Football biggies this week- St. Mark’s bounces back in a big way: Cavs and Sals stay unbeaten

By JACK IRELAND

Here’s my quick hitters for week four of the high school football season. Also Maine has upset potential

Lets hit the field running

Tonight

St., Mark’s at Caesar Rodney, 7:30. St. Mark’s is still smarting from upset loss to Dover at home last Saturday. Quarterback Jeff Ziemba and teamates have little compassion for winless, but improving Riders. St. Mark’s 27-7.

Middletown at Alexis I. duPont, 7. Middletown back James Baynard is a strong comnpliment to quarterback Darius Wade. Cavaliers defense held a good Concord offense to just 173 yards total offense last week. A,I. has plenty of offensive weapons, but depth should tell here. Middletown 26-14

Cape Henlopen at Sussex Tech, 7:30. Both teams enter the game with unbeaten 3-0 nomnference marks. Both want to show they belong with Dover, Sussex Central and Caesar Rodney in the fight for the Henlopen Conference North title. Halfback Jerome Johnson of Cape is a threat to go all the way every time he touches the football. Jacob Dmiterchik and Tomiko Saez are good receivers. Cape in a good one. 21-19.

Saturday (Oct. 1).

Salesianum at William Penn, 2:30. Sallies has to be on guard against the upset from nonconference rival William Penn. This is the first of four straight road games with out-of-state matchups against Upper Darby (Pa.), Paramus (N.J.) and Avon Grove (Pa.) to follow.Colonials are better than 0-3 record, provoing that in close losses to St. Mark’s and Newark. Sals will pound the ball, featuring halfback Jerome Stanley and the passing and running of soph QB Tommy Reeeder, who gets better each week. Randall S\hiuccatano leads an underrated group of recveivers. Sallies 20-6.

St. Elizabeth vs Caravel at the University of Delaware, 4. The mddle game of three to be played for the first time at Delaware Stadium. Caravel is dangerous with quarterback Jon Welch, receiver George Murray and running back Chris Wickes. St. E is coming off an emotional, hard-hitting close loss to Delmar .Some might think the Vikings are in for a letdown, but not with coach Joe Hemphill at the controls. St. Elizabeth, 34-15.

College

Delaware at Maine,- Don’t think this will be easy pickings for Delaware as Black Bears veteran coach Jack Cosgrove goes after his 100th career coaching win. Maine is 2-1 and that one loss was 35-29 at NCAA Division I Pittsburgh.

Maine’s offense features quarterback Warren Smith, who has passed for 5,574 career yards. One of his receivers is Tatnall grad Justin Perillo, who had six receptions and a touchdown in a win over Albany (N.Y.) two weeks ago. Running back Pushaun Brown has rushed for 100 yards or more in five straight games, dating back to last year. Tim Donnelly is coming off a 304 yard passing effoert in the Hens CAA opening win against Old Dominion. Really tempted to pick the upset here, but Delaware has enough if it’s ready to go. Delaware 24-20.

Phils did it the right way, can’t say the same for those mighty Yankees

Jack Ireland
Irish Jack is weighing in on a few topics this week. My first blog deals with the Phillies and Yankees.

Let me start with a few comments about howPhillies manager Charlie Manuel and Yankees skipper Joe Giradi handled their respective final three game series’ of the regular season this week.

As everyone knows (unless you have been asleep the last few days), the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves finished off their respective collapses on Wednesday night. At the start of September both clubs appeared to be shoe-ins for the American and National league wildcard spots respectively in the postseason playoffs.

In sports anything can and usually does happen at some point and it was all bad news for Boston and the Braves in the final month.

Kudos to Manuel, who played his entire first string players in almost every game of the Phils three game sweep of Atlanta. Maneul said he would go after all three of those games and he didn’t back off. Plus, after just ending an eight game losing streak on Sunday, Charlie wanted the momentum in the Phils corner heading into Saturday’s opening series at home against the Cardinals.

Mauel also started two of his big horses, oy Oswald and Cliff Lee in the first twowins oin the series, in Atlanta. He started Joe Blanton in the series finale, butfollowed with Cole Hamels (three innings) by Vance Worley, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Mike Stutes. Then two young relievers, Schwimer, De Fratus and David Herndon blanked the Braves overrthe last five innings.

