The Sports Talk Shop: Chris’s “ALL-UNDERRATED” Football Edition (Part 1)

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Last year, I did a blog entry here at “The Shop” reflecting back on the past basketball season that was well-received and seemed to generate some very positive comments.

The idea for that blog was not to single out the best players, teams and individual plays, but to spotlight student-athletes and coaches who did something great but perhaps didn’t get the attention he or she deserved.

As with the “All-Underrated Team” I did last spring, it’s completely arbitrary and was based solely on the games that I witnessed in person—either as a broadcaster or as a spectator. It did NOT include any games or videos I watched through RCN On-Demand, HUDL or any videos I saw on social media.

With that in mind, I wanted to single out some individuals who fit that same criteria during this past District XI high school football season.

The awards go to…

MOST UNDERRATED KICKER

Whitehall’s Alex Khouri.

The Zephyrs had a rare poor season and was one of the few Lehigh Valley teams that did not qualify for the playoffs this year.  However, Khouri was one of the most consistent extra point kickers in the area and had a strong leg on kickoffs in the few times we got an opportunity to see Whitehall this past season.

MOST UNDERRATED DEFENSIVE PLAYER IN A GAME

Southern Lehigh Linebacker LB Asher Smith. In a game I witnessed as a fan, the junior really stood out in a much-needed win over Palmerton after the Spartans were upset against Saucon Valley to open the season. Smith had a team-high nine solo tackles (10 total), five pass breakups and one pick-six….he also played well, was all over the place the previous week in keeping his team in the close game in the Panthers loss and also ended up with several returned kickoffs as one of the “up men.”

MOST UNDERRATED DEFENSIVE PLAYER/SEASON

Bethlehem Catholic’s Tavion Banks and Paul Carreras

Banks was one of the preseason “running backs to watch” in both local papers, however, he impressed me even more with his defense this past fall.  Banks is one of the top cover men in league—I kept reading in the high school football capsules each week that Becahi’s secondary was a weakness and that teams will look to exploit the Hawks’ ability to give up big plays.  However, the Hawks’ passing yardage was right in line with their opponents (153 yards per game vs. 158 at the end of the regular season).  I thought Banks did a great job keying on other teams’ top receivers and Becahi had just as many big players (if not more) than many other LV teams.

Carreras deserves extra mention because he was not only a standout linebacker all year long, but he was impressive offense (and both a running and a blocking back) and even excelled in the thankless role of a punter (averaging over 37 yards per punt during the regular season—one of the top marks in the area) and filled in kicker when Penn State-bound Anthony DeSilva went down with an injury (and did an admirable job in that role, too.)  All he did on defense was lead his team in tackles, tackles for a loss and sacks (77, 22 and 8, respectively, using his final regular season numbers).  Not too bad anchoring a defense that—for the third straight year—many people called the best “Front 6” in the entire Lehigh Valley.

MOST UNDERRATED IMPACT (IN THE LEAST AMOUNT OF TIME)
 
Parkland Running Back Isiah Rico.  Before last season started, I heard great things about Rico’s potential as a quality back in the Lehigh Valley.  When senior starter Joseph Guida went down with a major injury, the sophomore Rico had to step into the spotlight in what may have been the team’s biggest regular season game against Bethlehem Catholic—only to sustain several serious injuries himself in that contest.

But what impressed me the most about Rico’s season was not the numbers he posted during his brief varsity experience this fall, but rather the conversation I had with him the week after suffering the injury.  When I talked with him the before the Liberty game, he was very positive about the team’s ability to overcome losing its two top running backs (at a time when there was still much indecision about the Trojans’ quarterbacks as well).  He also was in great spirits and refused to say anything negative about the situation surrounding the injury (on a controversial hit) and really gave some great responses in what could have been a very tough situation for him.

I am sure he will go on to post great numbers in his junior and senior seasons, but I instantly became a fan of Rico going forward based on the maturity he displayed in an off-the-field conversation.
 
