2017 Sun-Gazette All-Star team
Selected by Sun-Gazette sports staff. Biographies by Chris Masse
Joe Fagnano, Williamsport
Millionaire coach Chuck Crews had no problem standing up before the reporters at last July’s District 4 Media Day and introducing Fagnano by saying, “Joe Fagnano, the guy who will make people forget about Isaiah Hankins.” Well, nobody will forget what Hankins did at Williamsport, but Fagnano certainly carved out his own identity and showed why Crews so confident in his ability. The first-time starter put together a special season, something necessary to edge dynamic Loyalsock quarterback Connor Watkins for first team honors. Fagnano threw for 2,460 yards and a program-record 30 touchdowns in 11 games while completing an area-best 65 percent of his passes. Fagnano also earned all-state honors and was the Wyoming Valley Conference Player of the Year. He put the offense on his back at times, directing three comeback wins from double-digit deficits. He threw just four interceptions in 325 attempts, ran for 411 yards and seven touchdowns and topped 200 yards seven times. Fagnano can make all the throws, but his poise and maturity especially stood out. He produced eight multi-touchdown performance games and his second-half numbers in those comeback wins against three playoff teams border on the ridiculous.
Hunter Budman, Montgomery
A consistent force for the year’s most improved team, Budman produced the best season by any Montgomery running back in the 2000s. The three-year starting junior ran for 1,490 yards, finishing third among area rushers, and his 21 touchdowns were the second highest total. Budman also led Montgomery in receiving, finishing with 26 passes for 338 yards and totaled 1,828 yards and 23 touchdowns. Budman has good burst and vision and provided a big-play threat that Montgomery had lacked for years. He runs with speed and power and topped 100 yards six times and 200 yards twice. Budman also delivered a 192-yard game, went over 100 yards in Montgomery’s first playoff win since 2000 and caught seven passes for 91 yards in the district championship. After only three seasons, Budman already is Montgomery’s leading rusher in the 2000s.
Kyle Tomb, Jersey Shore
A true workhorse, Tomb finished second among area rushers in yards and carries and never tired while playing in a no-huddle offense that seemed to operate at warp speed. The hard-nosed junior ran for 1,662 yards and 16 touchdowns, topping 100 yards nine times in 11 games. Tomb consistently wore defenses down and went over 100 yards in three games against Class AAAA state quarterfinalist and HAC-I champion Shikellamy. Tough to bring down on initial contact, Tomb was skillful at gaining extra hards and brought strong balance to an offense that also featured a 1,500-yard quarterback Elijah Shemory and 800-yard wide receiver Hunter Frantz. Tomb averaged 5.5 yards per carry and has gone over 2,000 career yards since becoming a starter late last season. Tomb ran for 233 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 4 win against Lewisburg.
Gideon Green, South Williamsport
South has produced some fantastic running backs during its storied past, but nobody has ever carried the ball more times than Green and only the legendary Dominick Bragalone ran for more yards. The Sun-Gazette Back of the Year and two-time all-state selection capped his superb scholastic career with his best season yet, running for a District 4-best 2,245 yards and 26 touchdowns. Also a starting linebacker, Green never wore down and topped 150 yards in 10 of his 11 games. Green carried the ball 50 times for 239 yards and four touchdowns in a 56-28 win against District 4 Class AAA champion Loyalsock, one of five times he went over 200 yards. Green, who carried an area record 849 times the past four seasons, also ran for 312 yards and five touchdowns against Bloomsburg and averaged 6.9 yards per carry. Bragalone and Williamsport legend Darrell Blackman are the only players in area history to produce more yards than Green, who closes his high school career with 5,304 yards and 63 touchdowns.
Timmy Ward, Canton
Few sophomore wide receivers in area history have produced seasons as prolific as Ward did. The first-time starting sophomore burst onto the scene, rewrote the Canton record book and made life miserable for opposing secondaries while earning all-state honors. Ward caught 51 passes for 925 yards and five touchdowns, finishing second among area receivers in catches and yards during the regular season. Fast and fearless, Ward caught 13 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns in a thriller against District 4 Class A champion Wyalusing. He also topped 100 yards three times and those 249 yards were the second-highest in a game by an area receiver in the 21st century. Ward broke program single-season records in catches and yards and is a big reason the future looks so bright at Canton.
