At the risk of rehashing the same sentiment as the preseason Super 7, I remain befuddled by the results streaming in, particularly in the Central League and among the top two teams in the Del Val, who have helpfully scheduled plenty of Central opposition in what I assume is an attempt to help me arrive at conclusions for these rankings.
You’ve got Penn Wood, which strode ahead in the Del Val hierarchy last week, having lost resoundingly to a Radnor team that Interboro trounced. There are what appear to be anomalies through the schedule – Strath Haven falling to Marple Newtown while giving Conestoga a run for its money; Upper Darby drawing with unbeaten Lower Merion, Penncrest needing overtime against one-win Sun Valley. And the front-runners in other leagues have so challenged themselves out of conference that the record doesn’t reflect the kind of proficiency you may expect. It’s a challenge to sort out, but let’s see if we can reset the landscape a tad as we near the halfway mark. (Records based on games reported to the Daily Times through Sept. 25.)
1. Episcopal Academy (4-3)
It’s been an up-and-down run for the Churchmen through a touch schedule. They won four straight games at one juncture, and they’ve allowed an opponent to score more than once on just one occasion (three goals to Peddie School) while keeping three clean sheets. The Inter-Ac slate opens Friday, and EA starts with Malvern Prep in a hardy test.
2. Haverford School (2-4-2)
The Fords have righted the ship after that 0-3-2 start with two straight wins over solid PIAA opposition (Lansdale Catholic, Holy Ghost Prep) and a two-overtime loss to Conestoga that is nothing to be ashamed of. Goals remain in short supply with just eight in eight matches – or as Connor Gregory called it last year, a slow week. But the young squad seems to be melding together.
3. Garnet Valley (8-1)
Yeah, the Jaguars are the top of the Delco Central League heap. (Conestoga and Lower Merion are the league frontrunners, and Harriton isn’t far behind, but the Jags did top the Rams.) The schedule gets tougher, but the Jags are a well-constructed side. They have a forward in Nate Ominsky (six goals) putting away chances, and the M&M attacking midfield trio of Matt Moore, Matt Marino and Max Marini are marvelously manufacturing match-winning moments (I’ll stop). The Jaguars could be one of Delco’s biggest hopes in Class 6A districts.
4. Penncrest (7-3)
The Lions are in a good way, though they have two Central League losses thanks to Garnet Valley and Lower Merion. The game against the Aces, a 6-2 thrashing, shows a backline prone to leakage, and the Lions have the attacking talent to play games more often in the 2-1 or 3-2 range than 1-0 (though they sport a 3-0 record in 1-0 games and are 4-1 in one-goal games. Like I said, it’s a confusing jumble.)
5. Radnor (5-5-1)
The loss to Haverford is regrettable, though it indicates the Fords’ improvement. Radnor’s getting plenty of goals, a persistent bugaboo in recent years that appeared to reprise itself when the Raiders scored just once in the first three games of the season (including the loss to Interboro). But in eight games since, the Raiders have scored 19 goals, shut out only by Conestoga in that stretch.
6. Strath Haven (4-4)
I’m floored by how the Panthers can lose to a rebuilding Marple team, then turn around two days later and push Lower Merion to two overtimes. This is an unusual group in that their 12 goals have been scored by eight players, Josh Mason leading the way with three markers. Plus, five other players have tallied assists. That’s 13 players on the offensive ledger, much more than most teams at this juncture.
7. Penn Wood (4-2)
The Patriots played their first game Sept. 13, 11 days after the season opened. That hasn’t proven disadvantageous, and any team that can beat Interboro in overtime down two men to red cards is clearly OK with a little adversity. The Patriots can score in bunches, and they can play tight games like the 1-0 OT loss to Haverford, which bodes well.
Honorable Mention: Haverford (4-4, the Fords under David Cassanelli have won three of four after losing three of four to start. That includes OT triumphs over Radnor and Penn Wood. Tests against Conestoga and Harriton this week will be daunting); Interboro (4-3, the loss to Penn Wood means the Bucs have to play catch-up in the Del Val, with the league title bearing fewer postseason ramifications than it used to. Interboro has courted nonleague challenges, and while the win over Radnor is important, needing overtime to get past Academy Park doesn’t assert the dominance over the league the Bucs want); Academy Park (4-5, the schedule isn’t particularly impressive. But the Knights have recovered from a 0-4 start and scored 29 goals in their last three games. If they can challenge Penn Wood Tuesday commensurate to how they pushed Interboro, then we can talk about a three-horse Del Val race.)
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