Bulldogs, Panthers, Raiders headline all-area first team
Three TIMES NEWS area football teams qualified for the District 11 playoffs this past season.
Not surprisingly, those three schools are well represented on this year's TN All-Star Football Team.
Northern Lehigh, Panther Valley and Tamaqua who competed in the Class AA tournament all placed six players on our First Team.
Pleasant Valley had three players honored on the top squad, while Northwestern and Marian each had two. Jim Thorpe, Lehighton and Palmerton were represented with one player.
Below are bios on all our First Team selections, along with comments from their respective head coaches.
Quarterback - Casey Lawrence, Panther Valley ... Senior completed 81-of-162 passes for 1,457 yards and 21 touchdowns and led his team to the district playoffs. The 6-0, 175-pounder also ran the ball 127 times for 585 yards and seven TDs. Casey was named to the Anthracite League First Team on offense and the Second Team on defense. He was the TIMES NEWS Player of the Week in Week 6 against Marian. Defensively he finished with 57 tackles, 25 of them solo, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Casey also plays baseball for PV and hopes to play college football in the fall ... "Casey has a strong arm and is a very good runner. He was one of our offensive leaders and was very versatile as a quarterback. He's also a physical player on defense and a great tackler".
Running back - Cody Remaley, Northern Lehigh ... Junior was named the TIMES NEWS Football Player of the Year, leading the area in rushing with 354 carries for 2,155 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. The 5-9, 175-pounder scored 26 touchdowns, and added with his 10 extra points and 10 two-point conversion, topped all TN players with 186 points. One of his scores came on a 97-yard kickoff return. His 25 TD runs sccounted for 561 of his rushing yards. Cody had a top bench press of 310 and was timed at 4.59 in the 40. Currently ranked 34th in his class, he plans to go to college and play football after his senior season. Cody was named the team's Offensive back of the year, was one of four players honored as team captain, and earned First Team on the Colonial League all-star squad. An avid hunter, he plans on being on the track team in the spring and attending numerous camps in the summer ... "What stands out about Cody is the fact that he has received so many individual honors but is truly a team player. He fits in so well with the team and a big reason for his and our success is that the other players always see cody in our weightroom and out of season workouts. I think he sets the tone for the expectations of other players on our team. We knew that Cody was a special player but what really stood out to us this year was his vision. For generally being the fastest player on the field Cody does a great job of not running full speed on (our toss play) and then when he sees the opening he hits full speed and is gone."
Running back - Grif Griffiths, Tamaqua ... Junior carried 223 times for 1,333 yards, an average of 5.98 yards per carry, and 14 touchdowns. Grif, who had six games of 100+ rushing yards, ended the season with 15 total touchdowns for 90 points, both team highs. He added six catches for 123 yards and a score. On defense, the linebacker registered 71 tackles, good for second on the team, two sacks and four tackles for loss. The three-year starter earned Second Team Anthracite League honors on both offense and defense and was on last season's TIMES NEWS First Team defensive squad. Grif has been a big weightlifter since eighth grade and benches over 300 pounds and squats over 400. The 6-1, 186-pounder has lowered his speed from 4.8 a year ago to the 4.6 range this past season. He earned TN Player of the Week against Kutztown with 173-yard performance and had a career game against Marian with 294 yards rushing and four total TDs ... "He really picked it up as the season went on. He had a strong second half versus some very good competition. He came into his own in the Schuylkill Haven game and his overtime touchdown kept us in the playoff hunt. He plays two tough positions, and is not out of the game that often. It'll be good to have him back next season."
Running back - Paul Martin, Marian ... Sophomore carried 190 times for 1,017 yards, an average of 5.35 yards per attempt, and earned Anthracite League Second Team honors on offense. The 5-9, 180-pounder led the Colts in scoring with 11 touchdowns and 78 points. He was the team's kicker, booting seven extra points and a field goal, while also handling kickoff duties. Paul, who also punted for Marian, had five games of 100+ yards rushing including a career-high 178 against Jim Thorpe. He accounted for 73.2 percent of his team's rushing yards, the highest percentage of any TIMES NEWS player. He scored touchdowns in eight of his team's 10 games. Paul is a three-sport athlete, participating in basketball and track. The hard worker in the weight room and solid student is also a member of the school's Media Club ... "We knew he'd be a factor this season but he worked to become even better than we thought he'd be. He's got great instincts as a runner and will get even better because he wants to get better. He played hard every down and he was the leader of a younger group that wants to make its mark here at Marian."
