, I was informed that the officials I was given during the week were all changed.  This meant that our graphic was completely wrong.  Luckily, we managed to make the change before game time, but I was left wondering why the change.

The game began and, as is the norm, I wanted to get a report from Tony Cocca, our sideline reporter, before the opening kickoff.  His microphone would not work and never worked for the rest of the night.  He could hear us.  We could not hear him.

When a touchdown is scored, I quickly have to recap the drive and make some notes so I can recap when necessary.  Freedom scored in the second period to make it 14-13.  I started writing – time of score, who scored, how many TDs the player has scored this season, etc.  After all, the extra point was a given.  The Freedom kicker, up to that point, was a perfect 14 for 14.  He missed, but I missed the miss!

For the next ten minutes or so, I kept giving the score as being tied – 14-14.  I asked my color analyst why he didn’t point out my mistake.  He told me he missed the miss, also.

Later in the game, I “promo-ed” a game we had dropped from the schedule.  That’s right, I was building up the viewers’ expectations for another game to follow, but I was wrong.  The game was originally scheduled but then dropped from the schedule.

The culmination of the night was the outcome.  Every sportswriter (10 of them) picked Freedom to win the game.  Nazareth won 35-33.  Freedom was forced to go for a two-point conversion (because of the missed extra point that I originally missed, too).  They failed.

As I walked back to my car wondering where I had to park it, I began to think that maybe this Friday the 13th stuff has some merit to it.

Thank goodness, it only comes rarely!  KNOCK ON WOOD!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Two of the superstars in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers and Drew Brees of the Saints, may both be facing surgery after this past Sunday’s games. Roethlisberger grabbed his throwing elbow after throwing a pass and Brees injured his wrist and thumb after hitting the hand of a defensive tackle. 
  1. Time for my Saquon Barkley mention (seems to come up every week). His presence has me now watching the Giants, too.  He is great; his team is awful.  And Eli Manning (I know his offensive line is awful) looks lost out there.  He has no one to throw to and he seems to panic at times.  It is time to see what his backup Daniel Jones can do.  I mean, come on.  I want to enjoy the Barkley games. 
  1. Who will beat the Patriots? No one until maybe November.  That’s when they have Baltimore, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Dallas.  If they win those and Tom Brady stays healthy, it could be 16-0. 
  1. Remember Keith Jackson, Don Meredith, and Howard Cosell behind the microphones for Monday Night Football? That was (are you kidding me?) 50 years ago.  September 21, 1970 was the first broadcast of Monday Night Football.  The Browns played the Jets that night.  They played each other this week on (you guessed it) Monday Night Football.  The Browns won. 
  1. The high school football just gets better and better each week. RCN-TV has a terrific football lineup this weekend.  On Friday night at 9:30pm, the undefeated Nazareth Blue Eagles take on the once-defeated Golden Hawks of Bethlehem Catholic, who “mercy-ruled” Parkland this past Saturday.  Our LIVE game at 7:00pm features Parkland at Liberty.  Both teams already have two losses and cannot afford another.  Join us.

GARY’GUESSES (LAST WEEK –11-5)  (YEAR-TO-DATE – 22-9-1  71%) 

JACKSONVILLE

GREEN BAY

PHILADELPHIA

KANSAS CITY

BUFFALO

INDIANAPOLIS

MINNESOTA

NEW ENGLAND

DALLAS

TAMPA BAY

CAROLINA

SEATTLE

CHARGERS

SAN FRANCISCO

RAMS

CHICAGO

 

HS Football 2019: Week 5

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.|

In the years we’ve been doing the “Pick 4” high school football prediction contest, we usually keep the predictions’ themselves, for the most part, exclusively here on the RCN-TV website, while we post the weekly standings only on our TV show.

However, a couple times each season, we usually like to share the standings with our internet readers, just to give you an idea of how your favorite RCN personalities are doing with this year’s contest.

One of those traditional times would be this week, as we approach the midway point of the regular season. Our up-to-the-minute standings are as follows…

Tony Cocca 14-2
Chris Michael 12-4
Keith Groller 11-5
John Leone 11-5
Gary Laubach 10-6

Keep in mind, there’s plenty of time (and games) left with the second half of the season and several weeks of the playoffs yet to come. Also, it is a tight horse race (as usually stays that way into the postseason) between all participants and should make for an exciting finish in November.

Continue to watch our weekly show and hear our “SportsTalk” podcasts (found here on the RCN-TV website) for the latest standings (along with commentary from those participating in the contest).

