Sun-Gazette year-end awards
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Gavin Hoffman, Montoursville
The only thing left for Gavin Hoffman to accomplish during his senior year was to add on to the already impressive legacy he had forged in three previous years at Montoursville. The senior wrestler didn’t disappoint. He became the first three-time state champion in Lycoming County history and finished with 176 career victories, second-most in District 4 history.
He graduated as the No. 1-ranked 195-pound wrestler in the country and as maybe the best high school wrestler to ever come out of Lycoming County. The Ohio State recruit became District 4’s first three-time state champion since 1997 when he either pinned or tech falled each of his postseason opponents.
All of that came on the heels of an offseason which saw Hoffman qualify for the Cadet National Team and earn a bronze medal at the world championships in Greece. He finished his final season with a 45-0 record, earning bonus points for Montoursville in 43 matches. He won his first Powerade Tournament championship in December and established himself as maybe the most dominant athlete in the Sun-Gazette coverage area.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Rhiallie Jessell, Loyalsock
Jessell ended her career playing three sports and she excelled in all three for the Lancers.
In the fall, Jessell was one of District 4’s top players on the soccer field, constantly garnering double teams from opposing defenses, forcing teams to focus on her, and setting up opportunities for Loyalsock. The Saint Francis-bound star came up big in the district playoffs, drilling a free kick from 25 yards to the far post to tie a game against Montoursville which the Lancers eventually won. Jessell earned Sun-Gazette Girls Player of the Year honors for her senior season.
In the winter, Jessell played basketball for the first time and helped make an impact right away. The Lancers finished third in the district tournament and reached the second round of the state tournament.
This spring, Jessell was a solid catcher and easily one of the area’s most dangerous hitters. She batted .540 with 31 RBIs, scored 22 runs, and had a team-high 12 doubles. She also allowed only one successful base stealer the past two seasons.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Eck, Montoursville
Jeremy Eck might have done his best coaching before he even coached a game this season.
He did it by convincing Montoursville it could be great. Playing with passion and confidence, Montoursville never forgot those words uttered last fall and captured its first district championship since 2010. The Warriors won their first HAC-II championship and reached the state semifinals for the first time in 12 years as well.
Eck returned to his alma mater as Montoursville’s baseball coach last fall, inheriting a team hit hard by graduation. That did not matter to a coach who led Loyalsock to two state championships and four district titles from 2010-16. He let them know that good was not enough. Being great was the new expectation and that is what Montoursville became, going 19-3, dethroning Loyalsock in an epic, 3-2, 10-inning District 4 Class AAA district final and coming within seven outs of reaching the state championship. Montoursville won 14 consecutive games entering the East Region final. With so many quality players returning next season, the good times might just be getting started, too.
PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: Loyalsock
The Lancers were successful throughout the year regardless of which sport they played, starting in the fall and rolling throughout the year.
In girls cross country, the Lancers placed third as a team and runner Isabel Sagar took home gold in the district meet and placed ninth at states. In boys cross country, the Lancers not only won the District 4 championship, but also placed sixth at states as Quinn Serfass finished fourth.
In girls soccer, the Lancers knocked off a talented Montoursville team in the first round of districts before falling to eventual District 4 champion Midd-West in the semifinals.
The girls tennis team went 15-0 during the regular season and lost in the District 4 semifinals.
As an individual, Katie Savidge put together a 14-1 regular season record, was 20-3 overall and helped lead the Lancers to a PHAC title. Savidge also became the first District 4 player to place fourth in the girls tennis state tournament, losing in the state semifinals to the eventual champion.
The most successful area team on the gridiron was also Loyalsock. It was the only area team to win a District 4 championship, doing so in Class AAA.
The boys basketball team was the District 4 runner-up in Class AAA, and the girls basketball team finished third in the district tournament and advanced to the second round of the state tournament.
In the spring, both the Loyalsock softball and baseball teams made it to the district championship game. The softball team won the program’s first District 4 championship since 2008 and the baseball team was the Class AAA runner-up, losing to Montoursville in a 10-inning thriller.
In track and field, the Loyalsock girls team finished second at the district meet and numerous Lancer runners had success at districts. Sagar placed second at the state meet in the 1,600.