Wide receiver - Jake Dunn, Panther Valley ... Senior led the TIMES NEWS area in receptions (42), receiving yards (843) and touchdown catches (11). His 843 yards were the most by a PV wideout since 1992. The 6-0, 185-pounder also carried the ball 10 times for 146 yards and two scores. He finished the season with 16 touchdowns, including one on a fumble return, another on an interception return, and another on a kickoff return, and 104 points. The average distance of his touchdowns went for 40.8 yards with three of them 80-or-more yards. Jake also played linebacker on defense, was the team's punter, and returned kickoffs. He was named to the Anthracite League First Team on offense and the Second Team on defense. He totaled 89 tackles, 34 of them solo, had three sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and six interceptions. Jake is looking to play college football in the fall ... "Jake has great hands and great leaping ability. He was our go-to receiver and what many people don't realize is that he's also a very physical blocker On defense he has a nose for the ball and is one our leaders. He's an excellent tackler and is probably the most athletic player on the team."
Wide receiver - Anthony Bumbulsky, Tamaqua ... Senior was second in the TIMES NEWS area with 40 catches and 579 yards. He average 14.5 yards per catch and had six receiving touchdowns. Anthony finished with eight overall TDs for 48 points. He made 70 percent of his team's catches (57) which was easily the highest percentage among TN teams. A Second Team TIMES NEWS selection at wide receiver a year ago, the 6-5, 171-pounder made the Anthracite League First Team at wide receiver this year and the Second Team as a defensive backs. He finished fourth on the team in tackles with 36 and led the Raiders with three interceptions and four fumbles recovered. He ended his career as the top Tamaqua player in receiving yards and boasts a mid 4.6 time in the 40. Anthony also plays basketball ... "He was a tremendous big-play guy for us. He played offense, defense and special teams and was on the field all the time. He has real good hands and was our go-to guy when we threw the ball. He ended up being double-teamed often but still finished with very impressive numbers. He's naturally athletic and used his height to his advantage."
Tight end - Joey Seremula, Northern Lehigh ... Senior is a talented three-sport athlete who also participates in basketball and baseball. The versatile player caught a team-leading 13 receptions for 272 yards and three touchdowns. Among TN players with 10+ catches, his average of 20.92 yards per recption ranked third. Was moved at times to power back when team lined up in power-I, was moved to the wing, lined up at split end, and also punted for team (averaging 32.1 yards per boot). On defense, he intercepted three passes, recovered a pair of fumbles, had a sack, and registered 53 tackles. Ranked in the top 20 percent of his class, Joe is a dual enrollment student who also takes classes at Penn State's Lehigh Valley campus. The 6-2, 190-pounder was named to the Carpenter Cup last spring and probably would list baseball as his best sport. He hopes to play baseball in college ... "Joey is a smart kid and his sports intelligence is probably in the top two among our team. He played many positions for us and each position he was able to pick up rather quickly. The three sports keep him busy. He was very valuable to us because of his versatility."
Offensive line - Christian Fruedenberger, Northern Lehigh ... Senior guard was named the team's Offensive Lineman of the Year. A three-year offensive starter for the Bulldogs, Christian helped teammate Cody Remaley set a school record for rushing yards in a season and helped Nolehi average an area-best 262.1 rushing yards per game. The 6-0, 220-pounder was named First Team Colonial League on both the offensive and defensive lines. Christian is also the team's Scholar-Athlete and is ranked sixth in his class. He benches 360 pounds and also participates in track, with the shot put his best event. A member of the Spanish Club and a class officer, Christian is pursuing a future in the Naval Academy. Also a two-year starter for the Bulldogs on defense, he finished with 71 tackles and three sacks this season and hopes to play football in college. He was also one of four players honored as team captain ... "Christian is a big leader for us in the locker room, he has called team meetings at times when we didn't practice well and made sure the team knew how much it couldn't happen the next day. We often tell our teams in the off season that our success will depend upon senior leadership and I can't think of a player in our program that displayed that more than Christian. He really motivates a lot of our players and is always one of the hardest working players that we have."