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. Liberty Dieruff vs. Pleasant Valley Saucon Valley vs. Northern Lehigh Bethlehem Catholic vs. Nazareth
Gary Laubach Parkland Pleasant Valley Saucon Valley Bethlehem Catholic
Tony Cocca  Parkland Dieruff Saucon Valley Nazareth
Keith Groller Parkland Dieruff Saucon Valley Nazareth
John Leone  Parkland Pleasant Valley Saucon Valley Nazareth
Chris Michael  Parkland Dieruff Saucon Valley Nazareth

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! 

 *****

Before we get to the polls, a reminder for NFL fans to subscribe to get your “NFL Red Zone” packages.  The season is now underway and you won’t want to miss a minute of the action. Call 1-800-RING-RCN or log on to rcn.com to learn the easy way to see all the great gridiron action this fall. 

Also, be sure to check out the tailgating contest that RCN is running to find out how to win great prizes and truly enhance your tailgating parties this football season.  You won’t want to miss out on all the goodies available to win! 

***** 

Now, here’s our look at our high school football “big” and “small schools” polls (as voted by select media members, coaches & administrators for District XI teams)…

 “Big” Schools Poll

1)  Nazareth

2) Easton

3)  Freedom

4)  East Stroudsburg-South

5)  Parkland

 

“Small” Schools Poll

1)   Bethlehem Catholic

2)  Notre Dame

3)  Northwestern

4)  Central Catholic 

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! 

Programming Alert!!! 

Cleary, RCN-TV will be broadcasting the best EPC game of the weekend with our “Big School” & “Small School” number one teams playing each other (Bethlehem Catholic/Nazareth, Friday, tape delayed at 9:30pm), but the best Colonial League match-up will be a pair of 3-1 teams (Saucon Valley & Northern Lehigh) squaring off–the winner staying one game back of the top spot in the conference. 

We’ll not only have a preview of that game from one of the key people who will be involved in that Friday contest on our “SportsTalk” show this week, but he will be telling us about a special ceremony that will also be taking place at that game, along with a couple other surprises.  Tune in Thursday at 7pm on RCN (or hear our podcast, posted on Friday) to hear the big news!!!

What’s the Message?

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.

If you are a sports fan (and you know I am), this should be the absolute best time of the year.

Major League baseball is winding down with the battles for berths in the playoffs at stake.  Each baseball game, if your team is still alive, takes on added importance.  Who isn’t watching the standings every day?

Add to that the start of the high school football season.  We are only three weeks in and already there have been some great match-ups.  It looks like the regular season is only going to portend what should be some great playoff games for the District titles.  And then it is on to the state playoffs.

Let’s not forget the start of the college football season.  Of course, the really good teams schedule some “patsies” at the beginning, but there are always some interesting results, none better than this past weekend when Army-Michigan went to double overtime before Michigan eked out a 24-21 win.  Army was in position to win the game in regulation.  There will be plenty of great games the rest of this season.

And then, there’s the NFL.  It started Thursday night with the upset win by the Packers over the Vikings and continued when the Eagles came back from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Redskins.  The march to the Super Bowl has begun.

So, can it get any better than this time of the year?  Only if something spoils it.  And that happened for me and, I’m sure, plenty of other fans.  You see, I hate to see bad behavior rewarded.  It seems to rear its ugly head all the time anymore in the sports world.  And that happened again when the New England Patriots signed Antonio Brown to a $15 million contract ($9 million guaranteed) after he was released from the Oakland Raiders.  It is also reported Brown could get another $20 million if he signs for next season.

He was a horrible teammate at Pittsburgh and an even worse one at Oakland with excuse after excuse not to practice in the preseason.  He couldn’t play for the Steelers.  He couldn’t wear the helmet prescribed by the NFL to promote player safety.  Without his preferred helmet, he just could not practice.  He couldn’t keep his mouth shut around the Raider GM.  He, literally, would not “play ball.”  The Raiders finally let him go for violating his contract.  And who did not want to applaud the Raiders for standing up to Antonio Brown?

And then he gets rewarded by the New England Patriots, a team that is easy to dislike anyway.  There are some who feel the Patriots talked to Brown while he was under contract to the Raiders.  That would be a violation of the rules, but haven’t they done that before?  Owner Bob Kraft even offered to let Brown live at his house if he desired.  If you already hated the Patriots, add this to your list of reasons.

Remember how we always talk about football being a team sports.  It is a “me” sport for Antonio Brown and wouldn’t you like to see just one time that arrogance and selfishness would be punished?  And it never seems to happen anymore.  Instead, it gets rewarded.

