Colabella earns top honor
Seventy-one football players from seven local teams were honored as The Associated Press Eastern All-District football teams were announced Tuesday.
Leading the way is Steubenville Catholic Central’s Brenton Colabella.
The senior quarterback was named the Division VII Offensive Player of the Year after he finished the regular season 116-for-179 (64.8 percent) for 1,883 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
He was the second Ohio Valley Athletic Conference player to pass for more than 7,000 career yards, owns at least eight school records and is the only four-year starting quarterback in school history.
“I am honored and blessed,” said Colabella, who finished the season 135-for-215 for 2,229 yards, 30 scores and 10 picks. “I am grateful and thankful I have been chosen for this honor. This is not an individual award. This is also a testament to my teammates and the offensive line for giving me time and being great all year. I think from the second half of Week 3 until Week 8, I don’t think I got hit back there.
“The receivers got open. They did all the hard work and I did the easy part by getting them the ball in space.
“I’m a competitor and my dad always told me that through hard work anything is possible. I put the time in and hard work and hopefully good things would come of it and I think they did.
“It wasn’t easy starting out as a freshman and getting to this point. It was hard. But, playing with my class for four years has been great. Bonding with the guys has been something I will never forget. Our senior class is pretty close and it’s been great watching us grow throughout the four years. We were a pretty close group when we started out in the sixth grade.
“Our goal was always to turn the program around from where it was to now. Our goal was to make Central football known again and I believe we accomplished that goal. From a school standpoint, the atmosphere and the spirit from Central football is back to where I remembered it when I was little.
“I’ve been around it since age 3. It’s going to be weird not having it next fall.”
Head coach Steve Daley knows he has some shoes to fill.
“To me, this is just icing on the cake for him,” he said. “It is well deserved. When you have a kid with the talent he has, the intelligence on the field and the ability to throw the ball with accuracy and, even with all those tools, he was one of our hardest workers. He was there trying to make his teammates better.
“I couldn’t be happier for him. I don’t think you can find anybody to say he doesn’t deserve this honor. Yardage-wise, he achieved what he did this year with fewer attempts with a better completion ratio and threw more touchdowns and fewer picks than last year.
“He matured to the point that, when he was on the field and the ball was in his hands, there was a comfort level we felt as coaches that he would make good decisions on the field. It is comforting as a head coach and a coaching staff when you have a quarterback back there not making poor choices and knowing he would do the right things.”
Colabella was one of a dozen Crusaders selected.
Joining Colabella on the first team were wide receiver Ryan Fletcher, running back Khalil Jones, linebacker Louis Fallon, defensive back Aleks Porreca, offensive lineman Marty Engle and linebacker Chris Murphy.
“It’s a great honor for these kids,” said Daley. “The satisfaction of all the hard work they put in has paid off. As a team, we accomplished goals that we set at the beginning of year. I think over last two years this group – especially the seniors – have had record-setting careers, not only as individuals, but as a team.
“They take pride in being named to this team.”
Fallon, who missed his junior year after tearing an ACL on the first play of the first game, had 54 tackles, 14 for loss and five sacks. He had two interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
“I told Louis after the season ended the other night how happy I am for him that he had such a great season,” said Daley. “After going through what he had to go through, and we were looking for big things from him last year, how he attacked the offseason and rehab and how hard he worked, he deserves all the accolades he gets. Anybody we played would say that he was all over the field making plays.
“His determination got him this.”
Porreca had 37 tackles, five for loss, a sack and fumble recovery, and Murphy 61 tackles, 6 for loss and three sacks.
Fletcher caught 26 passes for 540 yard and 12 scores. He also ran the ball 40 times for 355 yards and five touchdowns. Jones totaled 628 yards on 55 carries (11.4) and 13 touchdowns.
“Those are some pretty crazy numbers when you think about it,” said Daley. “We had some very athletic kids and when you have athletic kids like the ones we had, it makes your job as a coach easier. You can call a simple play and, when you have guys like that, they can get the ball to the end zone. They all made big plays on both sides of the ball and that’s something you can’t teach as a coach.”
Stone Romano earned a second-team linebacker selection.
Special mention choices were Mark Dettorre, John-Paul McNamara, Luke Potenzini and Jimmy Jo Mort.