Offensive line - Erik Krause, Tamaqua ... Senior was a three-year starter who played center as a sophomore before moving to guard. The 6-2, 205-pounder made First Team Anthracite League and helped key a line that averaged 222.8 yards rushing per contest. He also finished with One of the strongest players on the team, Erik benches 350 pounds, squats over 400, and has two firsts at a powerlifting competition. The senior looks to continue his football career in college, probably at a Division III school. Erik is wrestling this season for the first time ... "He really improved athletically. He's very aggressive and when he gets on people, he stays on them. He's a tough kid and enjoys competition. He will work to get better no matter what it is."
Offensive line - Tyler Mangold, Jim Thorpe ... Junior guard is a returning First Team TIMES NEWS all-star, making the squad on defense a year ago. The 5-11, 250-pounder was named the team's co-Lineman of the Year and was a captain for the Olympians. Tyler is a hard worker in the weight room, and boasts a benchpress of 350 pounds and a sqaut and deadlift both at 525. He played noseguard and linebacker on defense and registered approximately 50 tackles. He's been timed at 4.85 in the 40 and led the team with over 40 knockdown blocks ... "Tyler's got a motor that never stops. He always goes whistle-to-whistle when he's on the field. He's an outstanding leader and there's no one who will ever outwork him. He's very coachable, is a high-intensity player and just dominates the line of scrimmage. He's also a hard worker in the classroom. He's the best lineman I've ever coached at Jim Thorpe."
Offensive line - Tony Wargo, Northwestern ... Junior tackle received Second Team Colonial League honors on both the offensive and defensive lines. The 6-4, 215-pounder anchored a Tigers' line that averaged 193 rushings yards per contest and was the team's go-to guy in short-yardage situations. On defense, Tony registered 41 tackles and two sacks. With the potential to be a Division I college player, his weight room numbers include a 320-pound benchpress and nearly a 500-pound squat. Also has outstanding footwork ... "Tony is the player who probably made the biggest improvement from the start of the season to the end. He knows what everybody is doing on the line of scrimmage and is a leader. His physicalness became something we took advantage of. He grew immensely, including in the classroom. He has the athleticism and the size to play at the next level."
Offensive line - Mike Gurcsik, Tamaqua ... Senior tackle was a three-year starter and earned Anthracite League Second Team honors. Mike helped anchor a line that led the TIMES NEWS in offense with an average of 307.9 yards per contest. A player who got bigger every year, the 6-4, 236-pounder benched 325 pounds. He added 27 tackles on defense, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Mike also plays basketball and is an Eagle scout, He's awaiting word from the Merchant Marine Academy, where he also hopes to play football ... "Mike has gotten bigger and stronger and works really hard. He's a real disciplined player who knows all his assignments. He's smart and has a quick first step. He's as good a pass blocker as he is a run blocker."
Kicker - Ryan Habick, Pleasant Valley ... Senior kicked 20 extra points and led the TIMES NEWS area with six field goals. The 6-0, 180-pounder enjoyed his best game at Lehighton when he booted three second-half field goals - of 40, 36 and 30 yards - and four extra points. His six FGs in a season were the most by a TN player since 2003 when Northwestern's Jordan Grube kicked six. Ryan, who also handled kickoff duties, was named to the Mountain Valley Conference Second Team as a kicker. He finished season with eight touchbacks and boasts a 95 GPA. The all-conference soccer player is interested in playing either soccer or football in college ... "Ryan was a tremendous weapon for us. He was almost a secret coming into the year and ended up winning a couple of ballgames for us. His leg proved to be an asset for us."
