Delco Football landscape heading into PIAA’s final week
Tagged under: District 1, pfn
Brendan Ricciardi | October 27, 2022
DELAWARE COUNTY, Pa. — For the majority of football programs in Delaware County, this upcoming weekend will signal the end of their 2022 regular season campaigns.
While the private schools season continues to roll on, the PIAA regular season will come to an end.
Some teams know that they will be playing their final game of the season. Others will be playing as if it’s their last game of the season, as a playoff berth is within reach. For many, this week wraps up one season while another is set to begin.
For both the PIAA District 1 5A and 6A brackets, the top 16 teams make the bracket.
So where does everyone stand?
Out of Playoff Contention:
Before we get into where all of the the teams that have playoff implications, we’ll get a quick run through of those who will not be heading to the postseason this year.
Penncrest Lions: (1-8, #21 5A)
Starting off in 5A, it was a tough season once again for the Penncrest Lions. After a 1-11 season last year, they once again have only picked up one win on the season in 2022. The defense has been a major issue with 327 points allowed compared to just 175 points scored. Their lone win came against Harriton, another team in this category, by a score of 41-13. They have played some teams very close including a Media Bowl game with Strath Haven that was a one-score game at halftime, a 30-28 loss to Haverford, and a 35-27 loss to Upper Darby. The results may not be there yet, but that’s something to take into the offseason. They will take on Radnor this weekend before ending their season on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving against Marple Newtown unless the Tigers are still playing in Districts.
Harriton Rams: (3-6, #22 5A)
Speaking of Harriton, they took some time away from the Central League this year as they look to rebuild their program up and become competitive. A 3-6 record is a great place to start, with wins coming against Roxborough, the George School, and New Hope-Solebury. It is said that they look to have a similar schedule next year before hoping to rejoin the Central League in 2024, with a brand new look. It’s definitely a bit of an unprecedented move, but it seems like it is already paying off. The Rams will take on Lower Moreland this weekend as they hope to end their season on a high note.
Chichester Eagles: (1-8, #24 5A)
I got the chance to see the rivalry game between Chester and Chichester this weekend, and Chichester did not play like a team that now sits at 1-8 on the season. Against a heavily favored Chester team with their high powered offense, Chichester held them off the board for the first three quarters of the game. The Chester offense came alive in the fourth quarter, but the Chichester defense came to play regardless. Unfortunately, as has been the issue for most of the season, the offense struggled to get going. Through nine games, the Eagles have only scored 59 points. This is certainly a huge disappointment of a season for a team that went 6-4 last year, and it will be interesting to see how they bounce back in 2023.
Lower Merion Aces: (2-7, #26 6A)
Switching over to 6A here, we have the Lower Merion Aces to get us started. This is a team that started the season on a great note with a 35-0 win over Pottstown and a close 15-14 loss over a very good Conestoga team. It all unraveled from there, with the majority of their games going forward being fairly uncompetitive. They did pick up another win against Harriton by a score of 34-13, but that would be it on the year so far. They’ll end their season by trying to play spoiler this Saturday afternoon against a Haverford team that is still fighting to get into the big dance. More on that to come…
Penn Wood Patriots: (1-8, #33 6A)
Wrapping up the teams that won’t be hoisting a trophy in 2022, we have the Penn Wood Patriots. The Patriots picked up their first win in nearly two years against Chichester last week, which is a huge morale boost for a struggling program. The offense just could not get going for a large part of the season, with five straight single digit games before exploding for 32 against Chichester. To put it into perspective, a Chester team that is in our “elite” section of this column only scored 24 against Chichester. Sports are pretty funny like that sometimes. Penn Wood will wrap up their season with a conference matchup against Interboro this Saturday afternoon.
On the Bubble
This has to be the most interesting and also the most crowded section of this column, as this weekend will be massive for many local teams. Chaos is sure to ensue, so let’s take a look at who has something to fight for.
Sun Valley Vanguards (4-5, #14 5A)
It has been a roller coaster ride of a season so far for Sun Valley, the lone Delaware County team that competes in the Ches-Mont Conference. After starting their season with a 27-19 win over Penncrest, the Vanguards got blown out in their first two conference matchups to start the season. The Vanguards went 2-4 in the conference with wins over West Chester Henderson and West Chester East, and also took down another Delco team in Penn Wood. This is a team that has gotten beaten pretty bad in their last two games, but none of that matters as they have a “win and get in” game against Oxford, who sits at #16 in the rankings. While I don’t have the exact points formula down quite yet, there is a very real shot the winner of this game moves on, and the loser goes home.