Gerald Ross, Loyalsock
He did not play football as a freshman and caught just 10 passes as a sophomore last year. But Ross sure put everything together and looked like a football lifer during a historic season that ended with an all-state selection. The tall and athletic receiver caught a Loyalsock-record 14 touchdowns, the second highest total among district receivers, and also was the area’s lone 1,000-yard receiver. Ross formed a sensational tandem with Watkins, catching 58 passes for 1,038 yards while helping Loyalsock capture its first district championship since 2009. Ross’s 14 touchdowns are tied for the third-highest total an area receiver has produced in the 2000s and he caught a touchdown in nine different games. Ross twice had three-touchdown performances, including against HAC-I champion Shikellamy. Ross scored in both district playoff games and averaged 17.9 yards per catch while becoming the program’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2007.
Marcus Simmons, Williamsport
The Williamsport football program has existed for more than 100 years. And in all those years, no player has ever caught as many passes as Simmons did. The Sun-Gazette’s Receiver of the Year caught 71 passes for 934 yards and 11 touchdowns, breaking the previous single-season record of 62 catches. Williamsport lost its top five receivers from the 2016 team and needed someone to fill a huge void. Simmons did it all season long, helping Williamsport feature one of the district’s most explosive offenses. Simmons caught 12 more passes than the area’s second-leading receiver during the regular season and also led all area receivers in yards and touchdowns during that time. Opposing secondaries geared their coverages toward slowing Simmons, but the junior receiver caught at least five passes in all 11 games. He also topped 100 yards three times, scored in nine of 11 games and went for 8 catches, 155 yards and two touchdowns against District 2 AAAAAA champion Delaware Valley.
Ethen Stryker, Williamsport
Helping Simmons and the passing game flourish was Stryker emerging as an elite tight end. Like Simmons, Stryker provided a huge lift after all-state tight end Jalen Jackson graduated. Stryker became the first area tight end in the 21st century to reach 50 catches, finishing with 51 catches for 542 yards and eight touchdowns. The all-stater was outstanding at opening up the middle of the field and became a big-time red zone weapon. Also a fantastic blocker, Stryker caught multiple passes in all 11 games and his eight touchdowns were the third-highest total produced by an area tight end in the 2000s. Stryker showed a knack for making big catches at key times and made opponents pay after the catch. He also caught a career-high nine passes in a dramatic 38-34 comeback win at Scranton when the Millionaires rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit.
Reilly Barnes, South Williamsport
The South Williamsport Iron Man, Barnes never missed a game, starting all 50 games during a superb high school career. The center might have had his best season yet, helping the Mounties again dominate teams up front. Barnes was the line’s quarterback and often imposed his will early and often. Strong and powerful, Barnes helped South win 40 games, four league championships and a district crown the past four seasons. Maybe most impressive, Barnes started on four tremendous lines that paved the way for more than 15,000 rushing yards.
Ben Johnson, South Williamsport
Like his teammate, Johnson was a ferocious blocker who helped South win a second straight HAC-III title and go 9-2. Johnson showed all season why he has been receiving Division I interest and repeatedly manhandled opposing defensive linemen. Johnson was a three-year starter and 2017 all-state selection who grew stronger and better each season there. He was key in helping South run for 3,168 yards this season. The Mounties also featured a 2,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard passer. Fast, powerful and explosive, Johnson was violent at the point of contact and made his last high school season his best.
Collin Pietropola, Wellsboro
Maybe the NTL’s best lineman over the last two years, Pietropola helped Wellsboro complete a second straight undefeated regular season. A four-year starter, Pietropola was the anchor on a dominant line that helped Wellsboro run for an area-best 3,421 yards. The Hornets mercy-ruled nine opponents with Pietropola often setting the tone up front. Like Barnes and Johnson, Pietropola was a standout defensive lineman and helped Wellsboro become one of the district’s most successful programs as it won 39 games and 3 league championships the last four seasons.
