By MICHAEL KELLY and ADAM SHINDER
It was one of the more successful campaigns in recent years for the local high school football scene, as Amsterdam, Broadalbin-Perth, Canajoharie and Fonda-Fultonville each posted winning seasons and qualified for the playoffs.
In a season filled with high-scoring, back-and-forth games, the Rugged Rams went 5-4 and won a playoff game. The Patriots made their way to the Section II Class B Super Bowl, the first time B-P had made it to the big game since 1998. In Canajoharie, the Cougars used a sterling defense and a big-play offense to make their way into the Section II Class D playoffs after missing out a year ago. Finally, in Fonda, the Braves went undefeated at home and made it back to the Section II Class C semifinals.
While the local gridirons were filled this fall with memorable games and performances, some players did more than others to distinguish themselves from the crowd -- and earn spots on The Recorder's All-Area team for the 2013 high school football season.
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Offensive Player of the Year: Bryan Stanavich, Amsterdam
At the start of the season, Stanavich wasn't exactly an afterthought in the Amsterdam offense, but the thought of him ending up as The Recorder's Offensive Player of the Year was far-fetched simply because of the cast of characters ahead of him in the Rugged Rams' backfield.
Three senior running backs -- Gabe Mendez, Hector Diaz and Kolbie Glionna -- as well as senior quarterback Julian Gallup were all factors in the running game, meaning reps for the sophomore Stanavich would be hard to come by in his first varsity season.
He flashed talent early, running for a touchdown in each of the Rams' first three games, but he didn't become the team's feature back until injuries sidelined both Glionna and Mendez heading into a Week 4 game at Gloversville.
That's when Stanavich broke out with 234 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He couldn't match those numbers over the final three weeks of the regular season, but Stanavich took his game to a new level in the postseason.
After fumbling twice late in the first half of Amsterdam's opening-round playoff game at Averill Park, his teammates said he "grew up" at halftime and on the first play of the second half, Stanavich ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run that sparked the Rams to a comeback win. He finished that night with 208 rushing yards and four total touchdowns, then ran for 232 yards and three more scores in the Rams' Section II Class A semifinal loss to Queensbury.
In all, Stanavich finished with 1,097 yards and scored an area-best 16 touchdowns, finding the end zone in every game, save for the Rams' shutout loss to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. He also led Amsterdam with 292 receiving yards.
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Defensive Player of the Year: Pierre LaPort, Broadalbin-Perth
In the Patriots' Week 1 victory against Scotia-Glenville, the senior defensive lineman recorded three sacks and recovered a fumble. While it likely was not meant as one, the effort sent a clear message to the rest of Section II Class B: LaPort was ready to lead the Patriots to a big season in 2013.
Playing alongside three fellow standout senior lineman -- Phil Hemstreet, Zach Newfrock and Andre Taylor -- LaPort was a wrecking ball for the Patriots. His 6-foot-1-inch, 245-pound figure allowed LaPort to play both as an end and a tackle, while his athleticism had head coach Jim Pelneau flirting with the idea in the preseason to put LaPort as a linebacker.
That versatility became a neccesity for LaPort. Coming off a strong junior season and his spectacular Week 1 performance, opposing coaches began working their offensive game plans around LaPort's presence. To combat that, the Patriots began moving LaPort all around the defensive line to keep the opposition guessing.
"That way, teams cannot run away from him," Pelneau had explained during the season.
Very few players were able to get away from LaPort in 2013, but the senior also took his share of abuse. After playing in 2012 with a cast on a broken hand, LaPort finished his senior season playing with braces on both his left shoulder and left knee. Still, despite the injuries, he rarely missed a play, anchoring the Patriots' defense and playing a key part for the team's offensive line.
In addition to being named The Recorder's Defensive Player of the Year, LaPort was also given the same honor from the Section II Class B West Division coaches.
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QB: Julian Gallup, Amsterdam
A first-year starter under center as a senior, Gallup -- committed to Niagara University on a baseball scholarship -- led the area in passing touchdowns (15) while throwing for 997 passing yards. An explosive all-around athlete, Gallup added five rushing touchdowns and also caught a pair of touchdown passes.
RB: Hector Diaz, Amsterdam
Technically a fullback in the Rugged Rams' offense, Diaz played a hybrid role for the second straight season. After shoulder problems made him largely a non-factor in Amsterdam's first three games of the season, Diaz finished with 374 rushing yards and exceeded the 100-yard mark twice -- against Gloversville and South Glens Falls.
RB: Pat Hart, Fonda-Fultonville
In his second season as the Braves starting tailback, Hart did not disappoint. The junior scored 11 touchdowns and rushed for an area-best 1,136 yards, as he gained 7.3 yards per carry. Hart is now the Braves' third-leading rusher in program history with 2,400 career yards, and the junior heads into his final season needing fewer than 200 yards to become the school's top career rusher.
