The SportsTalk Shop: HS Football – One MonthIn

Since we started the high school football season, I guess it shouldn’t be hard to believe that we are already halfway through the regular season (although with the expanded playoffs, we still have over two months to go).

With that said, I wanted to recap some of the major high school sports stories in the Lehigh Valley from this past weekend, along with highlights of our RCN-TV productions through the season’s first four weeks.

  • There have been very few head coaches I’ve talked with who did not say that Bethlehem Catholic had the best front six defenders in the entire Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. But they showed their balance last weekend against Liberty on Saturday. Their speedy, but at some spots, inexperienced secondary came through and equaled the effort of the players up front. On offense, they continued to grind out a solid running attack, led by Day-Day Rhodes and Randy Terry, and newly named (after week two) full-time quarterback Javon Clements, who led a balanced attack with a very solid passing game and excellent decision-making. The Golden Hawks wanted to send a message that they belong in the EPC South Division, and delivered their first statement win against a traditional power.
  • We mentioned on our high school football preview shows in August that Emmaus’s Josh Artis belongs on a short list of the most talented wide receivers in the region. He’s continued to have proven us correct in recent weeks. At 6’5 and with great leaping ability, he’s very hard to cover for most corners in the league in single coverage. The only way to slow him down seems to be pressuring the quarterback–although that’s not a given with the Hornets solid offensive line.  Also, with Artis running the inside slant, it’s not an easy task for most opposing teams’ defenses to cover. Look for Artis to continue to be a m ajor playmaker this weekend versus Freedom and going forward this fall.
  • Saucon Valley handled Southern Lehigh last Friday and Notre Dame also defeated the Spartans a couple weeks ago. This, in probability, should set up a rematch of what was last year’s Colonial League game of the year, when the Panthers will take on the Crusaders in week nine. Both teams lost some talented seniors to graduation, but have removed any doubt of their ability to reload and, barring a major upset, and will once again play for the top spot in the league.

Speaking of Notre Dame, we will find out firsthand more about this team, including how good they think they can be this year, along with insights on their success so far and their upcoming schedule.  Head coach Phil Stambaugh and his players will be our in-studio guests on this Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk presented by The Morning Call” show, live at 7 p.m. on RCN TV.

Now, here are video highlights of all of our HS football productions, thus far…

Don’t forget to send us your sports comments and questions at any time via email (rcnsportstalk@rcn.com) and to tune in on Thursdays, when I’m joined by new co-host/Morning Call Senior Sports Writer Keith Groller on each show.

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Football Poll – Week 2

First of all, a big “thank-you” to all the people who sent me positive feedback following our unprecedented THREE HOURS of high school football primer talk (which you can catch through RCN On-Demand or at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk).  We had some wonderful insights on the local teams and players in the RCN viewing area, along with predictions, identified athletes-to-watch, “must see” match-ups, and, of course, our RCN pre-season football poll.  We hope you check it out if you missed it!

Speaking of polls….

It seems bizarre that it’s already time for our “Week Two” high school football polls for teams and only now have we celebrated Labor Day. (I joke when people mention this holiday as I, along with nearly every coach, player, administrator and media member rarely can have a Labor Day Monday in which you’re not doing something football related, or else you find yourself massively behind in the preparation department for this week’s chores).

It’s the same thing for our high school football poll panelists, who were hard at work over the last 24 hours reviewing last weekend’s gridiron activities, comparing notes and sizing up the competition around the Lehigh Valley, in order to submit their picks for our bi-weekly poll.

With that said, here’s a look at our first “in-season” ranking of the teams in the RCN/Lehigh Valley footprint after two solid weeks of high school gridiron action:

BIG SCHOOL FB Poll (10 pollsters)
1) Parkland (5-1st place votes)
2) Freedom (4-1st place votes)
3) Liberty
4) Emmaus (1)
5) Easton
Other schools receiving more than one vote: Southern Lehigh, Whitehall

SMALL SCHOOLS FB Poll (9 pollsters)
1) Saucon Valley (5 – 1st place votes)
2) Becahi (4 – 1st place votes)
3) Central Catholic
4) Notre Dame
5) Northwestern
Other schools receiving more than one vote: Pen Argyl, Salisbury

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, E. 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.

For the RCN viewers watching us in the Washington, DC region, we are once again featuring your high school football teams with highlights and news on the different programs on our Thursday show.

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 directions on this week’s “RCN SportsTalk” program this Thursday and our podcast of the show available on our website.

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!