The SportsTalk Shop: HS Football Polls – Week 10

We’ve talked quite a bit this fall about how the early start to the high school football season has made the season go faster than normal.  That fact has almost been lost as a few of the winter sports coaches whose school will now probably not make the playoffs.  In talking with several of them over the last few days, they’ve suddenly realized that their athletes, as of October 29, may be turning their attention to basketball, wrestling, swimming and rifling.

As we head into the final week of the regular season for District XI teams, it’s time we once again look at this week’s “RCN SportsTalk” football poll for the teams in our coverage area.

First, a quick recap of how we put our polls together and arrive at our conclusions for our bi-weekly  results.

We take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN footprint.  All schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. These schools consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, Dieruff, Freedom, Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley, Northampton, Nazareth, East Stroudsburg-South, Whitehall, Southern Lehigh and Bangor.

“Small schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, Wilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.  Each pollster will identify their top five teams in each group—the top school gets five points, the second team gets four points and so on, with an average score determining the order of teams in the poll.

Unlike polls that consist of a couple representatives within the same organization, our poll is much more varied with input from many different people over a wider scope.  Our voting panel consists of local media members from different outlets, along with local coaches and athletic directors from across the entire district.  The voters are not identified (unless they appear on our “SportsTalk” TV show and podcast and chose to reveal themselves) so they can give their honest impressions without any worry of outside pressures or “bulletin board” material, and we rotate different pollsters from different schools each year, including guests from our biggest to our smallest schools.

Now, here are this week’s poll results…

(Note/for the record: one of our voters was “MIA” for this week’s poll).

“ BIG” SCHOOL Football Poll (10 pollsters)
1) Emmaus – 48 (eight – 1st place votes)
2) Parkland – 42 (two – 1st place votes)
3) Freedom — 17
4) Pleasant Valley – 16
5-tied) Nazareth/Whitehall – 13
Other schools receiving more than one vote:  Stroudsburg

 “Small SCHOOL” Football Poll (8 pollsters)
1) Becahi – 41 (six – 1st place votes)
2) Central Catholic – 35 (three -1st place vote)
3) Saucon Valley – 29
4) Notre Dame – 16
5) Palisades – 10

Other schools receiving more than one vote:  Pen Argyl

Coming up on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” show (7pm LIVE, RCN-TV), we have a jammed-packed show with different sports topics.  Keith Groller and I will break down all the various playoff scenarios heading into the final week of the high school football regular season.  Georgetown University Head Football Coach Rob Sgarlata will talk about his team’s impressive performance against Fordham last week and give his thoughts on this weekend’s game against Lafayette.  Plus, Phillies beat writer Stephen Gross will talk about the World Series and the Phillies off-season agenda.  Gross also covers the Phantoms and will talk about the Flyers upcoming season as well as top prospects to keep an eye on.

Email me at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and tune in for this week’s “SportsTalk” show and podcast for more

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Football Poll – Week 6

Without question, it’s been one of the wildest high school football seasons in recent memory, and our poll experts have had a heck of a time trying to give us perspective on which have been the top teams each week.  Heck, we pretty much went the last two years with Parkland being the definitive top team in the Lehigh Valley region.

Undaunted, we’ll proceed in unveiling this week’s listing of the best teams in the RCN coverage area for District XI.

But first, a quick recap of how we put our polls together and arrive at our conclusions for our bi-weekly  results.

Unlike polls that consist of a couple representatives within the same organization, our poll is much more varied with input from many different people over a wider scope.  Our voting panel consists of local media members from different outlets, along with local coaches and athletic directors from across the entire district.  The voters are not identified (unless they appear on our “SportsTalk” TV show and podcast and chose to reveal themselves) so they can give their honest impressions without any worry of outside pressures or “bulletin board” material, and we rotate different pollsters from different schools each year, including guests from our biggest to our smallest schools.

Despite this fall’s change in the PIAA classification, our poll remains with the standard, tried-and-true format that we have utilized for many seasons.  We will take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN footprint.  All schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. These schools consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, Dieruff, Freedom, Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley, Northampton, Nazareth, East Stroudsburg-South, Whitehall, Southern Lehigh and Bangor.

