Most of our attention this week has been turned toward the playoffs. Were we with Major League Baseball, we might have come up with some type of cheesy slogan about these games counting and paired it with some commensurately corny celebrity spokesperson or an atrocious, “One Shining Moment” wannabe pop song flop.
But we’re not (and we sleep a lot better for it). So instead, we’re going to turn our attention to games that still count, just not for an opportunity to take part in the PIAA tournament. Each team that plays in the next couple weeks has something to gain and a story to tell. More than a few have exciting football to produce. So for those teams not getting their postseason tickets punched, here are a few talking points:
- It would be really nice for Radnor to get off the schneid this week. They’re making progress, playing Marple Newtown tough before taking Penncrest to overtime. The Red Raiders are getting contributions from Tim Wilson, and TaJae Bryant is healthy again and showing the potential that had me thinking he was among the county’s top 10 running backs at the beginning of the season. They can beat Lower Merion in one of the nation’s oldest public school rivalries. And I think they will.
- Haverford may have missed out on the AAAA playoffs. But I firmly believe a team that gets 10 games out of Eddie Durkin under center – and Mike Clancy full-time in the backfield – is a playoff-caliber team. The Council Rock North game is assuredly a win if everyone’s healthy, and who knows if the games against Springfield and Conestoga don’t turn out differently with the benefit of a full season together. They have two games to turn this into a seven-win season, and both – Sun Valley and Upper Darby – are eminently winnable.
- Two games remain for Chichester, against Neumann-Goretti and Sun Valley. What kind of a boost would a four-win season give that program? This is a team loaded with talented juniors and sophomores. Call me crazy, but Duffy Gilhool and company could make some hey in the Del Val next year.
- Penncrest bears a mention though they are done for the season despite efforts to get another game together. Two straight wins to finish out the slate means they’ll likely carry the county’s longest winning streak into 2012. Was this a veteran team, I would be disappointed that head coach Rick Stroup was unable to get another game or two. But this is a young team that has a lot of talent returning. They’ll have plenty of chance to play football – and I believe meaningful, winning football – next season.
- Cardinal O’Hara made its playoff appearance already and fell to Monsignor Bonner a second time this season. But I’m excited to see what they can do against Haverford School in two weeks in a game that was postponed from Week 2 due to the teachers’ strike. It’s an interesting barometer for comparison between the Catholic League and Inter-Ac and features two skilled teams that can move the ball. It should be an excellent game that only would’ve been made better had it fallen earlier in the season.
- Glen Mills season is also done, and I’m sure there are few teams out there that want to face a team like the Battlin’ Bulls that started to gel down the stretch. It’s only a shame that a Del Val title doesn’t compensate them for their slow start to the season against excellent competition (most of which, it should be mentioned, are still playing the District One AAAA playoffs) with a playoff berth.
- At 2-8, Upper Darby’s season could use a little window dressing down the stretch. A game against Penn Wood is a chance to pick up a win, and most speculation goes out the window in a rivalry game like the Thanksgiving tilt against Haverford.
- Another game for Penn Wood means another chance for Troy Brooks’ kids to get some valuable experience. They impressed me in the second half against Interboro – albeit against the Bucs’ reserves. Senior quarterback Jamal McDonald can make some throws, and he has targets like Justin Jacobs and Chris Willingham that can find space and make things happen.
- Sun Valley, one of only two remaining winless teams along with Radnor, has two chances to open its account on the season. They won’t be favored against West Chester East or Chichester, but neither game is what I would consider unwinnable. They’ve proven an ability to put up points behind stalwart senior quarterback Bill Hudson. If they can just cobble together a few defensive stops, perhaps they can snatch a win.
- Finally, Chester faces an uphill battle against an undefeated Caravel Academy team from Delaware. Chuck Crews’ team has been banged up all season, but they are able to manufacture the kind of talent that makes it hard for them to stay down long.