MOST UNDERRATED UPSET

The then-winless Zephyrs. They defeated a Central Catholic team that had won two of its first three games, including an impressive victory over a Nazareth team that was also feeling good about themselves following terrific performances the first few weeks of the season. Whitehall not only pulled the upset but did it by scoring 75 points (and several Vikings fans admitted they probably could have scored more than night if they wanted to).

Both Central Catholic and Nazareth proved to be playoff teams again this year, which further showed what a big win it was for the Zephs.  (Did I mention that I was the only Lehigh Valley football media member who had predicted that Whitehall would win that game in advance?  I won’t mention I also predicted their other upset win over another playoff team in Northampton.)

MOST UNDERRATED COMEBACK STORY

The Northern Lehigh football team. Not only did Head Coach Joe Tout and his coaching staff turned around last year’s dismal season by posting five wins, but would have easily qualified for the playoffs had the powers-that-be not reduced the 3A classification qualifiers from eight to four teams.

A playoff appearance for the always hard-working Bulldogs would have been the perfect cherry to top the dramatic turnaround, but this year’s team certainly laid the groundwork for what will probably be an even more impressive football squad for the 2019 campaign.

MOST UNDERRATED FAN BASE

Palisades. One of District XI’s smallest schools features one of the most passionate and classy fans—from students, players, parents and coaches.

We talked at length about how well this group handled the controversial situation involving the previous year’s state playoff game loss to Conwell Egan.  This year, the team was in the hunt for another Colonial League championship—yet had the dubious distinction of being in the 3A classification (which switched from eight playoff qualifying spots to just four) and faced a nearly impossible road to a potential post-season berth once the team picked up its first loss.

This group remained loyal when the team was struggling to get enough players on the field to play a few years back and have handled being one of the league’s elite teams the past few years with respect towards other schools.  It was very enjoyable to travel outside our coverage area to Kintnersville again this year to see the stadium (how can you go wrong with a pirates ship on the field?), to experience the warm hospitality I experienced and receive the nice comments they passed along to me regarding reading my blog.

More “awards” coming, next week….

Behind the Mic: A Much Different Weekend

If you recall, last weekend in the NFL, all of the underdogs won.  That’s right.  The teams that were favored to win did not.  And the thought by many was that the Colts, Cowboys, Chargers, and the Eagles all had a legitimate shot to do the same thing this weekend.  Perish the thought!

The Colts were never in the game with the Chiefs (31-13).  Dallas needed a late score to make the game look closer than it was against the Rams (30-22).  The Chargers were anemic against the Patriots (41-28).  The Eagles, on the other hand, came within an unfinished drive of beating the Saints, but they, too, did not prevail (20-14).

So, the divisional round games were basically a bunch of “yawners”.  But, that should not be the case this coming weekend.  Each match-up is extremely intriguing.

According to the lines on the games – 3 points for the Chiefs and 3.5 points for the Patriots – the only difference between the four appears to be the home field advantage.  The other interesting thing about the match-ups is each game involves high-scoring offenses.  Again the over/under line is 57 for the Rams and the Saints and 57.5 for the Patriots and the Chiefs.  The 114.5 combined number is the largest in 30 years.

Obviously, the Vegas odds makers don’t just take offense into consideration when they arrive at over/under numbers.  They also must look at the defenses.  The Chiefs’ defense is the worst of the bunch and the rest of the group have average defenses, at best.

The other huge asset for each of these four teams and, it may be the best predictor of a great Sunday of football, are the four coaches.  What announcer has not mentioned the Andy Reid tree in the last month?  Sean Payton has maintained excellence throughout his career and then (duh) – there’s Bill Belichick.  That leaves Sean McVay of the Rams, who is, by far, the most innovative mind of the young coaches.  This is an elite group, for sure.

Speaking of elite – there’s the quarterbacks – Brady, Brees, Mahomes, and Goff – two future Hall of Famers and the best young talent around.

Sunday promises to be a great day of NFL football!!

