While Wilmington was unable to dethrone perennial PIAA power Southern Columbia for the commonwealth’s Class 2A crown, that did not deter state sports writers from recognizing the gridiron Greyhounds’ greatness.
On Thursday, the ‘Hounds harvested a handful of berths on the Pennsylvania Football Writers’ All-State team. Senior offensive linemen Jimmy Reed and Jordan Gray and their classmates, linebacker Colton Richards and defensive back Cameron Marett, and versatile athlete Robert Pontius procured all-state status.
Additionally, Brandon Phillian finished his 1st season as ‘Hounds headmaster by being selected “Coach of the Year.”
“He was under a lot of pressure,” noted admiring Sharpsville skipper Paul Piccirilli – also Phillian’s father-in-law. “(The Greyhounds) had a team coming back that was supposed to go to state, and that makes it tough (on a coach) when expectations are set that high.”
For the second straight season Wilmington was defeated by Southern Columbia for the Class 2A championship. Wilmington went 13-2 overall, with the only other loss having occurred at eventual PIAA Class 1A champion Farrell in Week 2.
Piccirilli – who had a pair of players picked for the all-state squad in senior offensive lineman Ja’Quay Hubbard and senior running back Kobe Joseph – knows of what he speaks: During his 2-plus decades leading the Blue Devils he has compiled a 207-63 won-loss ledger (77 percent) that includes the 1997 PIAA Class A pedestal.
“(Phillian) carried it through, and that’s hard to do ... He did a heckava job, no doubt about it,” Piccirilli praised.
“It’s something that’s special and humbling, but I view it more as recognition of our team and what a united group we had this year,” emphasized Phillian, who recalled a prior conversation – a day while in Wilmington’s wood shop. This season Phillian’s Greyhounds took many opponents to the wood shed.
Wilmington outscored opponents, 675-225, and out-gained them, 6,666 to 2,642. The Hounds sent a scare into Southern Columbia, forging a 14-all halftime stalemate.
Regarding his decorated quintet, Phillian felt a fond, unique kinship.
“I think what’s special about this senior group is they all had talents and unique abilities, but when you mix those together, that’s what made it such a strong team,” the ‘Hounds head coach began. “You hear people talk about team chemistry? Well, I thought this group had great team chemistry. They were able to mix their strengths and attributes, and that’s why these boys from this senior class were – very deservedly – named to the all-state team.”
Continuing, Phillian related regarding his seniors, who posted a composite 45-9 won-loss record, “This group has been a successful group from the time they were in Midget football, to junior high, to when they were underclassmen – as sophomores going to the western final, then as juniors going to the state championship game. It’s just a great group, filled with high-character young men with excellent work-ethic. They embody the beliefs of ‘Wilmington football.’”
Regarding his pair of picks, Piccirilli gushed, “Wow, that’s impressive! Ja’Quay was probably the best offensive linemen we’ve ever had. He’s knowledgeable, and understood everything and would (convey) that to our younger guys on the line. He was like a coach on the field.
“The great thing about Ja’Quay,” Piccirilli added, “is that he’s not even close to tapping into his potential, of what he can be. I think when you see him (at the University of Virginia) when he’s completely focused on football and weight-lifting and so forth, he’ll be a completely different player than in high school – by far.
“And Kobe,” Piccirilli continued, “for a guy his size who runs with power and can run away from people is just a unique combination of what he has. We’re surely gonna miss him, too.”
Piccirilli noted Joseph was being recruited by the United States Military Academy (West Point) as a linebacker, but is projected to play on offense at Harvard University.
“As a linebacker ... he’s so intelligent,” Piccirilli praised. “He could read (plays) as they were developing and was always in the right place at the right time. You never find that combination – as far as offense and defense – in one person. It was great having him for the last four years.”
Sharpsville ended 8-3, but 2 losses occurred to Wilmington, while the other was inflicted by Akron-Manchester, which advanced to the OHSAA Division V quarterfinals.
“I’m ecstatic!” Piccirilli admitted. “It’s hard to believe. Usually, you have to go deep into the (PIAA) playoffs to get kids on the all-state team. To have the kind of year we had, it says a lot about those kids to be recognized. I’m very proud.