Heading into the final week I heard this nonsense on radio talk shows about how the Phils should not try and win, so St. Louis hopefully wouldn’t make the playoffs and be the Fightin’s first round opponent. After asll St. Louis won the season seiries between the two and beat the Phils three of four a couple weeks back in Philly.

Da- didn’t the Phillies win a franchise record 102 games in 2011? Win or lose this thing, the Phils can’t be worried about who their first round opponent wll be. St. Louis is red hot coming in and will be tough to beat. However, I think the Phils win in four games.

What in the word are we talking about. Sure you need to rest your players and don’t want to get anyone hurt. On theother hand, Atlanta is fighting for a playoff berth and the Phillies owe it to the Braves, St. Louis and themseles to play hard sand playas many of their top players as possible.

On the other side, Giradi said he wouldn’t use most of his regulars in the three game set at Tampa. He played few of his regulars in the first two games, both losses. To his credit he had stars like Jeter, Granderson, Teixeria, Cano in the lineup on Wednesday. After the Yanks swatted their way to a 7-0 lead, those players left the game.

Now, New York should have been able to hold that lead with the jayvee players in there. I didn’t expect, nor did anybody else including most Tampa fans, for the Rays to come back and eventually win 8-7 in 12 innings.

But, Tampa has so much heart and guts, you knew that team would fight hard right to the last out. Rays manager Joe Madden expects that from every player on his team. Crazier things have happened with so called games out of reach even ewith your top pitchers in the lineup.

Tampa scored six runs in the eighth, one in the ninth on a two-out homer by Dan Johnson and Evan Longoria won it with a homer in the 12th. This came about about three minutes after the Orioles put together an unbelieable two-out ninth inning rally to eliminate Boston in Baltimore.

Lets get it straight here – Boston didn’t lose out on the wild card because of what Giardi did. The Red Sox are responsible for their own woes. I’m sure to a man they will admit that. And lets give credit  to the scrappy Orioles, who were knocking off contenders like the Yankees, Detroit, the Angels and Boston last weekend  They wanted to spoil the party for Boston and did it in classic style.

Where was Dan David Robertson for the Yasnkees in the eighth inning when Tampa was scoring like crazy against the likes of Logan and Ayala? And where was Mtriano Rivera (the crowned best closer ever) in the ninth. Instead of closing things out, Johnson hits his first homer run since April with two strikes and two outs in the ninth to tie it up. Johnson is a dangerous pinch hitter, but is batting .119.

My man Charlie Manuel gets an A plus. While Giardi gets a D at best for his decisions to shut down his pitchers for extra rest.

Most baseball people and certainly Yankee fans will defend what Giardi did to the hilt. I’m not one of them. They have a 162 game regular season schedule for a reason.

PS. The Yanks should win the opening five game series, but don’t coynt out the Detroit Tigers. If Justin Verlande, leading candidate for the Cy Young and American league MVP awards, can hold serve, Detroit can win. Verlander has actually not piched that well against New York this year and Yanks starter C.C. Sabasthia, hasn’t done well against the Tigers.

Detroit was probably the hottest team in baseball the last month. And with manager Jim Leyland, it’s like having 10 men on the field.

Irish Jack (Ireland’s) Lucky seven grid picks

By Jack Ireland
Little change of pace this week as Irish Jack makes picks on six top high school games being played tonight or tomorrow and one national college matchup.
So lets get to it.
St. Elizabeth at Delmar, 7:30 – Delmar isn’t facing any weak sister like St. Frances of Baltimore turned out to be last week. St. E is the defending state champion and wants to show it has the ability to do it again.
Keandre Whaley is a dangerous runner for Delmar. 39th season for Vikings head coach Joe Hemphill. The foot of junior St. E. kicker Adam Szczerba could win this one. Super early season showdown. St. E 23-21
Caesar Rodney vs Salesianum at Baynard Stadium, 7:30
In his preseason players to watch list, the News Journal’s Andre Smith didn’t include senior Sals Jerome Stanley with the running backs. In fact, he only mentioned one Sallies player, defensive back Matt Szczenski. Shame on you Andre, a collegue for many years before I retired from the paper last winter. He’s a great guy, but I have to  question that move.

 All Stanley did last week in a 41-6 win over Dover was rush for 168 yards and four TDs. CR has to watch for him and p;lrenty pof other Sals offensive weapons.
With heavy rains in the forcast, the track could be slow at Baynard if they don’t postpone the game. Lets hope not. Sallies is one of the best at grinding it out on offense and plugging away on defense. Stanley and quarterback Troy Reeeder can deliver in good or bad weather.CR always comes to play, so don’t let its 0-2 record fool you.