P.S.  Check Gary’s Guesses to see which teams make it to the Super Bowl at the end of the blog.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSING)

 

  1. As much as Eagles’ fans want to keep Nick Foles around (and why wouldn’t they?), it will not happen. Carson Wentz is their future and the Eagles cannot possibly carry the $20.5 million price tag attached to Foles.
  1. There are cries to fire Jason Garrett of the Cowboys. He certainly is one of the most apathetic appearing coaches on an NFL sideline.  He does not seem to be the type to light a fire under his team, BUT, in the last three years, only the Patriots, Steelers, and Chiefs have won more games.  And all the noise about firing him comes from the outside, not from within the locker room. So, wait and see.
  1. If either the Patriots or the Saints win the Super Bowl, will Tom Brady or Drew Brees call it quits? Both have contracts that run through 2019.  They are so competitive that this is a tough call.  Look for them both to return.
  1. Alshon Jeffery dropped three passes all season, but every Eagles fan will remember the last one. And that is a shame. Alshon Jeffery is a great receiver and certainly was one of the main reasons the Eagles overachieved this year.  It is more appropriate to feel badly for Jeffery than to condemn him.
  1. RCN-TV has been the home of a number of upsets this basketball season – Easton over Beca, Liberty over Emmaus to name a few. This week, it’s Easton at Northampton on Tuesday night, Navy men at Lafayette on Wednesday, Easton at Parkland wrestling on Thursday, and Allen at Emmaus on Friday followed by Wilson at Bangor.

 
Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 3-1)  (Overall: 165-82-2  67% )
 
NFL PLAYOFFS
 
NEW ENGLAND
RAMS

2018 Video Recaps

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

It’s the first full week of 2019!

First of all, I hope everyone had a restful and/or exciting holiday season and that your New Year has gotten off to a great start.  We here at the studio have a busy January already as we are in the middle of doing 12 sports productions during the first 12 days of this month.

Also, hats off to our staff for putting together our annual “Christmas Lights” show last month, which featured a tribute to our departed friend, Wally Ely.  Wally teamed with The Morning Call’s Bill White 19 years ago to create this annual holiday tradition on RCN-TV.

In trying to get caught up over the last several weeks, here are the video highlights of our RCN high school sports productions:

Don’t forget—all of RCN’s shows are available to watch for free for two months following their initial airdates by RCN video customers.  Be sure to check out these games in their entirety through RCN On-Demand.

Next week here at the “SportsTalk Shop,” I am going to be writing about something that got a pretty nice response the last time I tried it.

What might this be?

Check back next week to find out!

Making Memories

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

I would like to think that every RCN-TV sports broadcast is special to someone.  Over the years, I have heard from so many parents, grandparents, and players who were so happy that they were able to watch their special team or special someone LIVE or on Video On Demand.

If this week is any indication that we will have plenty of special moments in 2019, viewers should get their DVRs warmed up.

On Friday night, Scott Barr and Ryan Nunamaker and the RCN television team traveled to Memorial Gymnasium in Bethlehem to present the Bethlehem Catholic at Liberty wrestling match.  It is an inner city rivalry and, of late, it is always won by Beca.  Liberty has not beaten their cross-town rivals in nine years. In fact, in the last seven years, the Golden Hawks have not lost to ANY EPC wrestling team.

Through the first ten bouts, it was business as usual.  Liberty trailed Beca 30-17 and there were only four more bouts to wrestle.  The crowd was huge; the energy sapped a bit by the Beca lead; and I am sure some fans were thinking about hitting the exits early to beat the crowd.  And then, it all turned.

The Liberty Hurricanes won the final four bouts.  Liberty won 5-4 at 170 pounds; 8-2 at 182 pounds.  The score was 30-23.  Unless Liberty did something special, the best they could hope for was a tie.  New life was generated into the gymnasium when Damen Moyer pinned his opponent in 2:57.  It was 30-29 going into the final bout.

The final crucial bout was tied 1-1 with 28 seconds to go.  Senior Jake Ahmad got a takedown for Liberty and the Hurricanes won the match 32-30. The homeside fans went crazy as did the Liberty wrestlers and coaches.  The nine-year winless streak had come to an end.  It was great in the gymnasium and it was great television.

