Boyle, Nelson have exceptional seasons
New Year’s Eve toasts and resolutions will be a plenty tonight as 2019 comes to an end and Times News readers usher in a new decade.
Lavish parties, kazoos and confetti are not the only things to look forward to, though today, as we also look back on the high school football season and its best performers with the 2019 Times News All-Star Football Team.
It was a season of firsts in the Times News area with multiple teams getting their first-ever postseason championship. It all starts with the Tamaqua Blue Raiders (12-3), who captured their first-ever district playoff win, first-ever district championship, and first-ever state playoff win en route to a run to the 3A state semifinals.
Jim Thorpe (8-3) joined the Raiders in the championship department, capturing its first-ever postseason title after the Olympians defeated Salisbury in the 3A Eastern Conference championship.
Northwestern put together another solid campaign, and was led by 2019 Times News/Lehigh Valley Health Network Player of the Year Deven Bollinger. The Tigers (10-2) advanced to the District 11 4A semis.
Lehighton was the fourth and final team to qualify for the postseason, losing to Northwestern in the 4A quarterfinals.
The 2019 Times News Football All-Star Team can be found on Page 12. An individual can only be selected as a player of the year once, but they can be named as an all-star at any other respective position.
For example, with Bollinger’s selection as Football Player of the Year, that eliminates him from any other player of the year category, but he can be named an all-star at a position. This is done to recognize as many deserving players as possible.
Offensive Player of the Year
Nate Boyle, Tamaqua
When thinking of offense this season, one name springs to mind in the form of All-State running back Nate Boyle.
Boyle led the Times News area with 1,877 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns. He was also a formidable weapon out of the backfield in the passing game, catching 33 balls for 423 yards. Boyle holds numerous Tamaqua records, including career rushing yards, career rushing touchdowns, career touchdowns, single season rushing yards, single season rushing touchdowns and single game rushing yards. Boyle also ranks second in career receptions and career receiving yards.
What’s most impressive about Boyle’s 2019 campaign was his postseason performance, rushing for just under 1,000 yards in five games against some of the top teams in 3A during Tamaqua’s run to the state semifinals.
“Nate is the perfect example of what hard work can do. Nate has worked hard throughout his whole career to get where he is, and I hope our guys coming up through the program have seen how success can come from that work ethic,” said Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner. “He’s one of the best I’ve ever coached, so versatile and strong and really put it into another gear for us during the playoffs. He’s a great kid with a very bright future.”
Defensive Player of the Year
Jordan Nelson, Palmerton
Nelson has been a leader defensively for the Bombers since he stepped on the field as a freshman.
There’s no better indicator of that than the tackling numbers he’s racked up in his career.
A 2019 All-State selection, Nelson is the all-time leading tackler at Palmerton with 450 and set the single season record with 141 in his sophomore campaign. This season, Nelson recorded 106 tackles, 13 for loss, five sacks, an interception return for a touchdown, one recovered fumble and one forced fumble. Nelson will continue his academic and athletic career at Villanova University.
“Jordan exemplifies what a student athlete is supposed to be,” said Palmerton head coach Chris Walkowiak. “He works hard in the classroom and on the field, and also in the community. Any time we had a team event in the community, he was there. On the field, his combo of size and speed makes him difficult to defend.
“His football IQ is exceptional, and he did a great job of communicating to our coaches when he saw something we could take advantage of, and a great job of leading his teammates. He’s a great young man and I’m proud of who he is, and that I was able to coach him.”
Quarterback of the Year
Brayden Knoblauch, Tamaqua
Knoblauch put together yet another impressive season as the Raiders’ signal caller, winning TN QB of the Year for the second consecutive season. He was also recently named to the Pa. Football Writer’s 3A All-State team. Knoblauch threw for 2,134 yards and 18 touchdowns with nine interceptions. Knoblauch’s big senior season has placed him atop the Raiders record books in multiple passing categories, including career passing yards, career passing touchdowns, single season passing yards, single season passing touchdowns, single season completions and single game passing yards.
