By Rich Rhoades
It was quite a ride for the Johnsonburg Rams a year ago as they reached the PIAA Class A Championship game before losing to Vaux.
The Rams, Brockway and Bradford will try to defend their district titles despite losing many players to graduation. But the Rams have their Co-Players of the Year back in their senior guard tandem of Cole Peterson and Cameron Grumley.
The district awards weren’t the only ones for the Rams duo. Both were named all-state by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers.
Peterson and Grumley, first-team selections, are among six returning all-district players that also include second-teamers in juniors R.J. Laugand of Clarion-Limestone and Nate Sestina of Cameron County, and third-teamers in senior Brandon Mancuso of Punxsutawney and 6-foot-10 junior Devin Zagar of Venango Catholic.
Just in case you forgot about last year, here’s a review of the conference champions and playoffs:
Allegheny Mountain League
North Champion: Johnsonburg
South Champion: Ridgway
Conference Championship game: Johnsonburg 47, Elk County Catholic 35
North Tier League
District 9 League
Champion: Elk County Catholic
Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference
North Champion: North Clarion
South Champion: A-C Valley
Conference Championship game: North Clarion 59, A-C Valley 54
Class AAA: Bradford 49, Punxsutawney 42
Class AA: Brockway 45, Cranberry 38
Class A: Johnsonburg 37, Ridgway 29
Class A consolation: North Clarion 64, Smethport 56
Johnsonburg had quite a run in Class A and reached the state championship game in Hershey where it lost to Vaux, 83-63. Along the way, the Rams beat Eisenhower (62-30), Shade (54-49), fellow D9 foe Smethport in the quarterfinals (54-43) and Lincoln Park (59-53). Obviously, the Hubbers had a strong Class A run as well, opening with wins over Bishop Guilfoyle and Clairton before losing to the Rams. Also in Class A, Ridgway won its opener over Homer-Center (63-39) before losing to Lincoln Park (51-34). No team outside of Class A won a state playoff game.
TEAM-BY-TEAM SCOUTING REPORT
(By classification, with last year’s record in parenthesis)
Based on last year’s rosters:
It’s hard to not dub the Johnsonburg Rams the favorite to repeat their Class A championship considering they return the district’s Co-Players of the Year in seniors Cole Peterson and Cameron Grumley. It wouldn’t be surprising to see traditional powers Elk County Catholic and Ridgway mount a challenge. From the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference, North Clarion and perhaps Clarion-Limestone are set up for good seasons. Cameron County is probably the best the North Tier League has to offer.
Austin (3-17): Senior Kade Logue (12.3 ppg.) was the Panthers’ second-leading scorer and only one of the top five scorers back.
A-C Valley (20-5): Andrew Rapp is the new head coach of the Falcons, who return just one of their top five scorers in senior Jeff Eaton (10.5 ppg.).
Cameron County (18-6): Junior big man Nate Sestina (18 ppg.) led the Red Raiders in scoring and earned all-district honors while senior Dylan Clingan (6.1 ppg.) ranked third.
Clarion (16-8): Three of the top six scorers for the Bobcats are back, led by seniors Antonio Troese (10.5 ppg.) and Ellis Painter (6.5 ppg.).
Clarion-Limestone (12-11): The Lions have seven of their top nine scorers back, led by two-time all-district guard R.J. Laugand (19.8 ppg.) and junior Kolton Stiglitz (5.8 ppg.).
Coudersport (16-7): Senior Ethan Hite (7 ppg.) is the only returning player out of the top four scorers for the Falcons.
DuBois Central Catholic (10-13): Senior Dom Goldbach (5.9 in 11 games) is the leading returning scorer for the Cardinals.
East Forest (3-19): Kevin Engelhardt is the new coach and he has the team’s entire roster back from last year, led by 6-foot-5 senior Charles Rini (13 ppg.) and junior James Renton (10.1 ppg.).
Elk County Catholic (19-7): The Crusaders lost a ton to graduation, as 6-foot-5 senior Cory Huff (10 ppg.) is the only player among the six scorers returning. Head coach Aaron Straub enters his 34th season (32nd with Crusaders) with 715 wins.
Johnsonburg (30-3): All-District seniors Cole Peterson (15.6 ppg.) and Cameron Grumley (15.5 ppg.) led the state-runner-up Rams in scoring and are the only two of the six scorers returning.
North Clarion (24-3): Of their three returning players out of their top six scorers, all are Cypherts with junior Christian (11.7), senior Joel (6.2 ppg.) and senior Evan (2.5 ppg.).
