Four TIMES NEWS area football teams qualified for the District 11 playoffs in 2012.
23 out of the 28 players that were selected to this year's TIMES NEWS Football All Star first team were members of those teams.
Pleasant Valley has the most players honored on this year's squad, having nine players selected. Tamaqua finished the regular season with a 10-0 record and is represented by six players. Marian had a dominant defense in 2011, giving up just 190 yards per game and is represented well with four members, all on defense. Finally, perennial postseason participant Northern Lehigh has three players that were chosen.
Below are bios on all our First Team selections along with comments from their respective head coaches.
Quarterback - Brandon Leap, Pleasant Valley
Leap led a very powerful offense, averaging 30 points per game and almost 360 yards of total yards per contest. It's not many times you see a quarterback pass for over 2,000 yards in high school football, but Leap surpassed that mark in 2012. He made good decisions throughout the season as well and was a big part of helping the Bears reach the District 11 AAAA final. The junior was 134-for-236 with 2,164 yards, throwing 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions... "Brandon really developed in his junior season and played consistent football week in and week out. His maturity level is also very high and he did a good job reading defenses and hitting multiple targets. He did a good job of hitting our receivers in stride throughout the year as well and made some great throws that not a lot of guys in this area can make."
Running back - Austyn Borre, Pleasant Valley
If Borre's freshman season is a sign of things to come then the Bears' opposition in the Mountain Valley Conference better brace itself for three more rough seasons. The freshman showed the ability to run inside and outside the tackles and possesses the extra gear that is seen in all great running backs. He also showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as well and if he stays healthy will have a pretty remarkable career for the Bears. Borre rushed 177 times for 1,278 yards and 13 touchdowns, along with catching 21 balls for 302 yards and three scores... "Austyn had a heck of a year for us and obviously played well beyond his years. He's a tough kid, who's got a lot of speed and a great work ethic. We're really looking forward to having him for the next three seasons and also to see how he improves and grows as a football player."
Running back - Rich Smith, Panther Valley
Rich Smith was once referred to by head coach Lon Hazlet as the "Ambassador" of the Panther Valley football program. Listening to people talk about Smith and then talking to him in person you can figure out why he's held in such high regard by his peers and his coaches. Smith was the leader of this year's PV squad and if not for an injury would have had an even more impressive resume. Smith was also an outstanding student, being a member of the National Honor Society. The senior back rushed for 1,002 yards and 13 touchdowns despite missing two entire games and part of another. Defensively, he manned the middle of the Panthers' defense... "Richie is such an easy kid to talk about. He was our best player, hardest worker, and leader of our football team. He was the kind of kid that would always stick up for the little guy too. He brought it every Friday night and is just an overall good football player, but an even better person. He's a natural leader and really helped us in building the program with his work ethic."
Running back - Caleb Johnson, Northern Lehigh
Not much needs to be said about the TIMES NEWS football player of the year. Johnson did everything for the Bulldogs in 2012 except hand out the towels and gatorade. He played defensive end, linebacker, tight end, running back and flanker. He's also not too bad in the classroom either and he will be taking his talents to Harvard in the fall. Johnson rushed for 1,064 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught 16 balls for 368 yards and four scores. Johnson was also a beast on the defensive side of the ball, coming up with 120 tackles and four fumble recoveries... "He's a different type of leader. He's not a yeller or a screamer. He's not the type of kid who is going to grab another kid in the locker room and tell him what to do. He just leads by example and the kids all love him. He loved doing all of the little things. We'd put him back to return kicks, he played on almost every special team play, he just did so many little things that helped us this year."
Wide Receiver - Sekou Jones, Pleasant Valley
Jones was a force to be reckoned with on the outside for the Bears this season. There's not a route that Jones didn't like and he served as a big, fast, strong target for Leap and the Bears offense. Jones also didn't mind throwing a downfield block or two and brought a lot of energy to the Bears attack whenever he stepped on the field. Jones finished the year with 36 catches for 671 yards and four touchdowns. Jones was also a big contributor on the Bears defensive unit as well, coming up with some big plays at the linebacker position in 2012... "Sekou was just outstanding for us this year. He's a real special kid and played the receiver spot with a lot of passion. He was always trying to get better and was just a huge force for us on both sides of the ball. Sekou was also a great leader for us."
Wide Receiver - Andrew Romeo, Pleasant Valley
The Bears' Andrew Romeo simply made big play after big play in 2012. When the Bears were down and looking for a big play on the offensive side of the ball they went to Romeo. He paired with Sekou Jones to create the best receiving duo the TN area has seen in quite awhile. Romeo finished with 35 catches for 748 and 12 touchdowns. That comes to an amazing 21 yards per catch... "I would say that Andrew Romeo is one of the most underrated players on our team. If we were inside the 20 we were going to him and he obviously made a lot of plays for us. He made big plays in big time situations and that's all you can ask for from your receivers. As far as inside receivers go, he's one of the best I've seen in this area."