“Small schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, Wilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.  Each pollster will identify their top five teams in each group—the top school gets five points, the second team gets four points and so on, with an average score determining the order of teams in the poll.

Now, here are this week’s poll results…

“ BIG” SCHOOL FB Poll (10 pollsters)
1. Emmaus – 50 total points (ten – 1st place votes
2. Parkland – 40
3. Whitehall – 19
4. Liberty – 16
5. Freedom – 14
Note: Pleasant Valley and Stroudsburg also received at least one vote.

“Small SCHOOL” FB Poll (9 pollsters)
1. Becahi – 44 total points  (eight – 1st place votes)
2. Central Catholic – 34  (one -1st place vote)
3. Notre Dame – 26
4-tie  Northwestern – 15
Saucon Valley — 15
Other schools receiving at least one vote: Pen Argyl

Disagree with someone’s placement?  Should one team be ranked higher than another?  Feel free to email us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com or call us during our live show this Thursday to voice your opinion and talk football with us.  Joining Keith Groller and me will be Philadelphia Eagles Beat Writer Nick Fierro to preview the Birds game against Detroit this weekend (Nick also has some interesting thoughts on HS football as well).  We’ll also have Bill Ladson (mlb.com writer) on this week’s show to talk about the MLB playoff races.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: The New PIAA Classifications

The biggest topic of conversation has been the shift from four classifications to six, with many schools moving to new groupings, approved by Pennsylvania’s governing body over high school sports—the PIAA.  We had a chance recently in studio to discuss this big shake-up with local media members…

Coming up on this Thursday’s live show at 7 pm on RCN-TV (the podcast will be available the next day), District XI Football Chair Jason Zimmerman, along with local head coaches, will be on “RCN SportsTalk” to discuss and debate the advantages of these new alignments.  They will also outline the changes to the regular season schedule, the playoff criteria, the reasoning behind moving some teams and not others and many more issues.

Viewers will have the benefit of calling into the show live or emailing us (rcnsportstalk@rcn.com) questions and concerns about the radical change—including the usually lengthy procedure for these alterations, which took place in a surprisingly quick fashion.

Among the areas of confusion that we’ll hope to clear up on this show include: identifying where the different teams “landed,” why a particular school is sometimes in different classifications for different sports (including different grouping for boys and girls sports), the number of teams that will qualify for the postseason and many more issues.

To help clarify some of the confusion ahead of the show, here is a rundown of where the various schools fall for a couple of the most-covered PIAA sanctioned sports.

FOOTBALL CLASSIFICATIONS…
CLASS 6A:
Allen, Dieruff, Easton, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, Northampton, Parkland, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mt. East, Pocono Mt. West and Stroudsburg

CLASS 5A:
East Stroudsburg North, East Stroudsburg South, Southern Lehigh and Whitehall

CLASS 4A:
Bangor, Bethlehem Catholic, Blue Mountain, Central Catholic, Northwestern Lehigh, Pottsville and Saucon Valley

CLASS 3A:
Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Northern Lehigh, North Schuylkill, Notre Dame-Green Pond, Palisades, Pen Argyl, Salisbury, Tamaqua and Wilson

CLASS 2A:
Catasauqua, Mahanoy Area, Minersville, Palmerton, Panther Valley, Pine Grove, Minersville and Schuylkill Haven

CLASS A:
Marian, Nativity, Shenandoah Valley, Tri-Valley and Williams Valley

BOYS BASKETBALL CLASSIFICATIONS…
CLASS 6A:
Allen, Dieruff, Easton, East Stroudsburg South, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, Northampton, Parkland, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain Easton, Pocono Mountain West, Stroudsburg

CLASS 5A:
Bangor, Blue Mountain, Allentown Central Catholic, East Stroudsburg North, Pottsville, Southern Lehigh and Whitehall

CLASS 4A:
Bethlehem Catholic, Jim Thorpe, North Schuylkill, Northwestern, Pen Argyl, Salisbury, Saucon Valley, Tamaqua and Wilson

