SPORTSfever's 2014 FOOTBALL FEVER PREVIEW--Bicentennial/Independence Leagues

2013 Standings
Bicentennial Athletic League
Team League Overall
New Hope-Solebury 6-0 8-4
Bristol 5-1 10-2
Delaware Christian 4-2 8-3
Lower Moreland 3-3 6-5
Jenkintown 2-4 3-6
Calvary Christian 1-5 1-6
Morrisville 0-6 1-10
Independence League
Team League Overall
Bristol 4-0 10-2
Lower Moreland 3-1 6-5
Academy New Church 2-2 5-4
Pennington School 1-3 2-7
Morrisville 0-4 1-10
Note: Pennington School, N.J. left the Independence League after the 2013 season.

Bicen-Independence 11
RB Donte Simmons Bristol
WR/DB Kyle Slivka-Fralin Bristol
OL/DL Robert Jones Bristol
QB Josh Reichenbach Calvary Christian
WR Sam Heath Calvary Christian
LB/DB Alex Linton Delco Christian
Fb/LB Franco Mannino New Hope-Solebury
DT/OL Jake Clair Lower Moreland
OL/DL Elliott Bense Jenkintown
RB/LB Shane McCurdy Academy New Church
OL/DL Antonio Nakos Academy New Church

Scouting Report
Bristol is the favorite to win both the Bicentennial and Independence leagues. Warriors RB/DB Donte Simmons (5-8, 175, Sr.) is the most dynamic player among these PIAA AA and A teams. He has rushed for more than 4,000 yards in his first three seasons. Bristol steps up to AA playoff competition this season after winning the PIAA District 1/12 Subregional A championships in 2012 and 2013. A rematch with former BAL rival Springfield Township in the AA playoffs is possible. New Hope-Solebury, which upset Bristol during the regular season to win the Bicen championship, and Delaware County Christian have continued to improve and will mount a stiff challenge to the Warriors in the BAL. Lower Moreland and Calvary Christian are also in the mix. Both have derailed the athletes and firepower of Bristol before. “I just think it’s a better league than it used to be,” says Bristol head coach Leo Plenski, who has both played and coached against league rivals. Valley Forge Military Academy joins the BAL this season. Somewhat of a hidden team, Academy of the New Church has the veterans and firepower to push Bristol for an Independence League championship.

Around the Bicentennial/Independence
Simmons, WR/DB Kyle Slivka-Fralin (5-10, 165, Sr.), OL/DL Robert Jones (6-3, 255, Sr.), QB R. J. Collins (5-11, 210, Jr.), WR Aiden Coughlin (5-10, 185, Sr.), Slotback Phil Krause (5-8, 165, Sr.) and SS Isaiah Carroll (6-0, 200, Sr.) return for Bristol. Plenski expects freshman WR Camir Brisbon (6-0, 195) to emerge as a playmaker in an offense dominated by veterans where 10 of 11 starters have game experience. Collins answered the call during the 2013 playoffs when starting QB Trevor Leone was injured. Simmons has drawn recruiting interest from Stoney Brook and Delaware. “The more we can spread out the defenses the more opportunities for Donte and our other playmakers,” says Plenski. The Warriors have a potent offense but their defense is untested. “Many more players will have to play both ways,” says Plenski. “That’s something we have been fortunate not having to do the last two seasons.”

Delaware County Christian head coach Drew Pearson says the offensive and defensive lines are the strength of the Knights, who intend to once again challenge Bristol and stay in the PIAA A playoff mix. DCC lost to Bristol in the PIAA District 1/12 A Subregional championship game last season. “Our kids have bought in,” says Pearson. “We’re not satisfied.” First-year starting QB Sterling Williams (5-11, 175, Sr.) and returning RB Seth Ellis (5-9, 185, Sr.) need to recover what Pearson called “90 percent of production” that departed when starters graduated. LB/DB Alex Linton (5-11, 210, Sr.) is a leader on defense. OL/DL Kyle Winters (5-11, 265, Jr.) and D. J. Lanetti (6-1, 235, Sr.) are mainstays on the line of scrimmage.

