Football: Bergen Catholic 17, Paramus Catholic 14

There’s not a lot that I can say about this one other than this:

Johnny Langan just turned in what is quite possibly the toughest performance I have ever seen on a football field.

Yes, he threw for over 300 yards. Yes, the Crusaders got their biggest win of the season to date. But it was how we got here– with Langan operating on one foot after spraining his ankle two weeks ago– that is so impressive. The quarterback, also known as “Johnny Football”, willed the Crusaders to the 17-14 win and a 4-0 record on the season. He took several massive hits over the course of the game and was even carried off the field at one point late in the game. And yet, he was still effective, even as he could barely move in the pocket, let alone outside of it.

This game was about him, and, from my view in the broadcast booth, it looked like he could barely walk as the game drew closer to its end. Honestly, I thought that we’d see something like the Byron Leftwich drive before the game ended. I really did, but it didn’t happen. Oh well.

But here’s to you, Johnny, for giving us an afternoon of toughness and inspiration. If you can’t be inspired by what he did today, I can’t help you.

OTHER PIECES OF NOTE:

Josh McKenzie sat out today’s game with an elbow dislocation suffered last week against DePaul. Sophomore Rahmir Johnson rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown in his stead.

Bergen’s receivers also had a solid game, as Andrew Vito and Ankaury Camilo both cleared the 100-yard mark. Dylan Classi added 42 yards and a touchdown.

Bergen Catholic’s defense played outstanding football in the victory, with Jahmel Johnson intercepting Paladin quarterback Andrew Brito early in the game. Erik Massey’s strip-sack of Brito combined with Aeneas DiCosmo’s recovery sealed the game for the Crusaders with under a minute to play.

Soccer: Bergen Catholic 1, Wayne Valley 0

24 minutes into their soccer game yesterday, Bergen Catholic’s Miles Franklyn scored to put the Crusaders on top 1-0 over Wayne Valley.  The goal, Franklyn’s third of the year, would be all Bergen needed to secure another victory.

The Crusaders, ranked the 18th best team in Bergen County and the 5th best non-public team in New Jersey, moved to 4-0 on the season with the win.  Senior Cole Bosch assisted on the only goal of the game and goalkeeper Nick Vafiadis secured yet another clean sheet in the victory; the junior netminder has allowed just one goal this season. The hard-fought victory prepares the Crusaders for next Monday night’s challenge against top rival Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey.

Wayne Valley fell to 2-2-1 with the loss. Their next game is tomorrow at Lakeland.

Soccer: Bergen Catholic 4, Paramus Catholic 1

NOTE: This year, I am serving as a student announcer for my high school’s major sporting events; as such, I have less time on my hands to write about national sports. Therefore, I will try to counteract that by writing recaps from Bergen Catholic sporting events and placing them here. This recap and all others are 100% mine. I’ll hopefully be writing more of these over the next few weeks and months.

Cole Bosch and Miles Franklyn led the way Saturday as the Bergen Catholic Crusaders defeated the Paramus Catholic Paladins, 4-1, in Big North soccer action.

Franklyn added his second goal of the season roughly nine minutes into the second half. The Syracuse commit played just his second game of the season after missing last Thursday’s game against St. Joseph’s Regional. Bosch, on the other hand, scored the first goal of the game in the first minute of play and added another in the 18th minute. He completed the hat trick with 18 minutes left in the game. Stephen Teitelbaum also added two assists in the victory. Bosch has now scored five goals in his last three halves of action, and you thought Lamar Jackson was dominant…

With the result, the Crusaders jumped to 3-0-0 on the season; the Paladins fell to 0-3-1 with the loss. BC travels to Wayne for their next game against Wayne Valley while Paramus Catholic plays Lakeland. Both games are scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Agree With Him or Not, Dave Roberts Has a Point

Photo Credit: Rob Foldy/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is currently in the running for National League Manager of the Year. Part of his success this season (his team leads the NL West by three games over the Giants) is because of his complete willingness to buck baseball’s common sense and conventional wisdom. He’s done it again, and his most recent unorthodox decision has drawn controversy and skepticism.

Here’s the lowdown: newly-acquired pitcher Rich Hill was tossing a no-hitter through seven frames against the Miami Marlins on Saturday. Hill was coming back after suffering from complications from a blister on the middle finger of his throwing (left) hand. Interestingly enough, this is the second occurrence of the blister, as Hill was forced to miss over a month with the injury after being traded from the A’s at the trade deadline and then a start at the end of August, as well. So it’s not exactly like Hill’s blister wasn’t a concern going into Saturday night’s game. But even with that pretext, Hill reached the end of the seventh inning without allowing a baserunner and having thrown just 89 pitches. So what would Roberts do?