The best time of the year for a sports’ fan became tarnished this weekend.  I can only hope that the Patriots find a way to lose this season and I really hope Antonio Brown is the reason!  That could be the right message after the Patriots, once again, sent the wrong one.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Even though the Giants looked awful against the Cowboys on Sunday, Saquon Barkley rushed for 120 yards and caught four passes for 19 yards. He sprinted for 59 yards on the second play of the game.  And he was not used all that much – only 15 touches. 
  1. Nazareth’s Jahan Dotson had a two touchdowns, 109 yard receiving game for Penn State this past weekend. It is really fun to watch our local high school players excel at the highest levels. 
  1. Maybe the Cleveland Browns just have to get out of Cleveland so they can change their name. This was supposed to be their year with Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr. starring for their offense.  Well, on Sunday the Tennessee Titans beat them 43-13.  They looked like… well, the Browns. 
  1. The Phillies just won’t let us quit on them. They are only two games behind the Cubs in the wild-card chase.  They are tied with the Brewers and only the Diamondbacks are a bit closer to the Cubs.  The wild-card chase certainly keeps up the interest. 
  1. RCN-TV has a terrific football lineup this weekend. On Friday night, the undefeated Nazareth Blue Eagles take on the undefeated Freedom Patriots.  Saturday night, watch Parkland visit Bethlehem Catholic.  We kick off our Lafayette College schedule Saturday afternoon at 12:30pm when Sacred Heart comes to town.  All the games are LIVE.

GARY’GUESSES (LAST WEEK –11-4-1)  (YEAR-TO-DATE – 73%) 

CAROLINA

PHILADELPHIA

BUFFALO

TENNESSEE

DETROIT

BALTIMORE

NEW ENGLAND

DALLAS

HOUSTON

PITTSBURGH

SAN FRANCISCO

MINNESOTA

KANSAS CITY

RAMS

CHICAGO

CLEVELAND

 

More 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.

The summer basketball campaign is starting to wind down across local playgrounds and gyms.

With several teams losing quite a bit of their squad to graduation, there has been an abundance of young players to keep an eye on, to see which players will fill voids and which returning players (and rebuilding teams) are improving enough to make an impact for the 2019-20 scholastic season.

The biggest story at this year’s “Atown Throwdown” at Cedar Beach in Allentown last week was that most of Lehigh Valley schools did NOT participate. While Bethlehem Catholic and Central Catholic were two of the few local teams who did attend, the trend continued at the annual tournament of teams from outside the Lehigh Valley walking home with a championship. This summer was no exception as Reading took home this year’s crown.

This week here at “The Shop,” we wanted to bring you some pictures from different courts.

 

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Check out the next edition of “RCN SportsTalk” on RCN-TV and hear our next podcast for our latest round of interviews with basketball coaches and players from schools in the RCN viewing area in both the Lehigh and Delaware Valley regions.

And, for more summer basketball action, catch the Catasauqua “Tournament of Champions” title game broadcast on RCN-TV on Thursday, August 8.

The SportsTalk Shop: A Great Hire

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 are many times when I am asked to comment on a school’s hiring of a new head coach—especially for football.

In nearly every situation, my initial response is to say that on the surface it seems like a good hire, but also point out that since I’m not involved in the interview process and usually don’t know every person who applied for the position (unless you believe the rumors that accompany most major coaching vacancies), we won’t know for sure until some time has passed.

At worst, if there’s someone who I’m not sure about or someone who I might have questions with, I opine that we wait at least three to four years and preach patience while waiting to see if the decision was a good one.

In the case of Central Catholic’s hiring of a new head football coach, I don’t have to wait…it was not a good hire.

It was a GREAT hire.

Tim McGorry is a 1999 alum of Allentown Central Catholic. He earned a B.A. in Organizational Management from Ashford University with a concentration in education. McGorry has an extensive football coaching background beginning in 2004 as the ACCHS Assistant Football Coach. Throughout his career, he has worked as an Offensive Coordinator at schools such as Parkville HS, Moravian College, Parkland HS, ACCHS and Wide Receivers Coach at Lehigh University. In addition, he has been a guest speaker at various youth athletic camps and events in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

McGorry’s experience includes coordinating off-season strength and training programs as well as overseeing aspects of player development, practice prep and game strategies. At the college level, he organized team travel, alumni events, community outreach programs and coordinated recruiting efforts.

