Dunn, Richards on All-State 1st team
Panther Valley's Ryan Richards
One was an offensive weapon. The other stopped them.
Between the two, they led Panther Valley to one its best seasons in a long time.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Panthers' Jake Dunn and Ryan Richards were named to the Pennsylvania sports writers' Class AA All-State First Team football squad.
Dunn, a 6-0, 185-pound senior, was chosen at wide receiver while Richards, a 5-11, 220-pound senior, was selected on defense as an all-purpose player.
"This is great for the program, to see kids dedicate themselves and then receive some accolades for their hard work," said Panther Valley head coach Frank Damian.
"This is a good reward for them individually, but the honor is also a reflection of their team and their teammates."
In addidtion to Dunn and Richards, three other TIMES NEWS area players received Second Team honors in Class AA. They include Northern Lehigh's Cody Remaley at running back and Christian Freudenberger on the offensive line, and Tamaqua wide receiver Anthony Bumbulsky.
Dunn and Richards, who were the first Panther Valley players to be named first team All-State since Cazzie Kosciolek in 1992, were thrilled with their selections.
"It's really nice to know you are considered among the best players in the state," said Dunn. "It's something you dream about when you start playing football so to achieve the honor is something special.
"It's nice way to cap off a great season and the fact that Ryan and I were both selected says a lot about our team and our senior class."
Richards called the selection a "great honor."
"Being named All State is something that every player strives for," he said. "It's a great reward for all the hard work I put in.
"I was also fortunate to have great players around me that allowed me to do my job. I wouln't have been able to do the things I did without outstanding teammates."
Dunn led the TN area in receptions (42), yards receiving (843) and touchdown catches (11) and may be best remembered for his effort against Tamaqua in the District 11 quarterfinals when he caught nine passes for 145 yards and three scores, including the game-winner in overtime.
"He ran his routes with such precision and wherever the ball was put, he would go get it," said Damian, whose team went 9-3 the most wins for PV since it had 10 in 1992. "We always talk about YAC (yards after catch) and he woud always get those for us.
"He's just an amazing athlete. He's one of the best I've ever seen. He's also patient. He knew he would draw a lot of coverage, but was always there to make the big play. He has great control and command of his body when he goes up for the ball.
"He also could time it that he would catch a ball in stride and be able to go with it. He worked with Casey (Lawrence) for so long and they had a great feel for each other. For them it was like playing in the backyard."
While Dunn was a force on offense, Richards was the team's defensive leader. The senior led the team in tackles for the second year in a row, recording 129 from his middle linebacker position. Ironically, a move on offense may have improved his skills on defense.
"Ryan was our quarterback on defense," said Damian. "He was our signal-caller and always knew where everybody was on te field. Offensively, he was a fullback the past three season but when the team needed offensive linemen he volunteered to move.
"I really believe that move helped make him better on defense. He became more aware of what offensive linemen are doing and what goes through their mind to open up things for their teammates.. He didn't have a lot of flash or gain the headlines but he did his job and was a leader by example.
"He reminds me of an old-time coal region player. He knows what his job is and he does it. He molded us with his toughness. We made highlight films and when you watch them you see that when he hits you, you just stop in your tracks. One of the most impressive things is that he's very athletic. He reads well and covers well. He's one of the fastest players on our team."
Northern Lehigh's Remaley and Freudenberger were a huge part of an offense that produced an area-best 3,407 rushing yards this season.
Remaley, the 2009 TIMES NEWS Football Player of the Year, is a junior who rushed for 2,155 yards and scored 26 touchdowns. Freudenberger is a senior guard who was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs.
"I'm very happy for our kids," said Northern Lehigh coach Joe Tout. "The honors were definitely well deserved for both of them.
"Cody put up the kind of numbers that I don't know if you'll ever see again at Northern Lehigh. It was just an incredible season. There is no doubt in my mind that he is among the best running backs in the state. But for as much success he had individually, the best thing about him is that he was so humble and such a team guy.
"Christian is another kid who deserves every honor he gets. He has worked extremely hard to make himself an outstanding football player. He has great footwork and has spent hours upon hours in the weightroom to increase his strength. He has really dedicated himself to being the best player he could be."
Bumbulsky, a senior, was second in the area with 40 receptions. He also had 579 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He leaves Tamaqua as the school's career leader in receiving yardage.
"Anthony had an outstanding year for us," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "He was a playmaker on both sides of the ball and almost never came off the field for us. He excelled on offense, defense and special teams.
"We only completed 57 passes as a team this year and he had 40 of those receptions. Teams knew he was going to get the ball, but they still couldn't stop him."