And the RCN-TV excitement continued into Saturday night.  This time it was all about high school basketball.  The two teams considered to be the area’s best, Emmaus and Bethlehem Catholic, would play each other for the only time this season, unless they would meet again in the EPC playoffs.  Both were ranked in the top ten in the state.

Again, there was a packed house with a number of fans trying to squeeze into the designated TV area.  Emmaus had lost only once and Beca just twice.  Two of those losses were to out-of-area schools.

There was added interest to the game.  Beca’s Justin Paz needed only eight points to set the all-time scoring record at the school.  That record had stood for 58 years!  Paz, who averages almost 21 points, scored only seven in the previous game and it was obvious the pressure was getting to him.  He had only four first half points.

He changed his sneakers at the half and that, perhaps, made all the difference.  At the 6:28 mark of the third period, he hit a 3-point shot and the record was his.  The crowd went wild.  His family was there and the moment was very special.

Beca won the game and will certainly be ranked #1 in the area.

Both Liberty and Bethlehem Catholic now have very special memories that were captured on RCN-TV.  Anyone who wishes can now cherish the moments for as long as they like.

The first week of 2019 has been a good one for RCN-TV sports.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSING) 

  1. The Eagles can’t possibly win another Super Bowl, can they? After Cody Parkey made a 43-yard field goal that didn’t count and then missed one that did, the Eagles are starting to look like a team of destiny.  Parkey was formerly an Eagle.  He missed eight field goals during the season and three extra points.  It came out on Monday that the kick may have been tipped by Treyvon Hester.  For the Eagles, it’s on to New Orleans.
  1. The Browns, Packers, Bucs, Jets, Broncos, Dolphins, Bengals, and Cardinals all fired their coaches this season. The good news for them is that they still get paid if they have time on their contract and, for those aspiring to be NFL head coaches, there is plenty of room available.
  1. Most fans probably did not realize that Nick Foles had the best QB rating of any QB in the wild-card games. It sure would be nice, but probably impossible, if the Eagles could find a way to keep him on the roster for next season.  Call it Wentz insurance.
  1. By the way, all four underdogs covered the spread this past weekend. In fact underdogs have covered the spread in the last 10 playoff games.  And… Cody Parkey’s missed field goal cost one gambler $100,000 when he missed the field goal in the Eagles game.  The gambler had placed a $260,000 bet on the game.
  1. There is plenty of sports action on RCN-TV this week. There is high school basketball on Tuesday: Northampton at Freedom and Nazareth at Allen; on Friday – Liberty at Emmaus and Freedom at Parkland. Lafayette basketball will be televised on Wednesday when the men take on Loyola and on Saturday when the women play Bucknell.  Liberty wrestles at Emmaus on Wednesday night following the Lafayette game.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 2-2)  (Overall: 161-81-2  67% ) 

NFL PLAYOFFS 

KANSAS CITY

NEW ENGLAND

RAMS

PHILADELPHIA

2018 In Review-Part 2

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

If you missed our “Year-in-Review” program on “SportsTalk,” here are a few more opinions from co-host Keith Groller and me (plus, you can hear all our topics and greater discussions on each item on our podcast: rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk )…

1.  Our Biggest 2018 Prediction That Came True

Keith — That strife would continue in the high school ranks over the issue of boundary and non- boundary schools, the transfers and unlevel sports playing fields.

Chris – That the Bethlehem Catholic boys and girls basketball, Central Catholic and Bangor boys basketball and Southern Lehigh girls basketball teams would not lose more than 10 regular season games, combined.

2.  Biggest Roller Coaster of 2018

Keith – The Philadelphia Eagles

Chris – The Philadelphia Phillies and their top affiliates

3.  Most Intriguing High School Sports Storyline

Keith – What’s going to happen with the new Executive Education Academy Charter School in Allentown, which some feel is trying to become the Imhotep Charter of the Lehigh Valley

ChrisFreedom’s elevation to winning SEVERAL titles this year (including baseball, boys soccer, girls tennis, girls basketball and football) despite not always getting the respect or the amount of media attention that some other districts receive after similar accomplishments.