Specialist - Anthony Bumbulsky, Pleasant Valley ... Senior who was named to the Mountain Valley Conference First Team on offense and Second Team on defense. Anthony's favorite position was wide receiver, where he caught 30 passes for 562 yards and eight touchdowns. He is only one of two Bears' players (the other Jim Pio in 1997) over the past 20 years to reach 500 receiving yards and is only one of two PV receivers (the other Dan Muir in 1994) over that same time span with 30 catches. His eight TDs are the most at the school over the past two decades. The 6-1, 175-pounder also was the team's quarterback when Derrick Walling was injured. In his time as signal-caller, Anthony completed 25-of-43 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns and won the TIMES NEWS Player of the Week award in Week 7 against ES North. He ran the ball 43 times for 254 yards and five TDs and finished as the Bears' leading scorer with 78 points. On defense, Anthony had 66 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception. He runs a 4.5 in the 40 and won the Jaycee's Offensive Player of the Game award in the "Bucket Game" against rival PM East ... "Anthony's a special athlete who just finds ways to make plays. He excelled in every area he played in and was forced to play a number of positions. We're going to miss his talent and abilities and his big-game skills."
Defensive line - Brandon Mohrey, Northern Lehigh ... Senior tackle was voted the team's Defensive Lineman of the Year. A three-year defensive starter and two-year offensive starter for the Bulldogs, Brandon was named First Team Colonial League on both sides of the ball. The 6-0, 195-pounder loves the weight room and benched 370 pounds. He finished the season with 54 tackles, including a team-high four sacks. Currently taking up carpentry at Lehigh Career & Technical Institue, his future is still undecided. He was one of four players honored as team captain and came up big for the Bulldogs in big games. "He was able to use his strength advantage as a defensive end, He has a quick first step and is able to shed blocks. His best game for us was probably against North Schuylkill which shows how he comes to play the bigger the game is. He's a real tough kid and is probably our strongest player pound-for-pound."
Defensive line - Jason Harrison, Panther Valley ... Senior was a two-way starter on the line for the Panthers. The 5-8, 205-pounder helped anchor a defense that allowed just 215 yards per game. Jason was named to the Anthracite League First Team on defense and hopes to play college football in the fall. Besides doing a good job in the weight room, he also competes in track ... "Jason reads blocks well and is really fast off the ball."
Defensive line - Eric James, Tamaqua ... Senior finished third on the team in tackles with 45 and first in sacks with six. The 5-8, 170-pounder also led the Raiders in tackles for loss and had a team-high 18 tackles on special teams. At his weight, he's one of the strongest kids pound-for-pound as he benches 280 and squats 440-450 and earned Anthracite League Second Team honors on defense. Eric played the power back when the team went to the power-I on offense and is also a member of the Raider baseball team ... "Eric spent a lot of time in the backfield. He's a bit undersized but his motor is always going and he creates havoc by getting good penetration. He doesn't get blown off the ball and helps create opportunities for other players to make tackles. He flies to the ball, and he's the type of kid that can fire up the whole squad. He's really a good athlete."
Defensive line - Greg Pecha, Panther Valley ... Senior was an outstanding two-way lineman and earned Anthracite League Second Team honors on both sides of the ball. The team's best offensive lineman as a guard, he also had 48 tackles and two fumble recoveries on defense. A hard worker in the weight room, Greg hopes to continue his football career in college ... "Greg is a great team player and a good tackler. On offense, he's a great puller and he has quick hands and feet. He's just a relentless blocker."
