Sun-Gazette Preseason All-Star Football Team
Joe Fagnano, Williamsport
This basically was a coin toss with fellow all-stater Connor Watkins since both are coming off all-state seasons and both will likely be playing Division I football next fall. As one sees later on this list, both players would be receiving playing time on this all-star team. Fagnano threw for 2,460 yards and a Williamsport record 30 touchdowns last season, helping Williamsport continue thriving despite playing without Minnesota-bound Treyson Potts all season. The senior quarterback showed brilliant poise and decision-making, throwing just four interceptions in 325 attempts, running for 411 yards and seven touchdowns and going over 200 passing yards seven times in 11 games. Fagnano was brilliant at bringing Williamsport from behind, helping it win three games in which it trailed by double digits in the second half. The Wyoming Valley Conference Player of the Year also completed an area-high 65 percent of his passes.
Hunter Budman, Montgomery
Fast and strong, Budman became the primary weapon for one of the district’s most improved team, running for 1,490 yards and 21 touchdowns, the best numbers for a Montgomery running back in the 2000s. The four-year starting senior also is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and caught a team-high 26 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns. His 23 touchdowns were second among area players and his yards third. Budman can earn tough yards near the line of scrimmage and also break away for long gains. He topped 100 yards six times and 200 yards twice last season as Montgomery made a four-win improvement. He shined in the postseason as well, going over 100 yards in Montgomery’s first playoff win since 2000 while also catching seven passes for 91 yards in the district final against Wyalusing.
Treyson Potts, Williamsport
If not for missing last season with a torn ACL, Potts likely would be chasing Darrell Blackman’s Williamsport career rushing record. Potts put together a dominant sophomore campaign, earning all-state honors and helping Williamsport capture the District 2-4 Class AAAAAA championship when he ran for 2,017 yards and 34 touchdowns. One of the state’s fastest running backs and more powerful than ever, Potts has run for 2,911 yards in two seasons of high school football and also caught 18 passes for 266 yards as a sophomore. Potts averaged 10.8 yards per carry two years ago and changes the dynamic of what already was an explosive offenses last season. He received more than 20 scholarship offers before making a verbal commitment to Minnesota last June that now allows him to solely focus on his last high school season.
A workhorse who started coming on strong at the end of his sophomore season, Tomb developed into one of the running backs last season and has helped it win 16 games the last two years. Tomb finished second among area rushers last season and is area’s returning leading rusher after running for 1,662 yards and 16 touchdowns. Tomb never wore down despite carrying the ball between 20-35 times a game and topped 100 yards nine times. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and has gone over 2,000 yards since becoming a starter late in the 2016 season. Tomb went over 100 yards in three games against HAC-I champion Shikellamy and District 4 Class AAAA champion Selinsgrove and was excellent at gaining extra yards after contact.
Gerald Ross, Loyalsock
Receiving significant college interest in both football and basketball, Ross earned all-state honors last fall after catching 58 passes for 1,038 yards and a Loyalsock-record 14 touchdowns. Tall, fast and possessing excellent hands, Ross has made immense strides in each of the last two seasons after not playing football as a freshman. Ross made 48 more catches last year and the senior has the ability to take a short catch a long way, while also being an excellent red-zone target. Ross’s 14 touchdowns were the third highest total by an area receiver in the 2000s and he averaged 17.8 yards per catch. Ross twice scored three touchdowns a game and produced touchdowns in both nine different games, including both district playoff games. He also became Loyalsock’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2007.
Marcus Simmons, Williamsport
No player in Williamsport history has caught more passes than Simmons did last season. The senior wide receiver was a consistent force, catching a district-high 71 passes for 934 yards and 11 touchdowns. Simmons came up huge for a receiving group that had been ravaged by graduation and caught 12 more passes than the next closest area receiver during the regular season. The versatile two-sport standout caught at least five passes in all 11 games last season, went over 100 yards three times and scored in nine of his 11 performances. Simmons also shredded District 2 champion Delaware Valley for eight yards, 155 yards and two touchdowns. He was last season’s Sun-Gazette Receiver of the Year and broke the old Williamsport reception record by nine catches.
Timmy Ward, Canton
A first-time starter a year ago, Ward burst onto the scholastic season and put together one of the best seasons in Canton history. Ward led the NTL in receptions and yards, catching 51 passes for 925 yards and five touchdowns. The junior finished second among area receivers and yards during the regular season and has some of the best hands in District 4. He was virtually unstoppable in a Week 2 game against District 4 Class A champion Wyalusing, catching a prorgram-record 13 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Ward went over 100 yards three times and broke Canton records for catches and yards in a season. A versatile two-way starter, Ward combines with Levi Gaiotti to give Canton a potent receiving tandem.