All are seniors except Murphy and Romano.
Toronto had nine players honored, led by sophomore Cody King. The first-team selection at linebacker totaled 111 tackles, two sacks and two fumble recoveries.
“Cody was the surprise of the season,” said Red Knights coach Eric Meek. “We went in August and he was fighting for a starting position. We did not know he would be a starter. He had two unbelievable scrimmages and got better every game. He’s not very big, just a real throwback football player.
“He’s really coachable. Cody did not back down from anyone. He just had a fantastic season.
“I told him a few times as the season went on that he was one of our leaders. I’m one of these coaches who are kind of old-fashioned. I’ll take an unselfish player who plays over his head any day over a prima donna. He loves playing the game of football and doing it the right way.
“When we told him to do something he did exactly what we asked of him to do.”
Earning second-team honors were seniors Chez Glenn (running back) and Josh Roche (offensive line), junior Charles Ross III (defensive back) and sophomores Blaze Glenn (quarterback) and Drew Lowery (linebacker).
Jaren McIntosh, Hayden Saner and Derick Lawrence are special mention picks.
“I think we’re going to get better as a team,” said Meek. “I think we have a chance to be a pretty good football team. We have a lot of young kids who are contributing a lot for us.
“The middle school program the last three years has had success. A lot of our seventh-graders are now playing middle school football, which wasn’t the case a few years back. The Titans do a great job. When players leave the Titans and play middle school ball in seventh- and eighth-grade, it has been great for our program.
“I said when we took over that we were going to build the program from the ground up and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
Four teams are in Division IV – Big Red, Indian Creek, Edison and Buckeye Local.
Steubenville, which will play in the Region 13 finals Friday at Dover High School against Indian Valley, had 12 players recognized.
“I would really like to congratulate all 12 of them, they are all deserving,” said head coach Reno Saccoccia.
Named to the first-team were defensive back Bryan Pierro (77 tackles, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries), offensive lineman Chris Starliper (27 straight starts) and defensive lineman Jaylin Williams (58 tackles, 22 straight starts). All are seniors.
“I am pleasantly surprised for all three of them,” said Saccoccia. “I am really happy for Bryan Pierro because he has done a great job leading us. I know he doesn’t lead by himself, but for a guy who is 5-5 and 150 pounds – he is just a tough kid.
“Jaylin and Chris have done a great job for us, especially this season. Chris has helped us on both sides of the ball for the better part of this season and Jaylin jumped in where we needed him.”
Earning second-team honors were linebacker Kai McClurg, wide receiver Lucas Herrington, running back Johnnie Blue and defensive lineman Arin Goldsmith. Special mention picks were Cam King, Robert Hayden, Donte Brown, Jake Boni and Niko Petrides.
“Some of the starters who were back from last year – who are all very good football players, very good leaders and good representatives of the school – haven’t had enough time on the field to prove what they can do. Due to injuries, they were not able to show all that they can do.”
The Redskins had four named to the first-team and 10 honored overall.
“I’m happy for the kids,” said head coach Andrew Connor. “It shows that hard work pays off and that’s the bottom line. I am a big believer, and especially recently, that we don’t give our kids enough credit for all their hard work. It pays off for those kids. It also shows the younger kids on the team to work toward a goal.”
Blake Road leads the quartet. He totaled 177 carries for 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also caught 15 balls for 145 yards and a score and averaged 33.4 yards on five kickoff returns, including one TD.
“He is one of those kids who is an athlete and we did everything in our power to get the ball in his hands – throw it to him or hand it to him or have him back on kickoffs,” said Connor. “In the beginning of the year, teams had nine in the box against him and he accepted that role as the premier running back and did well with it.”
Senior offensive lineman Justin Gibson was a three-year starter.
“Justin was recognized by our team as a captain this year,” said Connor. “There is a special quality he has at doing his job. He never looked for any praise and there was never a time when he didn’t go hard. I really believe if you are looking for a throwback football player – it is Gibby. We run a lot of traps in our offense and I sure wouldn’t want to be trapped by Gibby. He excelled at working hard. This is an honor he truly deserves.”
Senior Tyler Lathem had 45 tackles, two interceptions (returning one 100 yards for a score) and an 85-yard fumble recovery for a score.