Coach’s quote: “Brayden was born to be a quarterback. Without his play this year, we don’t go as far as we do. He just made so many big plays, and I always had 100 percent trust in him. I trusted his insight. He always came up in big situations and he had a great understanding of what the defense was doing. Great vision, accuracy, and a proven leader. He’s everything you want in a quarterback.” — Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner
All Star Quarterbacks
Deven Bollinger (Northwestern); Zach Moyer (Northern Lehigh); Davier Calcano (Jim Thorpe)
Running Back of the Year
CJ Selby, Jim Thorpe
Selby has put together a historic career for the Olympians, anchored by a strong senior season. The hard-running power back, who also possesses the ability to make defenders miss, holds Thorpe’s single season and all-time rushing records. Selby rushed for 1,640 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2019. What’s most impressive about Selby’s numbers is he did it on just 225 carries, averaging a healthy 7.29 yards per carry. Selby also caught nine balls for 126 yards and two scores.
Coach’s quote: “CJ is a throwback old school type of running back. He runs with power and speed, and he made defenders pay when they took him on. He is the type of running back that inflicts punishment when he runs. He also had a great work ethic, was always at our workouts and was willing to put in the extra work. Running backs of his caliber are made in the offseason and he was always willing to put the time in to get better.” — Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger
All Star Running Backs
Nate Boyle (Tamaqua); Nick Henry (Northwestern); Mike Repsher (Northern Lehigh); Matt Frame (Northern Lehigh, FB); Andrew Sabo (Palmerton)
Wide Receiver of the Year
Matt Kistler, Tamaqua
Kistler might not receive the most media attention of Tamaqua’s “big three” but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t. The All-State selection has been a stud at wide receiver the past two years, but the senior took his play to another level. Kistler caught 60 balls for 1,037 yards and 12 TDs. He has also cemented himself in the Tamaqua record books. He is tops in career receptions, career receiving yards, single season receptions, single season reception yards and single game receptions. He also carried the ball for 197 yards.
Coach’s quote: “Any time anyone asks about Matt, and even when they don’t, I tell them how good he’s been for us. His speed, his ability to go up and get the football, and his toughness is hard to find. He’s 165 pounds tops and never shies away from contact, loved going across the middle, and we ran him a decent amount this season on speed plays and he did a good job of getting up inside the hole.” — Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner
All Star Wide Receivers
Justin Holmes (Northwestern); Justin Rodda (Northwestern); Zach Hunsicker (Lehighton); Noah Snisky (Jim Thorpe); Blake White (Panther Valley); Trevor Amorim (Northern Lehigh)
Offensive Lineman of the Year
Bronson Strouse, Tamaqua
All-State selection Strouse was the anchor of an impressive offensive line. The Tamaqua rushing attack pounded out 2,871 yards, an average of 191 per game. The line got a solid push up front on almost every one of the Raiders carries (as they averaged 7.04 yards per carry). Strouse led the team in pancake blocks (17) and was a key protector for a passing offense that amassed 2,206 yards.
Coach’s quote: “Bronson was the leader of our offensive line group. He’s an experienced veteran player, having started since his freshman year. He knows the game well and has played a lot of football for us. Things don’t click like they do offensively for us this season without him. He was an x-factor in big games.” — Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner
All Star Offensive Linemen
Conner Snyder (Northwestern); Robbie Goldberg (Northwestern); Hale Trotter (Northwestern); Sean Lavine (Tamaqua); Lucas Schickram (Tamaqua); Cobe Fryckluand (Jim Thorpe); Tyler Hartman (Jim Thorpe); AJ Bailor (Jim Thorpe); Carter Smith (Northern Lehigh); Bryce Dye (Northern Lehigh); Michael Yeakel (Lehighton); Owen Buck (Palmerton); Antonio Perilli (Panther Valley); Ben Schatz (Lehighton, TE)
Defensive Lineman of the Year
Conner Snyder, Northwestern
Snyder was as disruptive as it gets from his defensive line position. Snyder wasn’t able to be blocked at times and a lot of that came when teams were doubling him. Snyder led the Tigers with 99 tackles, which is tough to do from the defensive front. Snyder also led his team in tackles for loss (15.5) and sacks (6.5). Snyder was also able to come up with a blocked kick and an interception in 2019.