Dalton Tubbs, Montoursville
Playing for a program that has long produced stellar lineman, Tubbs built on the tradition. An outstanding senior leader, Tubbs provided both strong play and leadership for a team that hung together and made a late push for a playoff berth. The only starter back on a young offensive line, Tubbs anchored a unit that flourished late in the season. Instrumental to helping Montoursville capture a district championship in 2016, Tubbs could pave the way for future team success through his example this season. Leading by example, Tubbs did not allow a sack for a second straight season and paved the way for a running game that shined late in the season.
Kurt Danneker, Williamsport
One of the best linemen Williamsport has ever produced, Danneker was at the heart of a remarkable resurgence the last four seasons and dominated again as a senior, earning Sun-Gazette Lineman of the Year honors. The 6-4, 325-pounder who will play at Ohio next fall, helped an offense hit hard by graduation remain explosive. Danneker often overpowered whoever was in front of him and was a major factor in Williamsport averaging 36.4 points and 415 yards per game. The four-year starter and two-time all-stater has blocked for two 2,000-yard passers and a 2,000-yard rusher during his scholastic career and was part of teams that won 25 games the past three years. Before Danneker arrived, Williamsport was mired in a 13-year slump but he helped it make a statewide statement as it won its first district title since 1995 and reached last year’s state quarterfinals. Danneker will play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl in Dallas and start attending classes at Ohio, later next month.
Angelo Girardi, Williamsport
No kicker in area history has ever produced more points than Girardi who put together his best season yet as a senior. Girardi closed out his high school career with 169 career points, besting the previous record for 157 held by Loyalsock’s Dan Hutchins. Girardi kicked an area-best seven field goals this season and led the area with 66 points. He was an extra weapon for Williamsport, consistently providing points whenever it approached the red zone. Girardi missed just one field goal attempt, connected on 48 extra points and delivered 120 over the past two seasons.
Quinn Henry, Wellsboro
One of the most dynamic athletes to play football in the 2000s, Henry again was an overall force who helped Wellsboro capture a second straight NTL-I championship. The senior quarterback helped the program reach new heights the last three seasons, leading it to its first district championship, two league titles, two undefeated regular seasons and 37 wins. A superb dual threat quarterback and two-time all-state selection, Henry produced 7,789 total yards and 110 total touchdowns during that time. He was at his best this season, topping both 1,000 rushing and passing yards for a second time in three years. Henry ran for 1,320 yards and an area-best 27 touchdowns while also throwing for 1,207 yards and 13 scores. Oh yeah, Henry also returned two punts for touchdowns and was one of the NTL’s top safeties. Henry so often turned plays that would go for losses or minimal gains into touchdowns and will graduate as one of the most decorated players in program history.
Bam Bam Brima, Loyalsock
The 6-7 junior did not arrive at Loyalsock until opening night and did not make his debut until Week 3. But what a player and weapon Brima became. Brima finished third on the team in tackles, averaging seven per game and was seemingly unblockable at times over the last seven weeks, averaging nearly 10 tackles in those games. Explosive and smart, Brima could wreak havoc with his height and speed. He was outstanding on the edge, averaged 10.7 tackles during the postseason and finished with 10 tackles for loss. Just imagine how good Brima could be next fall now that he will have a full offseason and preseason with Loyalsock.
Hunter Brown, Wellsboro
The MVP of the area’s best defense, Brown also shined as a junior this season and continued the strong play that has highlighted his high school career thus far. Brown led the team in tackles, mighty impressive for a lineman, averaging 6.5 per game. He was stout against the run and recorded a team-high seven sacks while recovering five fumbles and forcing another. Brown has made big strides in each of the last two seasons and can drop into coverage as well as he rushes the passer. Brown intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown and helped the starting defense score more touchdowns (8) than it allowed (7).
Hunter Poust, Muncy
Few defensive ends at Muncy have played better in recent memory than Poust has the last two seasons. Poust was a force up front and helped Muncy win district and league championships the past two years. The hard-working senior finished second on Muncy in tackles, averaging 7.6 per game, and recorded a district-best 11 1/2 sacks while becoming an all-stater for a second straight year. Poust was tough to run on and sparked the Muncy defense, making 23 tackles for loss. Over the last two years, Poust had 20 1/2 sacks, along with 48 tackles for loss. Poust sacked the quarterback at least once in seven different games and was virtually unblockable against district finalist Montgomery when he had 4 1/2 sacks, three that ended drives, and helped Muncy win, 17-7.