He would decide to remove Hill from the game, making what may very well be the most difficult decision a manager can possibly make.

For one thing, Roberts has demonstrated a willingness to pull the plug on his starting pitchers, even as they have flirted with once-in-a-lifetime feats. In April, Roberts yanked Ross Stripling from his Major League debut after 7.1 no-hit innings. Stripling also happened to be two years removed from Tommy John Surgery. The Dodgers ultimately lost the game in ten innings and Roberts was second-guessed by just about anyone you can imagine. Want to guess who was among those not questioning the manager’s decision? The father of none other than Thomas Ross Stripling.

It’s true: according to reports, Hayes Stripling tearfully thanked Roberts after removing his son from the game. According to that same report, Stripling often eclipsed 120 pitches per start in college, which may have been a factor in his receiving Tommy John Surgery in 2014. So pulling him at that point in the game, disappointing as it may have been, was absolutely the right decision for the young pitcher.

It was also the only decision. The same thing can be said about the Rich Hill ordeal, if only for slightly different reasons.

Hill’s injured blister does not compare to the long-term effects of Tommy John Surgery in any way. However, the injury is one that must be handled delicately, just like Stripling’s elbow was in the early stages of the season. So it would make sense that the Dodgers would want to tread lightly with one of their best pitchers, even though Hill was making his second start since the re-occurrence of the injury.

Let’s think about this, as well: why do we want to see no-hitters and perfect games? We mostly enjoy witnessing them for the raw emotion, the pitcher launching his glove in the air when the game ends, and the players congratulating the pitcher on his achievement. But, other from that, how much do we actually think about the long-term health of the pitcher? In the moment, it’s not something we really consider (unless it’s really obvious, as it was with Johan Santana in 2012). We’re happy when the pitcher finishes off his accomplishment and then we move on. We don’t often consider the long-term effects on pitchers such as Santana and Tim Lincecum, who, three years after throwing 148 pitches in a no-hitter against the Padres, is likely out of baseball for good.

Another thing to consider here is that the Dodgers need Hill down the stretch and potentially into October, as well. As nice as it would have been for Hill to throw a perfect game over the weekend, it’s more important for the Dodgers to prioritize his long-term health and availability over two innings at the end of a game in September (when Hill was removed, the Dodgers led 5-0 and won the game by the same score). Yes, reliever Joe Blanton came in and gave up a hit to end the perfect bid, but the question of “What if Rich Hill stayed in?” contains far worse hypothetical possibilities than that.

For example, what if Hill hadn’t left the game and the blister on his middle finger popped open again? If Roberts employed the tact used by many managers in that position and left his pitcher in, he very easily could have aggravated the injury even further. Granted, there’s every possibility that Hill could have remained on the mound and not suffered an injury, but the possibility of the worst is what likely led Roberts to pull the trigger. If Hill had indeed gotten injured, we would be scrutinizing Roberts for not protecting an important asset to his team.

And that’s exactly what Hill is. With the Dodgers just three games up on the San Francisco Giants for the NL West lead, the team cannot afford to have more injuries to its starting rotation. Both Hill and ace Clayton Kershaw have both missed significant time this season with injuries, and losing either for any more time would be a serious blow to the Dodgers’ chances of making the playoffs and/or playing well into October. When you think about that dire possibility, is it really all that important that Rich Hill finishes his perfect game?

There are many reasons why Dave Roberts was right to pull Rich Hill from his start last Saturday. There are many points of view from which to examine this debate, but the one that matters the most is that of Rich Hill. If he had hurt himself while trying to complete his perfect game, would it have really been worth the trouble to keep him in the game? I would venture to say so, and it’s apparent that Dave Roberts agrees. More importantly, would it have been fair to Rich Hill to risk his long-term health? I’d say the answer to that is no.

Roberts is certainly not your average manager. He makes unconventional decisions, the most notable of which involve his starting pitchers. But he has done the best he can in protecting them, and the curious case of Rich Hill is no different.

Which is why he deserves credit, not blame, for how he handled this situation.

