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The MSG Varsity Westchester/Hudson Valley regional staff selected the top players, coaches and teams from the 2011 season across the entire region – including all of Section 1, Section 9 and the Catholic and private schools in the region.
Below are the award winners, as well as the first-team all-stars. Tweet your comments to @MSGVarsityHVC or email Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org
MSG Varsity: Westchester/Hudson Valley Football Awards
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Austin Taps, Stepinac
If there’s been a lineman worthy of an MVP, it’s Taps. The Mahopac native has been a rock on both sides of the ball for Stepinac the last two seasons. As a tight end, he was the area’s best blocker this fall, while also catching 22 passes, including four touchdowns. Defensively was where he truly dominated. Despite double teams, he had 83 tackles and 10 sacks as the Crusaders followed up last year’s AA championship with a berth in the AAA title game.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Jim Moran, Dobbs Ferry
It wasn’t a bad first season as head coach for Moran. Taking over the storied program, Moran led the Eagles to their fourth state championship in school history. The run was highlighted by wins over Bronxville in the Section 1 final and dramatic state semifinal win over Hoosick Falls, which was the best coaching performance in the Hudson Valley this season.
TEAM OF THE YEAR
Rye Country Day
The Wildcats achieved every goal they set this season and staged the best year of football in school history. Under fifth-year coach John Calandros, Rye won its first ever outright Fairchester League championship and its first NEPSAC bowl victory. The senior-laden squad didn’t play a bad half of football season, dominating opponents by an average of 38-9.
All-Westchester/Hudson Valley: First Team
Quarterback: Josh Oliver, Poughkeepsie
The senior quarterback was marvelous every time he stepped out on to the field. Running the Pioneers’ no-huddle spread offense, Oliver had nearly 2,600 yards of total offense and 36 touchdowns, leading Poughkeepsie to its first Section 1 Class A championship. He ran for 1,389 yards and 20 scores and passed for 1,186 yards and 14 scores, and had at least 175 yards combined in every single game.
Running back: Saxon Smith, Chester
Saxon Smith ran for 3,047 yards on the season, a Section 9 record, and the fourth best rushing total in state history. Besides all the yardage, Smith also broke the Section 9 touchdown record with 49. Smith was the main cog in a Chester team that won its first state playoff game and advanced to Syracuse as the Class D state finalist.
Running back: Christian Conway, Sr., Bronxville
The senior capped off a remarkable two-year career with 1,885 yards and scored 30 touchdowns, leading the Broncos to the Section 1 Class C final. Conway, who’ll play at Yale with his twin brother Jackson, had 1,617 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior, leading Bronxville to a state championship.
Running back: Caleb Gilligan-Evans, Stepinac
You could make a case for Gilligan-Evans as the most accomplished player in the history of Stepianc football. The four-year starter at fullback piled up 3,291 career rushing yards and 31 touchdowns, played in three Catholic league championship games, won a title and played in this year’s AAA final. Gilligan-Evans will play at Yale next fall.
Wide receiver: Quincy Vasser, Sr., Nyack
All you needed to see from Vassar was his performance in the Section 1 All-Star game where he completely dominated the second half in South’s victory. A tremendous pass-catcher, Vassar is even better as a defensive end where he requires constant double teams. The 6-foot-4 Vasser might be the most college-ready play in the section.
Wide receiver: Vinny Narog, Sr., Stepinac
Over the last two seasons, few receivers have been quite as productive as Narog. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder caught 24 passes for 655 yards and seven touchdowns, while also recording 90 tackles, 3.5 sacks and an interception on defense. Narog
Offensive line: Mikal Myers, Sr., Newburgh
The UConn-bound senior had a season to remember after leading the Goldbacks on both sides of the ball. Myers was a bull on defense and dominant on offense as he led Newburgh too its first Section 9 championship since 2003. Myers is sure to be all-state for the third year in a row.
Offensive line: Ryan Sanders, Sr., John Jay-Cross River
The key to the Indians’ run to the Section 1 Class A final was the play of their offensive line, which was anchored by Sanders. The imposing 6-foot-4, 240-pounder got better every week and showed an ability to pass protect and lead block. Sanders was even more unstoppable as a defensive end for a John Jay squad that limited Somers and Rye to seven points combined in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Offensive line: Kameron Tedder, Sr., Iona Prep
The explosive Iona Prep offense hinged on the pass-block ability of Tedder, a freakishly-athletic 6-foot-3, 235-pounder. Tedder was a special talent on both sides of the line. Iona ran much of its offense behind him and teams shied from his area on defense.
Offensive line: Joe Liable, Sr., North Rockland
At the center of every North Rockland championship squad is a dominant offensive line and this year was no different. And the anchor of it all was Liable, who has exceptional feet and is so strong in the trenches. North Rockland’s offensive line really hunkered down in the second half and was a big reason it beat New Rochelle in the semifinals.
Offensive line: John Brennan, Sr., Croton-Harmon
A four-year starter, Brennan turned himself into one of the area’s top two-way linemen. The lean 6-foot-3, 230-pounder, Brennan was a standout left tackle on a Croton team that ran for 3,321 yards and 43 touchdowns en route to the Class B state final. He also led the team in tackles with 96 and sacks with 10.
Athlete: Ryan Spelman, Sr., Monroe-Woodbury
Spelman accounted for the majority of the Crusaders offense this year and put up monster numbers for the second season in a row. No number was bigger than 563, Spelman’s total yards in a 61-28 win over Warwick early in the season. He had over 419 yards on the ground in that game.
Defensive line: Austin Taps, Sr., Stepinac * Player of the Year
Defensive line: A.J. Wolf, Sr., Hackley
There might not have been a more versatile player in the Hudson Valley this season than Wolf. The Duke University-bound star played on the offensive line, fullback, defensive end, linebacker, long snapper and kicker. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Wolf had 98 tackles, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and also ran for four touchdowns.