Wide Receiver - Mike Harelston, Jim Thorpe
Mikey Harelston may not be the biggest receiver standing at just 5-7 and weighing in at about 150 pounds, but that didn't stop him from torching opposing defenses. Harelston constantly made big plays for JT when it needed it, a lot of times outjumping the defensive backs that were covering him. He lined up everywhere, whether it was in the slot, backfield, or split out wide, Harelston consistently made game-breaking type plays. The senior caught 34 balls for 772 yards and nine touchdowns. That's a staggering 23 yards per catch... "Mike was nothing but a great playmaker for us all season long. He made play after play and used his speed and agility to absolutely gash defenses. He wasn't very big as far as size is concerned, but he was always outleaping defenders in jump ball situations. He was such a big part of our offense."
Kris Seiler, Northern Lehigh
Seiler has been the anchor for the Bulldogs offensive line for the last two seasons and helped Caleb Johnson and company rush for a TN area best 239 yards per game. He also gets the job done in the classroom as well, ranking 12th in his class and was chosen as one of the captains for the 'Dawgs... "Kris has been our best lineman and leader of that group for the last two seasons. We moved him from center to guard this season because we ask our guards to pull a lot, so we want our most athletic guys at those spots. That speaks volumes about the type of players he is. He was always working hard and trying to get better and really did a nice job for us this season."
Luke Matsago, Tamaqua
Matsago was a three year starter for the Raiders and was the lone returning starter on the offensive line this season. Matsago helped anchor an o-line that cleared the way for a lot of rushing yards (221 yards per game) and also helped place three Tamaqua running backs in the top 15 in individual rushing yards in the TIMES NEWS area. Matsago also values academics, being ranked in the top 20% of his class... "Luke made an impact on both sides of the ball for us this year. He was a tough kid and took control of our offensive line and led those guys throughout the year. He was always ready to play and didn't miss a single game for us."
Austin Resch, Tamaqua
Resch is a guy that surprised the Raiders coaching staff in 2012. A question heading into the season for the Raiders' offensive line was who else would step up and play well with veteran Luke Matsago. Resch turned out to be the man for the job... "Austin did a really good job of working hard in offseason and getting stronger. We had a few question marks on our offensive line coming into the year, but he was one of the kids who really stepped up and did a really solid job for us. We moved him around a lot too, from guard to tackle and he had success at both positions."
Mike Benner, Pleasant Valley
Mike Benner came into the 2012 season with a lot of promise and he certainly didn't disappoint. Benner helped to protect the most prolific passing attack in the TN area at almost 190 yards per game... "He was the pulse of our offensive line this past season. He's worked really hard to get to where he is right now and that's what you look for in an offensive lineman. He looked the part and was a true leader out there for us. Being the left tackle he was the cornerstone of our offensive scheme and he did a great job protecting the quarterback."
Dominick Ammirato, Pleasant Vy.
Ammirato was also a big part of the powerful Pleasant Valley offense in 2012 and served as pound for pound the strongest kid on the Pleasant Valley roster. "Dominick played the game the way its supposed to be played. He brought a certain edge to our football team and that made the guys better around him. He played with a lot of passion and was also the strongest kid on our team. This is the type of guy you want to have on your side when you lace up the cleats on Friday nights."
Pat Duvigneaud, Jim Thorpe
If you saw Pat Duvigneaud play this season then you know why he's on this All Star team. The senior signal caller from JT made spectacular play after play, catching the eye of just not people from the TN area, but the state of Pennsylvania. He was only the second Thorpe player ever to be named to the Pennsylvania All State first team. His numbers when you break them down are pretty impressive. He threw for 1,729 yards and 15 touchdowns along with rushing for 876 yards and 15 more TD's. That means Duvigneaud was responsible for a total of 2,600 yards and 30 scores... "This honor just tells you a lot about what kind of season Pat had. He's only the second player to ever receive first team all state here at Jim Thorpe. He really was the most prolific dual threat quarterback we've ever had here. He became a human highlight reel almost every Friday night. His senior year performance at Jim Thorpe was truly second to none."
Jordan Caffrey, Pleasant Valley
Jordan Caffrey ranked third on the high-scoring Pleasant Valley offense with 52 points, knocking through 43 extra points and three field goals. "He has been one of our hardest workers without a doubt. I actually had to stop him and tell him to stop kicking at practice because we wanted to keep his leg fresh. He didn't miss anything, he was at every summer workout and he's just a great kid. The moment of truth for him was against Stroudsburg in the district playoffs when we called on him to win the game for us. He knocked it through and I couldn't of been happier for the kid."
