The Sun-Gazette's version of the 2012 Oscars comes at Christmas time when we unveil the area all-star team, along with The Player of the Year and the The Coach of the Year. Area football coaches and/or stat keepers are encouraged to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with anyone they think should be considered along with vital statistics.
In the meantime, the following are some end-of-the-season awards to heighten the suspense. And while the all-star team is selected by the entire sports staff, these awards were chosen by a true dictator.
GAME OF THE YEAR
Second runner-up-South Williamsport 32, Bloomsburg 16: This was the game that drove home just how good South (10-2) was. Much of the talk leading up to this District 4 Class A semifinal surrounded how impressive Bloomsburg had been after beating HAC-I champion Danville and HAC-II champion Central Columbia in consecutive weeks. Many assumed 2,500-yard quarterback Ricky Klingerman and his prolific offense could not be stopped. Many thought wrong. South overwhelmed Bloomsburg, physically manhandled it up front and romped to a season-defining win in a game that was never really close. The Mounties allowed only four first-half yards and did not surrender a first down until midway through the fourth quarter. If I had not been there, I likely would not have believed it.
First runner-up-Loyalsock 32, Mount Carmel 29: Loyalsock entered The Silver Bowl in this Week 4 matchup a huge underdog. The Lancers had lost two straight, scored just 12 points in those games and had never before beaten the defending district champions. How stunning it was, then, that this young team quieted the spirited Tornadoes fans and opened up a 25-point third-quarter lead before holding on for a thrilling 32-29 win. This was the game that signaled Loyalsock's return to district prominence after a 1-9 finish last year. The Lancers won four of five games starting with this shocker, gouged the Tornadoes defense and did something that not even the greatest teams of Loyalsock past had ever done.
And the winner is...Montoursville 37, Lewisburg 33: All indications were this would be a great one leading up to the District 4 Class AA quarterfinal. Early on, though, it appeared Montoursville might win via the mercy rule when it opened up a 21-0 second-quarter lead and was driving for a fourth touchdown. A Brandon Smith forced fumble recovery and 64-yard touchdown run two plays later changed everything. Lewisburg suddenly could do no wrong, scored on its next five possessions and led 33-21 midway through the fourth quarter on its home field. Montoursville appeared done, but it never stopped believing. Cameron Ott blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety and Aaron Cole hit Garrett Evans and Matt Krezmer with consecutive touchdown passes before Cameron Karschner made a game-clinching interception as Montoursville rallied for its first playoff win since 2008. The game included 787 yards of offense and enough twists and turns to make Stephen King blush. It was a true classic and the second-best high school football game this reporter has ever covered.
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Second runner-up (tie)-Matthew Boone, Montgomery and Utoah Agae-Naipo, Jersey Shore: Boone nearly broke the Montgomery record for single-season yards, throwing for 1,327 yards and eight touchdowns, while running for four more scores and completing more than 50 percent of his passes. Boone quarterbacked a team that often had only 16 players dressed and took a physical pounding, but never missed a game, never backed down and had an excellent season that could signal could things to come at Montgomery. Agae-Naipo was Jersey Shore's workhorse running back and had the program's best rushing performance this century. The hard-nosed, fast junior ran for 951 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Agae-Naipo topped 100 yards four times, had six 90-yard games and likely would have reached 1,000 yards if not for suffering a Week 7 second-half injury against Shikellamy.
First runner-up-Ryan Bratton, Bucktail: The junior quarterback was a first-time starter who was only supposed to take about half the snaps this year. Instead, Bratton developed into an excellent passer and threw for 1,105 yards and 16 touchdowns while helping Bucktail reach the postseason for a third straight year. Bratton threw a touchdown pass in nine of 10 games, helped Bucktail go 6-4 and had one of the best seasons in program history.
And the winner is-Dominick Bragalone, South Williamsport: It is hard to believe there was a time in his life when Bragalone had trouble walking. The sophomore burst onto the district scene in a big way, taking his first varsity carry 60 yards for a touchdown against Bloomsburg and never looking back. Bragalone ran 746 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging a whopping 9.2 yards per carry. Nearly every one of those touchdowns came from 40 or more yards out and the speedy sophomore with room to grow stronger also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. If Bragalone keeps working hard and builds off what he did this season, he has the chance to become one of South's great running backs.
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Second runner-up-South's offensive line vs. Bloomsburg: The line edges South's defense which also was brilliant in this win. Marco Estrella, Justin Knee, Brock Steppe, Billy Kepner and Dylan Johnson-along with tight ends Heath Newcomer and Tyler Schonewolf-were outstanding all year, but took their collective game to another level two weeks ago. That unit physically dominated a strong Bloomsburg defense from start to finish as South ran for 344 yards and gained 425 in the 32-16 playoff win. The Mounties wore down Bloomsburg, controlling the clock while opening big holes for Bragalone, Matt Bartholomew and Brandon Stonge. All this after Bloomsburg had allowed just 12 points each to Danville and Central Columbia. Collectively, the line was the game's MVP.
First runner-up-Kyle Datres vs. Troy: The Loyalsock quarterback could not be stopped during a 60-35 trouncing of Troy in Week 6. Datres totaled 421 yards and accounted for six touchdowns in the road win against a district qualifier. The sophomore quarterback threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns while running for 217 yards and four touchdowns. Oh yeah, he also kicked six extra points.
And the winner is...Von Walker vs. Bellefonte: The best player in Central Mountain history played the best game in program history during this 50-14 Week 4 rout. Walker totaled 518 yards and accounted for six touchdowns as the Wildcats scored the game's final 43 points after trailing entering the second quarter. Walker ran for a program-record 362 yards and five touchdowns while also throwing for 156 yards and a score. He also was outstanding defensively, forcing a fumble while adding two sacks and four tackles.
Dr. Masse's Final 2012 Top Five:
1. South Williamsport (10-2): This team left a big mark on school history. This team restored the luster to a proud program.
2. Montoursville (8-4): The Warriors are back among the district's elite and their senior class that took its lumps as sophomores is a big reason why.
3. Lewisburg (8-3): Is it selfish of me if I petition the PIAA to give Brandon Smith a fifth year of eligibility so I can keep watching him play?
4. Milton (7-5): Reaching two straight district finals and winning 13 games the last two years is a huge step forward for a program that had endured four straight one-win seasons.
5, Loyalsock (5-6): It was fun watching hard-nosed players like Aaron Hepburn, Cody McCracken, Henry Rainey and Ryan Bogaczyk compete the last few years.
Dr. Masse's Ridiculously Meaningless,
Way Too Early 2013 Preseason Top Five
1. Loyalsock: The Lancers return a strong core of players after showing the most improvement among area teams this season. Loyalsock is headed in the right direction under coach Justin Van Fleet and, if healthy, could be a district title contender next year.
2. Montoursville: The Warriors lose some great players to graduation, but have some standouts returning and should benefit from this season's playoff experience. I don't care if it's nearly a year away, I am already calling dibs on next season's Week 10 Battle For the Bridge Game.
3. Lewisburg: It's going to be really hard replacing players like Smith and Kyle Santorine, to name a few, but 1,300-yard quarterback Nick Costigliola is a nice building block and could be headed for really big things next year.
4. South Williamsport: The Mounties might have to rely on their experienced defense early in the season, but if a young offensive line jells the potential is there for another big season. Do not expect South to be a one-year wonder.
5. Wellsboro: The Green Hornets went 5-5 this season and were two plays from going 7-3 and being a playoff contender. The majority of Wellsboro's starters return next year and the offense could be really fun to watch. Don't be surprised to see this team push Troy and Athens in the NTL.