Thoughts from William Penn-J.P. McCaskey
Week 2 is almost in the books. We still have two games on the Saturday slate, and I'll be making the trip to Fawn Grove for tomorrow's matchup between Kennard-Dale and Shippensburg. (You can catch updates from that game on my Twitter account, @JohnSClayton.)
In the meantime, here are a few thoughts from William Penn's blowout loss to J.P. McCaskey, which I attended tonight.
1. Obviously, this was not the Bearcats best game. On paper it looks bad. Really, it was. A loss in this game -- to a team that was a combined 1-19 the last two years -- would have been surprising. But 45-14?
William Penn did just about everything wrong it could have. There were turnovers, penalties, dropped balls and special teams gaffes. And in a roundabout way, maybe that's a silver lining for William Penn. The Bearcats can't play much worse than they did.
I know that's not much consolation, Bearcats fans. I tried.
In all seriousness, William Penn is obviously a better football team than they showed this night. That much was evidenced by their Week 1 win against Reading. These games happen, I suppose. I don't believe any rational-thinking YAIAA football fan would be ready to give up on a team after one game. There's too much talent there, too much speed and big-play ability. They'll play better than this going forward. The question is, will better be good enough?
2. Where is Kelvin Parker? The senior figured to be a focal point -- if not the focal point -- in William Penn's offense this year. But he was mostly taken out of the game Friday. He had three rushes for 5 yards, and one catch for 9 yards. Granted, you know McCaskey schemed to take him out of the game. And when Parker was shifted to quarterback for one play in the second half, he fumbled a hand off to Steffonte Doby. You have to think, though, that for the Bearcats to be successful, Parker needs to touch the ball more.
3. The offensive/defensive lines need to get better. McCaskey coach Rob Monzon was pretty frank when discussing his team's game plan heading into Friday's game.
"We thought we were more comfortable with a physical game than they were," McCaskey coach Rob Monzon said. "They're athletic. They have a lot of finesse. But I don't think that they were ready to tackle a 230-pound fullback (Sumpter)."
We knew coming into this season that William Penn's front lines could be points of concern. And a right knee injury to starting center Josiah Malles during warm-ups Friday didn't help matters. (Heinold said the injury could be serious.) But it was painfully obvious that William Penn just couldn't match the physicality of McCaskey.
But how do you get more physical? It's not like you can make your lines stronger just by scheming. I posed this question to Bearcats coach Shawn Heinold after the game.
"You can only put them in position to make plays, but ultimately they have to make the plays," Heinold said. "It just comes down to who wants it more."
4. Steffonte Doby looked good. By far the best player, in my opinion, on the field for William Penn on Friday night (except maybe for Jordan Zackery, whose 102-yard INT return for a touchdown gave the Bearcats hope going into halftime). Doby ran hard, frequently carrying a pile of tacklers with him. On his 4-yard touchdown run, the senior was actually hit at the 5-yard line, and plowed through a pile of defenders on his way to the end zone. His rushing numbers -- 11 carries, 57 yards -- would have been greater, had William Penn not been behind and throwing the ball most downs. He did have one bad moment -- a fumble on a kickoff that William Penn recovered.
Doby also impressed on defense as a linebacker, and was in on a ton of tackles. He had a couple good sticks, including one along the McCaskey sideline early in the game. I said before the season I thought Doby was capable of being a force. In the Bearcats spread offense, however, Doby probably won't put up the big rushing numbers he might if he played on a power-running-type team.
5. It was one of those nights for Dontae Davis. The William Penn quarterback's stat line didn't look pretty: 9-for-23 for 93 yards and three interceptions. And Davis did make a few bad mistakes, particularly on a pair of interceptions in the third quarter.
But also consider the circumstances. Davis was under duress all night. He was sacked five times. He looked like he was running for his life at moments. And he also spent most of the night playing from behind, which allowed McCaskey's front seven to tee off almost every snap.
"He's trying to do too much," Heinold said of his quarterback. "He's trying to force it in there instead of trying to tuck it and run. But that's part of the learning curve."
Ultimately, you had to expect a game like this from Davis at some point. Though he's a senior, his football experience is that of an underclassmen. Davis is still growing into that spot. But he has the tools, and he has more than enough weapons around him. He should get better as the year goes on.
6. Now comes the real challenge for Shawn Heinold and staff. The William Penn coach has done, by all accounts, a more-than-admirable job since taking the reins. Keep in mind, he took over this program barely more than a month ago. His team made it look easy in a Week 1 win, but behind the scenes the coach has no doubt been scrambling to keep this program humming.
Now, his job gets even more challenging. Not only does he have to get his team to rebound -- physically and mentally -- from this defeat, but he has to do so in time to play a very tough Harrisburg team on Saturday afternoon. We'll find out about the character of this Bearcats team in the coming week or two. Heinold hinted as much afterward.
"Everyone's patting you on the back when your winning," he said. "How are you going to be when you're down a little bit? It's definitely going to be a character check."