Another breakout sophomore from last season, Keyes has the potential to break a big play nearly any time he touches the football. Keyes averaged 24.5 yards per catch, finishing with 13 for 309 yards. Keyes kept getting better as the sea son progressed and was outstanding in a Week 8 win at Hughesville, catching four passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. A week later, he caught a 50-yard pass against Montgomery as Warrior Run won its second straight game. Tall, athletic and fast, Keyes complements wide receiver Riley Daubert who caught 49 passes last season.
Carmen Barone, Loyalsock
A player who could be an all-star on either side of the ball, Barone was vital to helping Loyalsock win the District 4 Class AAA championship last season. Barone is one of the strongest players in District 4 and blew away the field at the District 4 combine in the bench press. He is more than a combine standout, though, and helped pave the way for one of the area’s top offenses last season. Barone was especially strong in the postseason and developed into one of the area’s premier all-around players. He is receiving significant college interest as well.
Another strong two-way starter, Gee is one of the HAC-III’s top centers and will be one of the leaders for a team that hopes to make a big turnaround this season. Gee, who led the team with five sacks, was outstanding in the regular-season finale when Hughesville gained a season-high 426 yards and rallied past rival Muncy, 35-29 in the final seconds. He provides a good foundation for this line to build around.
Dakota Hill, South Williamsport
Part of one of the district’s best offensive lines a year ago, Hill will help anchor a new-look line this season, along with fellow returning starter Rion Withers. Hill has worked hard throughout the offseason and is up to 6-foot-1, 275 pounds. He is tough to move and comes off the ball fast. South is not changing the way it plays because three starters graduated and Hill is a reason it likely will continue to be one of the area’s top rushing teams.
Tucker Kreisher, Williamsport
The leader of Williamsport’s offensive line, Kreisher has been a standout the past two seasons and key to the program’s turnaround. The senior tackle has helped Williamsport win 19 games and a district championship the past two seasons, providing excellent run blocking and giving the quarterbacks time to throw. The 6-2, 275-pounder is strong and quick and is the lone returning starter from last year’s team. Kreisher is an excellent player to build around and if the line plays well, Williamsport could be especially explosive.
Austin Weisser, Lewisburg
Another player receiving some Division I interest, Weisser was a big reason the Lewisburg line made so much improvement last season. The 6-5, 270-pounder helped Montoursville win a 2016 district championship before moving to Lewisburg and helping the Green Dragons produce a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard passer. Weisser is physical, strong and experienced. Lewisburg has a lot of weapons and Weisser will help make the offense go.
Already fifth among career area scorers during the 2000s, Griffin likely will break the area record if he stays healthy this season. The senior kicker enters the fall with 143 career points and is only 26 behind all-time leader Angelo Girardi. Griffin has kicked nine field goals the last three seasons and has connected on 116 extra points.
Brima had no preseason last year and did not make his debut until Week 2, but made a major impact and was one of the team’s most valuable players. The Pittsburgh recruit was a force late in the year and averaged nearly 10 tackles per game over the final seven weeks. The 6-7 senior is explosive off the edge and his combination of speed and height can make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. Brima was at his best in the playoffs, averaging 10.7 tackles. He also finished with 10 tackles for loss and will be one of Loyalsock’s defensive leaders.
Hunter Brown, Wellsboro
The Green Hornets have featured the area’s top-ranked defense in each of the last two seasons. Brown is a key reason why. The all-state defensive end has been a standout in each of the last two seasons and was outstanding in 2017 when he led Wellsboro in both tackles and sacks. The senior averaged 6.5 tackles per game and added seven sacks. Brown is an opportunistic playmaker and recovered five fumbles while forcing another. He returned an interception for a touchdown in districts and helped the defense produce eight scores.
Robert Brown, Wellsboro
Wellsboro opponents will be pretty excited next June when the Brown brothers graduate. They have formed quite a tandem since 2015 and Robert made a smooth, unselfish transition from linebacker last season, solidifying a defense. Brown was one of the area’s top linebackers his first two seasons and had a shot at becoming the program’s career tackles leader but moved to defensive line after that unit was hit hard by graduation. He shined there, too, averaging five tackles per game and adding five sacks. He now has 262 career tackles.
A player who competes like someone 100 pounds heavier, Tomb earned all-state honors last season and helped anchor a stingy Jersey Shore defense. The 190-pound nose tackles averaged 8.7 tackles per game, the most by an area defensive lineman, and helped Jersey Shore finish second among area defenses. Tomb is aggressive, fast and tough, helping Jersey Shore consistently stuff opponents’ running games. Tomb also had 17 tackles for loss and five sacks, topping 10 tackles four times and making 22 tackles in two games against Selinsgrove.