Salesianum 20-7

Saturday. Middletown at Concord 10:30 a.m. – This could be a trap game for the powerhouse Cavaliers.Middletown has an explosive passing attack with quarterback Darius Wade and receivers like of split end Luis Prado and halfback Jordan Griffin. Concord could pull the surpise if it slows down the Cavs offense in the early going. Middletown 26-16.

Dover at St. Mark’s, 1 – Dover has great speed, but ran into all sorts of problems against Salesianum last week. Could be more of the same with quarterback Jeff Ziemba and a potent rushing attack for Spartans. St. Mark’s 33-13

Appoquinimink at William Penn, 1 -Colonialcame so close last weekagainst rival Newark  and rallied back in their opener to fall just short against St. Mark’s. Penn is talented and tough with running sck Shareif Simpson and receiver Ramee Gregory, William Penn gets first win in competitive game.

William Penn 27-14

Newark at Charter, 11 – Charter has the ability, but to beat Newark you must contain senior quarterback Taylor Reynolds. That’s not easy nd no one has done that so far. Newark 30-20

College

How about Notre Dame at Pittsburgh, noon. If and when the Irish stop turning the ball over so much, they will be a very tough team to beat. It won’t be easy against the Panthers, but the passing of Tommy Reese to Michael Floyd is an ace for ND. Safety Harrison Smith leads an up and down defensive unit. Notre Dame 30-27.

Irish Jack going deep with football picks this weekend

Dover-Sals headline week two of scholastic grid action
Dover High has returned to the Salesianum schedule for the first time since Bill DiNardo began coaching the Sals in 2004. Tonight’s game at Baynard Stadium shapes up as the best matchup of week two. 7:30 kickoff.
The top college game in the area is Delaware Stateresumes its rivalry with big, bad  Delaware in Newark on Saturday Dover has a dangerous quarterback in Ian Gory and speed and toughness in backs Donovan Cail and Xavier Allen.
Sallies didn’t receive that much respect from the local media in preseason, but that’s okay. Salesianum is capable of playing with anyone in Delaware and quite a few schools outside the state.
Jesse June is a playmaker on both sides of the football and don’t be deceived by the size of halfback Jerome Stanley (5-4, 160). He’s quick, can run hard inside and knows how to follow the blocks of an underrated offensive line.
Sallies in this one 21-13.
Irish Jack’s other goodies for the weekend.
Tonight (Friday).
A.I. duPont at Appoquinimink. 7 – Tigers better not overlook Appo. Hodgson needed a 72 yard pass reception and run by Jeff May in the final two minutes and a two-point conversion pass to get past Appoquinimink in the season opener. A.I. is riding high after lopsided opening win. The Lowery’s ( junior quartrback Ramsey and senior back Quincey) highlight an explosive Tigers offense.
A.I. 27-15
Caravel at Woodbridge, 7:30 – Caravel returns 13 starters from a 2-7 record in 2010. Woodbridge has 18 starters back from a 3-7 squad. Raiders weere blanked last week by St. George’s. I’ll give Caravel the slight edge in its season opener. Caravel 14-8
Howard at McKean, 7
Howard’s Khiry Clark, Corey Jones, senior 6-6 270-pound tackle Dallas Cannady and company will be too much for Highlanders. Howard 26-7
William Penn at Newark, 7 – William Penn fought back to give powerhouse St. Mark’s a scare last week. I look for the Colonials to do it again against another talented Division I team in Newark. Penn must protect the football against a opportunsitic Newark defense. Newark 24, Willisam Penn 13
Milford at Indian River, 7:30. Milford had a tough opening game loss to Concord lasst week and Indian River will be no pushover. I look for Indian River in a mild upset, behind QB Jamie Jarmon, receiver Marquel Knight and 6-6 (300 pound) lineman Dienfe Savilos, to win a wild one. Indian River 40, Milford 34.
St. Mark’s at Sussex Central, 7:30
The Golden Knights are capable of pulling off the big upset if the Spartans play like it did the last 2 1/2 quarterbacks against William Penn. I think St. Mark’s will be ready to go big-time. Seniors T.J. Yeninas and Jabre Jolley could be the best 1-2 rushing combo in the state. St. Mark’s 24, Sussex Central 16
Galsgow at Middletown, 7:30. Glasgow has firepower behind quarterback Khari Ngozi and running back Sierre Matthews, but not enough fto beat the Cavaliers. Middletown’s deep in sall areas, featurning two-way back Jordan Griffin. Middletown 33, Glasgoe 12

