By Rob Potter
SULLIVAN COUNTY February 3, 2006 Football fans across the United States especially those in Pittsburgh and Seattle are anxiously awaiting the kickoff of Super Bowl XL at approximately 6:25 p.m. this Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit.
But for many football fans across Sullivan County, the 2005 high school gridiron season was a very exciting one which created memories that may very well last longer than those spectacular plays that occur in Super Bowl XL.
For example, the Eldred Yellowjackets captured the Section IX Class D regular season and postseason titles, which were the first football championships at the school in decades. In Section IX Class C competition, the Tri-Valley Bears won the regular season crown. And in the Section IX Class C championship game in November at Dietz Stadium in Kingston, the Sullivan West Bulldogs defeated T-V to claim that title and move on into the state playoffs.
Student-athletes from Route 17 rival schools Livingston Manor and Roscoe combined to form the LMR Devilcats varsity gridiron team, which was guided by Fred Ahart and Kevin Clifford.
Liberty, which struggled in recent seasons to have enough players for a varsity team, had enough players for such a varsity gridiron squad last autumn and played a full nine-game schedule.
The Democrat recently contacted the head coaches of those five teams to seek their nominations for the Sullivan County Democrat Football All-Star team. Suggestions made by the coaches were combined with the views and observations made by the members of the Democrat sports staff who covered scholastic football games last fall. As a result, we have arrived with the following team of all-stars.
Because the winter sports season was already well underway, coaches were told that there would only be a first-team offense, first-team defense, a kicker and punter no second team or honorable mention selections.
And the members of the 2005 Sullivan County Democrat Football All-Star Team are:
QB Joe Garigliano, Tri-Valley, Senior
Garigliano completed 71 of 143 passes for 1,080 yards in 2005. He threw 12 touchdown passes and had five interceptions.
Garigliano was also the New York State and Northeast Regional High School Wendys Heisman Winner.
If there is a better QB in the area, I would love to see him, T-V Coach Dave Viglione said. Joe can make any throw and reads defenses very well
Joe is a field general in the classic sense of the term.
RB Jonathan Counts, Eldred, Senior
Counts was one of the key players for a Yellowjackets offense that averaged 27.2 points per game. He rushed for 1,450 yards and 17 touchdowns.
He also caught several passes from quarterback Nick McCormick, which added another dimension to the Eldred offense.
RB Danny Knox, T-V, Senior
Danny is as good a back as there is in Section IX, Viglione said. Running behind an entirely new offensive line, which had two sophomore starters, he still managed to run for over 1,100 yards and score 10 TDs.
Knox also caught 16 passes for 289 yards with one touchdown. As a kick returner, he gained 255 yards on 10 returns and scored a TD.
WR Dan DeVantier, Livingston Manor/Roscoe, Senior
DeVantier was the Devilcats top receiver last autumn.
He certainly deserves recognition, Ahart said. He was one of our team leaders.
WR Paul Pitz, Sullivan West, Senior
Pitz was the Bulldogs second-leading receiver. He caught 12 passes for 278 yards and two TDs.
He made a lot of clutch catches for us, SW Coach Ron Bauer said.
TE Peter Panagakos, Liberty, Senior
Peter was one of our key seniors, Liberty Coach Jim OConnor said. He was also our leading receiver.
Panagakos caught 22 passes for 463 yards in the Indians nine games last autumn.
OL John Adams, Eldred, Senior
OL George Fountain, Eldred, Senior
OL Ryan Taggart, LM/R, Senior
OL Rob Silva, Liberty, Senior
OL Ben Tonjes, SW, Senior
Adams and Fountain were the bookend tackles who powered the Yellowjackets offensive line. They opened gaping holes for Counts and his fellow running backs and protected quarterback Nick McCormick whenever he dropped back to pass.
Ahart noted that Taggart was by far our best offensive lineman.
We moved him around on the line and he did an outstanding job, Ahart said. We ran behind him on a lot of our big plays.
Tonjes played center for the Bulldogs and anchored the line. He and his fellow SW linemen paved the way for halfback Jim Erlwein to rush for 1,010 yards and quarterback Jim Moloney to pass for 990 yards.
Silva played center for the Indians and started all nine games.
PK James Connolly, Tri-Valley, Senior
Connolly was the Bears leading scorer during the 2005 season. He booted five field goals and 19 PAT kicks. Those numbers, combined with his nine TDs scored as a receiver, gave him 88 points for the season.
His reliability and accuracy as a kicker was a powerful weapon for us, Viglione noted.
Connolly also kicked the winning field goal in the Bears 20-17 OT victory against SW in the regular-season meeting between the teams.
DL Matt Dexter, Liberty, Senior
Dexter started for the Indians at one of the defensive end positions and played all nine games.
DL Kevin Gamely, LM/R, Senior
Gamely was one of the Devilcats most reliable defensive tackles last autumn, helping to close up the middle and stop opposing running backs.
DL Garrett Grey, T-V, Sophomore
Grey was the top tackler among the Bears defensive linemen. He made 46 solo tackles and assisted on 21 tackles. Seven of his tackles were made behind the line of scrimmage.
Grey also recovered one fumble.
He is tough and hard-nosed, and he is a star of the future, Viglione said.
DL Brian Hubbert, SW, Senior
Hubbert, who led the Bulldogs with 13 sacks and well over 100 tackles, was named the Section IX Class C/D Lineman of the Year by the Section IX Football Coaches Association. He also earned a spot on the All-Section IX team.
LB Steve Daley, SW, Senior
Daley was third-leading tackler in Section IX last fall. He was also named to the Section IX Class C/D team by the Section IX Football Coaches Association.
LB Jeremy DeForge, Eldred, Senior
DeForge, who played at outside linebacker, led the Yellowjackets in tackles in 2005.
LB Jimmy Erlwein, SW, Senior
Erlwein recorded 144 tackles, which was tops in Section IX. He was named to the Section IX Class C/D team as well as the All-Section IX team by the Section IX Football Coaches Association.
LB Walter Kreidel, Eldred, Senior
Kreidel played at inside linebacker for the Yellowjackets. In addition to making scores of solo tackles, he and fellow linebacker DeForge often combined to tackle opposing running backs and quarterbacks.
DB Patrick Kean, Eldred, Senior
Kean, the son of Eldred Coach Frank Kean, set a school record by making 12 interceptions during his varsity football career.
DB Troy Kirchner, LM/R
Ahart noted that Kirchner was a very versatile player. While he also was the Devilcats placekicker and punter, Kirchner also defended opposing receivers in single coverage on many occasions.
DB Mike Sarno, Liberty, Senior
Sarno was one of the Indians staring cornerbacks all of last season.
P Brett Youmans, SW, Senior
Youmans pinned the opposition inside the 20-yard line on five different occasions with well-placed punts. His longest punt of the season was 46 yards.