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The MSG Varsity Hudson Valley regional staff selected the top players, coaches and teams from the 2011 season across Section 1. Below are the award winners, as well as the first- and second-team all-stars. Tweet your comments to @MSGVarsityHVC or email Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org
MSG Varsity: Section 1 Awards
Player of the Year: 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.
Coach of the Year: Tom Lynch
Taking over the legendary Joe Casarella, Lynch carved out his own legacy in just his first season as a head coach. The long-time assistant led North Rockland to a Section 1 Class AA championship, beating five-time champ New Rochelle in the semifinals on a last-second defensive stand, and then topped John Jay-East Fishkill in overtime in the finals.
Team of the Year: Dobbs Ferry
The lone state champion from the Hudson Valley, the Eagles came back from an opening-day loss and played almost flawlessly the rest of the way. They knocked off defending state champion Bronxville in the Section 1 final, won a nailbiter with Hoosick Falls in the state semifinals, and then blew out Jamestown Southwestern 39-0 in the Class C state final. Thanks to tremendous senior leadership, there might not have been a more unselfish and cohesive squad in the region.
MSG Varsity: Section 1 All-Star Team
Quarterback: Josh Oliver, Sr. Poughkeepsie * Player of the Year
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: 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. Caiola 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. A model of consistency on both sides of the ball, Caiola also was John Jay's best defensive player at linebacker.
Running back: Kevin Jocelyn, Sr., Ramapo
No running back 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.
Wide receiver: Quincy Vasser, Sr., Nyack
All you needed to see from Vasser 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, Vasser is even better as a defensive end where he requires constant double teams. The 6-foot-4 Vasser might be the most college-ready player in the section.
Wide receiver: Jack Lambert, Jr., John Jay-Cross River
Switching between receiver and quarterback, Lambert emerged as one of the best pure athletes in the section. His versatility was a big reason the Indians reached the Section 1 Class A final where he was arguably the best player on the field. He ran for 82 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 63 yards.
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 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.
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: 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: Darien Bica, Sr., Dobbs Ferry
So what if Bica isn’t your protypical offensive lineman at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds. Bica was as good of a lead blocker as you’ll find in Dobbs Ferry’s Wing-T attack and has a highlight-reel of devastating hits. Bica, who overcame a serious ankle injury in the postseason, was exceptional defensively and was named defensive MVP in the state semifinal.
Offensive line: Kevin Giordano, Sr., Clarkstown South
The Vikings put so much faith in the ability of Giordano, consistently running behind the 6-foot, 230-pound senior and following his path to the Section 1 Class AA semifinals. Giordano was the backbone of one of Section 1’s top defenses, as well. His performance against Ramapo in Week 5 essentially won the Vikings the game.
Athlete (Offense): 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.
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 had 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.
Defensive line: Anthony Caldararo, Sr., New Rochelle
Despite an ankle injury that sidelined him a few weeks, Caldararo still make his presence felt as a defensive end. Teams almost never ran to his side and the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder harassed opposing quarterbacks.
Linebacker: Joe Simolacaj, Sr., Rye
Few people understand the amount of injuries and pain Simolacaj played through this season. The third-year starter was a 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: Kyle Ricciardi, Sr., Croton-Harmon
Ricciardi has been a mainstay in the Croton program the last four years, helping the Tigers win three Section 1 titles and make two trips to the state final in that span. As a senior, he had 93 tackles and 5.5 sacks for a Croton defense that gave up just 6.7 points per game until the state final.
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: John Yozzo-Scaperrotta, Sr., Dobbs Ferry
Yozzo-Scaperrotta capped a stellar four-year career at Dobbs Ferry with an MVP performance in the state championship. The versatile senior, who’ll play lacrosse at Brown, ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns in the title game after coming up with several key tackles in the state semifinal win over Hoosick Falls. Yozzo-Scaperrotta also had the play of the year in Section 1, breaking a jaw-dropping 91-yard score against Bronxville in the Class C final.
Defensive back: Justin Ciero, Sr., Horace Greeley
While the Quakers’ season hit some bumps in the second half, Ciero still had an all-star caliber 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: Nick Connell, Jr., North Rockland
If a big play needed to be made in North Rockland’s run to a title, Connell always seemed to be the one who made it. None was bigger than in the Section 1 semifinals. Connell had eight tackles and made a game-saving hit in the end zone on the final play to beat New Rochelle. And in the title game, he scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
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: Spencer Avalos, Sr., Dobbs Ferry
In the end, Avalos proved to be potentially the most valuable player on a state championship squad. After playing on the offensive line last season, Avalos won the quarterback job in the preseason and steered the Eagles to a title. Three of his best games were in the postseason: he ran for three touchdowns and had two interceptions versus Woodlands; scored twice against Bronxville; and had threw for 146 yards and a touchdown and intercepted a pass against Southwestern to earn MVP honors in the state final.
Defensive Athlete: Frank Tucek, Sr., Clarkstown South
The standout two-way star capped a special three-year career with 869 yards rushing yards 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.
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: Travis Samuels, Sr., Clarkstown North
In large part to the play of Samuels, North made a surprising run into the Section 1 Class AA playoffs and were the only team in the section to beat North Rockland. Samuels did a little bit of everything. He was an dangerous kick returner and was an all-section talent at quarterback and defensive back.
QB: Tyler Keech, John Jay-Cross River
RB: L.J. Garrant, Sleepy Hollow
RB: Kemet McLean, New Rochelle
RB: Joe Letizia, Tappan Zee
WR: Declan Myer, John Jay-Cross River
WR: Adam Tavolilla, Brewster
OL: Anthony Dabney, Arlington
OL: Chris Groton, Sr., Somers
OL: Matt Keough, Rye
OL: Keith Robinson, Gorton
OL: Eric Cooley, Yorktown
Ath: Sebastian Deguisto, Lourdes
DL: Odayne Franklin, White Plains
DL: Joe Hanley, Somers
DL: Tim Soave, Dobbs Ferry
LB: Jarrel Brown, Beacon
LB: Stefano Bicknese, Somers
LB: Sebastian Montenegro, Ossining
LB: Dan Bogucki, John Jay-East Fishkill
LB: Kevin Degnan, Irvington
DB: Jake Meyerson, Rye
DB: Eddie Ritch, Dobbs Ferry
DB: Dan Eremita, Lakeland
Ath: Shaquille Evans, New Rochelle
K: Robert Bruno, Harrison
KR: Anthony Cugini, Scarsdale
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at email@example.com