Sun-Gazette defensive all-stars

Central Mountain’s Justin Neff plans to walk on at Penn State next fall.

Defensive Line

Crae McCracken, Loyalsock

The Sun Gazette Defensive Lineman of the Year was a difference-maker all season despite consistent double teaming and opponents trying to avoid running his way. McCracken, receiving significant Division I interest, fought through all that to have another big season and anchor a strong line. McCracken, also an excellent offensive lineman, finished third on the team in tackles, averaging 6.7 per game and was a superb run stuffer who added seven tackles for loss, three sacks and a blocked field goal. A four-year starter who was big enough to play on the line and quick enough to play linebacker, McCracken finished his standout career with 273 tackles, 12 sacks and 42 tackles for loss. More importantly, McCracken was one of the most valuable players on teams that won 33 games and two league championships.

Ross Stebbins, Williamsport

A 2015 all-state selection and first team league all-star, Stebbins had another big season despite constant double teaming and teams running away from his side. Stebbins led Williamsport in sacks, hurries and tackles for loss. After Week 7, Williamsport moved Stebbins from defensive end to defensive tackle and its run defense instantly became one of the best in District 4. Stebbins had a sack, eight tackles, five tackles for loss and nine hurries in a dominant performance against State College in states and might have been that game’s most valuable player. Stebbins has been instrumental to Williamsport’s remarkable turnaround and was dominant during the playoffs. In those four games, he had 19 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks and 17 hurries. He also finished third on the team in total tackles, averaging nearly seven per game.

Parker Jones, Wellsboro

The engine that powered one of the most dominant defenses in area history, Jones put together another big season and helped Wellsboro go 11-1 and win the NTL-I championship. Like McCracken and Stebbins, Jones dealt with double teams and opponents avoiding him but still could not be slowed. The 6-7 senior finished second on the team in tackles, averaging near 10 per game and also had seven sacks and 22 hurries. A constant disruptive source, Jones made seven or more tackles in all but two games and topped 10 tackles four times. Without Jones, Wellsboro would not have held teams to 3.3 points per game during the regular season or shutout seven opponents. During his two years at Wellsboro, Jones made 179 tackles and 14 sacks, helping the Hornets win district and league titles while going 21-4.

Owen Hoffman, Montoursville

The Warriors had some gaping defensive voids to fill and Hoffman was one of many first-time starters who came up huge and helped them capture the District 4 Class AAA championship. Hoffman grew better and more powerful as the season progressed and tied for the area lead in sacks with 10 1/2. Fast, athletic and possessing a big motor, Hoffman averaged 4.3 tackles per game and made a team-high 17 tackles for loss. A first team HAC-II all-star Hoffman recorded three multiple sack games and came up big in a comeback win at Jersey Shore, sacking the quarterback three times. Hoffman also was outstanding in the playoffs and helped the defense allow just 10 points during districts.

Linebackers

Hunter Webb, Loyalsock

Explosive and physical, Webb edged out a vastly talented and deep field to become the Sun-Gazette Linebacker of the Year. Explosive and physical, Webb led the area in tackles during the regular season and finished with 131, averaging 11.9 per game. Webb was excellent against the run and pass and moved sideline to sideline as well as defender in District 4. Receiving Division I interest, Webb led Loyalsock in tackles for a second straight season and made 22 tackles for loss, while adding three sacks, an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown. Webb topped 10 tackles eight times and never had fewer than seven in a game. The junior has played only two years of high school football, but has made a big impact. He has 216 tackles during that time and has helped Loyalsock win 16 games.

Dominic Williams, Jersey Shore

A first-time starter, Williams quickly developed into a dynamic linebacker and helped a young Jersey Shore team capture a second district championship in four seasons. Williams, an inside linebacker, remarkably led District 4 in interceptions during the first 12 weeks, with seven. The quick and hard-hitting junior returned two interceptions for touchdowns, including the game-winner in a season-changing win at Shikellamy and the game-clincher in the district final against Selinsgrove. Williams also was a strong pass rusher and excellent against the run. He made 103 tackles and averaged 8.6 per game. Williams also had four sacks, 12 tackles for loss, topped 10 tackles six times and averaged 11.3 tackles during the playoffs. Like Webb, Williams might just be getting started, too.

Trey Delbaugh, Lewisburg

One of the best linebackers in Lewisburg history, Delbaugh again ignited the defense and topped 100 tackles for a third straight year. Delbaugh averaged a team-high 11 tackles per game and helped Lewisburg reach districts for a ninth straight season. Fast, smart and tough, Delbaugh flied around the field, intercepted three passes, forced four fumbles and returned a fumble 89 yards for a touchdown. Delbaugh defended the run and pass well and broke up seven passes while topping 10 tackles five times. Only Penn State senior Brandon Smith made more tackles at Lewisburg than Delbaugh who finished with 378 for an average of 11.3 per game. No area player has recorded more tackles than Delbaugh over the past three years.

