Eagles will soar in the playoffs

By David Schwartz

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Philadelphia Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery catches a touchdown pass against the Los Angeles Charger defense in the first quarter on Oct. 1 in Carson, Ca. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Eagles fans usually have high expectations for Philadelphia’s beloved football team before each season. Prior to this season, expectations were not high enough.

After finishing the 2016 season with a record of 7-9, the Eagles are currently flying high with a 10-1 record, which was captivated by a 37-9 blowout win over the division rival Dallas Cowboys Nov. 19 and a 31-3 abomination over the Chicago Bears Nov. 26. The Eagles have a five game lead over the Cowboys in the NFC East Division now that Dallas is 5-6.

One of the highlights of this current Eagles’ season has been the play of second -year quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz.

So far, he has accumulated a 60 percent completion percentage, 2,657 passing yards, and 28 touchdown passes. Wentz also ran for 253 yards on the ground.

The success of Wentz’s season is due to the amazing effort by his receiving corps, led by tight end Zach Ertz (55 catches, 639 receiving yards, seven touchdowns), wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (43 catches, 619 receiving yards, seven touchdowns), and wide receiver Nelson Agholor (33 catches, 458 receiving yards, six touchdowns).

LeGarrette Blount has been the top rusher so far for the Eagles as he’s ran for 658 yards on 137 carries and two touchdowns.

The running game looks to get even better since acquiring former Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi in a trade on Oct. 31. Ajayi scored his first touchdown for the Eagles on a 46-yard run in their 51-23 blowout win against the Denver Broncos Nov. 5.

As much as the Eagles offense has excelled, the defense has been just as good since allowing an average of only 17.4 points throughout their first 11 games.

Their pass rush has been the anchor of their defensive scheme led by defensive tackler Fletcher Cox (15 tackles, 5.5 sacks) and defensive ends Brandon Graham (34 tackles, seven sacks) and Vinny Curry (32 tackles, three sacks).

Safety Malcolm Jenkins (53 tackles, one sack, two interceptions) has been a tremendous leader for the Eagles’ secondary and cornerbacks Jalen Mills (51 tackles, three interceptions), and Patrick Robinson (35 tackles, three interceptions) have filled the voids at that position while Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones have been recovering from injuries.

Darby played against the Cowboys for the first time since dislocating his ankle in the season opener against the Washington Redskins, which included an interception in the first half.

With fives games left to go in the regular season, it’s safe to say that the Eagles are going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013, but how far can they go?

To reach the Super Bowl, the Eagles are going to have to play against some pretty good teams in the NFC. The Minnesota Vikings (9-2), New Orleans Saints (8-3), and Los Angeles Rams (8-3) all lead their respective divisions, along with the Carolina Panthers (8- 3), the Atlanta Falcons (7-4), and the Seattle Seahawks (7-4) battling it out for the two wild card spots.

Due to most of the division leaders not having much playoff experience, the Eagles should win the NFC and advance to the Super Bowl.

Prior to the season, my Super Bowl matchup prediction was the Seahawks facing the New England Patriots. That all changed Nov. 9 when Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman ruptured his Achilles against the Arizona Cardinals.

Safety Kam Chancellor was also announced out for the rest of the season due to a neck injury a week after the Cardinals game.

Throughout the last few seasons, the Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the NFL due to their amazing secondary featuring Sherman and safeties Chancellor and Earl Thomas to make up “The Legion of Boom.”

Before Sherman and Chancellor got hurt, the Seahawks were the only team that I believed to be in the way of the Eagles reaching the Super Bowl. Wentz and the rest of the Birds have a huge opportunity to dethrone Seattle and represent the NFC, but can the Eagles actually win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history?

They certainly have a shot.

There are two teams in the AFC that can win the Super Bowl: the Patriots (9-2) and Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2).

The Steelers have one of the best offenses in the NFL with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

The Patriots, with quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, should still be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl. This famous head coach-quarterback duo have won five championships together, including last year’s victory against the Falcons.