Sussex Tech at Laurel, 7:30
Christian Sivels and Willis Dickerson and company might be a little too much for Laurel. Bulldogs opening with two tough Division I teams, losing big last week to Cape Henlopen. Sussex Tech 20 Laurel 7
Saturday
Charter at Concord, 10:30 – This is gooiing to be a good one. I’m tempted to go with Charter in the upset behind the passing combination of quarterback Drew Madden and Andrew Peterson. However, the Raiders have a potent running game, with the likes of Darien Hudgins, Grant Roberts and Christopher Budd running behind a talented and experienced offensive line. Concord 30, Charter 20
Archmere at St. Andrew’s 1 – It’s a rough season opener for St. Andrew’s and the Auks pulled out a 24-22 thriller at Chichester last week. Bryan Garrahan leads a strong group of running backs and Austin High’s field goal in the closing minutes was the difference in Archmere first win. Archmere 26-6
Mount Pleasant at Hodgson, 10:30 a.m. – Quarterback Donovan Jackson and Hodgson are looking to gain back its swagger this year. Hodgson 22-7
College
Delaware State at Delaware, 6 – I think Hornets will make a game of it, but Delaware’s depth, experience and running back Andrew Pierce will be the difference. But, Hornets have talent and a good head coach.I would love to see the Hornets stick it to Delaware, but Blue Hens coach K.C. Keeler might be looking for another job if he loses to the Hornets. Should be breakout game for Hens. Delaware 34-21

 

 

 

High school football kicks off with a bang on Thursday night

Weather permitting, the 2011 Delaware high school football season begins Thursday night with two kickoff classic teasers.
Irish Jack started making his picks on about 10-11 games a week two years ago in the Crossroads section of the News Journal before retiring last February.
Lets see I still have the touch. I’ll be back on Friday to hit on some of the other big opening games.
Upstate game
Alexis I. duPont vs McKean, 7 – This should be a very competitive test for both schools.
As 5-8 juniotr quarerback Ramsey Lowery goes, is the key for A.I. McKean coach Miker Ryan returns 10 starters, featuring senior stud Ryan Plummer (HB-LB) and two-way linemen Rob Boyd and Leo Espinosa. I give a slight edge to the Tigers. A.I. 20-14
Smyrna vs Middletown. Smyrna has some solid talent, but Middletown is loaded. Great to see these two neighboring schools going at it in the opener. Cavaliers have talent and depth with the likes of sophomore quarterback Darius Wade and 265-pound lineman Cody Spence. Middletown 33-14.
While I’m thinking of it, here are my top 10 teams in Dibision I and II to start 2011.
Division I
1-St. Mark, 2-Middletown, 3-Newark, 4-Caesar Rodney, 5-Sussex Central, 6-Salesianum, 7-Concord, 8-Dover, 9-AI. duPont, 10-William Penn.
TEAMS to watch: Salesianum is hiding in the weeds ready to strike at any time. Quarterback Tommy Reeder ‘s arm and decision making can take the Sals a long way. Don’t forget – St. Mark’s. Don’t count out the defending state champs. Quaryterback Jeff Ziemba is experienced and talented.

Division II. 1-St. Elizanbeth, 2-Delmar, 3-Archmere, 4-Indian River, 5-Howard, 6-St. George’s, 7-McKean, 8-Caravel, 9-Lake Forest, 10-Hodgson
Team to watch: I’m looking for some good things from IR. The Indians return 11 starters, With the excitement quarterback Jamie Jarmon brings running and passing, along with a veteran offensive and defensive line, first year Coach Ray Steele should have the aggressive Indians in the thick of the Henlopen Conference Southern Division chase.
Stay tuned for mopre from Irish Jack Ireland.

