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Friday, August 31, 2012

Here's a look at tonight's matchups

METHACTON AT SOUDERTON TIME: Friday, 7:00 p.m., Souderton Area High School RECORDS: Methacton and Souderton were both 6-5 last season. LAST SEASON’S GAME: Did not play. OUTLOOK: The Warriors come off their first winning season since 2000, and face a handful in their season opener against a big, physical Indians team. Gone are the talented skill players of a season ago, but Souderton brings back four linemen, including oversized and highly regarded junior Ricky Young (6-2, 296) and Ben Licona. “They’re big, and they get off the ball,” said Methacton head coach Paul Lepre. “Defensively, they come after you. They send at least five guys on every play. And they play a lot of man coverage. So we’re going to have to try and beat that coverage and get the ball out early.” Defensively, the Souderton Wing-T is also tough to defend. First-year starter Anthony Williams is the new go-to back while WR Kyle Wenger is a dangerous target in the passing game. “With the Wing-T, we have to stay disciplined and maintain gap responsibility,” Lepre said. “We’re going to have to get stops to be successful.’ Warriors NG Ernie Buono is out this week with a concussion.

NORRISTOWN AT POTTSGROVE TIME: Friday, 7:00 p.m., Pottsgrove High School RECORDS: Norristown was 5-5 last season. Pottsgrove was 11-3 and District One Class AAA champions. LAST SEASON’S GAME: Norristown won, 27-20. OUTLOOK: The Eagles have a challenge-and-a-half in their opener in the Falcons, who return six defensive starters and five offensive starters from a team that won a district title. Topping the list is QB Tory Hudgins, who ran for 1,527 yards, threw for 653 and accounted for a combined 38 TDs last season. He’s joined by RB Mark Dukes, who had over 1,000 yards rushing before breaking his ankle late in the regular season. Mammoth tackle Madison O’Connor (6-6, 340) is one of several standout linemen. “They’re very good, their program is strong,” praised Eagles head coach E.J. Smith. “Their quarterback runs the option very well, and he has some Division One linemen in front of him.” Norristown is very young, but is strong at linebacker, with Darius Wills and Wayne Kinsey returning. Junior Sonny Brewer will make his first varsity start at quarterback. “The guys have improved throughout camp,” Smith said, “and they’re looking forward to the challenge this week.”

WILLIAM TENNENT AT WISSAHICKON TIME: Friday, 7:00 p.m., Wissahickon High School RECORDS: William Tennent was 4-7 last season. Wissahickon was 7-3. LAST SEASON’S GAME: Wissahickon won, 10-7. OUTLOOK: Last year, the Trojans used their come-from-behind, season-opening win over the Panthers as a springboard to a good year. It may not be as easy this year, as Wissahickon head coach Jeff Cappa is wary of a Tennent team that brings back QB Joe Lutz, who threw for 484 yards last year, its leading rusher, Cameron Jenkins (524 yds.) and a legitimate pass rusher in Mark Isaac. “They run a spread offense, and their coaches do a good job of getting their quick athletes the ball in space,” Cappa said. “Defensively, they’re very aggressive. They sometimes bring nine guys up to defend the run. “On both sides of the ball, there’s a lot to prepare for.” Cappa added that while Wissahickon has no major injuries, the availability of as many as four players could come down to game-time decisions.

UPPER DUBLIN AT CENTRAL BUCKS WEST TIME: Friday, 7:00 p.m., War Memorial Field, Doylestown RECORDS: Upper Dublin was 7-3 last season and lost in the opening round of the District One Class AAAA playoffs. Central Bucks West was 5-6. LAST SEASON’S GAME: Central Bucks West won, 10-7. OUTLOOK: Upper Dublin’s optimism at the start of last season took a hit when the Cardinals struggled against the Bucks in the opener. This season, the expectations are not as high for the Cardinals, but they’re still going to have a tall order in West, which is utilizing a spread offense featuring one running back and four receivers. “They’re throwing the ball all over the place,” said UD head coach Bret Stover. “They’re also being very aggressive on defense. They’re using a 3-5-3 and their kids are playing downhill. “They’re very impressive on tape, and this will be a good test for us early.” QB Cody Riemenschneider is the man the UD defense must contain, as well as RB Sherrod Higginbotham, who rushed for better than 900 yards last year. Linebacker Kevin Duggan leads the West defense. As for the Cardinals, they’re hoping to get good fast. “We’re very young,” Stover said. “We’re making young mistakes, but we’re getting better every day.” Injuries up front may result in the Cardinals using some freshmen in the trenches.

PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH AT PERKIOMEN VALLEY TIME: Friday, 7:00 p.m., Perkiomen Valley High School RECORDS: Plymouth Whitemarsh was 8-2 and Suburban One League American Conference champions last year and lost in the opening round of the District One Class AAAA playoffs. Perkiomen Valley was 5-6. LAST SEASON’S GAME: Did not play. OUTLOOK: When Methacton dropped PW, the Colonials were looking for an opener. Enter North Penn assistant coach Jeff Childs, who used to coach with PW head coach Dan Chang, and who just happens to be PV head coach Scott Reed’s brother-in-law. Childs knew PV had an open date, told Chang, and now the Colonials and Vikings open the season. And it should be a good one. With neither side wanting for speed and athleticism, the last possession may win it. Of course, any talk about Perk Valley begins with junior QB Rasaan Stewart, who after throwing for 743 yards and running for 544 more as a sophomore, has some tongues wagging. “He’s one of the most athletic guys out there,” said Chang, whose team will be breaking in its new 5-2 base defense. “He throws a nice ball and he can beat you with his legs. And (PV) has a good pace to their no-huddle, spread offense.” “Football is a team game,” added Reed, “but Rasaan has matured a lot since last season, both physically and mentally, and he’s starting to hit his stride and doing the things on the field he should be doing. His success will have a lot to do with our success.” Chang’s praise of the Vikings, however, does not end with their offense. “Defensively, they like moving people around and bringing pressure,” said Chang. “We’re really going to have to get a good game from our offensive line.”