Don’t Get Too Excited About Houston (Yet)

Photo Credit: Associated Press
Photo Credit: Associated Press

The first week of the college football season generally lends itself to overreactions and irrational thought. For example, after this year’s week one, Deondre Francois is the best quarterback in the country, Texas is back, and Les Miles is getting fired. So it’s easy to see where fans and pundits could get a little excited about the results of just one week of games.

And that’s where the Houston Cougars come in.

You remember Houston from a season ago as the team that crashed the New Year’s Six Bowl games, defeating Florida State 38-24 in last year’s Peach Bowl. The team came into this season as a runaway hype train, with everything from a Heisman contender at quarterback to a coach who wears UH grills on his teeth like he’s 2 Chainz. With many significant pieces coming back from a season ago, as well as the addition of five-star defensive lineman Ed Oliver, Houston appeared to be a formidable team heading into this year.

And they proved their believers right with their performance on Saturday. The week one test against Oklahoma would prove to be an outstanding victory and a validation of what the Houston Cougars could be: the team that crashes college football’s party and, perhaps, makes the College Football Playoff.

And really, Houston dominated the Sooners from start to finish on Saturday. The win was nearly cemented in the third quarter when Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert attempted a long field goal. He not only missed the kick but he left it short. And that’s never a good idea in college football:

I think it’s safe to call that field goal return the thirdgreatest of its kind in the history of college football. Nonetheless, it served as the turning point in the game. The Cougars later added another touchdown to expand their lead, and only a late score from Oklahoma brought the final score to within ten points at 33-23. The win was arguably the most significant in the history of the program and elevated the Cougars to the sixth ranking in this week’s Associated Press poll. And, predictably, the hype around Houston is becoming unbearable, with many around the sport suggesting that the team has passed its biggest test on its way to the College Football Playoff.

And yet, even as Houston has climbed the polls and showed it can play with any team in the country, we still need to pump the brakes here, at least for the next few weeks.

For starters, there is every chance that the Oklahoma Sooners are not that great of a team. We have seen many examples in years past of teams that have disappointed after being ranked near the top of the polls at the beginning of the season. While Oklahoma can still make the Playoff, it is possible that this win may not look nearly as good in three months as it does now.

Another component to this discussion is that Houston’s schedule is, honestly, not that strong. Aside from a November 17 tilt against Louisville that could decide the AAC and even have Playoff implications, the Cougars’ schedule consists of matchups with teams like Lamar, UConn, SMU, and Tulane. In fact, as of right now, Louisville is the only remaining ranked team on Houston’s schedule. That could change, but if it doesn’t, the Playoff committee will have to seriously consider the strength of Houston’s slate and whether or not they deserve to be among the last four teams standing, even if they do go undefeated.

About that game with Louisville: it could be very important to the Playoff and most certainly will not be a cakewalk for the Cougars. While Houston quarterback Greg Ward could make his way to New York as a Heisman finalist, the Cardinals have their own Heisman contender in quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson accounted for eight touchdowns last week and even though he did that against Charlotte, it’s still a very impressive performance that is worth noting. While Houston’s schedule looks to be fairly easy, Louisville will be no pushover. Of course, there’s also the possibility that Houston doesn’t make it to week 12 with its Playoff hopes alive.

Yes, that is still a very real possibility. While basically everyone wants to jump to conclusions and assume that Houston is just going to run the table the rest of the way, it is possible that the Cougars won’t make it through the season without losing. Obviously, any loss would virtually end Houston’s run at a national championship, so there is little to no margin for error here.

Also, what if Ward or any of the team’s other main contributors get hurt at some point during the season? While it sounds terrible to speculate on this subject, Houston’s one loss last season (a 20-17 defeat at the hands of UConn) came with a backup quarterback (Kyle Postma) at the helm. If Postma has to step in to relieve Ward in the case of injury again this season, there is no guarantee that the Cougars will come out on the other side.

There are many reasons why Houston can run the table and make the College Football Playoff. After all, if the Cougars go undefeated, even with their somewhat weak schedule, there probably won’t be any way the committee can put three (or even four) one-loss teams ahead of them. If Houston is able to win the rest of its games, there is almost no reason to suggest they won’t be playing for a national championship.

On the other hand, New Year’s Eve, the date of the College Football Playoff semifinals, is a whole 113 days away. Many things can change between now and then, which should be a reminder that Houston (and every other team in the country) is one injury away from being a very different, and markedly worse, team.

Houston looked very good in week one and their win over Oklahoma put the nation on notice. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves: they have a long way to go if they want to make the Playoff.