Linebacker - Matt Gill, Northern Lehigh ... Junior was the Bulldogs' leading tackler, finishing the season with 126 stops. He also intercepted three passes, had a fumble recovery and was named to the Colonial League's First Team defensive squad. Missed the first game of the season due to torn PCL suffered in summer baseball, but came back to earn Maurice Schleicher award for team leadership and be named as one of team's captain. On offense, the 6-1, 205-pounder played fullback and was the lead blocker for teammate Cody Remaley, who set a school record for rushing yards in a season. Gill also carried the ball 76 times for 301 yards, an average of four yards per carry. He was second on the team with 10 touchdowns and 60 points and added six catches for 68 yards. Ranked 32nd in his class, Matt also plays baseball and is a hard worker in the weight room. He was timed last season in the 40 at 4.62 and hopes to play football one day in college ... "Matt is one of our leaders on the practice field. He dictates the pace of the practice and is the type of kid that sets the tempo. He's a hard physical player and was our leading tackler despite missing a game. As a fullback, he's very physical and kicks out defensive ends. Against Salisbury we ran basically one play the whole game because he kicked out their end the whole time. We're getting film out on him and he could be a Division I player some day."
Linebacker - Garth Lakitsky, Tamaqua ... Junior was the leading tackler on Tamaqua's team with 93. He had a season-high 15 stops, two forced fumbles and a blocked field goal against Schuylkill Haven and also reached double figures in tackles with 12 against Panther Valley. Garth finished with two sacks, four tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries and an interception. The 6-3, 209-pounder also was the team's fullback and ran 64 times for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Also a talented wrestler, he was benching 385 pounds entering the season while squatting in the 420-425 range. Garth, who was named to the First Team Anthracite League, also lowered his 40 time from the 5.0-5.1 range to 4.87 ... "He's a tough kid who can play anywhere on the field. I wish I had a number more like him. He had an AC sprain to start the season and started slow but once he healed up he played much better. He played double duty and two physical spots on the field. We're really looking forward to him coming back next season."
Linebacker - Ryan Richards, Panther Valley ... Senior who led the team in tackles on defense and unselfishly moved from the backfield to center on offense to help form a solid line. The 5-11, 220-pounder registered 129 tackles, 38 of them solo, forced two fumbles, had an interception and a sack. Ryan was named to the Anthracite League First Team on defense and to the Second Team on offense. He's one of the strongest players on the team and is a hard worker in the weight room. Ryan also led the team in tackles last season and is a member of the Panthers track team, where he runs sprints and throws the shot put and discus. He is hoping to play college football in the fall ... "Ryan is our leading tackler and our captain on defense. He's a good tackler, wuick and strong. He's definitely one of the best athletes on our team and one of the strongest."
Linebacker - Josh Garcia, Pleasant Valley ... Senior strong-side linebacker who received Mountain Valley Conference First Team honors on defense. The 6-1, 195-pounder led the Bears in tackles with 86, had a forced fumble and a sack. The team's defensive captain, Josh maintains a 91 GPA and helped his team force 26 takeaways for a TIMES NEWS area best +12 turnover ratio. Had high of 14 tackles against Wyoming Valley West, while added 13-tackle game against Stroudsburg and 12 against PM West. He worked hard in the offseason in the weight room and was a great role model for team's younger players. Josh would like to continue his football playing days in college ... "Josh was a heckuva vocal leader and was our mainstay in the middle on defense. He was our anchor on D and we're going to miss him a great deal, both on the field for his play and for his leadership ability."
Defensive back - Jake Kern, Northern Lehigh ... Junior was the team leader in interceptions this year with eight, recovered two fumbles, had 62 tackles and is arguably the best overall athlete on the Bulldog squad. The 5-10, 160-pounder, who is also the team's backup quarterback, backup tailback, backup punter and flanker, was named to the Colonial League First Team on defense. Jake scored nine touchdowns this season, with his scores coming five different ways. He had four rushing touchdowns, one TD catch, two kickoff returns, a punt return and an interception return. The average distance of his touchdowns covered 52.4 yards. He carried the ball 36 times for 350 yards, averaging an amazing 9.72 yards per attempt. This figure was the highest among any TN player carrying the ball over 10 times. Also competing on the baseball team and a member of the school's debate team, Jake is ranked 27th in his class. He dedicated himself in the weight room and had an impressive growth spurt during the season. He was timed at 4.60 in the 40 and hopes to play football in college some day ... "At free safety he covers so much ground and at the JV level last season he was that kid that proved to be better than everyone else. Between him and (Matt) Gill we give them a lot of film to watch because he can break down tendancies. He sees things on film and can read plays. He gets a good jump on the ball and is dangerous anywhere on the field, He returns kicks and punts and could be our best overall athlete. He's so versatile for us."