John Snyder, Palmerton
John Snyder was a constant bother to opposing offensive lines this season and seemed to play in beast mode on almost every play. The senior served as the team captain, coming up with 109 tackles, a ridiculous 27 tackles for a loss, had 11 sacks, a defensive touchdown on a fumble recovery, and three blocked kicks. "John Snyder is an extremely impressive football player and person. On the field, he used his hands to get off blocks extremely well, couple that with his strength, explosiveness and athletic ability and he was the complete package. He made numerous big plays for us on a consistent basis and was a nightmare for opponents to block and game plan. More importantly he was very coachable, humble and a player that would sacrifice anything for the good of his team."
Nick Hollenbach, Tamaqua
The Raiders' Nick Hollenbach had one heck of a season in 2012. He was the spark on a team that allowed a TN best 10.9 points per game. Hollenbach was just too quick for the opposition on most nights, leading his team in tackles with 69 on the season. A feat that might seem small to most, but from the the nosetackle spot is a pretty impressive achievement. Hollenbach also set a Tamaqua single season school record with 16 sacks in this season ... "I've been coaching defensive lines for 18 years and I've never seen a kid have a better season than Nick had. He played so much bigger than he was and just had a fantastic year for us. He also led our team in special teams tackles, which speaks volumes about what kind of football player he is."
Marquis Brown, Pleasant Valley
Marquis Brown was a force from the defensive end spot measuring 6-5 and weighing in at 260 pounds. Brown's size mixed with his speed gave opposing quarterbacks fits throughout the 2012 season. He was constantly getting into the opposing quarterbacks' face, knocking down six passes on the year. He also finished with 29 tackles, two interceptions, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and a blocked kick that helped PV beat Pocono Mountain East ... "Marquis is a big man who walks softly, but carries a big stick. He really bought into the program this past season and worked really hard. He's only going to get better, he made some big strides as a player."
Derich Holman, Marian
Holman was an absolute demon on the the interior for the Colts this season. He constantly disrupted the opposition's backfield from his nosetackle position. Holman finished 2012 with 77 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, and eight sacks. Marian head coach Stan Dakosty also moved Holman around a bit on the defensive front, sometimes putting him at the stand up defensive end spot. One thing was for sure, that where ever Holman lined up, he most certainly made an impact on that play ... "Dominant would be the best word to describe Derich Holman. He was outworking his opponent on almost every play and to have the type of numbers he had lining up at the nosetackle position is pretty impressive."
Nolan Zeigler, Tamaqua
Zeigler was the leader in the middle for the vaunted Tamaqua defense. He was always in on the action and served as the vocal leader for the Raiders "D." Zeigler has also been a mainstay at the fullback spot, helping block for the talented backfield that Tamaqua dawned in 2012. Zeigler rushed 22 times for 157 yards and four touchdowns. On the defensive side he was second on the team with 62 tackles and came up with three sacks on the season ... "Nolan was the defensive leader for us this past year. He was a big hit guy who has a great nose for the football. He was also a guy who played much bigger than he was. Nolan is about 165 pounds, but plays like he's 215. He's a just a real tough kid and was such a big part of our success we had this season."
Dakota Everett, Pleasant Valley
Dakota Everett truly was the big man on campus for the Bears this season. The 6-4 225-pound middle linebacker was an absolute marvel to watch in 2012. He constantly blew up opposing offensive lines and his sideline to sideline speed was second to none. Local on-lookers weren't the only people that noticed Everett's stellar play as he was honored as a first team all state selection in Class AAAA. The Bears' senior finished the year with 136 tackles and five sacks ... "Not much needs to be said about Dakota's football abilities. He was a first team all state selection and was the difference in how our defense played this year. Our defense went from 29 points per game to 17 points per game because Dakota just made so many plays. His sideline to sideline speed improved immensely and he's second to none in playing the game with an aggressive approach."
Dan Marsh, Northern Lehigh
The Bulldog's Danny Marsh did a lot of good things for his squad this season. In addition to running the best rushing offense in the TIMES NEWS area, he also was just as valuable on the defensive side. Marsh had a solid year on the offensive end rushing for 764 yards and nine touchdowns, along with passing for 855 yards and 11 scores. From his linebacker spot he came up with 56 tackles... "How often can you say you coached a kid who you ask to throw a fade pass and then jam a tight end in the same game. There's not many and Danny was that kind of player for us. He was just a great playmaker and did so many good things for us throughout the season. He was really a big key to our success this season."