They are underclassmen but C/DT Matt Fest (6-2, 245, Soph.), FB/LB Franco Mannino (5-9, 175, Jr.) and FB/LB Tommy Capriotti (5-10, 180, Jr.) return after playing important roles for New Hope-Solebury, during its BAL championship season in 2013. NH-S also qualified for the PIAA District 1/12 playoffs but lost to West Catholic. Mannino had 62 tackles and Capriotti had 33 tackles last season. First-year starter RB/LB Brendan Shadle (5-9, 170, Soph.) replaces RB/FS Danny Freeman, who transferred to Archbishop Wood, as the workhorse on offense. Blake Hildebrandt (5-10, 155, Jr.) and Nick Garritano (6-2, 160, Fr.) are in the mix at QB. Lions head coach Jim DiTulio says there’s stability on the line of scrimmage and the skill position players must respond. “Losing 13 seniors hurts,” says DiTulio. “Although we will be very young, I do not think we are rebuilding.”

DB/RB Matt Gallagher (5-9, 170, Jr.), LB/FB John Chung (5-9, 185, Sr.), DT/OL Jake Clair (5-9, 185, Sr.), LB/WR Joe Nihill (6-2, 190, Sr.) and QB Matt Abramson (5-9, 145, Sr.) are the top returning players for Lower Moreland. Gallagher is the top playmaker for the Lions who need to develop more playmakers and an OL. “Our challenge is difficult,” says head coach Mark Mayson.

The pass-catch combo of QB/DB Josh Reichenbach (6-2, 185, Jr.) and WR/DB Sam Heath (6-1, 180, Sr.) returns for Calvary Christian. LB/Wing Back Doug Medvic (6-0, 180, Sr.) and DE/OT Zach Nester (6-3, 265, Jr.) return after leading the Cougars in tackles last season. Reichenbach, son of head coach and former Philadelphia Eagle Mike Reichenbach, completed 44 of 77 pass attempts for 684 yards and seven TDs last season. After back-to-back PIAA District 1/12 A Subregional championships in 2009 and 2010, CC didn’t field a team in 2012 but returned last season. “We lack size and depth and experience on both sides of the ball,” says Mike Reichenbach. “We will have about 20 players.”

QB/LB Jamie Griffin (5-10, 185, Sr.), OL/DL Elliott Bense (5-9, 200, Sr.), OL/DL John Ballentine (5-11, 215, Sr.) and RB/DB Julian Goldhill (5-6, 155, Sr.) return for Jenkintown. Drakes head coach Anthony Owens says the Drakes’ strengths are QB and defensive secondary. “We are a young team that was able to gain valuable experience last year,” says Owens.

Derick Savage replaces Bill Quill as head coach of Morrisville. RB/LB Justin Young-Heyward (6-0, 195, Sr.), OL/LB Nathan Vincent (5-10, 260, Sr.), OL/DL Jon Cosme (6-0, 225, Sr.) and RB/WR/DB Donovan O’Brien (5-10, 180, Jr.) are the nucleus for the Bulldogs. There’s playmakers but the OL and DL need depth after the first six players. “I’m excited to see how they all share the ball,” says Savage. “With the recent struggles to even field a team, we are more concerned with making it through the season.”

The transition from a team that once played post-graduate players to a PIAA team continues this season when Valley Forge Military Academy, which didn’t win a game playing as an independent in its first season as a PIAA member in 2013, joins the BAL. Top players for the Trojans are RB/FS Bronson Szallar (5-9, 175, Sr.), WR/DB Darius Daniels (5-9, 165, Sr.), LB/RB Audley Isaacs (5-10, 180, Soph.) and OL/DL Christopher Byrd (5-8, 265, Soph.). With a strong group of skill position players gaining varsity experience, head coach Paul Noon expects the wins to start coming. “We will be competitive in our inaugural season in the BAL,” says Noon.

Academy of the New Church only competes against Bristol, Lower Moreland and Bristol for an Independence League championship. Pennington School (N. J.) left the league after last season. Head coach Ty Klippenstein expects the Lions, which are not a PIAA team, to challenge Bristol for the league championship. RB/LB Shane McCurdy (6-0, 200,Sr.) and OL/DL Antonio Nakos (6-3, 270, Sr.) are four-year starters. QB Charley Coyle (5-8, 160, Jr.), WR/DE Carnel Harley (6-6, 200, Sr.) and RB/LB Anthony Weizer (5-8, 185, Sr.) are returning starters. McCurdy is the workhorse on offense and Harley is the stopper on defense. There are nine starters returning on offense and defense. “We have high expectations this year,” says Klippenstein. “We’re as talented as we’ve been in a long time. We have a host of returning starters, some great athletes at the skill positions, and even some depth.”