Rick O'Brien's Five Football Questions
Q: What are the top area games to watch in Week No. 4?
A: There are several key league matchups this week. Here are the top two:
1. No. 6-ranked Neshaminy (3-0, 0-0) at No. 7 Abington (2-0, 0-0), Friday at 7 p.m. A victory here is crucial in the bid for a Suburban One League National Conference championship. For the winner, only No. 3 Pennsbury would stand in the way of an outright title. Interestingly, the Redskins have been alternating quarterbacks, using both Brian Titus and Charlie Martially. Will coach Mark Schmidt stay with that system the rest of the way or choose a No. 1 QB? The Ghosts were idle last week – and they weren’t happy about it. Northeast, which had been their Week No. 3 opponent, opted to instead play Bensalem. Abington is led by QB Sam Kind, tailback Julien Ireland, and wideout Anthony Hensley. Last year, the Redskins won, 7-0, at Heartbreak Ridge.
2. No. 2 La Salle (3-0, 0-0) vs. No. 4 St. Joseph’s Prep (2-1, 0-0), at Plymouth Whitemarsh, Saturday at 7 p.m. The bitter Catholic League Division AAAA rivals meet again, this time in the league opener. For the Hawks, coming off a 28-14 loss to top-ranked North Penn, it is the fourth game in a five-game Murderer’s Row. They opened with wins over WPIAL power McKeesport and St. Peter’s (N.J), took on a North Penn squad that had overpowered defending PIAA Class AAAA state champ Liberty in the opener, and will follow the La Salle game with fellow division toughie Father Judge (3-0). The big issue for La Salle, of course is the health and playing status of junior tailback/defensive back Jamal Abdur-Rahman (bruised knee) and senior wideout/linebacker Sam Feleccia (high ankle sprain). Both missed Friday’s 16-14 win over West Catholic.
The Explorers beat the Prep twice last year, by 31-17 during the regular season and 31-28 in the Catholic League semifinals. That said, Prep has revenge firmly in mind.
Q: How good is Pottsgrove?
A: Very good. The No. 10-ranked Falcons have a number of quick-footed, electrifying skill-position players. That group includes junior QB Terrell Chestnut, tailback Maika Polamalu and fullback Preston Hamlette. Polamalu, by the way, is the cousin of injured Pittsburgh Steeler safety Troy Polamalu. With a spread offense, the Class AAA squad has outscored foes, 107-21, through three games. A 45-0 romp over Class AAAA Wissahickon in Week No. 2 was an indication of its power. Down the line, look for Rick Pennypacker’s team to face West Chester Rustin (3-0) in the District 1 Class AAA final. That would be quite the game, with the Knights trying to counter the Falcons’ explosiveness with 2,000-yard rusher Rondell White.
Q: What happens now at Central Bucks East, where head coach Tim Michael suddenly resigned last Friday? Sources have told me that Michael, a second-year coach with a 4-9 overall record, resigned for “personal” or non-football reasons. We hope that everything is fine with Michael, a social studies teacher at the school, and his family. We would hate to think that he simply bailed out on a team that was 0-3 and had been outscored by a combined 97-31. The Patriots did play three pretty good opponents in Abington (31-10), Council Rock South (31-7) and defending District 12 Class AAAA champion George Washington (35-14). That said, not all was bad heading into SOL Continental Conference play. Michael and athletic director John Reading have yet to return phone calls seeking comment. According to a C.B. East principal Abram M. Lucabaugh, the assistant coaches will jointly run the team for the remaining seven games, beginning with Friday’s league opener at Hatboro-Horsham.
Q: With most teams set to begin league play this weekend, what teams do you expect to take home regular-season titles in the SOL, Catholic League, Pioneer Athletic Conference, Ches-Mont National and American Divisions, Inter-Academic League, Del-Val League, Central League, and Bicentennial League?
A: OK, here we go: Pennsbury in the SOL National, North Penn in the SOL Continental, Upper Moreland in the SOL American; St. Joseph’s Prep in the Catholic League; Pottsgrove in the PAC-10; Downingtown West in the Ches-Mont National; West Chester Rustin in the Ches-Mont American; Chestnut Hill Academy (with strong resistance from Malvern Prep) in the Inter-Ac; Interboro in the Del-Val; Ridley in the Central; and Bristol in the Bicentennial League.
Q: What’s with all the early-season injuries?
A: Good question. Tough one to answer. In addition to La Salle’s Rahman and Feleccia, several other elite players have been slowed or sidelined by injuries. That list includes Downingtown West QB Bret Gillespie (shoulder separation, expected to be out one more week), North Catholic tailback Eugene Byrd (out the last two weeks with an ankle issue), Archbishop Wood QB Jerry Rahill (missed Saturday’s game versus Archbishop Ryan with a concussion), and Upper Moreland tailback Chris Smallwood (sat out most of Thursday’s game against Lansdale Catholic with a rolled ankle).
Here’s hoping for improved health for all.
Contact staff writer Rick O’Brien at 610-313-8019 or firstname.lastname@example.org.