4.  Best “Bounce Back” Team/Storyline

Keith  – Northampton sports underwent a revival in 2017 with the boys basketball team reaching the District 11 finals for the first time in 45 years, the football team returning to the District 11 playoffs for the first time in more than a decade and other programs, like softball, also showing some spunk. One of the great mysteries in local sports has been why can’t Northampton simulate the success of neighboring schools such as Nazareth and Parkland. This year, the K-Kids came back to life and while they didn’t win championships they did become much more relevant than in the past

ChrisNorthern Lehigh Football team.  The Bulldogs were dead last in the Lehigh Valley last year with very low numbers for their football program (24 dressed players when we did their Pen Argyl game a year ago).  This year, they not only posted five regular season wins but made a run at a district playoff spot in the most competitive classification (3A) in District XI

5.  Hardest Working Sports Personalities

Keith  – All of the people who make the high school sports community special, from the custodians, to the ticket takers, to the concession stand workers, to the timers and scorekeepers and athletic directors and everyone involved. People who just watch the games on TV or attend them may never know how much effort goes into making each sports event a great community event that brings people together and provides a positive learning experience for our kids

Chris – RCN Videographers Mike Kingsley and Alyssa Sheckler.  Among all the hard-working people committed to local sports coverage in our studio, no two people worked more bizarre hours and make the kind of personal sacrifices they do to continue to shoot/edit/produce features for our “SportsTalk” program.

6.  Best Team No One (or Hardly Anyone) Talked About

Keith — The Parkland softball team. Because they were the last team alive in the 2017-18 school year, people were already in summertime mode and moving on with graduations, Senior Week trips and so on by the time the Trojans made it to the PIAA 6A finals late in the afternoon of June 15 at Penn State. They had a 3-0 lead late into the game, but couldn’t hold on and lost to Hempfield 4-3 in eight innings. Parkland finished 24-4

Chris – Nazareth girls basketball program.  One of the most consistently successful teams in the Lehigh Valley but have continued to be second banana for many years because of the lengthy state playoff runs by Central Catholic and more recently Bethlehem Catholic.  Head Coach Rick Bickert does it with a constantly rotating composition of talent and players (one year he has four guards, the next year he has a ton of “bigs”)

7.  2018 Will Be Remembered As . . .

Keith — The year Philadelphia had two championship parades – the Eagles and Villanova

Chris – The stories told by the coaches and players of the work they do OFF the court/field.  I’ve been talking about it for years on our show, but I made a special effort this year to bring those schools in that do a TON of charity work in the community and I think it reached a lot more people for me to ask them specifically about that and to have the teams themselves telling those stories on “SportsTalk,” describing what they did in the community.  Among those include Easton’s boys & girls cross country teams, Parkland boys and girls soccer teams, Freedom, Bell and Ballou football teams, and many others.

Gary’s Guesses

new year
Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 14-2) (Overall: 159-79-2 67% )

Wild Card Weekend

INDIANAPOLIS

SEATTLE

BALTIMORE

PHILADELPHIA

Gary’s Guesses

merrychristmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 13-3)  (Overall: 145-77-2  65% )

Week SEVENTEEN

DALLAS

KANSAS CITY

NEW ORLEANS

NEW ENGLAND

PHILADELPHIA

GREEN BAY

HOUSTON

BALTIMORE

ATLANTA

BUFFALO

INDIANAPOLIS

PITTSBURGH

CHICAGO

CHARGERS

SEATTLE

RAMS

new year

R & R

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

I hope someone noticed that I was away from the cameras last week. Chris Michael, Tom Stoudt, and John Leone covered the opening week of high school basketball, with some very interesting results, I must say. It will be a year of parity which means exciting games.

My wife and I went on another cruise. This time we had to fly. Lately, we have been going out of Bayonne, but not this time of the year – too cold. So we flew to Fort Lauderdale. The flight down was uneventful, except, for some reason, for the first time, we received “Pre-check” security approval and whizzed through. I was told that TSA randomly does that from time to time to allow people to experience it so they would be inclined to purchase it. I am now inclined, but I don’t fly enough to make the investment.

