Legends of the fall

Fall win­ners: Frank­ford’s Tim Di­Gior­gio is the Pub­lic League Foot­ball Play­er of the Year.

— The fall sports win­ners, as chosen by the North­east Times sports staff, will be honored at the 27th an­nu­al North­east Sports Awards Ban­quet in the spring.

Ed­it­or’s note: The sea­son­al sports win­ners are chosen by the North­east Times’ sports staff based on both ex­cel­lence on the field and strong lead­er­ship abil­ity off of it.

In the blink of an eye, the fall sports sea­son has come and gone.

This sea­son was filled with stel­lar memor­ies on the field, from St. Hubert soc­cer coach Mick Mc­Groarty win­ning his 400th game to Fath­er Judge’s his­tor­ic Ire­land trip to Frank­ford ded­ic­at­ing its Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship to head coach Will Dog­gett’s late moth­er, Polly. The list goes on and on and on.

Now, the fo­cus will shift from chilly out­door sta­di­ums to warm­er in­door bas­ket­ball aren­as, but not be­fore the North­east Times stops to com­mem­or­ate the best of the best from the fall. 

Here is the first crop of win­ners — in foot­ball and soc­cer — who will all be honored at the 27th an­nu­al North­east Sports Awards ban­quet in the spring:

Foot­ball Coach of the Year
Frank McArdle, Arch­bish­op Ry­an

The foot­ball struggles at Arch­bish­op Ry­an have been well doc­u­mented since Frank McArdle took the reins of his alma ma­ter be­fore the 2009 sea­son. In­her­it­ing a win­less team, McArdle’s win total has in­creased every sea­son, from one to two to five to six in 2012. At 6-5, this sea­son was the Raid­ers’ first over­all win­ning cam­paign in more than a dec­ade; they also snapped a 22-game los­ing streak with­in their Cath­ol­ic League di­vi­sion on Oct. 13, a thrill­ing 32-31 over­time win over ar­chrival Fath­er Judge. (It was Ry­an’s first win over the Cru­saders since 2005.) The Ry­an foot­ball turn­around has been a long time com­ing, and the former Raid­er play­er has had his hands all over the re­birth.

Pub­lic League Foot­ball Play­er of the Year
Tim Di­Gior­gio, Frank­ford

Though his seni­or sea­son quar­ter­back num­bers of 1,704 yards passing and 14 touch­downs were far more ped­es­tri­an than the 2,357 yards and 30 TD’s from a sea­son ago, Di­Gior­gio’s value to Frank­ford foot­ball the last two years can­not be over­stated. En­ter­ing the pro­gram with new head coach Will Dog­gett in 2011, Di­Gior­gio and the Pi­on­eers racked up 17 wins in that time, in­clud­ing a Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship this sea­son. In just two varsity sea­sons, the lanky left-hander piled up 4,061 passing yards, the second most in league his­tory. He will be sorely missed, but his im­pact on the Pi­on­eer pro­gram won’t soon be for­got­ten.

Cath­ol­ic League Foot­ball Play­er of the Year
Jeremi­ah Ag­rio, Arch­bish­op Ry­an

Though many play­ers had a hand in Ry­an’s bounce-back foot­ball sea­son (QB Mark Os­taszewski, WR/DB Bobby Ro­mano and the en­tire of­fens­ive and de­fens­ive lines) Ag­rio’s ar­rival in the back­field may have pushed the Raid­ers over the top. The seni­or Penns­bury trans­fer gave Ry­an the big-time scor­ing threat the team des­per­ately needed, as Ag­rio racked up 1,109 rush­ing yards and nine TD’s on the sea­son. His crown jew­el per­form­ance came in the afore­men­tioned win over Judge, gain­ing a re­mark­able 246 yards on the ground, in­clud­ing the de­cis­ive two-point con­ver­sion run in over­time.

Boys Soc­cer Coach of the Year
John Dun­lop, Fath­er Judge

While North­east’s Sam Feld­man (Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship) and Ry­an’s George Todt (Cath­ol­ic League semi­finals) en­joyed fine swan songs at the end of long soc­cer-coach­ing ca­reers, no coach did a bet­ter job than Dun­lop giv­en the hand he was dealt. Judge was the pre­season fa­vor­ite to win the al­ways-daunt­ing Cath­ol­ic League, but the team’s two seni­or cap­tains — and best play­ers — Steve Smeck and Justin Hiltwine suffered identic­al sea­son-end­ing knee in­jur­ies in the first 10 days of pre­season prac­tice.  Un­deterred, Dun­lop gathered up the healthy play­ers he had left, as­signed sev­er­al to new­er, more prom­in­ent roles and guided the Cru­saders in­to the Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ship game. Though they lost to La Salle, the job Dun­lop did in what is widely con­sidered the most com­pet­it­ive soc­cer league in the state was com­mend­able. 