Coach’s quote: “Conner is a very versatile defensive lineman and in our 30 front, that’s a very good front for him because he’s such a good athlete and he could thrive. He is a high motor guy, never stops coming, never gives up on a play. Teams ran away from him a lot this season, so we could guess where teams we’re going to go with the football. He had that type of impact out there for us.” — Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder
All Star Defensive Linemen
Jared Reed (Tamaqua); Bronson Strouse (Tamaqua); Derek Hunter (Jim Thorpe); AJ Bailor (Jim Thorpe); Owen Coffield (Northwestern); Robbie Goldberg (Northwestern); Carter Smith (Northern Lehigh); Bryce Dye (Northern Lehigh); Austin Hadley (Panther Valley); Owen Buck (Palmerton)
Linebacker of the Year
Andrew Sabo, Palmerton
Sabo was a heat-seeking missile for the Bombers this season. With a depleted defense due to injuries, it was often up to him to make plays all over the field. Sabo came through with 83 tackles (46 solo), with seven tackles for loss. He also collected two fumble recoveries, returned one for a touchdown and was named his team’s Co-Defensive MVP.
Coach’s quote: “I love the way Sabo plays football. He’s a throwback, such a tough mentality, just takes care of business. He’s a man of few words, but he plays with an intensity that many players do not possess. He really understands the game and it was easy to communicate with him. He’s just a great competitor, and very versatile.” — Palmerton head coach Chris Walkowiak
All Star Linebackers
Jordan Nelson (Palmerton); Domenick Harding (Northwestern); Wyatt Ledeboer (Northwestern); Derek Hebelka (Northwestern); Nate Boyle (Tamaqua); Jake Barron (Tamaqua); Nate Wickersham (Tamaqua); TJ Garritano (Jim Thorpe); Kendall Herron (Jim Thorpe); Brett Gasker (Lehighton); Ben Schatz (Lehighton); Elias Tavares (Panther Valley); Joe Abidelli (Northern Lehigh)
Defensive Back of the Year
Zach Moyer, Northern Lehigh
Old school and downhill are the best words to describe the play of the Northern Lehigh defensive backs this season. When thinking of a DB, everybody thinks of a shutdown corner or interceptions, but sure tackling and attacking the run game are just as important and nobody in the area did that better than the Bulldogs Zach Moyer. Moyer led the NL defense with 65 tackles, while also forcing a fumble and returning a pick for a touchdown.
Coach’s quote: “Zach was a three-year starter for us in the secondary and over the last two years he was essentially our quarterback of the defense. He’s always been good in coverage as he led our team in interceptions last season, but this year he added run support to his game and became a much more physical player and had a lot of tackles at or near the line of scrimmage.” — Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout
All Star Defensive Backs
Matt Kistler (Tamaqua); Pierce Demetriades (Tamaqua); Deven Bollinger (Northwestern); Justin Holmes (Northwestern); Noah Snisky (Jim Thorpe); Dom Madera (Jim Thorpe); Blake White (Panther Valley); Shawn Hoben (Panther Valley); Ethan Recker (Palmerton)
Specialist of the Year
Nick Henry, Northwestern
Power, speed and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield checks all the boxes of what a coach wants in a running back. Luckily for Tigers’ head coach Josh Snyder, he had Henry at his disposal. Henry was electric once again in 2019 in both the rushing and passing game. Henry rushed for 895 yards and 16 touchdowns, while also catching 25 balls for 372 yards and five scores. He also averaged 33 yards per punt in 12 attempts.
Coach’s quote: “Nick is the kind of kid and the kind of player that will do anything to help his team win. Our goal was to just try and get him the ball in open space, we moved him around at times, even putting him in the slot because he has such good hands and is so versatile. He was just deadly when he had the ball in open space for us, scored a bunch of touchdowns, he definitely had a great year.” — Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder
All Star Specialists
Jordan Nelson (Palmereton, QB/WR/P/K); Lucca Stroia (Marian, K); Chris Condly (Jim Thorpe, K); Travis Benson (Jim Thorpe, P); Nate Boyle (RB/K); Andres Garrido (Northwestern, K); Lucas Sangiuliano (Lehighton, QB)