Torin Lewis, Montoursville

Although his statistics might not be as impressive as some of the terrific linebackers who did not earn first team honors, Lewis deserves this spot because he was so critical to Montoursville’s defensive success. A young defense basically had a personnel overhaul from 2015 and Lewis developed into both an elite defender and terrific leader. He almost always seemed to make the right play at the right time, averaging 8.5 tackles per game and finishing with 119. Lewis went over 10 tackles five times and added 14 tackles for loss against the area’s most demanding schedule. Lewis also had five sacks, forced a fumble and was the Player of the Game in Montoursville’s first win over Selinsgrove when he made four tackles for loss and had two sacks. Oh yeah, Lewis also played both fullback and tailback and ran for a team-high 813 yards and eight touchdowns.

Defensive Backs

Justin Neff, Central Mountain

A tremendous overall athlete who will be a preferred walk-on at Penn State next fall, Neff led a vastly improved Wildcat defense in his fourth year starting and earned Sun-Gazette Defensive Back of the Year honors. The senior safety led Central Mountain in tackles, averaging 11.2 per game and making 112. Quick, intelligent and able to cover ample ground, Neff intercepted two passes, topped 10 tackles seven times and helped Central make a two-win improvement. Neff has been on of the area’s premier playmakers the last three years and topped 1,000 yards rushing at quarterback while returning three kickoffs for touchdowns. Neff returned 11 kickoffs for touchdowns during the past three seasons.

Joel Whitteker, North Penn-Mansfield

At the heart of North Penn-Mansfield’s defensive success the past three seasons has been Whitteker. The senior strong safety consistently was all over the field, rarely was out of position and helped the Panthers allow just 14 points during one four-week stretch. Whitteker, the program’s all-time leading receiver and a 2015 all-state selection, finished second on the team in tackles with 73, averaging 6.6 per game. Whitteker also intercepted a team-high five interceptions, tying for the most in the area during the regular season. Whitteker helped North Penn-Mansfield win 23 games the past three seasons and made 266 tackles during that time, including eight for losses this season.

Austin Breon, Jersey Shore

A HAC-I first team all-star, Breon was another first-time starting Bulldog who made a huge impact. Breon made rapid improvement throughout the season and finished second in the area with six interceptions. Breon’s development was critical to Jersey Shore’s late-season surge that included six straight wins in which the Bulldogs allowed 15 points or fewer. The junior cornerback intercepted a pass in six different games, including the district final against Selinsgrove. Breon also averaged 3.8 tackles per game and was part of a secondary that helped Jersey Shore force 34 turnovers. Breon also caught 17 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns and caught a 92-yard touchdown in the state tournament against Johnstown.

Aaron Guerrisky, South Williamsport

A gifted athlete who rarely left the field and was a major factor in all three facets of the game, Guerrisky developed into a shutdown cornerback and delivered a string of strong performances against tough receivers. Guerrisky blanketed receivers throughout the season and intercepted three passes while breaking up 10 more. He received the ultimate compliment from an opposing offense as the season progressed and teams stopped throwing his way. Guerrisky also averaged four tackles per game, punted well, led the team in return yards and caught 18 passes for 446 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 24.8 yards per catch.

Punter

Brycen Mussina, Montoursville

This all-star team might run a lot of fake punts since it’s always nice to have the District 4’s all-time leading passer at its disposal. Mussina has been a fantastic quarterback, but his punting has been key to Montoursville’s success too. A league all-star for a third straight season, and possibly the area’s most valuable player after leading a young team with few returning starters to a Class AAA district championship, Mussina averaged an area-best 37.1 yards per punt and placed an area-high eight inside the 20-yard line. He was a special teams weapon, frequently forcing opponents to navigate long fields. Mussina also threw for an area record 2,866 yards and 30 touchdowns. Mussina broke District 4 records for yards (6,966 and touchdowns 69) while helping Montoursville reach three straight district finals and win two championships. Mussina topped 200 yards seven times and threw multiple touchdown passes nine times.

Second team

DL–Hunter Poust, Muncy; DL–Bryce Ranck, Montoursville; DL–Tyler Smith, Jersey Shore; DL–Jacob Jones, Jersey Shore; LB–Robert Brown, Wellsboro; LB–Garrett David, North Penn-Mansfield; LB–Dale Shrawder, Hughesville; LB–Kaden Martell, Canton; DB–Riley Conboy, Montoursville; DB–Elliott Walker, Williamsport; DB–Dylan Farronato, Lewisburg; DB–Dalton Prough, Wellsboro; P–Derek Gee, Loyalsock

Honorable Mention

Ben Johnson, DL, South Williamsport; Pat West, DL, South Williamsport, Mason Seacrist, DL, Jersey Shore; Nahiem Davis, DL, Loyalsock; Alden Mileto, LB, Loyalsock; Malik Wertman, LB, Muncy; Trenton Fousnought, LB, Cowanesque Valley; Noah Showers, LB, Warrior Run; DB–Nolan Ott, Montoursville; DB–Gage Anzulavich, Warrior Run; Hunter Frantz, DB, Jersey Shore; Brenden Gardner, P, Hughesville

Awards

Player of the Year: Isaiah Hankins

Runner-up–Treyson Potts

Second runner-up (tie): Gideon Green, South Williamsport and Marcus Williams, Loyalsock

Coach of the Year: Chuck Crews, Williamsport:

Runner-up: Tom Gravish, Jersey Shore

Second runner-up: J.C. Keefer, Montoursville

Also nominated: Chris Eiswerth, South Williamsport; Matt Hildebrand, Wellsboro; Sean Tetreault, Muncy

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