Pub­lic League Boys Soc­cer Play­er of the Year
George Chavez, North­east High School

This hon­or could have gone to a num­ber of North­east play­ers, from striker Andy Jean-Pierre and his 20 goals to ten­a­cious seni­or cap­tain Chris Black and his con­stant will to win. But as the Vik­ings entered the play­offs hop­ing to get re­tir­ing coach Sam Feld­man one last cham­pi­on­ship, Chavez, a prom­in­ent goal scorer, was called on to play goalie when the team’s start­ing keep­er was in­jured in the quarterfi­nals. Though he hadn’t played goalie all sea­son, the ju­ni­or cap­tain re­spon­ded with shutouts over Wash­ing­ton and Frank­lin Towne Charter — the only league teams North­east hadn’t beaten dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son — to de­liv­er Feld­man his coveted title. 

Cath­ol­ic League Boys Soc­cer Play­er of the Year
Andy Smeck, Fath­er Judge

 In Steve Smeck and Justin Hiltwine’s sea­son-long ab­sences, Andy Smeck (Steve’s twin broth­er) was part of a laun­dry list of Judge play­ers to el­ev­ate his game when his team needed him the most, a list that also in­cludes Ry­an Nork, Joey Hansen, Kev­in Lock­hart, Mo­hamed Conde, Von­tez and Vontae Hil­liard and Fran Gresko, among many oth­ers. Andy Smeck was prob­ably nev­er the best play­er on the field, but his gritty and smart play in the mid­field was the per­fect sym­bol for this Judge team, one that was able to over­achieve due to the sum of its total parts. He set up the game-win­ner in the wan­ing mo­ments of a thrill­ing 1-0 win over Arch­bish­op Ry­an on Sept. 28 and, much like the rest of John Dun­lop’s team, was an in­spir­a­tion to watch dur­ing the team’s heal­ing pro­cess.

Girls Soc­cer Coach of the Year
Ry­an Haney, Arch­bish­op Ry­an

It was a good year to be as­so­ci­ated with Arch­bish­op Ry­an ath­let­ics, and Ry­an Haney was right at the fore­front of the Raid­er surge. A former Ry­an boys soc­cer play­er in the mid-90s un­der George Todt, Haney’s Rag­dolls were mag­ni­fi­cent in 2012, los­ing just once all sea­son. In the mean­time, Haney’s group racked up 19 wins, a Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ship and a trip to the state play­offs. The Rag­dolls re­gistered an amaz­ing 13 shutouts and didn’t al­low more than one goal in a game all sea­son. Haney mol­ded a group of tal­en­ted in­di­vidu­als in­to team-first play­ers and nev­er lost sight of the task at hand, which was to bring a cham­pi­on­ship back to his alma ma­ter, something he proudly ac­com­plished.

Pub­lic League Girls Soc­cer Play­er of the Year
Stefanie Ulmer, Frank­lin Towne Charter

If two-time de­fend­ing Pub­lic League girls soc­cer cham­pi­on Frank­lin Towne Charter were the Chica­go Bulls of the 1990s, Stefanie Ulmer would likely be the Scot­tie Pip­pen to Rachel Gil­borges’ Mi­chael Jordan. Gil­borges is the more pro­lif­ic scorer (and reign­ing win­ner of this award), but Ulmer isn’t far be­hind. It’s safe to say these two are a pack­age deal up top for head coach Bri­anna O’Don­nell’s squad, and there’s no way Towne would have en­joyed the suc­cess it has had in re­cent years if it had one play­er and not the oth­er. In her three-year ca­reer, Ulmer has tal­lied 48 goals and 40 as­sists and has been re­lent­less in the team’s at­tack up front. Strong team­mates and even bet­ter friends, Ulmer and Gil­borges already have a three-peat on their minds for their seni­or sea­son, a night­mare scen­ario for the rest of the Pub­lic League. 

Cath­ol­ic League Girls Soc­cer Play­er of the Year
Scar­lett Walsh, Arch­bish­op Ry­an

The huge fall cam­paign for Ry­an ath­let­ics con­cludes with seni­or Scar­lett Walsh, per­haps the most tal­en­ted play­er on a team chock-full of them. An All-South­east­ern Pennsylvania girls soc­cer se­lec­tion, the self­less Walsh notched 17 goals and 19 as­sists for the Rag­dolls, and was a big reas­on why her team didn’t lose a game un­til Nov. 6 in the state play­offs. She scored goals and made the team­mates around her bet­ter des­pite con­stant double teams. While the cham­pi­on Rag­dolls will re­turn many standout play­ers in 2013, Walsh’s steady pres­ence in the lineup and im­pact on Ry­an ath­let­ics won’t be for­got­ten any­time soon. ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­rone@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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