David Tomb, Jersey Shore
Anyone who looks at Tomb’s size might not be blown away. The junior nose tackle is only 6-0, 190 pounds. Watch him play, though, and one realizes Tomb plays like a 300-pound lineman. The Sun-Gazette’s Defensive Lineman of the Year was a stalwart on an super defense, constantly stuffing the run and rushing the passer. Tomb averaged 8.7 tackles per game, the best by an area defensive lineman, and finished his excellent season with 96 tackles. Though undersized, Tomb consistently won the battle up front, finishing with 17 tackles for loss and five sacks. Tomb kept getting better throughout the season, topped 10 tackles four times and had four games with multiple tackles for loss. Tomb played some of his best football in Jersey Shore’s biggest games and had 22 tackles with 5 for loss in two games against state quarterfinalist Selinsgrove.
Garrett David, NP-Mansfield
A player with a terrific nose for the football, David led North Penn-Mansfield in tackles for a second straight season and easily went over 100 yards for a second consecutive year. David finished third among area tacklers, finishing with 131 and averaging 11.9 per game. A hard hitter who also is tall and athletic, David topped 10 tackles six times and twice delivered 20-tackle games while helping a young team that lost most of its starters reach districts for a second straight season. David also delivered five sacks, intercepted a pass and forced a fumble. The junior has made 271 tackles the last two years and, with a healthy 2018, could go over 400 career tackles.
Hunter O’Connor, Jersey Shore
Another junior who keeps elevating his performance, O’Connor played like a man on a mission this season. O’Connor finished second among area tacklers, averaging 13.3 per game and making 146. The hard-working linebacker was essential to Jersey Shore slowing so many teams down and also had 27 tackles, along with four sacks. O’Connor topped 10 tackles in each of his last eight games and made a career-high 19 against HAC-I champion Shikellamy. He also had six games with multiple tackles for loss and has 265 tackles the past two seasons. O’Connor has helped Jersey Shore win 17 games the past two seasons and rank among the district’s top defenses each time.
Dominic Williams, Jersey Shore
At the heart of Jersey Shore’s defensive dominance the last two years has been Williams. The all-state selection helped Jersey Shore win a district championship and slow down state quarterfinalist Selinsgrove in a 14-7 district semifinal loss. The defense’s quarterback and two-time all-stater, Williams stuffed the run, covered the pass well and attacked the quarterback. Williams averaged 12 tackles per game, finishing with 132, and had 25 for loss. Together, he and O’Connor might have been the district’s best linebacking duo. Williams went over 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons, topped 10 tackles 10 times this fall and added four sacks a year after intercepting an area-best seven passes.
Hunter Webb, Loyalsock
One of the best linebackers to play in this area during the 2000s, Webb simply dominated throughout the 2017 season. The Sun-Gazette Linebacker of the Year did not play as a freshman, but Webb still finished his brilliant scholastic career with 395 tackles and led a unit that helped Loyalsock win its first district championship since 2009. The Connecticut-bound senior led District 4 in tackles, finishing with 179 while averaging 14.9 per game. Webb shattered the program’s single-season tackle record and 24 tackles went for loss. Webb covered the field as well as any linebacker around and was as good dropping into coverage as he was attacking the quarterback. The three-year starter recorded a team-high eight sacks, intercepted three passes, and topped 10 tackles in 11 of his 12 games. Webb also averaged 17 tackles during the playoffs with 8 tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions. He closed out his high school career with 15 sacks, 46 tackles for loss and four interceptions.
Liam Dwyer, Bucktail
A standout on a defense who helped Bucktail make a four-win improvement and reach districts, Dwyer put together his best season. The junior cornerback finished tied for the area lead in interceptions with seven and anchored a secondary for a team that shined despite having just 14 players for much of the season. Dwyer intercepted a pass in five different games and twice had two-interception performances. Bucktail was 3-2 in games when Dwyer made an interception. The junior defensive back is one of many starters returning next season and also was among team leaders in tackles.