The Eagles have all of the tools to make a run and win it all, but due to a surplus of experience in New England, my prediction currently stands with the Patriots.

Whatever happens in this season’s playoffs should take nothing away from what the Eagles have been doing so far this season. Wentz has been phenomenal and is a NFL superstar in the making.

He’s a winner, but he’s young. At the age of 24, Wentz will have his first playoff experience and it’s going to be exciting to see if he can handle the pressure in playoff games.

Mark your calendars for Feb. 4th.

Contact David Schwartz at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

Phantoms stay focused towards season’s end

By David Schwartz

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Phantoms forward Alvin Davis attempts to kick the ball past MCCC’s defense on Oct. 14 at Montgomery County Community College. Photo by David Schwartz

The men’s soccer team’s season came to a close with a 2-1 road loss to Bucks County Community College in the opening round of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III Region XIX Playoffs Oct. 21.

The Phantoms final regular season record of 7-6 led to an 11 seed in the playoffs. Bucks County ended their regular season with an 11-5-1 record and a 6 seed.

Bucks County midfielder Howard Haas scored the first goal in the 27th minute, which gave them a 1-0 lead. They extended the lead to 2-0 in the 85th minute with a goal scored by forward Ilia Borisov.

DCCC avoided the shutout with a penalty kick by forward Luke Maruca in the 89th minute to cut the deficit to 2-1. Goalie Joseph Messina ended the game with six saves out of eight shots on goal.

The loss left the Phantoms with a 7-7 record for the season in what had been a “fantastic, growing experience,” according to head coach Ryan Griffith, who just finished his 14th season.

“It’s not about perfection, it’s about progression,” Griffith said. “Once the boys progress from a day-to-day basis and focus on the student athletic portion [of the season], then they will be successful on the field.”

The Phantoms faced adversity a week prior when they suffered an 8-2 loss on the road to Montgomery County Community College. After MCCC led 2-1 at halftime, they broke away and outscored DCCC 6-1 in the second half due to multiple defensive breakdowns.

Phantoms forward Abu Bangura scored the only goal. The team’s other goal was scored due to a deflection by MCCC into their own net. Messina saw plenty of action by recording eight saves out of 16 shots on goal.

“It is what it is at this point,” Griffith said as he addressed his team after the loss. “It’s over and done with.”

Griffith knew the team needed to keep their composure and stick to the “keys of success” to win the team’s final regular season home game 4-2 Oct. 17 against Harrisburg Area Community College.

“We have about six keys every game,” Griffith said. “One of [those keys] is 90 plus minutes of defensive intensity and we didn’t do that.”

The team stuck to that key against Harrisburg to finish the regular season. Messina had five saves out of seven shots on goal while forward Juan Saravia led the scoring with two goals, along with a goal by Maruca and Bangura each.

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Phantoms Coach Ryan Griffith talks to his team during an injury timeout on Oct. 14 at Montgomery County Community College Photo by David Schwartz

As the season came to a close, the Phantoms earned accolades with Maruca and forward Shamour Young earning spots on the Eastern Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (EPAC) All-Conference First Team. Young also made the Region XIX Division III All-Region Third Team.

Maruca finished the season with three goals and three assists, while Young finished with five goals and two assists. Messina closed his season stat line with 83 saves out of 131 shots on goal and one shutout.

“I was really shocked and excited,” Young said on making All-Conference and All-Region. “My goal is to get a scholarship so it’s another step towards that goal.”

Contact David Schwartz at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

Make soccer safer

By David Schwartz

Josh Shore, 23, of Newark, Del. has been playing soccer almost his entire life. Growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania, Shore played for numerous club teams and was captain of his soccer team at Garnet Valley High School in Glen Mills, Pa.

Throughout his athletic career, Shore has succumbed to multiple concussions. Most of the concussions were from soccer, along with a few from hockey and lacrosse. Officially, he has been diagnosed with eight of them. “I might have had more,” Shore said as he explained his history of concussions.