Academy Park Knights (3-6, #15 5A)
When I look at Academy Park this season, I feel like it’s a team that has gone a bit under the radar. They sit at 3-6 on the year, but they are 2-1 in the Del Val League. They challenged themselves with a tough out of conference schedule, and played close games against The Haverford School, Great Valley, and a Unionville team that is right behind them in the rankings. Academy Park is just barely holding on by a thread to one of the last few spots, and this weekend brings an interesting challenge. They will be taking on a Chester team who is fully locked in to a playoff spot, but wants to win the Del Val title outright. Will they rest their starters to prevent injury as their main goal is a District Championship, or will they go all out? Either way, a win for Academy Park this weekend and they will be heading to the playoffs.
Radnor Raptors (2-6, #17 5A)
One team that will certainly be rooting against the two teams listed above will be the Radnor Raptors. It is pretty unusual for a team that has not win a single conference game to be one spot away from the playoffs, yet here we are. Radnor opened up the season with a 25-6 win over West Philadelphia before dropping their next four games in blowout fashion against Central League teams. They took down Harriton 39-13 to give them some life, but this is not a team that has shown that they deserve a spot to be completely honest. Still, none of that matters. They host a Penncrest team that is already out of contention this Friday night with a chance to make the playoffs.
Upper Darby Royals (4-5, #18 6A):
This has been a pretty crazy season for Upper Darby that started with a threat of a shooter at a game that saw everyone sprint out of the stadium, the team has had to play away games due to the field being unavailable, a roller coaster win vs Penncrest, and plenty more. The highlight of the season for the Royals came when they took down favored Marple Newtown 7-6 a few weeks back and brought themselves back into the playoff picture. The Royals currently sit two spots out of a playoff spot, but they are still hanging around. They’ll have a tough challenge when they travel to Ridley this Friday night. In order for the Royals to make the playoffs, they will likely need a win and also losses from Owen J. Roberts and North Penn. A Haverford loss would help them as well…
Haverford Fords (4-5, #17 6A):
Speaking of those Fords, they are pretty much in the same boat as Upper Darby here. They sit just one spot out of the playoffs as we stand today, and have had an interesting season. Their signature win came on the road at Springfield, where they took down the Cougars 28-13. They dropped a very close game against Conestoga 15-14, and have shown that they can compete with playoff teams. Although they lost to Garnet Valley, it was only by a score of 25-7. With the way Garnet Valley has played this year, losing by three scores is actually a pretty good feat. Haverford will take on Lower Merion this weekend, which should be a win for them with all due respect. Similarly to Upper Darby, Haverford will need losses from Owen J. Roberts or North Penn, but could also leapfrog Quakertown as well.
Playoff spot secured:
Springfield Cougars (6-3, #8 5A)
Moving on to team some teams that have locked up their spot in the 5A bracket, we start off with the Springfield Cougars. Springfield is currently red hot, ripping off four straight Central League wins. Their signature win came over Marple Newtown earlier in the year, but they also shutout Conestoga the following week as well. They have a tune-up non-conference game with 2-7 Harry Truman this weekend, and will likely stay around the middle of the bracket in seeding. They currently sit at #8, which would give them a home playoff game. As of right now, that game would be against #9 Upper Moreland.
Marple Newtown Tigers (5-4, #11 5A)
Outside of a 42-7 loss to Ridley last week, the Marple Newtown Tigers have lost a total of three games by a combined 5 points. 28-27 to Conestoga, 35-32 to Springfield, and 7-6 to Upper Darby. The old cliche is that good teams win close games and while that is true, it does say something about them that they’re a couple plays away from that 5-4 record being 8-1. With that being said, their three wins in the Central League came against Penncrest, Radnor, and Lower Merion, so it’s hard to get a good read on this team. No matter what you think about them, they will be headed to the playoffs. They have a very difficult matchup with undefeated Strath Haven coming up, but based on the fact a few teams below them are playing each other, they will be going to the big dance. As of right now, they are matched up with #5 Plymouth-Whitemarsh.
Ridley Green Raiders (6-3, #11 6A)
I think that in the Central League there is a very clear tier of top two teams that we’ll get to in the next section, but Ridley is at the top of that second tier. Their only two conference losses this season have been to those two top tier teams, and they’ve handled their business otherwise. Their last two wins have arguably been their best two all season, with a 28-14 win over Conestoga and a 42-7 win over Marple Newtown. Those wins right there punched their ticket into the 6A bracket, and now it’s just a matter of seeing where they end up. If the bracket were to stay the same after this week, Ridley would take on defending 6A runner-up Coatesville in the first round.