We sailed on the Harmony of the Seas. Up until a few months ago it was the largest ship on the ocean. It has since been surpassed by the Symphony of the Seas. Harmony has 2,747 state rooms so there are easily over 5,000 passengers on board. And there is an almost equal number of crew on board. Suffice it to say, it is a small city.

And all the things you have heard about cruising – 24-hour food, beautiful scenery, beaches, a wide variety of entertainment (comedy clubs, Broadway shows, two ice shows, two diving and aquatics spectacles, parades, intimate lounge music, casino gambling, etc.), and more. The service is spectacular from the restaurant staff to a room steward who cleans your room twice a day and makes sure your bed is turned down at night. Just like NOT at home.

But with all of that, the most interesting part of the trip is usually the people you meet. We like to share our dinner table even though you never know who you will get as your table mates. This time we sat with two couples who have cruised over 50 times each. The one gentleman, who was 85 years old, played hockey for the Chicago Black Hawks. His wife was an avid cruiser 19 years his junior. She booked five more cruises on the ship during this cruise. They are always within a few weeks of their next one.

The other couple owned a swimsuit business in Florida. He, at one time, was part of the start-up for Sharper-Image. That business took him to Moscow where he was kidnapped by the Russian Mafia and forced to pay $5,000 to be freed (I told you we meet interesting people).

We sat in a hot tub with a couple from Zimbabwe and listened to their journey to America years ago. And once my wife explains how she came to America from Germany as a baby with Ukrainian parents a new story is added to their repertoire.

There is never a dull moment and there is very little sleep. Yet, we always come away feeling fortunate that we can experience life through the eyes of so many others.

Going home was not as much fun – our flight from Fort Lauderdale to Philadelphia was changed. We had to go to Boston and then on to Philly. In Boston, the flight to Philly was delayed by an hour and a half. Instead of arriving home on Sunday night at 7:00pm, we walked in the door at 11:15pm.

Rest assured, however, we are ready to do it again!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSING)

1.   I watched the Eagles game on the flight home and saw the finish later. They looked like last year’s Eagles. Now can they get lucky enough to make the playoffs? Dallas has a one-game lead in the East over the Redskins and the Eagles and they own the tiebreaker over both. So, Dallas must lose the last two and the Redskins and/ or the Eagles must go 2-0.  Keeps you watching, right?

2. The MVP this year appears to be the Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes. He should pass for over 5,000 yards and over 50 touchdowns. Those numbers have only been achieved one time – by Peyton Manning in 2013. The Chiefs could win the Super Bowl.

3. If you are a Dallas fan, how do you feel about Jason Garrett? After going on a five-game winning streak, they got shut out on Sunday by the Colts. Were you ready to fire him earlier, and then ready to keep him lately and now ready to fire him again? Oh, the NFL – so fickle – just ask Eli Manning!

4. Don’t expect an NBA championship out of the 76ers quite yet. Jimmy Butler certainly has helped, but he missed a few games this past week with injury. Even with him, they are barely one of the ten best teams in the league.

5. I am taking a two-week holiday break from blogging, but the NFL picks will continue. I hope you use them so you have someone else to blame.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 9-7) (Overall: 132-74-2 64% )

Week SIXTEEN

TENNESSEE

BALTIMORE

CHICAGO

DALLAS

NEW ENGLAND

CAROLINA

MIAMI

INDIANAPOLIS

PHILADEPHIA

MINNESOTA

GREEN BAY

CLEVELAND

RAMS

NEW ORLEANS

SEATTLE

DENVER

2018 In Review-Part 1

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

Over the next couple of weeks we are going to look back on some of the top teams, players, coaches, storylines and more of the 2018 sports calendar year.

Today we bring you a sample of the topics and preliminary responses from SportsTalk co-host Keith Groller and me (we usually have more thoughts and debate on the show itself, which you can see live this Thursday at 7pm on RCN-TV).

1.  Clutch Play of the Year

Chris’ Pick:  Easton’s Naj-ee Adams

With the Red Rovers trailing late against Liberty, Adams fully extended to make an amazing catch on 3rd and long from deep in their own territory.  Adams then had the instincts to turn (dive, actually) forward to just surpass the first-down marker, keeping the drive alive en route to an amazing come-from-behind victory.