As he entered his 20’s, his symptoms of concussions persisted over time. By late 2015, he was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. Prior to being diagnosed, Shore experienced memory loss, anxiety, and random mood swings.

During the fall semester of 2015 at Delaware Technical Community College, Shore had to withdraw to start treatment as soon as possible. “I’ve had to miss school for a week or two at a time,” Shore said. He was also told by his doctor that he would no longer be allowed to play contact sports, including soccer.

Shore is one of many young athletes who is currently dealing with post-concussion syndrome. The U.S. Soccer Federation has been raising awareness on the issue of concussions and how they can affect the lives of players during and after their athletic career.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3.8 million concussions occur in the United States annually through sports and recreational activities, but only 5-10 percent are diagnosed.

According to the CDC, a concussion, which is also called a traumatic brain injury, is caused by a blow to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. The severity of a concussion can range from “mild” to “severe.”

The CDC explains that symptoms include memory loss, headaches, blurry vision, nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to noise, balance problems, anxiety, depression, and irritability. A number of these symptoms will show up right away, but others may not be noticed until days or months after a concussion.

According to the Weill Cornell Concussion and Brain Injury Clinic, symptoms for post-concussion syndrome will include short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating or completing tasks, and feeling “slower,” along with the symptoms of a regular concussion. Long-term effects of concussions are still being studied.

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has stated that individuals who continue to report symptoms of a concussion months after the initial brain injury have exhibited emotional distress and poor physical functioning.

In 2014, the Concussion Legacy Foundation helped launch the Safer Soccer Campaign. They stated that their mission is to educate parents and coaches on the benefits of delaying the introduction of headers, which means hitting the ball with your head, until high school.

According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, attempting to head the ball and colliding is the number one risk of concussions in youth soccer, causing more than 30,000 concussions each year. That is nearly one third of all concussions in youth soccer.

In November 2015, U.S. Soccer adopted a series of safety initiatives aimed at addressing concussions in youth soccer, including rules that prohibit players ages ten and under from heading the ball and the reduction of headers in practice for 11 to 13-year-old players.

“These guidelines are a major victory for the Safer Soccer campaign and a fantastic first step in making the world’s most popular sport safer to play for children,” Concussion Legacy Foundation Director Chris Nowinski said. “Together the supporters of the Safer Soccer campaign showed there is widespread support for the elimination of headers for children and U.S. Soccer heard our message.”

Along with the new guidelines in place for youth soccer, the struggles of Shore and many other athletes with post-concussion syndrome are raising awareness in the continued efforts to reduce concussions in organized sports.

After getting the help that he needed, Shore was able to return to school the next year and further pursue his studies.

Shore continues to suffer from symptoms of post-concussion syndrome every day and has missed class on several occasions. He is still taking medication and is being evaluated on a monthly basis.

Although he is not allowed to play contact sports, Shore has learned how to play golf over the last year. He has been playing at various courses with his friends in Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania and has been improving his game.

“It sucks not being able to play soccer anymore, but since golf is basically the only sport I can play now, I decided to give it a shot,” Shore said. “It’s helped me feel better.”

Contact David Schwartz at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

Phantoms’ head coach leads players to success on and off the field

By Brian Devine

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Photo of the 2016 Phantoms Soccer Team. Head Coach, Ryan Griffith (left), and assistant coach, Steve Weatherby (right), led the Phantoms to their first playoff appearance in four years with a 7-5 regular season record. Photo by Ryan Griffith.

In his 13th year as head coach of The Phan- toms, DCCC’s soccer team, Ryan Griffith led his club into the play- offs with a 7-5 record in the NJCAA region 19 standings. Although the Phantoms were defeated in the first round against Sussex County Com- munity College, Griffith’s team showed resiliency as they won their final three regular season games to clinch a playoff spot.

What Griffith is most proud of is how his players fare off the field. Griffith says he instills values such as teamwork and dedication in his team, and he wants his players to use these skills to succeed in school as well as in their daily lives.

Griffith says he started playing soccer once he was old enough to walk, and received coaching from his father. When Griffith was a student at DCCC, he played for the Phantoms, which is how he began his coaching career.

