Plesh, Keyes have outstanding seasons
Kyle Plesh, Marian - Defensive Player of the Year
The 2016 football season provided area football fans with many exciting moments. Big plays, comeback victories, and hard-fought rivalry games were all showcased this season.
Times News area teams played solid football in 2016, with eight of the nine TN area teams qualifying for the postseason.
The Marian Colts, in Stan Dakosty's last year at the helm, finished as the runner-up in the District 11 1A field. Palmerton finished the season strong, as well, finishing as the runner-up in District 11 2A.
Pleasant Valley (6A), Jim Thorpe (3A), Tamaqua (3A), Lehighton (3A), and Northern Lehigh (3A) all qualified for the District 11 playoffs and Northwestern (4A) was a participant in the Eastern Conference postseason.
Now that the dust has settled from the 2016 season, it's time to review, reward, and honor those who performed above the rest on the gridiron with the annual Times News Football All-Star team.
The Times News selects one Player of the Year (Mike Mitchell), which was released earlier this week, Offensive Player of the Year, and a Defensive Player of the Year. In addition to the three major award winners, the TN also selects a player of the year for each individual position group.
Times News Defensive
Player of the Year
Kyle Plesh, Marian (DL)
Plesh was dominant up front for the Colts both against the run and in the pass rush this season. Plesh finished the 2016 campaign with 120 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and five sacks. His athleticism was showcased throughout the season, so much so that Dakosty moved Plesh to fullback towards the end of the year to get some more athleticism in their backfield.
Coach's quote- "Kyle was as dominant as they come up front for us this season. He's quick, he's strong, and he finishes when he gets his hands on somebody. His ability to play sideline to sideline is what really makes him stand out. He had a great motor and a great season for us." - Marian head coach Stan Dakosty.
Times News Offensive
Player of the Year
Pleasant Valley (QB)
Keyes put together one of the best statistical quarterback performances of all-time in the Times News area this season, throwing for 2,365 yards and 33 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Keyes' numbers were against solid competition as well, facing off against Eastern Pennsylvania Conference opponents every Friday night. Keyes made the best of the spectacular weapons around him and helped lead the Bears to an 8-3 season.
Coach's quote- "Brandon made significant strides from his sophomore season. He came in halfway through the year as a sophomore and has gotten better with every snap. He was great at making decisions at the line of scrimmage and he gets the ball out quick with velocity. He had a great year for us and we expect big things from him next season." - Pleasant Valley head coach Mark Versuk.
Quarterback of the Year - Garrett Perschy, Palmerton
After the career Garrett Perschy has had for the Bombers his new nickname should be "Mr. Palmerton." That's because Perschy owns almost every quarterback record imaginable at Palmerton after his impressive 2016 season. Perschy threw for 2,152 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions this season and helped lead the Bombers to the District 11 2A Championship. Perschy holds the records for career passing yards (4,591 yards), career touchdown passes (42) touchdown passes, single-season passing touchdowns (19), single season passing yardage (2,152), and single-game passing yards (267).
Coach's quote - "Besides the physical intangibles and the stats, what stands out to me the most about Garrett is his love for the game and his leadership. He's well respected by his teammates and that's evident in being voted a captain for three straight years. He's a great kid, who will be truly missed." - Palmerton head coach Chris Walkowiak.
All Star Quarterbacks
Brandon Keyes, Pleasant Valley; Ethan Kuczynksi, Marian; Deven Bollinger, Northwestern; Thad Zuber, Tamaqua; Cody Scherer, Lehighton
Running Back of the Year - Mike Mitchell, Pleasant Valley
Mitchell's speed and quickness allowed him to play multiple positions for the Bears, but he was most dangerous when he lined up in the backfield. Mitchell carried the ball 145 times for 1,447 yards, which is a video-game like 9.98 yards per carry and put the icing on the cake with 19 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 22 balls for 434 yards and nine scores, serving as an effective weapon catching passes out of the backfield. He was a complete back for the Bears this season.
Coach's quote - "Mike was a versatile player for us that you could line up anywhere, but he really excelled at the running back position. He could run out of the I-formation or he could run out of the spread when we were in shotgun. He was a tough runner too and protected the ball really well. He's everything and more you want in a running back." - Pleasant Valley head coach Mark Versuk.
All Star Running Backs
Justin St. Hill, Jim Thorpe; Mike Mayernik, Lehighton; Nick Breiner, Tamaqua
Wide Receiver of the Year - Justin Richardson, Pleasant Valley
Richardson was a nightmare for opposing defensive backs this season. His speed and ball skills were right up there with the best in all of District 11 as he caught 48 balls for 1,059 yards and hauled in 15 touchdowns. Richardson was the big play guy for the Bears averaging over 22 yards per catch.
Coach's quote - "Justin made an impact wherever he was on the field, but when the ball was thrown his way he consistently came up with it. He was a big play guy for us, but he really made the offense better as a whole because he's a complete football player. He helped spring a lot of big runs this season by blocking well on the outside. I expect to see him playing at the next level next season." - Pleasant Valley head coach Mark Versuk.
