With the 2012 campaign about to kick off, it's time to look at some pressing matters for area teams, discuss a few things to keep an eye on, list a few must-see players, and make our usual can't-miss predictions.
Tweaking the system. It's being called "the North Penn rule."
District 1's playoff-points system will be altered slightly beginning in 2013, with a team receiving 10 "bonus" points for each victory registered during the season by a team to which it lost. Currently, no "bonus" points are awarded for a defeat.
"It's going to reward teams that go out and play a tough schedule," Downingtown West coach Mike Milano said. "As it is now, most schools are looking to pad their schedule and get as many points as possible."
The District 1 steering committee, which includes coaches from each of the leagues, unanimously voted for the proposal during an offseason meeting. The district board then signed off on it.
Last season, after early losses to Catholic League toughies La Salle and St. Joseph's Prep, North Penn finished the regular season at 8-2. The Knights were awarded District 1 Class AAAA's No. 11 seed, and had to hit the road against No. 6 West Chester Rustin (9-1) in the opening round.
North Penn easily ousted the Golden Knights, 48-21. Then, en route to the district crown, the Knights played quarterfinal and semifinal games at home against lower-seeded foes.
Also in the first round last year, No. 13 Central Bucks South defeated No. 4 Plymouth Whitemarsh, No. 15 Pennsbury topped No. 2 Abington, and No. 14 Neshaminy beat No. 3 Unionville.
Teams get between 40 and 160 points, plus potential bonus points, for a victory, depending on the size of the winning and losing teams.
Beginning in 2013, it is hoped, a school will be more inclined to schedule a high-caliber foe or perennial power than an easy-points patsy. Then, even in a loss, points are still sure to be gained.
Also, the headache associated with a scheduled opponent bailing out on the back end of a two-year contract, for fear of losing again and coming away with zero points, should be eased.
Shifting gears. Earlier this week, West Catholic canceled its scheduled opener against Eastern Christian Academy, of Elkton, Md. It had been set for Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Widener University.
West Catholic administrators had worries about Eastern Christian being sanctioned and accredited by the state of Maryland. The legitimacy of the game, as a result, could have been called into question by the PIAA.
"Too much was going on there," West Catholic coach and athletic director Brian Fluck said. "We have more to lose than they do."
Eastern Christian has at least seven Division I-A senior recruits. Sophomore quarterback David Sills committed to USC as a seventh grader.
Eastern Christian was profiled in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated. SI's Lee Jenkins wrote, "Strictly speaking, Eastern Christian is not even a school but rather a club, with members who attend an online private school called National Connections Academy."
Quotable. Cheltenham coach Joe Gro, on senior cornerback Hyneef Dockery: "He's pretty stinkin' innate. He's the best corner we've had since Brandon Bing."
Bing, a 2007 Cheltenham graduate, went on to play at Rutgers and spent last season on the New York Giants' practice squad. He was cut by the Giants on Monday.
Little Jon. Skyler Mornhinweg is now at the University of Florida, but St. Joseph's Prep still has players with ties to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Following in the footsteps of his same-named father, a former Bird and current U.S. Congressman from South Jersey, sophomore Jon Runyan is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound offensive tackle.
Andres Castillo, son of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, is a freshman quarterback for the Hawks.
Fab frosh? At Council Rock North, freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain is drawing continued raves. The 6-foot, 178-pounder, who was a star at Newtown Middle School, shows impressive poise and ability for his age.
McIlwain, who shared repetitions during the summer with junior Joe Eick, gained national attention last year when he made a 56-yard throw in a national competition.
"He's going to be a good one down the line," Indians coach Adam Collachi said.
Maybe sooner. Collachi, in the team's second scrimmage, tabbed McIlwain as the starter. Eick is expected to see time on offense at tight end.
Crystal ball. Here's our prediction of the playoff qualifiers in District 1's top two enrollment classifications, in order of seeding:
AAAA (16): Downingtown East, Garnet Valley, Neshaminy, Ridley, Coatesville, Unionville, North Penn, Pennsbury, Spring-Ford, Pennridge, West Chester Rustin, Souderton, Council Rock South, Cheltenham, Haverford High, Wissahickon.
AAA (8): Pottsgrove, Interboro, Strath Haven, West Chester Henderson, Marple Newtown, Springfield (Delco), Glen Mills, Phoenixville.
State champions: AAAA, La Salle over North Allegheny; AAA, Archbishop Wood over Central Valley; AA, Jeannette over Wyomissing; A, Clairton over Southern Columbia.