By NATE HECKENBERGER
No school? No power? No problem!
Well, maybe not as big of a problem at least. As many schools were shut down Monday and Tuesday due to Hurricane Sandy, practices were cancelled as well. But with advances in technology, the damage done by Sandy earlier in the week has not had as many hampering effects on area football teams as it would have a decade- or even a couple years- ago.
Instead, coaches all around the Ches-Mont League have been communicating with their players and sharing film and gameplans with an online sharing website called Hudl. While it’s not the same as having their teams out on the practice field, coaches didn’t have to start laying down the groundwork midweek with some huge games on tap this week.
“I think it’s one of the greatest advances in the high school game,” Unionville coach Pat Clark said. “Kids communicate mostly through their cell phones anyway. Most kids actually watch the film through their cell phones and it’s what helps get you through if you can’t see your kids for a couple days.”
Unionville is one of four Ches-Mont schools that has the advantage of an extra day to prepare thanks to a Saturday game. The Indians (5-0 division, 7-2 overall) travel to Kennett (4-1, 7-2) in a game with major division title and playoff implications. Downingtown West (3-2, 6-3) plays at Bishop Shanahan (2-3, 3-5) Saturday, as well, and may need a win to qualify for the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs.
“We talked to the guys (Wednesday) and we’re treating it like a regular week, like we’re playing Friday,” Kennett coach Scott Green said. “We’re treating (Wednesday) like a normal Tuesday and so on. We’ve done this kind of thing before, and fortunately we were able to watch film Saturday and get a workout in.”
Still, as much as Hudl and the advanced technology helps get the players as up to speed as possible, the advancement of platooning offenses and defenses and complex gameplans makes practice time a necessity.
Take West Chester Henderson (3-2, 7-2), for example. A Class AAA school that has to use two-way players to survive now has to try and cram in preparation for 4A powerhouse Downingtown East (5-0, 9-0) in two days. The Cougars not only play 11 on, 11 off, but have one of the most complicated offenses in the area.
“It’s a killer for us, trying to have any kind of different gameplan,” Henderson coach Steve Mitten said. “Downingtown East does so many different things you have to adjust to from a defensive side. It’s difficult with the time constraints to prepare anything other than what we normally try to do.”
Henderson has already locked up a trip to the 3A playoffs, sitting as the four-seed right now. A win against East, which is something the Warriors have been able to come up with the past two seasons, would likely put Henderson at No. 3. A loss and the Warriors might have to start their playoff quest on the road.
While Henderson will be playing past this weekend, Kennett may not without a win against the Indians. Currently the Blue Demons are in a three-way tie at 14, with the top 16 making it. With a win, Kennett could get all the way up to 11 or 12. Since the Blue Demons don’t play until Saturday, they’ll know whether or not a loss would get them in still, but they’d likely need Souderton, Downingtown West and Wissahickon to lose. And if all that happens, North Penn would probably hop them anyway.
“We’re taking a different approach and strictly focusing on us and what we can control,” Green said. “In years past I think we tried to do a little bit too much and focused on things we couldn’t control. As a staff, we thought this was the better approach. Kids are resilient and they live in the moment. They certainly know what’s at stake, though.”
Unionville sits at No. 10, currently, and a win will likely land them at seven or eight, with a home playoff game. A win would also give the Indians the outright American Division title. A loss and a West Chester Rustin win would make it a three-way split between the Indians, Blue Demons and Golden Knights.
Downingtown West is tied for 17th and needs a win Saturday and losses by Souderton and Wissahickon, who play North Penn and Upper Moreland, respectively.
Downingtown East is the top seed and should remain there with a win, while Rustin (4-1, 7-2) and Coatesville (4-1, 7-2) will both wind up in the 7-10 range with wins, most likely. The Golden Knights are eighth and Red Raiders ninth going into week 10.
Come game time, each team will have pretty much gone through the same trials of Sandy as its opponent. And thanks to Hudl and other forms or technology, teams will be more prepared than in years past. It’s just that rust that might be the tricky part...
“We were a little lethargic (Wednesday), having four days off,” Clark said. “Mentally we were OK. We were just a little flat since we haven’t had pads on since last Friday. I think our kids will be ready, though. Kennett is a great football team and it’s a community rivalry. We have a shot at a home playoff game and can win an outright league championship. We have a lot to play for, too.”