Del Val, Inter-Ac titles are up for grabs

A pair of league titles hang in the balance this week, and both have the opportunity to be settled head to head.

In the Del Val Leageu, three teams have a claim to the championship. Last year’s champ, Penn Wood (7-2 in Del Val) can clinch their share of the league title with a win at home against Academy Park Thursday.

The Patriots could split the title with Chester (if it beats Glen Mills Thursday afternoon) or Glen Mills (if it beats Chester, then Chichester Friday in a makeup game). All three teams enter Thursday with two losses apiece.

The equation is much simpler in the Inter-Ac League: Entering the final game of the season, both Episcopal Academy and Germantown Academy hold 8-1 records. It’s a winner-take-all proposition at EA in a game that was snowed out two weeks ago.

While numerically simple, there’s plenty riding on the game from an emotional standpoint. EA coach Craig Conlin spent seven seasons as GA’s head baseball coach and 15 as a basketball assistant to Jim Fenerty, the Patriots coach and athletic director. Fenerty called Conlin “one of his best friends’ after Tuesday’s win over Haverford School, while Conlin counts Fenerty as one of his most influential mentors.

This is also a chance for Conlin to stamp his authority on the EA program. He’s in his fifth season and seeking the Churchmen’s first Inter-Ac title since 2005. That championship was the 13th total (10th outright) for his predecessor, the legendary Dan Dougherty.

Should EA win, it would be the program’s 15th Inter-Ac title, tying them for fifth in the six-team league with rivals Haverford School. It would be a 12th outright title, though, which would be third-most in the league.

Fenerty is looking to win his 15th Inter-Ac title at GA, including his third straight. He’s won 11 outright titles in his illustrious tenure.

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The Central League playoff picture is also coming into view. Conestoga’s survival against Upper Darby Tuesday night in a game in which the Pioneers trailed by 10 points after three quarters sets their record in the Central League at 15-0. If Conestoga, which has clinched the regular-season title, manages to beat Haverford Thursday, it will wrap up a perfect regular season, earning a bye to the Central League final. That would mean that Saturday’s semifinal will feature the two seed taking on the three seed for the right to take on Conestoga for the title.

Those teams are likely to be Lower Merion and Ridley, both of which are 10-4 in the league. They each have two games remaining — squaring off late Wednesday before Lower Merion entertains Upper Darby and Ridley takes on Garnet Valley Thursday — and one would need to lose both to slip to fourth.

The dynamic between the teams is quite unusual, with the very real possibility of three meetings in five days. Ridley won 56-42 at home Tuesday in the front half of a home-and-home, plus with both teams wrapping up the Central League schedule Thursday, they each face three games in as many days.

For Ridley, it’s six games in nine days dating to last week, a predicament coach Mike Snyder has rarely encountered. To get through it, he’s focusing his team on one challenge at a time.

“We’ve never really had that in the Central League, and we’ve never had three in a row, much less back-to-back-to-back in the Central League,’ he said. “We just go one game at a time. We said (Tuesday), we’d like to get the first win of the week basically. We look at it as a three-game week. We’re not worried about what other games might happen this week.’

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While the league pictures are relatively cut and dry, the District One Class AAAA reckoning is far less certain, with a group of Delco teams queuing up on the fringes of the 32-team field.

By the estimations of several coaches who keep the numbers, according to the District One’s power rankings formula, there is a crowd of teams hovering around the 32-team cutoff.

It should be noted that District One released “unofficial’ power rankings just once this season Jan. 19, and that list included just records, not the mathematical score according to the formula, introducing plenty of fuzziness that won’t be resolved until the district has the final say Sunday.

This year seems to be unique, in the minds of many. Upper Darby coach Bob Miller, who keeps a set of unofficial, but fairly reliable rankings, has never seen such logjam in the Central League. Penncrest coach Mike Doyle, whose team earned the 11 seed and a home game last year with 15 wins, has never seen the Central League pale so markedly in comparison to other leagues as it does this season.

As it stands, both Springfield (13-8) and Penncrest (13-8) are hovering at 22 and 28, respectively, per Miller’s math. Both are likely in, regardless of the result of their meeting Thursday.

Doyle, whose team is seeking a seventh straight district bid, sees that tilt as a playoff appetizer.

“I think at this time of the season, yeah, it’s like another playoff game,’ Doyle said. “The winner is in better shape. There’s a chance the loser drops down to where they’re playing the 2 or 3, which you never really want to do. If you get up into low 20s, low teens, we feel we can match up with any of those teams along the road. … There’s a lot riding on this game.’

Further down the rankings, Haverford (10-11), Marple Newtown (12-9) and Upper Darby (10-11) are all right on the cusp of qualifying, situated in order at 33 through 35, per Miller. The Royals missed a golden opportunity Tuesday against Conestoga, the bonus points from which would’ve essentially guaranteed them a spot. The Royals need a win against Lower Merion Thursday and some help.

Haverford is in the same boat, with Conestoga as a win-and-in situation. Marple is at Harriton, and with a little help (Norristown, for instance, is 31st and has to contend with Plymouth Whitemarsh to round out its regular season) they could sneak into the field on the strength of what would be a six-game winning streak.

A Haverford win over Conestoga would also open the door to a second semifinal for the fourth-place team in the league, which would be either Haverford, Springfield or Marple, all of whom sit at 9-6.

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