The SportsTalk Shop: “Final” HS Football Poll 2015

Our “SportsTalk” pollsters did it again!

As we approach the final week of the high school football regular season, a quick glance back to our pre-season predictions reveal that our pollsters correctly identified all of the teams in our “small school” poll.  In our “big schools,” four of the top five teams were correctly predicted—in order– back in mid-August (our “fifth” team did receive votes).  Moreover, our pollsters’ final results are very much in-line with the District XI power point system—which officially ranks the team at the end of the regular season and determines the playoff positioning.

As I mentioned before the first summer scrimmage, we have been incredibly fortunate over the years to have some wonderful and insightful people participate in our District XI football poll.  My thanks to all of the coaches, athletic directors and media members for their participation in the most comprehensive poll in the region.

And now, the final results…

Big Schools (11 pollsters)

    1. Parkland—55 points (11 first-place votes)
    2. Freedom — 43
    3. Easton — 34
    4. Liberty – 22
    5. Stroudsburg – 6

Other schools receiving votes: Emmaus, Nazareth

Small Schools (10 pollsters)

      1. Becahi – 47 points (7 first-place votes)
      2. Saucon Valley – 43 (3 first-place votes)
      3. Notre Dame-GP – 30
      4. Northwestern – 16
      5. Central Catholic/Salisbury — 5

Looking back, easily the two best games of the regular season (to date) had to be the Easton/Freedom and Notre Dame/Saucon Valley games.

All four of these teams had some great wins this season, and their contests against each other made for some thrilling high school football action.

Looking ahead, there are some interesting match-ups in the regular season finale, as teams jockey for spots in the District XI and the Eastern Conference playoffs.  In 4A, Freedom and Liberty, who play Saturday (RCN-TV, 7pm) have both clinched districts, along with Parkland and Wyoming Valley West.  Easton needs to beat Nazareth to make the playoffs and the Blue Eagles with a loss and a Pleasant Valley victory.

In 3A, there are plenty of spots and important ball games this weekend.  Bethlehem Catholic plays Central Catholic on Saturday.  A Golden Hawk win gives them the number-one seed and knocks the Vikings out of districts.  Undefeated Saucon Valley still has not clinched a spot, but still could get in if they lose to Palisades on Friday.

In 2A, Notre Dame and Northwestern have both clinched district spots and Salisbury would be in with a win over Southern Lehigh.  The Pirates need a win combined with a North Schuylkill loss.

Who’ll win these games this weekend and what are each teams’ keys heading into the regular season finale? Join Gary Laubach, Joe Craig and myself this Thursday live at 7pm for “RCN SportsTalk” as we break down all these games, the various post-season scenarios and the playoff system overall.  Also, our special guest will be Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver and former Liberty HS standout Devin Street, who’ll talk about his career and also preview this Sunday night’s Eagles/Cowboys game.

The SportsTalk Shop: Two Classy Guys

I had the pleasure of interviewing two of the most professional and highly regarded people in the sports world recently for our “RCN SportsTalk” show (you can see these shows in their entirety through RCN On-Demand and on our podcasts.

Merrill Reese is the longest-serving current team announcer in the NFL and has become the sports voice of the entire Delaware Valley region.  Growing up in a region that already featured broadcasting icons By Saam, Bill Campbell, Gene Hart, Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn, Reese’s calls are as memorable as nearly any Eagles play on the field since 1977.  Like Kalas, many of the Birds’ greatest moments and team highlights are accompanied by Reese’s calls, and the Eagles’ main radio affiliate, WIP, synchronizes their broadcast with television stations, so that people watching the game can turn down the TV announcers, and hear Merrill’s calls in real time.  Many local stations’ nightly sportscasters, when showing highlights of the Eagles, will stop talking so viewers can hear Reese’s voice and opinions as a play unfolds.

It wouldn’t be a true Eagles game if their fans couldn’t hear Merrill’s calls either during or after the game.  It was great to speak with him recently and get his thoughts on the Eagles training camp, the team’s biggest roster additions, and his outlook on the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants.

Tony Gwynn, Jr. is the son of baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Sr., and has carved out a nice career for himself–currently playing with the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate.  Like his dad, Gwynn, Jr. plays the game hard and rarely makes mental mistakes, and has always treated his teammates, coaches, fans, and the game itself, with the upmost respect.  I had a chance to interview both father and son a few times over the years when they were in Philadelphia—Tony, Sr. as a visiting player and Tony, Jr. when he played first against, and then for, Philadelphia.  Few people come close to this pair who combined professionalism with great baseball insights.  It was my pleasure to once again catch up with Tony, Jr. recently to speak with him about some current baseball issues, along with his memories of his father.

 

Here are samples of both of our interviews.

 

 

 

It’s wonderful enough to get an opportunity to spend a few minutes with a “big name” in the sports world, but it is incredibly rewarding when you have an opportunity to meet a special person in the sports world and revisit with them from time to time.  Both Merrill and Tony not only have a world of knowledge regarding their respective sports, but also they turn out to be great people when the cameras are turned off.

 

Keep watching our “SportsTalk” shows and check in for more special interviews here at the “SportsTalk Shop” as we continue to feature more of the great sports personalities in the RCN region.

The SportsTalk Shop: Questions Surrounding DeSean’s Departure

 

OK. I’m going to try my best not to make too big a deal of this issue…for the rest of the year. But you have to admit, the departure of DeSean Jackson, whether you agree with the move or not, has raised a ton of unanswered questions.

