Jim Thorpe quarterback Ryan Saunders and Marian linebacker Lukas Damian were both extremely important to their football teams this past season.
Saunders was the leader of the Olympians offense, helping them generate a TIMES NEWS best 377.8 yards per game.
Damian did it all for the Colts. On offense, he played quarterback when called upon and also ran the ball for the Colts when they needed a sure hand to pound the football (179 yards, three TDs).
However, it was on the defensive side of the ball that Damian made his greatest impact. He was no doubt the leader of the TN area's second ranked defense and it's safe to say opposing coaches always based their offensive gameplan around him.
The play of Saunders and Damian certainly didn't go unnoticed as they were both named to the PIAA All State football team. Saunders, who chosen at the athlete position is a member of the Class AAA team, while Damian was chosen for his dominating play at the linebacker position on the Class A team.
For the Olympians, this marks the second consecutive season where they have had their signal caller named to the All State team. Pat Duvigneaud (2012) was also chosen at the athlete position just one year ago.
There's no denying that Saunders' statistical numbers this season merit an All State selection. The senior ran for 1,570 yards (single-season school record) and 17 touchdowns, while throwing for 1,005 yards and 10 touchdowns. Meaning, Saunders was responsible for over 2,500 yards of total offense.
"Ryan's physical ability was great this year, but his leadership on the field was the key," said Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger. "He had an extreme will to win and he never gave up on a play. There were numerous times throughout the season where he looked to be down, but he would break a tackle or burst through the line. He always wanted the ball in his hands when the game was on the line as well. You can't want anymore from your quarterback than that."
Saunders, who will be looking to play football at the next level in the fall did what any good football player does. He got better each and every year and became a complete quarterback for the Olympians when all was said and done.
"We always knew Ryan was going to be a great athlete for us," said Rosenberger. "He showed that early on in the season, but then he truly became a dual-threat quarterback. He threw the ball well for us this year and once he added that dimension to his game, he was a pretty tough kid to stop. Our staff and our team is very proud of Ryan and we're honored to have a member of our football team on the All State team."
Marian's Lukas Damian garnered some pretty impressive numbers of his own this season, with one statistic sticking out a bit more than the rest. The senior linebacker came up with an impressive 163 tackles for the Colts, collecting over 20 tackles on four different occasions. A number of those performances came against some very good football teams with strong rushing attacks Mahanoy (22 tackles), Jim Thorpe (21), and Tamaqua (23).
"He has meant as much to this program as any great player that we've had," said Marian coach Stan Dakosty. "He not only had and impact on this program, but the school as well. He's just a passionate, smart, and talented young man. I don't know a kid that deserves this honor more than Lukas. He is exactly what Marian Catholic High School stands for."
Damian was a beast on the defensive side of the ball for the Colts throughout the 2013 season. His motor was unmatched and his ability to play downhill and cover ground from sideline to sideline is what made him an All State caliber player.
"What makes Lukas a great football player are his instincts. He has a nose for the football and he's a true student of the game," said Dakosty. "He really is the whole package. He's mobile, he's quick, he covers a lot of ground, especially sideline to sideline. He just plays fast, and when you dedicate the kind-of time Lukas did to the game, you're going to be successful. We couldn't be more proud of the kind of kid Lukas is and of his accomplishments both on the field and in the classroom."
Damian is currently getting looks from FCS (formerly Division I-AA) and Divsion 2 schools.