This year's PG North Fabulous 22 football team features three big-name players who are headed for Big Ten Conference programs.
See the full roster of players named to the PG North Fabulous 22 (in .pdf format).
Fox Chapel offensive lineman Miles Dieffenbach, a repeat pick on the North Fab 22, and North Allegheny tackle Tom Ricketts, the son of former Pitt standout Tom Ricketts who was a No. 1 draft pick of the Steelers, are headed for Joe Paterno's program at Penn State. Hampton linebacker/tight end Jordan Paskorz has verbally committed to Michigan.
That's enough to open a lot of eyes but the most impressive part of this year's North Fab 22 is the versatility of the players on it. Most seemed to do a little bit of everything and do it all well.
Perhaps the best example of that is Shaler Area senior Jesse Della Valle who was an offensive hybrid. His rushing numbers -- he carried the football 119 times for 628 yards -- are hardly spectacular. His receiving figures -- he caught 33 passes for 729 yards -- were better than average, but not overwhemling. Put them together and Della Valle accounted for 1,457 yards of offense and that's not counting any kicks or punts he might have returned.
No wonder he scored 25 of the 37 touchdowns the Titans produced.
He isn't the only one on the North Fab 22 with outstanding combined numbers. North Hills quarterback Taylor Schmidt rushed for 609 yards and passed for another 907. Springdale quarterback Brian Shemenski passed for 437 yards and ran for 857, and North Catholic quarterback Martin Long threw for 1,249 yards and ran for another 485.
Fourteen schools are represented on this year's PG North Fab 22, with City League runner-up Oliver placing three on the squad. The Bears were the only PG North area team to reach a final. Fox Chapel, Hampton, Mars Area, North Allegheny and North Hills have two each on the team. Players are considered "the best 22" regardless of position or a school's classification and were selected by the Post-Gazette's scholastic sports staff based on writers' observations, interviews with coaches, examination of statistics and balloting for all-conference teams.
There are five repeat performers on the North team: Della Valle, Dieffenbach, Long, Brian Nickel of Shady Side Academy and Alex Papson of North Allegheny.
No coach of the year is selected for the PG North Fab 22. If there was, two good candidates would be Tim Keefer of Oliver, who guided the Bears to the City League final, and Jack McCurry of North Hills, who engineered upsets against McKeesport and North Allegheny and had the Indians in the Class AAAA semifinals. But probably the best choice would be Hampton's Jacque DeMatteo, who guided the Talbots to the Class AAA semifinals after a 3-3 start. Hampton won four of its final six and knocked off Chartiers Valley and Uniontown in the process.
-- By Rich Emert