By GEORGE GEIGER
Special to the Press
For the first time since 1991, and only the seventh time in their history, there are two Lehigh Valley Scholar-Athletes in football.
Bangor's Scott LaValva and Nazareth's Chuck Dibilio shared the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame's Lehigh Valley Chapter's Al Beneck award, which was presented Sunday night in Northampton.
Before a crowd of over 300, Lehigh Valley Chapter President Edward Watto announced "the vote was too close to call," and presented both Bangor and Nazareth gridders with plaques.
LaValva, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound running back and defensive back, is heading to Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster. He ranks 25th out of 278 Slater students. LaValva, who also participates in basketball and track, earned All-Colonial League and All-State honors while serving two years as captain.
LaValva is a member of the National Honor Society and editor of the school newspaper and is active in a Bangor leadership group and his church youth group.
Nazareth's Dibilio, meanwhile, ranks 29th out of 386 Blue Eagle students. The 5-10, 175-pound tailback earned All-Lehigh Valley Conference and all-state honors and was named the LVC's Offensive MVP. A member of the National Honor Society, the Princeton University-bound senior also participates in varsity and AAU basketball, and is active in several other school organizations.
Dibilio's other activities include volunteering for youth football and basketball camps.
During a two-hour program that included a great meal, Master of Ceremonies Mike Zambelli kept the banquet flowing. After Nazareth coach Rob Melosky introduced the 34 high school and six collegiate scholar-athletes, the Dieruff High School Air Force ROTC color guard presented the colors, and Jesus Lopez of East Stroudsburg North sang the national anthem. Rev. James Prior of Roseto presented the invocation.
Northampton Mayor Thomas Reenock welcomed school administrators, parents, coaches and scholars, and East Stroudsburg North principal Stephen Zall presented an educator's view on the scholar-athlete.
Now Princeton football coach Bob Suracc was the main speaker, and told the athletes they were "the future leaders" with their coaches "maintaining balance" and their parents providing "the support system."
The L.V. Scholar-Athlete list: Ackeem Bell of Allen, Shane McNealy of Central Catholic, LaValva, Michael Yildiran of Bethlehem Catholic, Jeff Gallagher of Catasauqua, Geze Paul Frey Jr. of Dieruff, Cody Johnson of Eastburg North, Jim Coscia of Eastburg South South, Benjamin Lorigan of Easton, Brian Velasco of Emmaus, Zach Mazur of Freedom, Cody Mann of Jim Thorpe, Noah Tkach of Lehighton, Drew Persa of Liberty, Dibilio, Chad Fenon of Northampton, Michael Buresh of Northern Lehigh, Tom Hudak of Northwestern, Robert Snyder Jr. of Notre Dame, Josh Parris of Palisades, Jarrett Kleintop of Palmerton, Kurtis Kaunas of Parkland, Nathan Hood of Pen Argyl, Nick Porcelli of Phillipsburg, George Dalessandro of Pius X, Albert Linares of Pleasant Valley, Matt Murphy of Pocono Mountain East, Josh Gonzalez of Pocono Mountain West, Dan Allen of Salisbury, Ian Gimber of Saucon Valley, David Givler of Southern Lehigh, Evan Wilson of Stroudsburg, Chris Polony of Whitehall and Nils Larson of Wilson.
The six collegiate scholar-athletes are: East Stroudsburg's Matt Freed, Kutztown's Jared Haas, Lafayette's Marc Quilling, Lehigh's Tom Randazza, Moravian's Alex Hersch and Muhlenberg's Michael Katz.