A three-year starter who has been the anchor of a strong defense in each of the last two years, David finished third among area tacklers last year, making 131 and averaging 11.9 per game. Physical, tall and fast, David has averaged more than 10 tackles per game for two straight years and has 271 tackles during that time. The senior playmaker topped 10 tackles six times last year, produced two 20-tackle games and added five sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
A player who has made major strides each season at South, Klem appears poised for his best season yet. The three-year starter keeps getting stronger and is up to 6-3, 220 pounds. He has a nose for the ball, is opportunistic and developed into a standout outside linebacker in 2017. Klem is receiving Division I interest and had 10 tackles, four tackles for loss and a blocked punt in a Week 3 win at Hughesville. Klem is tough against the pass and rush and will be a defensive leader for a team that is replacing most of last year’s starters along the front seven.
Hunter O’Connor, Jersey Shore
Speaking of leaders, O’Connor is a super one. The three-year starting linebacker seemed to be everywhere last season and is the area’s top returning tackler. O’Connor made a career-high 146 tackles, more than any Jersey Shore player in the 2000s, and averaged 13.3 per game. O’Connor is a tremendous run stuffer and made 27 tackles for loss while adding four sacks. The senior topped 10 tackles in each of his last eight games and has 265 over the last two years. He made 19 tackles against HAC-I champion and helped the Bulldogs allow just one offensive touchdown over the last three regular-season games.
Rhyle Strausbaugh, Montgomery
The tone-setter for a resurgent Montgomery defense last season, Strausbaugh emerged as both a dynamic playmaker and a team leader. The senior made 122 tackles despite missing a game with an injury. His physical play lit the fuse for a team that reached its first district final since 2000 and he also was among the team sack leaders. Strausbaugh made a career-high 18 tackles in a 27-0 win at Sayre and topped 10 tackles in each of Montgomery’s first three games. A player who flies to the ball, Strausbaugh has played a major role in the program’s resurgence.
Jaxon Dalena, Montoursville
One of many first-time starters who made strong impacts in their debut seasons, Dalena developed into one of the area’s top safeties and led Montoursville in tackles. The junior safety averaged 6.9 tackles per game and made 40 solos. He is a smart and athletic playmaker who intercepted a team-high three passes, including two in Montoursville victories. Dalena made a career-high 12 tackles in a 7-0 loss against Danville and is one of many returning starters this defense can build around as it tries returning to the postseason.
A first team Sun-Gazette all-star last season, Dwyer finished tied for the district lead in interceptions with seven. The senior cornerback helped Bucktail reach districts for the first time in the 2000s despite dressing as few as 14 players at times. Dwyer intercepted a pass in five different games and twice intercepted two passes. He was especially strong in a crucial 22-20 win at CMVT and helped solidify a defense that made major strides from the previous season.
Dylan Farronato, Lewisburg
Farronato not only earned all-state honors as a safety, but also at the athlete position. That speaks to how versatile the senior is. In addition to being the area’s active leader in career catches (95), Farronato is a fast, physical and opportunistic safety who has returned three interceptions for touchdowns the last two seasons. Two of those came last year and Farronato also averaged 4.6 tackles per game while helping Lewisburg reach districts for a 10th straight season. Division I Davidson has shown interest in Farronato who also caught 33 passes for 647 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Like Farronato, Good makes a major impact on both sides of the ball. He is probably more recognized as a quarterback, topping 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, but might be an even better safety. Good averaged a team-best 7.9 tackles last season, helping Muncy capture its first league championship since 2005. Good added an interception, made 15 tackles against South Williamsport and has been one of area’s top defensive playmakers over the last two seasons. He also threw for 1,262 yards and 16 touchdowns last fall.
A player who could be an all-star as a wide receiver or defensive back in December, Peacock is a returning first team punter who provides a nice special teams weapon. The senior averaged an area-best 39 yards per punt a year ago and showed great touch placing those kicks. Peacock dropped 15 of his 52 punts inside the 20-yard line, forcing teams to often navigate long fields. He also caught 42 passes and scored seven touchdowns.
Like Fagnano, Watkins broke program records last season and earned all-state honors. The Villanova-bound quarterback threw for 2,561 yards and 30 touchdowns, both Loyalsock records. The three-year starter has made big strides each season at Loyalsock and has thrown for 5,235 yards and 59 touchdowns during that time. Watkins also is a mobile threat who ran for a career-best 481 yards and 10 touchdowns. Possessing a big arm and a sharp mind, the 6-3 senior was brilliant in a district semifinal win against Lewisburg, leading Loyalsock back from a 17-point halftime deficit while throwing for 276 yards and three touchdowns. He also displayed his value at safety throughout the playoffs, solidifying the defense, making big plays and even returning a punt for a touchdown.