Dylan Farronato, Lewisburg
He is the area’s active leader in career catches with 95, but Farronato might be an even better safety. The three-year starting junior can be an eraser in the secondary, covering the field well, providing hard hits and making big plays. Farronato returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns this season, giving him three interception touchdowns in the past two seasons. He missed 2 1/2 games with injury, but was a difference-maker when healthy. Farronato averaged 4.6 tackles per game and helped a young team reach districts for a 10th straight season while also catching 33 passes for 647 yards and seven touchdowns. His all-around play helped him earn all-state honors at the athlete position.
Chase Moser, Wellsboro
The senior safety was a versatile threat who could score any time he made a defensive play. Moser intercepted three passes and returned each one for touchdowns, giving him four over the past two seasons and five during his scholastic career. The three-year starter also scored six defensive touchdowns in those seasons starting, helping Wellsboro win 31 games. Moser occasionally would move to linebacker as well and averaged four tackles per game while adding two sacks. Moser was a big reason Wellsboro led the area in defense the past three seasons, intercepting 10 passes. He consistently disrupted offenses and forced four fumbles this year and recovering two.
Sam Newton, Loyalsock
A player who developed into a shut-down cornerback, the Sun-Gazette Defensive Back of the Year shined in his final scholastic season and tied Dwyer with an area-best seven interceptions. Newton played well as a junior last season and went to the next level this year, helping Loyalsock capture the district title. Newton consistently took the opponent’s best receiver out of the game, earned all-state honors and helped a secondary that suffered some key losses jell throughout the season. Newton put together his best performance on the big stage, intercepting three passes as Loyalsock routed top-seeded Danville in the district final. Newton intercepted passes in five different games and returned a pick for a touchdown in a Week 3 win against Mifflinburg.
Koby Peacock, Jersey Shore
The team leader in catches and a valuable defensive starter as well, Peacock showed he is a three-way threat by consistently booming his punts. The junior averaged an area-best 39 yards on his 52 punts and had a long of 63 yards. More impressive than the yards, was how Peacock placed those punts. Peacock dropped a district-high 15 punts inside the 20-yard line. Combine the yards and placement and Peacock helped the defense each week by giving opponents long fields to navigate.
Second Team Offense
QB–Connor Watkins; RB–Colby Alpaugh, Muncy; Cole Cavanaugh, Loyalsock; Max Moyers, Lewisburg; WR–Riley Daubert, Warrior Run; WR–Dylan Farronato, Lewisburg; Hunter Frantz, Jersey Shore; TE–Logan Long, Bucktail; OL–Cody Hand, Bucktail; OL–Hunter Knott, Loyalsock; OL–Tucker Kreisher, Williamsport; OL–Griffyn Metzger, South Williamsport; Mason Sechrist, Jersey Shore; K–Nate Paisley, Muncy; Athlete–Matt Barber, Cowanesque Valley
Second Team Defense
DL–Robert Brown, Wellsboro; DL–Mason Campbell, Central Mountain; DL–Geno Ginobile, Loyalsock; DL–Jacob Jones, Jersey Shore; LB–Cam Dickey, Williamsport; LB–Draven Doebler, Lewisburg; LB–Dale Shrawder, Hughesville; LB–Rhyle Strausbaugh, Montgomery; DB–Jensen Drick, Montgomery; DB–Hunter Frantz, Jersey Shore; DB–Coleman Good, Muncy; DB–Anthony Washington, Montoursville; P–Dylan Moll, Montoursville
Player of the Year–Gideon Green, South Williamsport
First runner-up–Hunter Webb, Loyalsock
Second runner-up–Joe Fagnano, Williamsport
Also receiving votes
Kurt Danneker, Williamsport; Connor Watkins, Loyalsock; Quinn Henry, Wellsboro
Coach of the Year–Paul Bozella, Montgomery
First runner-up–Justin Van Fleet, Loyalsock
Second runner-up–Bruce Ransom, Bucktail
Also receiving votes
Chuck Crews, Williamsport; Matt Hildebrand, Wellsboro; Chris Eiswerth, South Williamsport