Keith’s Pick:  The Philly Special in the Super Bowl 

2.  Underrated Sports Personality of the Year

Chris’ Pick:  Bryan Geist

Northern Lehigh’s athletic director is always communicating news about his school district and has built a solid reputation by hosting big times sports events at one of the smallest schools in our coverage area.

Keith’s Pick:  Nationally, there is no such thing as an underrated sports personality because of all the sports-only channels and non-stop shows 24/7. Locally, I will go with Freedom football coach Jason Roeder, who has built the Patriots into a perennial power and this year broke down the stigma that Freedom can’t win the big one, by claiming the school’s first District 11 championship.

3.  Biggest Myth of the Year

Chris’ Pick:  That all media members hate catholic schools.  I can’t speak for other media outlets, but here’s a few facts from the past year:  The Bethlehem Catholic  football team was on RCN-TV more than any HS team;   Becahi & Central boys basketball were on more than any other pair of teams; Notre Dame football was on RCN-TV more than any other Colonial League team and all three schools were included in multiple features during this year on our “SportsTalk” show.

Keith’s Pick: That there’s parity in big-time sports when teams like the Golden State Warriors, the Boston Red Sox, the New England Patriots and Alabama continue to win championships or get very close almost every year.

4.  Biggest Sports Embarrassment

Chris’ Pick: ESPN continuing to include politics in their on-air conversations. Whether you agree with athletes or not, sports has always been about escape from the everyday issues and I hear more people complaining about the lack of “real sports” coverage constantly from viewers.

Keith’s Pick: Colin Kaepernick not having an NFL job. I hated the National Anthem controversy he brought on and do not agree with his stance, but teams in bad need of a quarterback – hello, Redskins – should bring him aboard and simply keep him in the locker room during the anthem if that’s an issue. But don’t pretend there’s no boycott because it’s pretty obvious by now there is one and teams are lying to their fans when they say they’re doing everything they can to win when it’s obvious they’re putting politics over competition by keeping Kaepernick out.

5.  Underrated Team(s) of the Year

Chris’s Pick: (Tie) Emmaus Boys Swim Team and Ballou football team.  All that the Hornets do is win district titles, yet among the sports that don’t get much coverage, even less is said about Emmaus’s consistency and multiple district championships in a row (11 in a row and 13 over the last 14 seasons).

I also picked Ballou because of the way they (and the DC community) rallied around Jamal Speaks’ issue this past fall–we spoke about it quite a bit on “SportsTalk” this past year (if you missed it, check out our interview with Head Coach Minoso Rogers online at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk).

Keith’s Pick: Muhlenberg College going deep into the NCAA Division III football tournament. Unfortunately, there’s so much going on in the world of sports in the Lehigh Valley, the local colleges often get overlooked. Once upon a time, Muhlenberg sports were big around here. That’s no longer the case. But the Mules should be saluted for a terrific 11-2 season, reaching the national quarterfinals.

6.  Biggest “FADE’ During 2018 (Something That Was Big but Lost Its Luster)

Chris’s Pick: The 76ers were one of the hottest non-high school sports topics on our “SportsTalk” show a few years ago—just as they were just turning the corner and starting to win games.  Now, even after a great playoff run and a good start to this season, hardly anyone seems to want to talk Sixers basketball and, when they do, it’s mostly about the controversy surrounding Ben Simmons and the Kardashians…really?!

Keith’s Pick: The Phillies’ playoff hopes going from first place in the National League East July to a complete disaster by mid-September.

7.  Best Coaching Hire of the Year

Chris’s Pick: Notre Dame Alum Connor Higgins to Allen High School.  The Canaries already have one of the best coaching staffs in the Lehigh Valley but this hiring showed their continuing to try to connect to youth.

Keith’s Pick: (Tie) Ed Ohlson getting back into coaching with the Parkland girls and Scott McClary, a former Muhlenberg coach, getting the Becahi boys basketball job.