CLASS 3A:
Catasauqua, Minersville, Northern Lehigh, Notre Dame-Green Pond, Palmerton and Pine Grove

CLASS 2A:
Mahanoy Area, Marian Catholic, Moravian Academy, Panther Valley, Schuylkill Haven, Shenandoah Valley and Williams Valley

CLASS A:
Lincoln Leadership, Medical Academy, Nativity, Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg, Tri-Valley and Weatherly

As I mentioned months ago on this blog, I myself am taking an optimistic “wait-and-see” approach to see how this new classification system shakes out.  There are some clear advantages for student-athletes and some of the local school sports programs. However, there have also been a number of coaches in the state who have raised concerns about this year’s changes.

Again, you will have the opportunity to call or email the show directly and our guests will be able to address your questions and concerns on this Thursday’s program.  We hope you’ll join us for this important show and let us know your thoughts!

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Football: First Impressions

The high school football season has arrived with an earlier-than-normal start to the season (the PIAA eliminated the second scrimmage week so that the season will start a week earlier and allow for an additional week of playoffs).

We have an unprecedented amount of local high school football coverage, both on RCN On-Demand and on our podcasts here at the RCN TV website.  Despite a busy week of transitioning to the football season, preparing for several “SportsTalk” programs as well as this weekend’s games and also conducting shows from the Allentown Fair this week, I was able to take a moment to reflect on the opening weekend of high school football action.

I’ve compiled a few “first impressions” after the first round of high school football games in the Lehigh Valley:

  • I stirred up some controversy on our “primer shows #1 & #2” by making some lofty predictions about Dez Boykin, Zach Gilbert and the Whitehall Zephyrs (which you can hear for yourself at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk). After the first weekend of games, I saw nothing that would cause me to back off those statements.
  •  There’s no question PARKLAND is the top team in the Lehigh Valley. They had their way with Allen in their season opener—and it won’t be the last time the Trojans put a licking on a local team this fall.  Without DeVante Cross and some other talented, graduated seniors, it won’t be easy for Parkland to equal its 2015 season, which culminated in a trip to Hershey for the PIAA title. Still, anything less than a couple wins in the state playoffs will be a surprise to me, and if you watched “SportsTalk” recently, you know other panelists have made even loftier predictions for the Trojans.
  • I’ve been saying for over a year now that FREEDOM has perhaps the most underrated sports programs in the entire Lehigh Valley, especially now that Bangor has collected some well- deserved recognition after capturing several championships over the last few months.  There might not be a more under-covered football sports story than that of the Patriots’ football program, that has one of the most miraculous turnarounds in recent memory—and to do it in one of the most competitive football leagues in the state!  Furthermore, Head Coach Jason Roeder’s team proved not to be just a once-and-done story, with a dramatic turnaround following a 2-8 season in 2013, but sustaining the success with back-to-back playoff trips the last two seasons.

Still, when I ask people for their impressions of the top EPC teams this fall, the initial responses from most people are always Parkland, without any hesitation.  Freedom does have a very competitive start to their season, with games against Easton, Parkland and Emmaus all in September.  You could also argue that the Patriots had the most challenging week one opponent of anyone in the EPC-South Division.  However, I would be surprised if the Patriots aren’t once again one of the top two teams in their classification this fall.

Do you think Freedom gets the respect?  We’ll talk with Coach Roeder and some of his players on the September 8th edition of “RCN SportsTalk,” and, if you think they should get more publicity, I hope you’ll make your voices known on that particular show.

  • There’s no question NOTRE DAME lost some talented personnel from last year’s record-setting team, but with Phil Stambaugh back operating the offense, I’m not expecting much of a letdown for the Crusaders this season. I fully expect Cole DeFranco, a sophomore quarterback, to thrive given the teachings of new Head Coach Phil Stambaugh.  The players who do return, headed up by Mitch Daniel and others, might make Notre Dame into the new, consistent power team that the Colonial League has featured in the past, like Saucon Valley, Catty, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Wilson before them.

Also, we’ll have Coach Stambaugh and several of his players on a “SportsTalk” show this September as well.