Northern Potter (5-17): Seniors Matt Morgan (10 ppg.) and Aaron Olney (7.2 ppg.) were the Panthers’ second- and third-leading scorers.
Oswayo Valley (11-12): Seniors Grant Nolan (12.3 ppg.) and Keagen Goodliff (11.9 ppg.) were the Green Wave’s second- and third-leading scorers.
Otto-Eldred (0-20): The Terrors’ top scorer back is junior Hunter Johnson (6.1 ppg.).
Port Allegany (10-11): Sophomore Jordan Seefeldt (10.5 ppg.) was the Gators’ second-leading scorer and one of three of the top five scorers.
Ridgway (23-6): The Elkers lost their top five leading scorers to graduation. Junior guard Josh Roselli (4.6 ppg.) is the leading returning scorer.
Sheffield (7-15): The Wolverines lost their top six scorers to graduation. Senior Brandon Kipp (1.9 ppg.) is the leading returning scorer.
Smethport (24-4): Senior Nate Wilber (4.6 ppg.) is the leading returning scorer after ranking fourth on last year’s state-qualifying squad.
Union (10-13): Senior guard Dylan Shirey (9.9 ppg.) led the Knights in scoring and is the only returner out of the top five. Senior guard Wanya Harris (4.9 ppg.) ranked sixth on the team.
Venango Catholic (6-16): The Vikings didn’t graduate a single point from last year’s team. Juniors Scott Toy (17.3 ppg.) and Rookie of the Year Devin Zagar (15 ppg.) were the top scorers.
West Forest (3-19): There wasn’t a senior on last year’s roster as 6-foot-5 senior Logan McFarland (15.5 ppg.) and senior Jonathon Marshall (11.3 ppg.), led the team in scoring.
It wasn’t an impressive season for the eight teams in Class AA as only three teams had a winning record and were the only teams to go to the playoffs. The Brockway Rovers are the defending champs, but they’ll be rebuilding with a new lineup. The favorite? That’s a tough call. Keystone or Kane perhaps? Call it wide open.
Brockway (15-8): The Rovers returned to the top of the district for the first time since 2009, but much is gone from last year’s title run. The leading returning scorer is senior Cody Jose (5.5 ppg.) the only one among their top seven scorers back.
Brookville (7-15): Senior Nate Shirts (15.7 ppg.) is the leading scorer back from a team returning virtually its entire roster.
Curwensville (6-16): The Golden Tide lost just 12 points to graduation, so almost everyone is back, led by seniors Tanner Elensky (13.2 ppg.) and Brett Gardner (11.5 ppg.).
Cranberry (14-10): The Berries have two of their top six scorers back with junior Jacob Creighton (6.8 ppg.) and Evan Lutz (5.5 ppg.).
Kane (7-15): Matt Gasbarre is the new head coach of the Wolves, who return three of their top four scorers with seniors Jeff Kocjancic (15 ppg.), Kevin Cleer (11.6 ppg.) and Andrew Pierson (7.5 ppg.).
Karns City (7-15): The Gremlins have three of their top five scorers back, led by leading scorer in senior Tyler Kepple (15.7 ppg.). Juniors Logan Moroney (8.7 ppg.) and Dave Olszak (6.2 ppg.) are the others.
Keystone (15-8): It’s head coach Greg Heath’s 30th season and senior Adam Lencer (14.4 ppg.) is the only one of his top five scorers returning.
Moniteau (8-14): Jerrod Markle is the new coach of the Warriors, who have four of their top scores back led by junior Cody Skiver (10 ppg.).
Redbank Valley (7-15): The Bulldogs have their top four scorers back, led by juniors Jake Dougherty (18.2 ppg.) and Devin Shumaker (9.5 ppg.).
The Bradford Owls won their third title in four years despite having a losing record. This year, it looks like the Chucks are the clear favorites.
Bradford (11-13): The defending champion Owls lost their top six scorers to graduation. Junior Rob Rice (2.1 ppg.) is the leading returning scorer.
Clearfield (7-15): Seniors Christian Lezzer (11.5 ppg.) and Jon Janocko (5.1 ppg.) were second and fourth on the team in scoring.
Punxsutawney (14-9): Senior Brandon Mancuso (15.7 ppg.) led the Chucks in scoring and was an all-district player. Seniors Tyler Young (8.6 ppg.) and Cory Geer (7 ppg.) ranked second and fourth.
St. Marys (3-17): Senior Caleb Bennett (8.9 ppg.) is the leading returning scorer and only one of the top five scorers back for the Dutch.
DuBois (9-13): Hunter Lydick, a 6-foot-5 senior, led the Beavers in scoring (12.7 ppg.). Their roster returns virtually intact.