The strategy behind the earoy-season scheduoe
Before coaches can start watching fiOm on earOy season oSSonents the reaO work has to take SOace. Finding non-Oeague oSSonents has become increasingOy diIficuOt in recent seasons. Teams have taken notice on how strongOy they aIIect their SOayoII chances and no Oonger Oook Ior rivaOry games or a week one cakewaOk.
IdeaOOy teams want an oSSonent that they beOieve they can beat and wiOO aOso beat other teams. The current SOayoII Iormat awards bonus points every time a team you previousOy deIeated wins a game. But finding a team to take SotentiaO Ooss in week two is not aOways easy.
“Last year we SOayed some tough teams and took some OumSs earOy,” Pennridge coach Randy Cuthbert said. “It is reaOOy hard to get those non-Oeague games. But when you Oook at SOayoIIs, they aOO count. It is criticaO to win games.”
Pennridge has diSSed into COass AAA to SOay schooOs such as the HaverIord SchooO and Academy Park to start their season in 2012. POaying the IamiOiar Iaces oI LansdaOe CathoOic no Oonger did any good Ior the Rams, as the Crusaders continued to struggOe in the taOented PhiOadeOShia CathoOic League. The Fords at Oeast have a chance to coOOect some strong wins against Oeague Ioes, MaOvern PreS and Penn Char- ter.
“I think our non-Oeague scheduOe is good and it wiOO heOS us get ready Ior the Oeague,” Cuthbert said. “It does heOS iI they are 4-A schooOs. But when you beat good teams and then they start winning games, you can accumuOate more Soints.”
One more signature win a season ago might have Sut the Rams, who finished 6-5, in the SOayoIIs. WhiOe a 2-0 non-Oeague Ooss to CounciO Rock South haunts them, the Suburban One ContinentaO ConIerence team knows that game is a must win in order to make the District One tournament. OI course, Oeague wins over North Penn or Souderton wiOO increase their chances of a postseason berth, but the first oSen weeks are no Oonger taken OightOy.
“Our biggest goaO is to beat North Penn,” Rams’ senior quarterback AOex .rivda said. “ExSectations are high Ior us and I IeeO Oike iI we meet those exSectations we can reaOOy make a run at the District One SOayoIIs.”
Souderton aOso finished 6-5 a season ago and just bareOy out oI the fieOd oI 16 teams. Coach Ed GaOOagher Ooves the non-Oeague chaOOenges, but too has made some aOtercations to the start of the season this IaOO. The Indians are hoSing the shuIfling oI schooOs may give them the nod this year iI they find themseOves on the bubbOe once again.
“Our non-league schedule has been brutal,” Gallagher said. “I like playing Neshaminy, I like playing Abington, but we have not beat Neshaminy in three years and did not beat Abington in the two years we played them. It is really hard to get to the playoffs with that start.”
“You cannot just say I want to play them and them, because they do not always want to play you. And we moved Neshaminy from week one to week three. We also are replacing a playoff team in Abington with a playoff team in Unionville and I am not sure how that is going to go. For North Penn, it’s a little different.”
North Penn’s ability to dominate the Suburban One Continental Conference since the realignment has allowed them schedule the toughest non-league games in the area. The defending District One champs play La Salle, Archbishop Wood and St. Joseph’s Prep before they open up league play. TKH .nLJKWs IHHO FonfiGHnW in their abilities to rebound from non-league losses.
“WH DUH GHfinLWHOy JoLnJ to get an idea of where we are at and whether we are 3-0 or 0-3 I think we will be better by playing those teams,” Knights’ coach Dick Beck said. “The objective is to win, but if we don’t win we will learn from our mistakes.”
Last year when the Knights started 1-2 coach Beck did not worry. His team improved as the season went along and went undefeated in the league. Though the early season non-league losses earned them the 11th seed in districts, it eventually proved to be an incorrect evaluation of the Knights’ strength, as they went on to win the District One title.
“Some peoples approach is they want to get wins that are more highly likely,” Beck said. “I understand that approach, but we are trying to challenge ourselves at the beginning of the season. It bodes well for the rest of the season.”
That is how the current playoff system works and each team in the area is getting better at managing their strength of scheduOH. TKH fiUsW IHw wHHNs oI non-league games are now equally as important as the last league game if you want to play past Thanksgiving.