With the end of another season of WPIAL football rapidly approaching this holiday weekend comes the opportunity to look back on the year that was and what defined it. There were the standout players, the memorable performances and the nail-biting games, among other things, that have formed a long-running narrative.
But of all the countless plays, of all the tackles made, of all the yards gained, what exactly has stood out? Who has proven to be the best in a crowded group, one that includes over 100 area high schools?
In years past, those who have compiled area notebooks have given out end-of-the-year awards, usually by using a pun involving their name. Since mine lends itself to no other option, here is the inaugural "Craig's List" for the West Xtra region:
• Player of the Year: (Tie) Robert Foster, Central Valley, and Lenny Williams, Sto-Rox
Call it a cop-out or what have you, but this was too tough of a decision to make between two worthy candidates with fundamentally different profiles. Neglecting one in favor of the other would be a great disservice to what has been a pair of remarkable seasons.
Foster is the top collegiate prospect in the area and has more raw talent than anyone else with whom he takes the field.
His sheer speed, size and athleticism made him a versatile offensive threat who compiled more than 1,000 yards of offense as a wide receiver and a primary reason for Central Valley's success this season.
That's not even taking into account his role as a punt and kick returner, as well as a punter (a position where he routinely has kicks traveling more than 40 yards with considerable loft).
Then, of course, there is Williams, the dual-threat quarterback who has put up video-game-like statistics this season -- 2,131 passing yards and 1,086 rushing yards, easily surpassing the 3,000-total yard plateau, with 40 total touchdowns and, remarkably, no interceptions.
In the process, Williams has led his Sto-Rox team to nine consecutive wins and a berth in the Class A championship game against a Clairton team looking to make history with a 60th consecutive victory.
Honorable mention: Cole Chiappialle, Blackhawk; Dante Marsick, Rochester; Dravon Henry, Aliquippa
• Rusher of the Year: Dante Marsick, Rochester
Rochester had yet another successful season in the Class A Big Seven Conference, no small part of which can be attributed to its senior running back. Marsick finished the season with 1,772 rushing yards, the most of any running back in the West Xtra region, and more than 400 additional receiving yards.
Honorable mention: Chiappialle; Damian Rawl, Beaver Falls; Aliquippa's Henry and his teammate Terry Swanson, Aliquippa
• Passer of the Year: Chandler Kincade, Blackhawk
Despite finding a way to make the playoffs, it was a tough season for Blackhawk, which went 3-7, losing four of its games by a combined 11 points. Among the many bright spots on offense for the Cougars, though, was Kincade, who passed for 2,220 yards, an average of 222 per game. This 6-foot-5 signal-caller is a Pitt commit.
Honorable mention: Williams; Dan Stratton, Beaver Falls
• Coach of the Year: Ryan Cecchini, Avella
Yes, Avella didn't ultimately make the playoffs, but that doesn't diminish what Cecchini was able to accomplish in his second season with the Eagles. After it finished winless last season, Avella experienced a massive turnaround this year, going 6-3, with its six victories surpassing its combined win total from 2003-11. Cecchini certainly deserves a fair share of credit for turning a perpetual loser into a team with a winning record.
Honorable mention: Bob Palko, West Allegheny; Mike Zmijanac, Aliquippa; Frank Hernandez, Freedom
• Stat of the Year: 48.5
That is, the average point differential in Aliquippa's 12 games thus far this season. In those games, the Quips have scored an average of 52 points per game while only giving up 3.5 points per game on defense. Just once this season did Aliquippa not have the mercy-rule enforced in a game against an opponent, and that came in an easy 39-7 victory against Beaver.
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