Defensive line: Robert Johnson, Sr., Poughkeepsie
No team that faced Poughkeepsie this season will soon forget Johnson, who was a nightmare matchup for opposing linemen. The 6-foot, 295-pound nose tackle he 51 tackles and completely closed off the middle of the field for opposing offenses. Teams specifically had to game plan for Johnson, who saw constant double teams.
Defensive line: Lance McDowdell, Sr., Mount Vernon
If he’s not the best defensive player in Section 1, McDowdell was certainly the most intimidating. The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder continued his development as a football player, leading the Knights in tackles and sacks (12). The future for McDowdell could eventually be major Division I.
Linebacker: Joe Simolacaj, Sr., Rye
Few people understand the amount of injuries and pain Simolacaj played through this season. The third-year starter was devastating hitter on defense but was at his best in the biggest game of Rye’s season, rushing for 135 yards on 34 carries in a win over rival Harrison. Simolacaj’s leadership was also a big reason Rye went from 0-3 to making the Section 1 playoffs.
Linebacker: Bobby Henderson, Sr., John Jay-East Fishkill
The rugged toughness of Henderson became the identity of the blue-collar Patriots, who advanced to the Section 1 Class AA final and lost in overtime to North Rockland. The 6-foot, 215-pound Henderson was a workhorse on both sides of the ball. He took over 100 carries in an 11-day span in the postseason, highlighted by a 40-carry, 200-yard effort against Arlington in the quarterfinals.
Linebacker: Danny Caiola, Sr., John Jay-Cross River
The third-year starter emerged as one of the best two-way threats in the Hudson Valley this season. A model of consistency on both sides of the ball, Caiola also was John Jay's best defensive player at linebacker. Caiola also ran for 1,221 yards on 196 carries (6.2 avg.) and scored 10 touchdowns, leading the Indians to the Section 1 Class A championship game.
Defensive back: Frank Tucek, Sr., Clarkstown South
The standout two-way star capped a special three-year career with 869 yards rushing and nine touchdowns while also showing he can be an elite lead-blocker for fullback Thomas Lent. Tucek also led South in tackles with 86 and interceptions with four.
Defensive back: Justin Ciero, Sr., Horace Greeley
While the Quakers’ season hit some bumps in the second half, Ciero still had an all-star calibert senior year. Perhaps the section’s best pure talent as a quarterback on offense, Ciero took a starting role in the secondary and showed his prowess there, as well. At quarterback, he went for over 1,000 yards rushing and passing
Defensive back: Jesse Mainiero, Sr., Croton-Harmon
Statistically, few players can match what Mainiero did this season despite playing mainly three quarters in every game. The four-year varsity player recorded 76 tackles and three interceptions on defense. At quarterback, he threw for 1,056 yards and 11 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,129 yards and 25 scores.
Defensive back: Kevin Jocelyn, Sr., Ramapo
No player in Section 1 had the burst or breakaway speed of Jocelyn. The electrifying veteran showed it as a runner, receiver, kick returner and defensive back, and showcased all of his talents in the Section 1 all-star game where he earned MVP honors. Jocelyn piled up, 1,343 yards rushing and scored 14 touchdowns for the Gryphons.
Athlete: Garfield Heslop, Sr., Stepinac
On a team with elite talent, Heslop sometimes got overshadowed. But the 6-3, 200-pound defensive end/linebacker was so consistently good this season for the Crusaders. He was second on the team in tackles with 96, highlighted by a incredible effort against Xaverian in the semifinals. Heslop had eight sacks, three interceptions, and three fumble recoveries to help Stepinac get to the CHSFL title game.
Kicker: Connor O'Sullivan, Sr., Pearl River
It would be far-fetched to consider O'Sullivan one of the most valuable players in Section 1 this season. He was over 80-percent on touchbacks on kickoffs, booted nine field goals and averaged 38 yards per punt. O'Sullivan kicked a game-winning field in the final seconds as Pearl River beat Nyack for the first time in 25 years, and connected on four field goals in a 20-15 win over Spring Valley.
Kick returner: Ke’Shaun Stallworth, Sr., Pelham
The explosive third-year starter saved his best season for last. Stallworth ran for 1,008 yards on 138 carries (7.3 avg.) and 14 touchdowns, leading Pelham to a solid 6-3 season in its first year in Class A. His best game was against Ossining when he ran for 238 yards and three total touchdowns in a 44-41 win.
QB: John Garcia, Warwick
RB: Andrew Miller, RCDS
RB: Shaquille Townsend, Iona Prep
RB: Rashard Wroten, Cornwall
WR: Albert Hall, Warwick
WR: Jake Decicco, Kingston
OL: Matt Keough, Rye
OL: Anthony Dabney, Arlington
OL: Christ Gorton, Somers
OL: Darien Bica, Dobbs Ferry
OL: Kevin Giordano, Clarkstown South
Ath: Travis Samuels, Clarkstown North
DL: Anthony Caldararo, New Rochelle
DL: Kyle Ruiz, Cornwall
DL: Jahseim Davis, Wallkill
LB: John Yozzo-Scaperrotta, Dobbs Ferry
LB: Kemet McLean, New Rochelle
LB: Peter Catal, Cornwall
LB: Kyle Ricciardi, Croton-Harmon
DB: Jack Lambert, John Jay-Cross River
DB: Justin Combs, Iona Prep
DB: Nick Connell, North Rockland
DB: Spencer Avalos, Dobbs Ferry
Ath: Matt Berni, Iona Prep
KR: Sam Stern, RCDS
K: Roberto Bruno, Harrison
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at email@example.com