Under his leadership, McGorry was an integral part in various programs’ achievements:

  • ACCHS: DXI 3A Championship in 2009, 2010 & 2011; PIAA 3A State Championship, coached Parade All-American 2011, and finished #14 in the country (2010) and #38 in Total Offense (2011).
  • Parkland: DXI 4A Championship; State Quarterfinalist and ranked #7 in the state for total offense.
  • Moravian College: Second best record in school history; Centennial-MAC Bowl appearance; broke 26 school offensive records; and increased all major offensive categories from the previous four years.
  • Lehigh University: 2017 Patriot League Champions; 2017 and 2018 First Team All Patriot League Wide Receivers, #6 Total Offense in the country (2017)

Furthermore, McGorry has always been a very likeable, personable and knowledgeable coach over the years every time I have had the pleasure to speak with him about football, his career and the programs of which he was currently working.

I honestly can’t think of someone who would be better suited or more equipped to take over this program.

But you don’t have to believe me, you can find out for yourself on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” program—our final one of the summer broadcasting from the Buffalo Wild Wings in Whitehall. The show starts at 7:00pm.

McGorry will be our guest, along with members of his new coaching staff and his players.

Come on out to support Vikings football, meet the new coaches and hear their thoughts on the new high school football season, with the start of official practices just a couple weeks away.

Be sure to get additional details on this event here on our website and to find out how a portion of you food bill at this event could help a local charity.

Behind the Mic: Nasty Sports Rivalries

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.

You may have missed it, but at the Big Ten media day this past week, Jim Harbaugh, the coach of Michigan football, threw a little dirt at former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.  He acknowledged Meyer’s excellent coaching record, but added that “controversy follows everywhere he’s been.”  He was given a chance to back away from what he said but he did not.  “It was me saying what I think.”

Well, that led to a response from Meyer’s daughter – “Wait guys, maybe this is a deflection strategy!  Throw a little mud to avoid answering why you always lost.”

This led me to think about the nastiest rivalries in college sports.  I was not surprised to find that the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry was listed as #1.  They have met 100 times with Michigan winning 58 of them.  However, Ohio State has won the last seven and 14 of the last 15!  Ohio State won last year 62-39.

According to Brad Crawford of 24-7 Sports, the top ten college rivalries are:

10. Michigan-Michigan State basketball

9. Michigan-Notre Dame football

8. Notre Dame-USC football

7. Florida State-Miami football

6. Kentucky-Louisville basketball

5. Oklahoma-Texas football

4. Army-Navy football

3. Alabama-Auburn football

2. North Carolina-Duke basketball

1. Ohio State-Michigan football

Obviously, rabid fans of all these schools disagreed with the list. I found it interesting when I read the comments from fans across the country that their argument that they have the greatest rivalry was based on the fact that their hatred for the other team was greater than the hatred of other fans.  Yes, it was all based on hate!

And then I realized that this is the way our country is today – hatred for the other side.  There is a rivalry going on every day in this country and the vitriol when groups get together en masse is not much different than sitting on opposite sides of the stadium for an Ohio State-Michigan.  In football, there is always next year for the loser.

In politics, it’s a four-year wait.  So the hate grows more and more.

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I guess it was only appropriate that the greatest “closer” in major league baseball was the closer on Sunday at Cooperstown, NY for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Mariano Rivera of the Yankees gave the final speech.  After all, he was the greatest closer in baseball history.  Brandy Halladay handled her moment and her emotions beautifully as the Hall inducted her husband, Roy.
  2. Did you see where Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson, Mike, homered for the Giants on Sunday to give them a walk-off win in the 12th inning? He was called up for the first time to the majors on May 25.  He spent six years in the minors.  He is 28 years old.
  3. Fate can be very interesting sometimes. Ireland’s Shane Lowry winning The Open on Sunday in Ireland, just a couple of hours from his home was storybook.  He was never challenged to relinquish the lead and his walk up the 18th hole was very emotional.  If you are going to win your first major, why not do it at home?
  4. The South Parkland American Legion baseball team is having an unbelievable season. As I write this, they are 23-0 and two wins away from a Region 2 championship.  The Bethlehem Wanderers are still in the tournament, also, with a 22-4 record.  Amazing seasons for both and not quite finished.  It would be nice if they met in the championship final.
  5. Our BML Game of the Week series concludes this Tuesday. Thanks to everybody who helped with the telecasts and special thanks to the managers and players for once again showing how much they love the game.  Good luck in the playoffs to everyone.

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).


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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.