Lukas Damian, Marian
Lukas Damian certainly made his mark in 2012, patrolling the middle for the Marian Colts defense. Damian, who is known to be a hard worker when it comes to the offseason made some serious strides from a year ago. The Colts tackling machine recorded 133 tackles this past season along with an incredible 21 tackles for a loss. He also came up with six sacks on the year. Damian also does well in the classroom, serving in the top 20% of his class... "Lukas has a real good chance to be a scholarship type player. The kid just plays full tilt all the time and with his speed, power, and athleticism is a real tough match-up for any team. He's one of the best linebackers we've ever had here and he gets the job done in the classroom as well."
Dalton Nunemacher, Tamaqua
This year's TN All Star team is filled with some talented players, but maybe none of them had a better year than Dalton Nunemacher. His statistics are pretty amazing. Nunemacher rushed for 888 yards and 14 touchdowns, while catching 21 balls for 458 yards and five scores. Nunemacher also played great in the Raiders' secondary, coming up with 38 tackles and three interceptions. Nunemacher totaled 151 yards on those three interception returns with one of them coming for a touchdown. He was also a game-breaker in special teams returning a punt for a touchdown... "He was our big play guy and overall best football player. He helped us win so many games and early in the year came up with some big defensive plays that did just that. He was our leader on offense and in the special teams game was so lethal everytime he touched the football. Dalton is just a great football player."
Dustin Vandermartin, Tamaqua
Vandermartin missed all of 2011 with a collarbone injury, but came back in 2012 with a big bang. Vandermartin was a ball hawk on the defensive end, coming up with five interceptions and 29 tackles. Paired with Nunemacher, opposing quarterbacks had a tough time coming up with any passing yardage against the Raiders secondary. Vandermartin also had a nice year at the receiver spot for the Raiders. He caught 14 balls for 435 yards and a team-leading eight receiving touchdowns. That's an incredible 31 yards per catch... "Dustin was another guy who made an impact on both sides of the football for us. It was nice to have him back after missing all of last season. He's a guy who's good in all different types of coverage. He's good in man, he's good in zone, the kid just has a great feel for the game. We're looking forward to having him back next season."
Ryan Karnish, Marian
Ryan Karnish is revered as one of the best defensive backs to come out of Marian in a very long time. The Colts' senior made play after play in the secondary for Marian this past season and was one of the main forces behind the best defenses in the TIMES NEWS area in 2012. Karnish finished the year with 54 tackles, three interceptions and six pass break-ups for the Colts. Karnish was also the "quarterback" of the Colts' defense. He wasn't just a brain on the field either as he will be taking his talents to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next season to play football and study engineering... "Ryan was our defensive leader out there. He was like a general on the field always making sure our guys were in the right spots. He's one of the smartest guys we've ever had. He was just a smart, athletic, good football player that also brought an edge to our team."
Tony Bell, Pleasant Valley
Tony Bell may not have stellar statistics, but that's because team's were so afraid of throwing his way. Bell was the definition of a "lock down corner" and showed it throughout the 2012 season. Quarterbacks didn't complete many passes on his side of the field. Bell finished up with 23 tackles and an interception... "He was a shut down corner plain and simple. Tony loves the game and is very competitive when it comes to guys catching balls on him. He just plays the game with such passion and whenever he was challenged he answered the bell."
Jacen Nalesnik, Lehighton
Nalesnik's spot on this team defines the senior to a tee. He played everywhere for the Tribe and was effective doing it. Nalesnik mostly played receiver last year, but first year head coach Tom McCarroll needed Nalesnik to step in an play multiple positions this season. He ran for 728 yards and nine touchdowns, threw for 268 yards, and caught 34 passes for 321 yards and three scores. Then you have the defensive side of things where McCarroll moved him around just as much. He played defensive end and outside linebacker, coming up with 36 tackles and three sacks on the year... "He's one of the most dynamic football players I've ever seen in this area. He did everything we asked him to do in practice and on Friday nights. We were breaking down film a little bit recently for some highlights and we charted that he made six tackles on fourth down that gave us the ball. That speaks volumes about the type of player Jacen is."
Dylan Quirk, Marian
Dylan Quirk was mostly known for his offensive skills in 2012, but if you talk to a few coaches in Anthracite Football League his punting was just as dangerous. Quirk rushed 157 times for 853 yards and nine touchdowns. He was the go-to-guy for the Colts on offense and also made solid contributions on the defensive side of the ball. He was a true three way player for the Colts... "As far as punting goes he could really change field position drastically for us. He had good heights on his punts as well. Offensively he was our guy running the football and came up with some big runs for us when we needed it. He was also a very instinctive defensive player that did a good job of flying to the football. Dylan was just a complete football player."