LA SALLE AT NORTH PENN TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m., North Penn High School RECORDS: La Salle was 12-2 last year while winning the Philadelphia Catholic League and District 12 championships. North Penn was 13-3 while winning the Suburban One League Continental Conference and District One Class AAAA championships and reaching the PIAA Class AAAA finals. LAST SEASON’S GAME: La Salle won the season opener, 44-27, while North Penn won the PIAA Class AAAA Eastern final, 21-14. OUTLOOK: See Sideline Insider

WHITEHALL AT SPRING-FORD TIME: Friday, 7:00 p.m., Spring-Ford Middle School RECORDS: Whitehall was 8-4 last season. Spring-Ford was 10-2 and the Pioneer Athletic Conference champions, but lost in the opening round of the District One Class AAAA playoffs. LAST SEASON’S GAME: Did not play. OUTLOOK: Expectations are high for the Rams, who will be defending their PAC crown, and who welcome back QB Hank Coyne, who threw for 1,840 yards and 16 TDs last year, and Jarred Jones, who rushed for 1,520 yards as a sophomore a season ago. But Spring-Ford has a tough opening opponent in the Zephyrs, who have designs on challenging in the Lehigh Valley Conference behind new coach (and former Palisades mentor) Brian Gilbert and senior QB Nick Shafnisky, a Lehigh recruit. Shafnisky has plenty of weapons at his disposal, including RB James Wah and wideouts Seth and Nick Sommer. O-linemen Jacob Wygant, Aaron Genevese and Thomas Ritter are the main components of a solid front.

UPPER MERION AT PENNCREST TIME: Friday, 7:00 p.m., Penncrest High School RECORDS: Upper Merion was 0-10 last season. Penncrest was 2-8 last season. LAST SEASON’S GAME: Did not play. OUTLOOK: Upper Merion head coach Harold Smith says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about this season as his Vikings enter the campaign trying to snap a 20-game losing streak. Smith’s optimism is legitimate as UM has eight starters back on both sides of the ball, including leading rusher Hassan Gardner, leading receiver Connor McGrath and standout two-way lineman Adam Tancini. But that’s no guarantee of success, Smith pointed out. “You just can’t look good on paper,” Smith said. The coach added that the Lions, another team that struggled a season ago, were a club to be reckoned with. “Their skill positions (which include returning RB Joe Gartland and WR Kevin Trusty) look very good,” he said. “The quarterback (returnee Shane Donnelly) throws the ball well. “And like us, they’re hungry to get a win.”

RADNOR AT ARCHBISHOP CARROLL TIME: Friday, 7:00 p.m., Radnor High School RECORDS: Radnor was 0-11 last season. Archbishop Carroll was 1-9 last season. LAST SEASON’S GAME: Archbishop Carroll won, 30-20. OUTLOOK: Two teams, who managed one win between them last season (and it was Carroll’s season-opening win over Radnor), are looking for bounce-back years. The Raiders are looking to right the ship behind a new veer-option offense, which will be directed by QB Ellis Schaefer and which will feature RBs John D’Ignazio and Jimmy Blake. Carroll, ravaged by injury a year ago, has significant offensive weaponry in returning QB Sal Bello and RB Eric Massenburg, who is looking to become the Patriots’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2005. Danny Bier heads a deep and talented receiving corps.

BERKS CATHOLIC AT POPE JOHN PAUL II TIME: Saturday, 1:00 p.m., Pope John Paul II High School RECORDS: Berks Catholic was 6-4 last seaso. Pope John Paul II was 5-6 last season and lost in the opening round of the District One Class AAA playoffs. LAST SEASON’S GAME: Pope John Paul II won, 32-21. OUTLOOK: The Golden Panthers begin the post-David Cotellese era with a little more punch than most would expect. James Bleming, who steps into the void left by Cotellese, the PAC’s best statistical quarterback a year ago, does not represent a significant drop-off at the position, and he has two solid receivers to work with in WR Jamel Stinson and TE Tim Tadros and three returnees on the offensive line to protect him. Berks, meanwhile, had a down (for them) season a year ago, but are hopeful of returning to the postseason behind RBs Chris Warren and Cooper Kutz and pass-rushing DEs Pietro Gaspari and Sebastian Martinez. Saints veteran mentor Rick Keeley will be coaching his 295th high school game.

PREP CHARTER AT LANSDALE CATHOLIC TIME: Saturday, 3:15 p.m., Ocean City (N.J.) High School RECORDS: Prep Charter was 5-7 last season. Lansdale Catholic was 2-8 last season. LAST SEASON’S GAME: Did not play. OUTLOOK: The Crusaders begin the Post-Algeo Era a long ways from home – in Ocean City, N.J., to be exact – and with some optimism under first-year head coach Tom Kirk. The team looks strong offensively, with all-purpose playmaker James Ward, the team’s leading receiver last year, and RB Kevin Sabo certain to get the lion’s share of the touches. QB Pat Duggan, who saw some time last year, has been solid throughout camp. Another key contributor, FB/LB Tyler Smith, transferred to Archbishop Wood. Like LC, the Huskies bring back some skill players, with their two top runners, Jovan Matthews and Anthony Wyche, and the team’s two QBs, Troy Johnson and Vion Dolo, back in the fold. — Dennis C. Way


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