Defensive back - J.T. Keer, Lehighton ... Junior safety is a three-sport athlete, also playing basketball and baseball. The 6-1, 175-pouder also was a wide receiver on offense and also saw time at the quarterback position. He finished year with team-highs in receptions (21), receiving yards (502), touchdowns (eight) and scoring (48 points). His 23.90 yards per catch led the TIMES NEWS area among players with 10 or more catches and his seven receiving TDs ranked third in the area ... "He's a good kid and a hard worker who has outstanding closing speed. He did a nice job for us and we're looking for big things from him next season. He's a good student and will do anything you ask him to do. He's a well-rounded player and person."
Defensive back - Kyle McAvoy, Panther Valley ... Senior earned Anthracite League First Team honors on both offense and defense. Offensively, the running back carried 169 times for 970 yards and 11 touchdowns. He finished second on the team with 76 points.The 5-7-155-pounder registered 77 tackles, 26 of them solo, collected a pair of sacks, had a forced fumble, an interception and five pass breakups. Kyle also plays baseball and wants to continue his football career in college ... "Kyle is very tough for his size. He has a nose for the ball and is a solid tackler. He's deceptively fast, and was always able to give us the tough yards we needed. He reads his blockers well and had a strong season for us."
Defensive back - Joe Kloap, Marian ... Senior received Anthracite League Second Team honors on both offense and defense. Defensively, the 5-10, 160-pounder had two interceptions, 17 knockdowns, three strips and 61 tackles. On offense, the receiver caught 26 passes for 460 yards and four touchdowns. He also had a TD on a 95-yard kickoff return. Joe is a two-sport athlete, also starring on the baseball diamond. A good student in the classroom, he has been timed at 4.59 in the 40. He plans to go to college, possibly majoring in business, and play football ... "Joe had an outstanding season for us and is by far our best overall player. He is definitely one of the best receivers we've ever had at Marian. He's a craftsman at his position and works hard at his trade. He works on his technique and is an intense practice player. Defensively he breaks well on balls and is very aggressive. He was always matched up against the opposing team's best receiver."
Punter - Joe Weber, Palmerton ... Senior punted 30 times for an average of 34.0 yards per boot. His long was a 53-yarder (one of three 50-yard punts) and placed two kicks inside the 20-yard line. The 6-2, 205-pounder did much more than punt as he was the team's starting quarterback and played linebacker on defense. Joe finished with 54 tackles, 30 of them solo, and had an interception. Offensively, he completed 86-of-204 passes for 1,070 yards and eight touchdowns. He also ran for 74 yards and four scores. Joe received the Bombers' Offensive MVP award and was named First Team Colonial League on defense and Second Team CL punter. He also plays baseball in the spring and is hoping to play college football in the fall, possibly with his brother Jon at East Stroudsburg ... "Joey is one of the most versatile players that I have coached. He was a starting receiver for us on our League Championship team as a sophomore. As a junior he was named all-Colonial League at tight end and this year he was a 1,000 yard passer at quarterback. Despite not having the team success this year, he had a very good career as a key member of our two District Silver Medal teams and I'm certain he'll be a very good college player."
Specialist - Garrett Lerner, Northwestern ... Senior had a solid all-around season for the Tigers and earned Second Team Colonial League honors on defense. The 5-8, 170-pounder registered 85 tackles, including a team-high 48 solo stops. He had six tackles for loss, a sack and three interceptions. On offense, Garrett had 27 catches for 414 yards and four touchdowns. He finished with seven overall TDs, including a rushing score, one on an interception return, and another on a punt return. The positions he played included outside linebacker, strong safety, punter, wide receiver, punt returner and kickoff returner. Garrett has 4.54 speed and hopes to play college football in the fall ... "Garrett is probably our best athlete. We asked him to play in multiple places and he just did it all. He's a sure tackler and is a heady football player. We made it a point to throw to him and we game-planned to get him the ball."