The initial release of the Philadelphia Eagles’ most electric player has been debated for several weeks, and there are more pressing on-field issues that this organization, and its fan base, need to start addressing. But before we turn the page—or at least try to, since this topic will resurface if and when the current receivers have a bad game—there are specific questions I still have. For myself and for many football fans in the Delaware County and Lehigh Valley areas, these questions must be answered before we can even think about moving forward–from an emotional standpoint.

Since the Eagles themselves continue to be tight-lipped and refuse to address this issue, here are the questions I’m going to be asking the Eagles’ beat writers when they are our guests on this Thursday’s “RCN Sports Talk” show (live at 6pm).

1) The timing of the release?
Once the initial shock subsided, this was my biggest question. Why now? Why not at the beginning of free agency when you could have explored bringing in another receiver? Why wait until all free agent options are now gone before opening up that spot? And if you weren’t going to do it earlier, why not wait until you get close to the NFL draft? Maybe someone gets desperate, wanting a receiver or looking to maneuver for a different pick, and becomes a willing trade partner so that you get something…anything…for him in return. Since the Eagles didn’t immediately pursue another option, nor have they in the weeks that followed, I’m left to wonder if they really had a plan to replace him at all.

2) Why a release?
I’ve been told by my football contacts that they would not have gotten very much —at the time they released him—in return for Jackson through a trade. A seventh-round pick? A journeyman linebacker who wouldn’t make the team? What would be the point?

My beef is, by releasing him, they left themselves open for the real possibility that any team, including their divisional rivals – Giants, Cowboys and Redskins – could swoop in and pick him up.

Remember the dreadful Cliff Lee deal, in which the Phillies traded Lee to Seattle for three prospects who have yet to taste major league success? At least the Phillies traded him to a team that could not come back to haunt them in their own league. By releasing Jackson and making his salary more flexible for a team to pick him up, they’ve allowed for a team (aka Washington) that can—and will—use Jackson against the Eagles in their two meetings this year. Do you think fans will forget the release if Jackson has a big game against them and keeps them from making the playoffs this year? You’d have a better chance of the national media forgetting the Santa Clause-snowball incident from decades ago. If the Birds only win two games this year, they better hope and pray it’s against the Redskins, if only to avoid a huge public relations nightmare.

3) Is Chip Kelly’s ego really at the heart of the matter?
I would hope that the Birds’ second-year head coach is man enough to realize that you can’t let your personal feelings get in the way of achieving success for your franchise. Times have changed and coaches can’t make whimsical decisions with millions and millions of dollars—including taxpayer-designated money—just because their feelings are hurt. I keep coming back to this question and want to believe that it did not. There are certainly enough allegations to speculate there’s more to the story than anyone is admitting.

However, the fact that Kelly refuses to publicly address this issue , and the fact that a positive response to this question would nicely satisfy the first two queries, continues to make me wonder.

It also helps to know if DeSean’s style of play influenced the Eagles’ decision and if they would like to go in a different direction at his position. If they want to replace Jackson’s pure-speed ability with a big, physical receiver, they might have to trade up for a higher draft pick before next week’s NFL draft in order to get a quality player they may covet.

What do you think of DeSean Jackson’s departure from the Eagles? Will it ultimately help or hurt the team this season? Send your comments and questions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll address them on this Thursday’s program, along with a complete preview of next week’s NFL draft and insights on the Eagles’ 2014 schedule. Plus, remember to bookmark our page and check back in with our blog next week for exclusive insights on next Thursday’s NFL Draft and the latest rumors swirling around the Eagles.

 

Behind the Mic: Week One in the NFC East

 

Week One in the NFC East

The 2013 NFL season kicks off on Thursday, September 5 at 8:30 PM on NBC. The defending Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, will visit the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. NFL fans will be a “mile high” anticipating the start of professional football. This should be a ratings giant for NBC and deservedly so.

As a division, however, it is the NFC East that will really be spotlighted in Week One. Whether that is justified certainly remains to be seen. On Sunday, September 8 at 8:30 PM, the New York Giants will play at Dallas, airing on NBC. Then on Monday, September 9 at 7:00 PM on ESPN Monday Night Football, the Eagles will play at Washington against the Redskins. Fans’ expectations are at their highest since no one has suffered a loss yet. Let’s analyze these two matchups:

Giants at Cowboys
The Giants usually play well in September, but in the first six weeks of the season they go to Dallas, Chicago, and Kansas City, then play the Broncos at home. Their offensive line is banged up and the preseason offense has been non-existent. They may struggle early. If they do not struggle early, they will be set up to have an outstanding season. Late in the season, they play either at home or close enough to home to avoid road weariness. That equates to 57 days without air travel.

After being 8-8 the last two years, the Cowboys on paper look much improved. The expectations are for improvement on that record (9-7; 10-6 being the best they could hope for). This is the year for Tony Romo not to just move the football, but actually put points on the board. The defense looks solid. The Cowboys should return to the playoffs.

Eagles at Redskins
Your guess about the Eagles is as good as mine. Chip Kelly seems like a good fit for the Eagles, but will his high-velocity offense work in the NFL? Even if it does, will the Eagles stop anybody from scoring? Can Michael Vick stay healthy? He’s the best fit for their offense. The defense could not stop the run or the pass last year and there does not seem to be new talent on that side. They were 4-12 last year – the record will improve, but by how much? No idea!!

The Redskins, on the other hand, will be the favorite to win the division. They ended the regular season riding RG3 to a seven-game winning streak. They can run, throw, and defend the run. Can they defend the pass? That seems to be their weakness. A healthy RG3 could make them a Super Bowl contender.