Conestoga Pioneers (6-3, #12 6A):
If it feels like almost every single game that Conestoga has played this year has been close, that’s because they have been. They beat Lower Merion, Haverford, and Marple Newtown all by one point. They lost two tough games to Springfield and Ridley, but they rebounded over Radnor last week. They opened up the season with a win over Owen J. Roberts, and funny enough, Owen J. Roberts holds the last playoff spot in 6A currently. If Conestoga had lost that game, it might be them holding that last spot and fighting for their lives. The Pioneers have a very tough matchup with Garnet Valley looming, and that will help them see where they stand among the best in the district heading into the big dance.
Last but not least, we have the teams from Delaware County that have not only punched their ticket, but they’re going to be heavy favorites heading into the postseason. For the lone Delaware County 4A team from District 1, a home playoff game and the chance at a deep run awaits.
Interboro Bucs (7-2, #2 4A)
Outside of two losses against other teams in this section, Interboro has handled their business very well this year. Their signature win came against Del Val rival Academy Park by a score of 21-20 on a game winning kick, and that help solidify their top spot in the 4A bracket. They have won five straight games after a loss to Chester, and star running back Abu Kamara is a big reason for that as he has been breaking records left and right. The Bucs have one last regular season game against a Penn Wood team with just one win on the year. The 4A bracket has 4 teams as opposed to 16, and Interboro currently sits in the #2 spot behind Pope John Paul II. As of right now, they would take on #3 Springfield Montco in the first round.
Strath Haven Panthers (9-0, #2 5A):
It’s a tough pill to swallow when you are undefeated on the season and still do not have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs locked up. Thanks to Upper Dublin, that is where Strath Haven is at currently. After a District Championship win over Rustin last season, Strath Haven is right back at the top of the bracket once again looking to defend their title. The Panthers sport a 338-67 point differential and have answered every call so far this season. Some of their marquee wins this year are a 41-14 win over Springfield, a 25-0 win over Conestoga, and a 41-14 win over a Ridley team in a highly anticipated matchup. The Panthers were without Sam Milligan at quarterback for the majority of the season due to a broken hand, leading to Milligan switching to running back. Jake Kitchin took over, and they didn’t skip a beat. The Panthers will now take on Marple Newtown this weekend as they hope to earn a share of the Central League Championship for the first time since 2010 and also try and secure the top seed in the district to get home field advantage. They are currently projected to take on another Delco team in #15 Academy Park if the bracket was created today.
Chester Clippers (8-1, #4 5A)
This might be the team that I have found myself writing about the most this season, because they always seem to have something headline worthy. Freshman quarterback Jalen Harris has emerged as a star, shattering the previous record for touchdown passes in a season at Chester. Cymeer Brown is his top target, and he just broke the Clippers’ career yardage record as well. After starting the season with an 80-0 win over Central, the Clippers ripped off seven wins in a row before suffering a close loss against a very good Downingtown West team. Chester struggled a bit offensively against Chichester this weekend due in part to a lot of penalties, and an O-Line that never let Harris get comfortable. Still, this is a team with a 352-52 point differential and all the confidence in the world. A win for Chester will give them the Del Val League Championship outright. They take on Academy Park this weekend with a playoff spot and a home playoff game well in hand. As of right now, they would be matched up with #13 Upper Merion.
Garnet Valley Jaguars (8-0, #1 6A)
Last but certainly not least, we have the gold standard of Delco Football right now in the Garnet Valley Jaguars. A team that has won over 40 straight Central League matchups really sits in a league of its own, but will likely have to share the Central League Championship barring a Marple Newtown win over Strath Haven. It really is a shame these two teams do not face off this year to show who the top dog is. There really isn’t much to say about Garnet Valley that hasn’t been said to show how dominant they have been. They have played five straight games where they have allowed exactly 7 points. They have played close games with CB West, Haverford, and Springfield, but they have never truly faced a lot of adversity. As the lone undefeated team in District 1 6A, they control their own destiny in clinching home field advantage. They will take on Conestoga this week, and win would earn them the one seed. Where they stand currently, they would take on #16 Owen J. Roberts next week.
Follow PA Football News on Twitter @PaFootballNews