8.  Biggest Achievement

Chris’ Pick: (TIE) Centreville boys basketball (of Virginia) winning their first Concorde Conference title in 16 years and Bell High School (in DC) winning its first two titles ever (Gravy Bowl and DCSAA) after reaching the finals but failing to win the championship in five previous tries.

Keith’s Pick: (Tune in to this week’s show to find out).

Keep checking back to “The Shop” here on the RCN-TV website for more opinions from this past year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Fall 2018 All-Stars

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Around the end of each high school sports season, we try to highlight the special accomplishments of individuals who get team to all-league, all-league and/or all-state honors, in addition to special accomplishments achieved by student-athletes in the RCN-TV coverage areas.

We especially appreciate the athletic directors who make us aware of these honors and would encourage you to email me directly (chris.michael@rcn.net) if you know of an extraordinary award placed upon someone in our region.

First, here are members of the EPC All-Conference Tennis team…

EPC Most Valuable Player: Elessa Jacobs – Easton

EPC Girl’s Tennis First Team All-Conference:

Singles:

Elessa Jacobs- Easton

Brenna Magliochetti- Bethlehem Catholic

Tashanna Smith- Freedom

Doubles:

Jess Davis/ Emma Sweterlitsch- Central Catholic

Anjali and Olivia Chhuggani- Freedom

Caitlin Maloney/ Taylor Adams- Bethlehem Catholic

EPC Girl’s Tennis Second Team All-Conference:

Singles:

Halle DeNardo- Nazareth

Natalie Sinai- Freedom

Murong Yao- Parkland

Doubles:

Samantha Sands/ Katie Kresge- Nazareth

Cecile Szollas/ Kaitlyn Hartman- Bethlehem Catholic

Twinkle Gupta/ Megan Smith- Freedom

EPC Girl’s Tennis Third Team All-Conference:

Singles:

Belen Blasco- Bethlehem Catholic

Jenn Soika- Nazareth

Joanna Wu- Parkland

Doubles:

Sophia Lee/ Maya Paul- Parkland

Mercedes Bator/ Jenna Sloan- Stroudsburg

Sabrina Yurconic/ Kara Wang- Central Catholic

Next, here are your EPC Golf All-Conference teams…

EPC Most Valuable Player (Male): Andrew Hozza – Northampton

EPC Most Valuable Player (Female): Olivia Patrow – Stroudsburg

EPC Golf First Team All-Conference:

Andrew Hozza – Northampton

Mitch Machulsky – Emmaus

Olivia Patrow – Stroudsburg

Michelle Cox – Emmaus

Ian Arnold – Central Catholic

EPC Golf Second Team All-Conference:

Nolan Beagell – Liberty

Chris Panny – Parkland

Devon Britton – Northampton

Aiden LeBlanc – Emmaus

Matt Zerfoss – Emmaus

EPC Golf Third Team All-Conference:

Joey Altemose – Liberty

Tom Gaudette – PM West

Trevor Grimm – Parkland

TJ Bohl – Nazareth

Evan Cartwright – Liberty

Here are the members of the All-Colonial League girls volleyball squad…

Click here to view the 2018-19 COLONIAL LEAGUE
GIRLS VOLLEYBALL ALL-LEAGUE TEAM

The EPC Cheer Championship results and winners were:

1st Place – Bethlehem Catholic

2nd Place – Nazareth

3rd Place – Pocono Mountain West

Last but not least, here are your Eastern Pennsylvania Conference’s Scholar Athlete winners for each of the fall sports:

Boys Cross Country – Joseph Ozgar – Easton

Girls Cross Country – Charlize Smith – Easton

Boys Soccer – Callen Reid – Emmaus

Girls Soccer – Caitlyn Lazzarini – Nazareth

Girls Tennis – Elessa Jacobs – Easton

Girls Volleyball – Lina Perugini – Liberty

Field Hockey – Kayla Kisthardt – Emmaus

Football – Tyler Slomiak – Stroudsburg

Golf – John Angelella – Parkland

Keep checking back to “The Shop” as we get more award winners and honors given to our local student-athletes throughout the school year!