— 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 email@example.com