Feel free to send us your opinions on our poll to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we might read your emails live on the air on upcoming programs.  You can comment on this week’s “SportsTalk” program and also, don’t forget to watch this week’s show, in person, at the Farmerama Stage Area at this year’s Great Allentown Fair.

Also, don’t forget to check back to the “SportsTalk Shop” for more on high school football and fall sports teams in the RCN viewing area over the coming weeks for more interviews, video highlights and insights!

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Football “Preview” Poll

To be perfectly honest, I take great pride in an important and popular aspect of our fall football season here at RCN.

For quite some time, I was given the responsibility of putting together the District XI/RCN HS Football Poll, and I have enjoyed building this into what I believe is the most comprehensive scholastic football poll in the region.

Unlike polls that consist of a couple representatives within the same organization, our poll is much more varied with input from many different people over a wider scope.  Our voting panel consists of local media members from different outlets, along with local coaches and athletic directors from across the entire district.  The voters are not identified so they can give their honest impressions without any worry of outside pressures or “bulletin board” material, and we rotate different pollsters from different schools each year, including guests from our biggest to our smallest schools.

As in previous years, we take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN footprint.  All schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. The “Big Schools” consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, Dieruff, Freedom, Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley, Northampton, Nazareth, E. Stroudsburg-South, Whitehall, Southern Lehigh and Bangor.  The “Small Schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, Wilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.  Each pollster will identify their top five teams in each group—the top school gets five points, the second team gets four points and so on, with an average score determining the order of teams in the poll.

With the particulars out of the way, here’s a look at how our preseason poll shakes out…

BIG SCHOOL FB Poll (10 pollsters)
1) Parkland – 50 total votes ( 10 -1st place votes)
2—tied) Easton — 28
2—tied) Freedom — 28
4)  Liberty — 16
5)  Whitehall – 11

Other schools receiving more than one vote:  Emmaus, Stroudsburg

SMALL SCHOOLS FB Poll (9 pollsters)
1)  Bethlehem Catholic – 43 total votes (8  -1st place votes)
2)  Saucon Valley – 36 (1 – 1st place vote)
3)  Northern Lehigh — 20
4)  Central Catholic — 11
5)  Northwestern – 10

Other schools receiving more than one vote: Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Salisbury

I have a few initial thoughts on this poll, which we’ll be addressing in much more detail on this week’s “RCN SportsTalk.”  One thought is that Emmaus looks to be flying under the radar so far this preseason.  They did not have a great 2014 season and graduated a number of skilled position players, including one of the top all-around football stars (Andrew Davidson) in the area.  However, they have added a new quarterback (who has shown great ability in the preseason workouts), they have their entire offensive line returning, and their JV team from a year ago had a TON of speed that should be showcased at the varsity level this fall.  Don’t be surprised if the Hornets move up into one of the “top five” positions at some point this season.

Some may be surprised to see Central Catholic ranked lower than they usually are in previous years.  Without asking any of the pollsters, I believe a major reason for this is the Vikings schedule.  For the second year in a row, they really get hammered out of the gate, playing several of the top five teams (all large school programs) in the first half of the season.  Central Catholic has its work cut out for them to stay even this year, and will probably have to pull off an upset or two in order to make a run at the playoffs this season.  That being said, the Vikings have some nice pieces returning from last year and still could have a better record this fall than they did a year ago.

Another team to watch out for is Salisbury.  After several years of finishing at or near the bottom of the Colonial League standings, they very quietly put together a nice 2014 campaign and bring back many talented players this fall.  They were one of the schools we interviewed over the last week and the Falcons coaches and players seem determined to continue improving, both on the field in and in our poll.

Feel free to send us your opinions on our poll to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and join us this Thursday, live at 7pm on RCN-TV for our “HS Football Preview Show.” We might read your emails live on the air during this program, along with our panelists’ insights and predictions on the new football campaign, plus interviews with local players and coaches.  We’ll also have a segment devoted to NFL “fantasy” football, with tips and strategies on preparing your team for the upcoming season.  And don’t forget to check back to the “SportsTalk Shop” as the high school football season unfolds for the latest results of our bi-weekly high school football poll.