As an athlete for the Phantoms, he took on responsibilities such as running practices and was offered the coaching position the following year.

In a recent interview with the Communitarian, Griffith talks about the team’s season, and his coaching philosophy.

Q: How did it feel to make the playoffs this season?

A: It was fantastic. It’s been four years since we made the playoffs. It was quite an accomplishment for the guys. Going into the season, that’s where we wanted to be. Our expectations were a little bit more than what we achieved this year, but overall it was still a really good achievement based on the personnel we had on the field and definitely our goalie, Kyle {O’Brien}, who never played soccer before.

He pretty much took one for the team and decided to become goalie three weeks before the season started. So we had to turn him from a novice defender to a novice goalie in a matter of three weeks before the season started. I knew we were going to have some growing pains there, which we did throughout the season. And the guys on the field were very supportive. All 16 guys were actually very supportive of Kyle’s decision to play goalie.

Overall, it was a great season. It’s fun every year because they essentially start out as competitors against each other, and then they become brothers at the end. And some, not necessarily all, because it usually takes two years the majority of the time, the players go from boys to men. They grow. The maturation process between the lines becomes real, and outside the lines as well.

Q: In your 13 years coaching at DCCC, would you rate this season as one of the most successful?

A: I rate every season as successful because, essentially, soccer is one of those games where you have to rely heavily on your teammates. Every season is a success based on what they accomplish as individuals coming out of the season.

The whole idea is to grow: grow as a soccer player, not just from skillset, but from the understanding of the game. And then obviously, from a student athlete perspective, we always stress that the student comes first.

Last year, for instance, we had the highest GPA of any athletic group, so we want to continue that going forward. But every year is definitely a success. It’s not just based on soccer alone.

Q: How hard is it to find students willing to commit to the team if they also work outside of school?

A: Unfortunately, we run into this issue every year. It’s tough even from the time I played because in community college, most student athletes have either part-time or fulltime jobs. They have school and other responsibilities as well.

And then from a transfer standpoint, you have to weigh if they are going to give up one or two years eligibility based on how serious they are about their athletics. So it is hard, and obviously from the community college standpoint, there aren’t scholarships from the athlete perspective.

They are coming here based on the previous talents of the team before, word of mouth, and obviously myself and coach Steve {Weatherby} as well. So it is tough to retain these guys and getting players.

And with 13 years, like I said, every year has been successful. And it’s great to forge these relationships with these kids because when you look back on it now, guys I coached in the first five or six years, they reach out to say, “Hey coach, I appreciate what you’ve done for me, not just as a player but as a man. ” These guys are married, they have kids. They say, “We’ve seen what you’ve done with your kids on the sideline, and now I have a son.” Stories like that. Those hit home.

Q: What was the best moment of the season?

A: I would say in our final game. Obviously, it was a defeat and a tough one, but they finally as a collective group played the entire 90 minutes, even after they were down one goal. It was good to see them committed to the game. They committed to each other. And they committed to the process. I was very, very pleased by that. Although they lost, it was the happiest I was the entire season because they didn’t give up at all. There was no quitting.

Q: What was the lowest point?

A: I wouldn’t consider any of it a low point. It’s only the process. Obviously, you start at the base, so if there’s a low point, it would be training camp, starting from scratch. But there’s no actual low as far as morale or anything like that. You just start at the base every season, and you progress throughout the season.

B: As a coach, what is the most important attribute you look for in a soccer player?

A: Teamwork. The ability to work with others. It’s not an individual sport. You have 10 guys with you on the field at a time, so collectively, it’s a group effort at all times.

Q: How do you motivate players to play together as a team?

A: You have to motivate each player separately and then collectively as a group. Once you get through to each player, and get their buy in, then you can get through to the entire group. But you got to start with each player. And then collectively, you can build from there.