“It does say a lot (about Sharpsville’s proud program),” Piccirilli admitted. “Actually, we had a good year. When you think about it, eight projected starters on our team either didn’t start the season or got hurt (during the season), so that says a lot, it really does.”
Phillian, for his part, said “humble and hungry” summarized his sentiments.
“ ... not only for the players, but for the coaches, too,” he emphasized, “and I think we were able to maintain that humility throughout the season, and that’s as important as anything we do in our personal lives or professional lives,” Phillian explained, concluding,
“To receive this honor is just very humbling. There are so many great coaches in Mercer County, let alone across the state of Pennsylvania. So for this to happen is just very humbling and I’m very excited about it! But,” he emphasized, “it’s a team award. For this group of seniors and the whole team. Without us pulling together, believing in each other, realizing that each of us needs all of us in order to be successful, it’s just something that’s special and humbling. I view it more as recognition of our team as a united group this year.”
The Class 1A and 3A teams, which should contain several Mercer County standouts, will be released today. Following is the complete 2A list:
2018 PENNSYLVANIA FOOTBALL WRITERS ALL-STATE TEAM
Quarterbacks: Stone Hollenbach, Southern Columbia – 6-3, 200 Sr.; Skyy Moore, Shady Side Academy – 5-11, 185 Sr.; Aaron Tobias, Penns Valley – 6-2, 195 Jr.; John Caldwell, Ligonier Valley – 5-10, 150 Sr.; Logan Pfister, Chestnut Ridge – 6-1, 163 Soph.; Derek Johncour, Avonworth – 6-3, 181 Sr.
Running Backs: Kobe Brish, Schuylkill Haven – 5-9, 200 Jr.; Gaige Garcia, Southern Columbia – 5-10, 195 Jr.; Christian Clutter, McGuffey – 6-0, 180 Sr.; Kam Williams, Steel Valley – 6-0, 185 Sr.; Kobe Joseph, Sharpsville – 6-3, 220 Sr.
Wide Receivers: Bryan Dworek, Brookville – 5-11, 175 Sr.; Aaron Tutino, Ligonier Valley – 5-11, 170 Sr.; Julian Fleming, Southern Columbia – 6-3, 215 Jr.; Cabe Park, Brookville – 5-9, 165 Sr.
Tight End: Logan Snyder, Penns Valley – 6-2, 200 Jr.
Line: Ja’Quay Hubbard, Sharpsville – 6-6, 315 Sr.; Austin Homan, Schuylkill Haven – 6-0, 243 Sr.; Troy Donlan, Southern Columbia – 6-0, 260 Sr.; Dylan Dininny, Richland – 6-5, 255 Sr;. Oak Six, Southern Columbia – 6-3, 265 Sr.
Athlete: Ryan Ripka, Penns Valley – 5-8, 160 Sr.; Aidan Houser, Wellsboro – 5-9, 165 Jr.
Specialist: Zane Puhala, Brockway – 5-10, 175 Sr.
Line: Michael Hood, Mount Carmel – 6-0, 200 Sr.; Jimmy Reed, Wilmington – 6-2, 225 Sr.; Collin Instone, Richland – 6-3, 260 Sr.; Jordan Gray, Wilmington – 6-1, 235 Sr; Harris Kohl, York Catholic – 6-0, 200 Sr.; Hunter Brown, Wellsboro – 6-4, 220 Sr.
Linebackers: Cal Haladay, Southern Columbia – 6-1, 190 Jr.; Colton Richards, Wilmington – 6-2, 270 Sr.; Todd Hill, Steel Valley – 5-10, 225 Sr.; Max Tillett, Southern Columbia – 6-0, 190 Jr; Garrett David, North Penn-Mansfield – 6-3, 225 Sr.; Jarred Kohl, York Catholic – 6-1, 205 Sr.
Backs: Cameron Marett, Wilmington – 5-8, 175 Sr.; Macen Akers, Everett – 6-1, 180 Sr.; Daniel Walker, Washington – 6-3, 210 Sr.; Daunte Allegretto, Ridgway – 5-8, 145 Sr.
Athlete: Robert Pontius, Wilmington – 6-4, 195 Sr.
Player of the Year: Fleming.
Coach of the Year: Brandon Phillian, Wilmington