WR: Brandon Baker, Fonda-Fultonville
The Braves' big-play threat was a force in 2013, as the senior had 35 receptions go for a combined 646 yards and seven touchdowns; Baker was No. 1 in each of those three statistics in the area. Baker finished his career with 1,180 receiving yards, placing him No. 6 in program history.
WR: J.V. Valentin, Amsterdam
Though he never had more than 68 receiving yards in a game, Valentin was the Rams' primary weapon on the outside -- made most evident by his team-high five touchdown catches. Amsterdam's biggest vertical threat, Valentin hauled in key touchdowns in the Rams' Week 1 win over Averill Park and their Week 4 win over Gloversville.
WR: Dillan Veeder, Canajoharie
The primary weapon for sophomore quarterback Jace Fox, Veeder finished second in the area with 22 receptions, and his 408 receiving yards led the Cougars. The versatile Veeder scored a team-best seven touchdowns on the season -- four receiving, one rushing and two on punt returns.
TE: Zach Folts, Canajoharie
Equally adept as an extra offensive lineman or a weapon down the seam in the receiving game, the 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound Folts caught 12 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for three touchdowns as a short-yardage back and was a force on the defensive line with six sacks.
OL: Tyler Belmonte, Canajoharie
A 6-foot, 220-pound senior, Belmote anchored the Canajoharie offensive line at right tackle to help along a group that struggled to provide running lanes early in the season, but rebounded to plow the road for three 100-yard games from tailback Nathan Ferguson late in the year.
OL: Tyler Cranker, Amsterdam
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Cranker made an immediate impact at Amsterdam upon tranferring from Fonda-Fultonville for his season, lining up at right guard and helping to plow the road for a rushing game that averaged 261.1 yards per game this season. Cranker was also Amsterdam's most consistent defensive lineman, splitting time between end and tackle.
OL: Mitch Hayes, Fonda-Fultonville
A part-time starter in 2012, Hayes was a fixture on the offensive line for the Braves in 2013. Though undersized for the position, Hayes used his natural strength and a rugged attitude to turn himself into one of the toughest offensive linemen in the area.
OL: Zach Newfrock, Broadalbin-Perth
A three-year starter on both defense and offense for the Patriots, the senior co-captain helped carve running lanes for B-P's potent rushing attack this season. Newfrock also was a solid contributor on defense, where he primarily played defensive tackle in the Patriots' 4-3 base defense.
OL: Zak Shaw, Fonda-Fultonville
A two-year starter at the center position, Shaw adeptly handled the start of each play and helped to carve running lanes for the Braves' potent rushing attack. Also, on defense, Shaw was a menace from the linebacker position.
K: Marcus Pritchard, Amsterdam
As a junior, Pritchard etched himself into the school's record book by setting career marks for both extra points made and points scored by a kicker. On the season, he finished 38-of-42 on PAT attempts -- all four misses were blocked. He also kicked a pair of field goals in the first round of the playoffs against Averill Park, including a 41-yarder.
FLEX: Jordan Brownell, Canajoharie
Though Brownell, a junior, only caught nine passes this season, he made the most of every single one of them, averaging 33.9 yards per reception. His performance in the Cougars' Week 2 win over Whitehall -- three catches for 183 yards, including touchdowns of 91 and 56 yards -- was the most explosive single-game performance from an area receiver this season.
FLEX: Zach Morreale, Broadalbin-Perth
In stepping in as a first-year starter at the quarterback position, the junior went from an early-season game manager to a potent member of the Patriots' offense by the end of the season. Morreale's best game of the season came in B-P's Week 5 victory against Schuylerville, when the junior was 14-of-17 passing for 176 yards and a touchdown. Morreale also made four field goals as B-P's kicker.
FLEX: Russ Williams, Fonda-Fultonville
The senior led the area in passing (1,284 yards) while throwing for 14 touchdowns and rushing for two more. Notably, Williams was 10 of 17 for 134 yards and three touchdowns -- plus one rushing score -- in the team's 49-12 victory against Voorheesville.
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DL: Sebastian DeCrescenzo, Canajoharie
The 6-foot-1-inch, 272-pound senior was a rock in the middle of the Canajoharie defensive line, helping the Cougars produce a defense that allowed held five opponents to 14 points or fewer. DeCrescenzo picked up a sack in the team's most impressive defensive game of the season, a 14-7 win over Whitehall in Week 2.
