Watching Abington play early in the week was fun. Sure the Ghosts were playing a young Cheltenham side, but they were fast, athletic, physical and technically sound on the ball. They are well-coached and even have a few tricks to their game. If you didn't know what league/conference they played in, you would think they could easily be a contender.
Once you find out they play in the Suburban One National, however, you realize that mid-table is all they can hope for at the moment.
Neshaminy, arguably one of the best teams in state, calls the National home, but that isn't the biggest issue. If you lose to Neshaminy twice, but still win the majority of your conference and non-conference games, states is still a definite possibility. It's the depth of the National that kills solid sides like Abington and William Tennent.
Let's wind the clocks back a year, because the 2012 season provides a concrete example. Neshaminy and Pennsbury both had fantastic seasons, with the former going 14-0-0 and the latter finishing at 10-3-1 in conference play. Council Rock North and Council Rock South also finished respectably behind them and still had above average seasons.
It's Abington and Tennent, though, that lose out the most by being in the National. The Panthers, who finished a spot higher than Abington in the table and went 9-10-0 overall, lost eight in conference and two out of it. Two of those losses were a combined 13-0 at the hands of Neshaminy, while they lost a pair of close ones to Pennsbury. There alone is a two to four game swing that could have left the Panthers with a much better record than they ended up with.
Abington, albeit a bit young and inexperienced last season, ran into a similar issue. The difference was that the Council Rock schools gave the Ghosts a bit more trouble, but the story stays the same. You don't like to make generalizations, but last season Pennsbury and Neshaminy were almost definite losses on the Ghosts schedule and it was tough to believe the Council Rock schools were any different.
The sad part is, if you put Abington and Tennent in a different conference, even within the Suburban One, they might be able to contend for a championship or at least top three. They would probably compete better in the Continental, while the American would be a bit tougher to win outright. The Continental, though it has depth and parity, does not have the kind of talent throughout that the National has.
The lack of parity has already started in this young season. Tennent has started out 1-7 overall, six of the losses coming in conference. Abington has a pair of wins in conference, but has lost four, two of which came at the hands of Neshaminy and Pennsbury (both shutouts) and the other two were close matches against CR North and CR South. If that's not starting the season behind the eight ball, I don't know what is.
It's difficult to gain confidence when at least four road blocks are constantly in the way. A win against the top four at some point will be needed by both of these clubs if they want to feel like they belong in the title conversation.
It's a shame to see good teams, particular Abington, get left in the dust by the top four, but who knows? Maybe that will change as the season goes on and perhaps the Ghosts or Panthers will steal a big win over a Neshaminy or Pennsbury the second time around. Until that happens, however, they'll continue to look up and hope for the best.