1. Cardinal O’Hara (5-8-0) Last Week: No. 1
The Lions finish with St. Joseph’s Prep, La Salle and Father Judge. We’ll see if they can make some headway against the teams ahead of them in the AAA standings, which would provide a major boost heading into the playoffs.
2. Springfield (10-2-1) Last Week: No. 2
This Friday’s contest with Penncrest will be a chance to all but clinch the Central A title. Last meeting, the Lions played them even for almost two periods before Tyler Riddle and Ryan Brawley threw together a three-goal barrage in a minute and a half from which the Lions couldn’t recover. The Cougars have three crossover games before closing the season with Garnet Valley, so a win over Penncrest could continue a big momentum surge into the postseason.
3. Penncrest (10-4-1) Last Week: No. 3
Thanks to an injury that I’ll discuss momentarily, the Lions may possess the only game-changing goalie in the Central League in the form of Jake Branyan; just ask St. Joseph’s Prep, against whom Branyan was phenomenal in making 31 saves to pitch a 1-0 shutout. The Lions have proven a flair for the dramatic, with late come-from-behind effort to beat Haverford and tie Garnet Valley. Let’s see what they can do if they can turn things on a little earlier.
4. Garnet Valley (8-6-1) Last Week: No. 4
I’m conflicted with Garnet Valley. It’s a team with lots of potential and skill, but as a 5-2 loss to Conestoga attests, there’s something missing. They need four points out of the last three games, comprising Upper Darby, Radnor and Springfield, to mount a charge heading into the postseason.
5. Haverford School (8-3-0) Last Week: NR
It’s a bit of a mixed bag with the Fords. On one hand, there’s a 7-2 throttling at the hands of Penncrest. On the other, there’s a 3-2 win over Malvern. It’s difficult to judge the Fords in their parallel independent league, but a 7-2 thrashing of a decent Episcopal Academy squad certainly says something and earns inclusion in this group.
6. Radnor (6-7-1) Last Week: No. 5
The absence of Grayson Mameniskis (and I’ll delve more into that later) for the season with a knee injury is a major blow that moves the Red Raiders from neck-and-neck with Garnet Valley to battling with Haverford and the top-end teams in Central B. Thomas Hemcher has big pads to fill, and there’s only so much he can do with his limited experience – Monday against Archbishop Carroll was game No. 2 in his career. He needs to improve things like rebound control, and it puts a huge onus on his defensemen to be more vigilant on the turnover front.
7. Haverford (7-7-0) Last Week: No. 7
Haverford’s 4-3 loss to Upper Darby was over two months ago, and that was a Fords team that was without Kevin Leyden, still playing football. With him and the improvement of Joey Harant in goal, Haverford gets the edge for the last spot.
Also under consideration: Upper Darby (10-5-0; a win over Garnet Valley this week changes the equation); Archbishop Carroll (2-12-2; a win over Radnor puts them in this conversation, and the return of Chip Byrne gives them two solid lines and the potential to take a winning streak into the playoffs); Episcopal Academy (5-3-1; the Churchmen have a strong complement of forwards; we’ll see if they can get more consistent goaltending as the playoffs approach).