“He was kind of a linebacker in disguise back there (at safety),” said Connor. “He was a big hitter and played the ball well. He was a great addition for us getting here in his junior year.
“He brought a toughness and that’s something we pride ourselves in. We have to have to have safeties who play like linebackers back there and Tyler and Blake did that.”
Junior Zach Connor totaled 90 tackles, including six for loss and three sacks. He had two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and one interception. He was also a fullback.
“One big thing we pride ourselves on at Indian Creek is having linebackers, good linebackers, and that is something we’ve passed down from linebacker to linebacker,” said Connor. “We moved him from the Sam to the Mike and he did very well with the transition. It cannot be easy being the coach’s son.
“We’ve had some really good inside backers in the time I’ve been here and he knows that. With the pressure of us having a lot of good linebackers in a row and being a head coach’s son, he did a good job of making tackles and making calls on defense. When it comes to the way he plays, he’s a linebacker and that’s the way he’s supposed to play.”
Chosen on the second-team were senior offensive lineman Paul Eakle, junior defensive lineman Christian Getsey and sophomore linebacker Isaiah Pavlic. Special mention choices are Jonathan Woodbury, Cory Goodrich and Zach Cole.
Edison first-year head coach Derick Stickles walked into a situation with senior quarterback Nolan Marcus at the helm.
“I’m not sure you can get any better than that for a new head coach,” said Stickles. “He really did a great job for us. He kept working into that leadership position for us throughout the season and he just kept getting better at it. He certainly led his team and did a great job, along with all the seniors.”
As a first-team choice, Marcus was 109-for-183 for 1,590 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also ran the ball 149 times for 496 yards and eight scores. As a defensive back, he picked off three passes, forced a fumble and had a fumble recovery.
“With a quarterback like him, you can he a zone-read offense and let him make the right decisions, which he did most of the year,” Stickles said. “We will certainly have to change things up next year when we don’t have Nolan Marcus back there. He’s very well-rounded and does everything well.
“He played both ways a lot of times. He’s an amazing athlete and a great kid to be around.”
Senior teammate Rich Springer was a first-team pick at wide receiver. Springer caught 30 passes for 464 yards and five scores.
“Defenses certainly did a good job of taking him out of our game plan, but he also came up with some pretty big plays for us,” Stickles said. “He always wanted the ball and when opportunities came his way he did some really good things and made some great plays for us. The kid has phenomenal hands. He can catch anything.”
Junior running back Ethan Shannon and senior linebacker Hunter Sweat were second-team selections with Carter Andreozzi, Dustin Huggins, Jonah Haught, Tyler Stagani and Josh Pasek earning special mention choices.
Senior quarterback Chase Hopkins is a second-team choice for Buckeye Local.
Special mention picks are Brandon Panepucci, Austin Mosser, Ryan Morrow, Josh Figurski, Dominic Rose and Dylan Dokes.
Harrison Central has five selections on the Division V first-team – seniors David Miser, Dalton Rutter, Nate Olmstead, Cole Howes and Niko Williams.
Miser, at quarterback, was 117 for 207 for 1,874 yards and 17 touchdowns. Rutter caught 47 balls for 764 yards and five scores. Olmstead hauled in 41 for 802 yards and eight scores and had three interceptions. Howes is an offensive lineman and Williams totaled 101 tackles, including 19 for loss and two sacks.
“Ever since they were younger, those guys were told they were not good enough,” said coach Justin Kropka. “They may not have all the tools as kids from prior classes or the classes behind them, but they surprised a lot of people, including their coach, with how well they played as seniors.
“A lot of our kids are not very experienced. This group melded together and helped raise our young kids. They helped them grow up while we were learning on the run with one of the better schedules around. They made us who we were at the end of the year. When things weren’t going well there early in the year, they didn’t sell us down the river. They came together when we needed them to.”
Special mention choices were Nate Maykowski, Travis Stenson, Zach Manbeck, Sean Donato, Kalub Mitchell, Jesse Ball, and Brenton Stull.
“They were unselfish,” Kropka said of the seniors. “A lot of those guys got time taken away from them and maybe statistics taken away from them because we were playing so many young guys. I am very happy and pleased with how our senior season went because of their attitude.”