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Former Rocks Byrdak inspiring comeback

During my 11 years as beat reporter of the Blue Rocks Carolina League Class A Minor League baseball team for the Wilmington News Journal, left-handed pitcher Tim Byrdak ranked right up at the top of the list as one of my favorite all-time players.
I’ll never forget during an interview I was doing with him for a short feature, Byrdak said (on a dare), while playing at Rice University in Houston, he climbed up the flagpole at the baseball stadium to try and get students to notice and come support the team. I knew I loved this guy right then. He was a reporter’s dream. Full of good quotes and stories.
By Jack Ireland.
So, you can understand that when New York Mets reliever Tim Byrdak trotted in from the center field bullpen at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia last month, I was more than a little excited.
Byrdak pitvhed for the Rocks in1995 and again in 1997. He could relieve, start and always lighten up the clubhouse and the small group of media (including myself) who covered the  on a daily basis.
Even though Byrdak was wearing a Mets uniform, for the next five minutes or so, it didn’t matter. The Phillies had a comfortable lead and I was totally rooting for the “Birdman”.
That was a nickname I would sometimes use for Tim and he didn’t seem to mind.

 I was attending the Phils-Mets game on Aug. 23 with my daughters Elizabeth and Annie.
When I saw the pitcher coming in, I said tto Annie ‘I think that’s the “Birdman” When public address announcer Dan Baker announced the new Mets pitcher I was like a kid on Christmas mortning. I jumped out of my seat , waved my hands and shounted “Birdman”, Timmy Byrdak is coming in.
Now, being that high up, even with my loud voice, Byrdak couldn’t hear me and the fans around me probably thought I was a little strange,, but I didn’t worry about that.

 Byrdak struck out two consecutive hitters to end the inning and his night was complete.
So was mine, I got to watch the game with my lovely daughters, the Phils won and it was the first time I had seen Tim Byrdak pitch in a major league game.
 Iwon’t go into all the details, but Tim Byrdak’s story truly shows how hard it is to get to the majors and stay there. Injuries can ruin a promising career in a heartbeat.
Byrdak made his major league debut with the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 7, 1998. Byrdak appeared in just 48 games (all in relief) over the next three years with an overall ERA not work mentioning.
However, there may have been an underlying factor in why he was 0-4 and going back and forth from Triple A to KC.
It turns out in 1997, dutring his last year in Wilmington, his ulnar collateral ligament was damaged. He passed on the Tommy John surgery then and did blow out his elbow in 2001  in what looked like the end of his career.
After having Tommy John surgery Byrdak spent the next four years out of baseball.
. With his wife Heather pregnant and one child at home, bills were skyrocketing and Byrdak had to find work. He helped his father-in-law in their hometown of Orland Park, Ill and his wife handled two jobs when she could. Tim and his wife now have four children.
One day while they were in Target, his wife noticed the company was hiring. She urged Tim  to apply. He was hired to work for Target in Viera, Fla. Byrdak worked the overnight shift, unloading boxes from the trucks andmove them into the stockroom. 
Byrdak did everything he could to make ends meet. In the back of his mind though, he was still thinking comeback (somehow, someway getting back to the majors) and Heather was his No. 1 supporter. The winter in Florida gave his elbow time to heal and get stronger.
The opportunity, that seemed like a distant memory in 2001, started to show signs of promise, first with a stint in Independent League baseball and a tryout with the San Diego Padres. While pitching for Triple A Portland, he was traded to the Orioles in 2005. It was five years since his last major league appearance when he reported to Baltimore and the rebirth of a major league pitcher. In 2005 he appeared in 41 games. He pitched  two years in Baltimore, one year in Detroit, three good season with Houston before signing a minor league contract with the Mets at the age of 37 this past offseason.
Through Sept. 1, Byrdak was 1-0 (59 games) with a 3.41 earned run average..
His one year in Detroit he was 3-0 (3.20 ERA) with opposing batters hitting .222 against hoim. He was outstanding with the Astros. He pitched in 199 games total and his ERA was under 4.00 each season. In 2009 opposing batters hit just .178 against him.

It’s been a long time (14 years) since I’ve seen Byrdak and he probably doesn’t remember that minor league baseball reporter who was often bugging him for pregame and post game quotes. But’s that’s okay. Tim’s had a lot of things on his plate to deal with.

This is truly an inspiring story about a man who was class at the age of 23 and I’m sure is the same way, just a couple months short of his 38th birthday.

If the Phillies are looking for a gutsy left-handed situational reliever to get out left-handed hittrers, I don’t think it would be a bad idea to take a look at Byrdak for 2012. After all he has been through it would be great to see him close out his career with a power team like the Phils.

Way to go “Birdman”.