DL: Phil Hemstreet, Broadalbin-Perth
It is likely that no player loved playing defense more than Hemstreet, who gladly accepted his coaches' offer to let him only play on one side of the ball this season. Free to use all his energy on defense, Hemstreet was a constant in opposing backfields and an emotional leader for the Patriots' defense.
DL: Andre Taylor, Broadalbin-Perth
A running back on offense, Taylor used his speed to cause havocon defense. Often starting from an upright position, Taylor was a threat to blitz or drop back in coverage -- and opposing offenses always needed to know where he was on the field.
DL: Will Turner, Fonda-Fultonville
Turner again played a bit of a hybrid role in the Braves' defense, occassionaly dropping back into coverage as a linebacker. Cutting an imposing presence on the field, Turner was often the subject of double teams and regularly had secondary blockers from the backfield sent his way.
LB: Darius Reyes, Broadalbin-Perth
The junior's teammates always appreciated the all-out hustle with which he played, something opposing coaches were often quick to comment about after playing the Patriots. Near season's end, his coach described Reyes as the "model" football player.
LB: Devin Rosario, Amsterdam
The leader in Amsterdam's defensive huddle, Rosario took over at middle linebacker for the Rams midway through the 2012 season and held down one of the two inside spots in their 4-4 defense all season this year, performing consistently despite a rotating cast of partners alongside him due to injury and a split focus early in the season when he headed into the year making the switch to center on the offensive line.
LB: Anthony Sinicropi, Fonda-Fultonville
Whether it was rushing the ball as a fullback or from his position on defense, Sinicropi brought the pain in 2013. Healthy for the duration of the season after an injury-marred sophomore campaign, Sinicropi was always in the middle of the action for the Braves.
LB: Nathan Ferguson, Canajoharie
A wiry junior, Ferguson was a defensive menace for a Cougars team that shut down potent rushing attacks like Whitehall and Warrensburg and only allowed one team to score more than 27 points against it all season. He also emerged from a mass of players to become Canajoharie's starting tailback, finishing the year with 480 yards and five touchdowns.
DB: Jake Coveney, Broadalbin-Perth
The junior was the Patriots' primary cover corner and was also a key player for the B-P defense in shutting down the perimeter running game of opponents. Notably, Coveney had two interceptions against Johnstown and returned an interception for a touchdown in B-P's Week 3 win at Hudson Falls.
DB: Cam Ives, Fonda-Fultonville
Ives saw time as both a linebacker and a defensive back, but the thing that never changed with his position was his ability to make an impact for the Braves. His versatility helped ease the team's transition from a 4-3 base defense to this year's 4-4 alignment.
DB: Luigi Magliocca, Broadalbin-Perth
From the safety position, Magliocca offered his share of devastating hits, but his biggest moment on defense came in his team's semifinal victory against Cohoes when his interception set up the Patriots' final score of a frenetic second quarter. Meanwhile, on offense, Magliocca produced double-digit touchdowns as a rusher and a receiver.
DB: Dal Orengo, Amsterdam
A two-year starter, Orengo may have been undersized -- he was generously listed at 5-foot-8-inches and 170 pounds -- but he was a consistent presence in Amsterdam's defensive backfield at both cornerback and safety who didn't hesitate to come close to the line of scrimmage.
FLEX: Tyler Schmidt, Broadalbin-Perth
A versatile player, Schmidt saw time at linebacker and in the secondary before becoming a full-time starting linebacker midway through the season. A sure tackler, Schmidt was usually one of the first Patriots to greet opposing rushers.
FLEX: Gabe Orengo, Amsterdam
After missing the second half of the 2012 season with a knee injury, Orengo rotated between defensive end and inside linebacker depending on the scheme the Rams were facing. At end, he was Amsterdam's most effective pass rusher. At linebacker, he played a major role in shutting down Averill Park fullback Garrett Ryan in the Rams' first-round playoff win.
FLEX: Biagio Bucciferro, Broadalbin-Perth
The voice of the Patriots' area-best defense, Bucciferro helped run the team's defense from his spot at middle linebacker. The squad often rallied around Bucciferro, who had a knack for coming up with big plays -- such as when he recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the team's first-round playoff victory against Lansingburgh.
P: Mike Visco, Broadalbin-Perth
The senior's ability to pin opposing offenses within their own 10-yard line was one that the Patriots took full advantage of in 2013. But, besides helping his team win the field-position battle, Visco was also a key cog in the Patriots' offense (wide receiver) and defense (safety), making the senior one of the most versatile players in the area.
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COACH: Jim Pelneau, Broadalbin-Perth
In his third season guiding the Patriots, Pelneau and his coaching staff led B-P to its first Section II Super Bowl appearance in 25 years. The Patriots were ranked as high as No. 11 in the state in Class B this season while charging to an 8-2 record.