All Star Receivers
Wide Receivers: Trevor Cunningham, Northwestern; Gavin Zehner, Lehighton; Zeke Wassell, Tamaqua; Austin Hemingway, Northern Lehigh
Ed Titus, Tamaqua; Tristan Blasko, Panther Valley; Caleb Clymer, Northwestern
Offensive Lineman of the Year - John Fikenstcher, Jim Thorpe
Fikenstcher was a road grader in the run game this season, blocking for a Jim Thorpe offense that rushed for 181 rushing yards per game. Fikenstcher was voted to the Schuylkill Football Coaches Association Dream Team on offense and was also voted as the Schuylkill League Football Division 1 Offensive Lineman of the Year.
"John was a dominant lineman for us in the run game and was able to really move people off the ball. His athleticism playing the guard position was also key for us in a lot of the plays we run. We asked him to pull a lot and his quickness opened up a lot of things for us at the line of scrimmage and enabled our athletes to make plays." - Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger.
All Star Offensive Lineman
Joshua Fitzsimmons, Pleasant Valley; Tyler Dooner, Pleasant Valley; James Miller, Pleasant Valley; Adam Klatka, Tamaqua; Zach Falls, Marian; Brendan Morgans, Panther Valley; Dakota Heister, Lehighton; Dane Frantz, Lehighton; Derek Scott, Jim Thorpe; Kyle Kralik, Palmerton; David Neff, Northern Lehigh
Specialist of the Year - Trevor Cunningham, Northwestern
Stealing Randall Cunningham's nickname on this one, but Trevor Cunningham was literally the "ultimate weapon" for the Tigers this season. This young man could wash your car, mow your lawn, and put your kids to be if need be, but all kidding aside, Cunningham was spectacular in 2016. He caught 55 balls for 1,123 yards and 14 touchdowns and also ran the ball 46 times for 402 yards and six scores. He averaged over 20 yards per catch and over eight yards per run. Every time Cunningham touched the football he was a threat to take it the distance. Cunningham also had over 60 tackles on defense from his defensive back position with five interceptions and four pass breakups.
Coach's quote - "I believe Trevor was the best player in our league this season and I think he proved that with everything that he was able to do on the football field. Once in a while you get a kid like him come through the program and you really enjoy it because he can just go out there and instinctively play the game so well. You can't replace a kid like Trevor, and we'll definitely miss him." - Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder.
All Star Specialists
Mike Stasko, Palmerton (RB); Brendan Carroll, Jim Thorpe (QB/P); Tekoah Guedes, Northern Lehigh (QB); Mitchell Kurek, Tamaqua (K); Doug Cummings, Pleasant Valley (K); Jarrod Paisley, Marian (K/P)
Defensive Lineman of the Year - Kyle Plesh, Marian
Plesh was named to the 2016 Pennsylvania Football Writers Class 1A All-State football team as a defensive lineman after turning in a standout season for the Colts. While Plesh made his mark on defense, the 6-0, 249-pound senior also showed an ability to make plays on offense, recording 29 carries for 117 yards while also scoring three touchdowns this past season.
Coach's quote - "We're very proud of him. He's very athletic. And he works hard. He's been a very strong leader for our team. He is a multifaceted, multitalented player, and that has been very important to the success of our program." Marian's Stan Dakosty.
All Star Defensive Lineman
Jordan Georgis, Tamaqua; Chance Szabo, Tamaqua; Nick Erbe, Marian; Zach Falls, Marian; Owen Snisky, Jim Thorpe; Dylan Dailey, Jim Thorpe; Dakota Heister, Lehighton; David Citro, Lehighton; Jason Schaeffer, Northern Lehigh; Kyle Kralik, Palmerton; Joseph Lees, Pleasant Valley; Zach Altemose, Pleasant Valley
Linebacker of the Year - Caleb Clymer, Northwestern
Clymer was one of the leaders of the Tigers defense and the man surveying the middle for Northwestern this season. Clymer was a first team Colonial League selection on defense at linebacker and for good reason. Clymer led the team with 126 tackles (59 solo) and nine tackles for a loss.
Coach's quote - "We moved Caleb into the middle this season and he really played well for us. He's a physical kid that attacks and he finishes and wraps up on a consistent basis. He got better each and every week and he was a great leader for us on the defensive side of the ball. We're excited for his senior season, that's for sure." - Northwestern Lehigh head coach Josh Snyder.
All Star Linebackers
Nathan Litsch, Marian; Gunnar Rehrig, Marian; Matt Weaver, Tamaqua; Justin St. Hill, Jim Thorpe; Caleb Campbell, Jim Thorpe; Tyler Foster, Northwestern Lehigh; Jared Mooney, Palmerton; Tanner Filchner, Northern Lehigh; Brent Beck, Pleasant Valley; John Byrne, Pleasant Valley
Defensive Back of the Year - Justin Richardson, Pleasant Valley
Richardson was one of the premier shut down corners in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference this season, being selected as an EPC North First Team Defensive Back. Richardson was also versatile as he was used at the strong safety position because of his tackling ability.
Coach's quote - "Mentally and physically Justin has it all. He was a great leader in our secondary and made a ton of plays for us back there. He could play corner, safety and our joker position. He was very versatile and he was a sure tackler. When a guy got to the second level you could count on Justin to make the play." - Pleasant Valley head coach Mark Versuk.
All Star Defensive Backs
Matt Elmore, Jim Thorpe; Gavin Zehner, Lehighton; Cody Scherer, Lehighton; Nate Boyle, Tamaqua; Ethan Kuczynski, Marian; Mike Stasko, Palmerton; Trevor Cunningham, Northwestern; Mike Mitchell, Pleasant Valley