And that’s basically getting to know each player. Once you figure out what makes them tick, whether it’s from a practice session, from technical work, tactical, to just straight up from a motivational speech, you have to find out what makes them tick. And then, you find out what makes the group tick, and then you go from there.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I guess for next year or any players coming in, we are looking for primarily selfless players. Anyone who is willing to commit to the team. Once you commit to your brothers on the team, we will find a spot for you here at Delaware County Community College.

Together Everyone Achieves More — TEAM. I’d also like to add that without my assistant Steve, none of this would be possible.

Contact Brian Devine at Communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

On the air with Mike Missanelli

By J.P. McClatchy

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Michael Vick (middle) is interviewed by Mike Missanelli from 97.5 The Fanatic along with Nina Tiami (left), PR Director of Aloft Hotel. Photo courtesy of Hugh E Dillion/phillychitchat.com

Alone in the booth at 97.5 the Fanatic studios, Mike Missanelli looks into the dis- tance waiting for the “on air” sign to light up, signaling it’s time for another talk with the sports fans of Philadelphia.

“I aim to always hear both sides of a particular argument because it makes the subject matter more listenable to the public,” Missanelli says.

Over the years, Missanelli has become one of the most popular sports radio personalities in Philadelphia, ranked second behind WMMR in the May 2016 ratings, with more than 105,000 followers on Twitter.

Missanelli believes his key to success on the air is continuing to be creative with how he implements segments like General Knowledge Wednesdays, during which he quizzes listeners on a variety of topics to add a personal touch to the show.

This afternoon, the board is flooded with listeners waiting to get on the air.

Missanelli says he is always excited to discuss Philadelphia sports, especially the Eagles because it’s his favorite team to talk about with listeners.

“Football, football, and more football,” Missanelli says. “The Philly audience is plugged in and engaged with any type of Eagles talk.”

Missanelli grew up in Bristol Borough Bucks County, a very small industrial town on the Delaware River. He graduated from Penn State University in 1977 and played second base for the Nittany Lions baseball team. He also obtained a law degree from the Delaware Law School of Widener University in 1986, while still working at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He says he became a radio host by accident.

“I had been a newspaper reporter for many years at the Philadelphia Inquirer and many of us from the sports department started going on sports talk radio,” Missanelli says. “The 610 WIP management liked what they heard and they offered me a position to be an evening drive host at more money than I was making in newspapers, so I took the job.”

Besides doing radio on WIP, Missanelli had a show on 93.3 WMMR called “The Philly Guys,” which lasted two years. The show included popular Philadelphia comedian and man of a thousand voices, Joe Conklin, and Vinnie “the Crumb.”

In 2006, Missanelli was fired from WIP after an altercation with his producer and, to this day, there are conflicting reports on what actually happened that day.

In 2008, Missanelli was hired by the newly named ESPN 950, making them a contender against WIP as far as ratings went, a first in Philadelphia. Missanelli signed a new multiyear contract with the now called 97.5 the Fanatic in 2010 and has been there ever since.

Although Missanelli has not been writing for awhile, he says he still misses it a great deal and has been writing a column for PhillyMag.com. Recently, he has discontinued writing for the site due to budget cuts.

Today, Missanelli tries to eat some of his soup in between breaks. He is already prepared for the next segment with special guest Jayson Stark, an MLB writer for ESPN, to discuss what is happening around the league in Major League baseball.

As a sports radio personality, Missanelli is able to talk with some of the brightest minds in the sports world, including Philadelphia’s most historic athletes on his radio show.

Out of all the guests he has on the show, he says his favorite is always former Sixers’ power forward and NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. Missanelli loves when Barkley occasionally comes in and co-hosts the show with him.

“All you have to do is wind Charles up and you can talk to him about almost any subject, sports or not,” Missanelli adds.

Missanelli hopes to encourage and solicit entertaining conversation each day with callers on the hottest local sports topics of the day. He says he wants to make it fun for people to listen to his show, so he tries to keep it as creative as possible.

“I love the everyday interaction with people,” Missanelli says. “There is always a different day and a different spin you can put on a topic.”

Contact J.P. McClatchy at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu