Three Rivers Broadcasting Football Awards
With the 2021 High School Football season now in the rear view mirror, Three Rivers Broadcasting’s management team has come together to produce our Post-Season awards.
Team Of the Year: Mt. Lebanon
While the WPIAL won four state championships in Hershey last weekend, none did so more convincingly than Bob Palko’s Blue Devils, who throttled a nationally respected program in St Joe’s Prep, 35-17. Throughout the course of their undefeated 15-0 season, the Devils demolished all challengers in convincing fashion and got stronger as the season progressed.
In the playoffs, their back-to-back-to-back-to-back demolitions of Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Erie McDowell, State College and Saint Joseph’s Prep cemented them as the top team in the Commonwealth, as the wins got more impressive and dominating as they went on.
The team had a number of weapons, led by its senior three-headed-monster of QB Joey Daniels, WR Eli Heidenreich and RB Alex Tecza.
The Naval Academy bound Heidenreich was absolutely electric throughout the post season and Tecza shouldered the load at running back in all of the big game situations. Daniels was efficient and effective throwing the ball and also showed the ability to use his legs as well.
The swarming defense got a little help from Mother Nature in Hershey as the swirling winds sliced down St Joe’s passing attack, but the result was only briefly in doubt—Once they turned the fourth quarter into the Alex Tecza show on offense, it was a done deal.
Teams like this only come around once in a lifetime in Pennsylvania—and usually only produce one state title win—Just ask Bethlehem Liberty—They had a dominating decade(2000-2010) and then the bottom fell out, entirely. Worth noting, however, that Tim Moncman, the general behind that run, departed after 2010.
Bob Palko will stick around—I’d expect Lebo to stay in the mix in 6A.
Runner Up: Penn Trafford
They won their first state title by beating a state powerhouse charter school in Imhotep in dramatic fashion, matching them punch for punch. Led by Wisconsin commit Cade Yacamelli, they weren’t glitzy in the final, but they were gritty and won when it mattered most. The season could have gone off the rails when they lost back to back games to Belle Vernon and Peters Township, but they righted the ship and finished 13-2 with the oversized chocolate bar in their hands.
Player Of The Year: The Three Headed Monster, Mt. Lebanon
It would be unfair to select just one of the Lebo trio to be the player of the year, so we’ve picked them up as a unit—One couldn’t have thrived without the other two. They needed each other to do what they did. Therefore, our players of the year are Joey Daniels, Eli Heidenreich and Alex Tecza.
Tecza was over 2,000 yards rushing with 20+ TDs, Heidenreich was over 1,300 yards receiving with 20 TD and was the favorite target of Daniels, who threw for almost 1,700 yards and 23TD against just 6 interceptions.
Runners Up: Cade Yacamelli(Penn Trafford, RB) and Devin Whitlock(Belle Vernon,QB)
Yacamelli, committed to Wisconsin, was the rock for Penn Trafford in the backfield this season, ringing up over 2,000 yards and 30 TDs. Shoutout also to his line, Zach Tomosovich, Declan Ochendowski, Luke Jollie, Joe Enick and Garret Moorhead for paving the road for Yacamelli to carry the Warriors to the state title.
Whitlock also gains a mention here because without him, Belle Vernon is probably a 5-5 program instead of being in the upper echelon in 4A. He combined for over 2,000 yards and 30+TD. He was the heartbeat of a Belle Vernon program that has risen to new heights and he leaves behind a legacy of winning for those coming back next year to live up to—and some massive shoes to fill at QB.
Coach Of The Year Note:
Conventional wisdom would say give any of the coaches who won the state title this award—but I don’t always like to go that route—They had to create and implement fantastic gameplans week in, week out to get the talent they had to play for them, but I look at the coach of the year through two lenses, so we’ll name two coaches of the year. First, will be from the State Title Winners; Second will be an “unsung” coach of the year—Someone who’s program overachieved or crashed a party.
Coach Of The Year: Bob Palko, Mt Lebanon
Lebo was a middling program when Palko arrived. He instilled his toughness, commitment into the program and took them to the top of the mountain. He had a very talented team and he was able to gameplan, somehow, so well, that each playoff blowout got more impressive. Don’t be fooled by that State College score—The Little Lions kept their starters in long after Palko pulled his.
The statement over St. Joe’s Prep was the final feather in the cap for a senior class that spent years building to this—and his masterful game planning was evident throughout. He knew when to put the pedal to the gas, when to ease up and just when St Joe’s thought they were in it, he handed the keys of the bus to Tecza in the fourth quarter to bring the trophy home.
Runner Up- Mike Warfield, Aliquippa
Much has been made of the ‘Quips, being a Class A school playing up to Class 4A, with a bump to 5A on the horizon—but football runs deep in this Western Pennsylvania city.
While Aliquippa has hemorrhaged more than half of its population from the heyday of Jones&Loughlin Steel and other major industries in the community, such as the railroad—it has retained its grit and its pride in the football team.
From a young age, future ‘Quips watch and learn to be prepared for the heavy expectations awaiting them as teenagers. It’s a lot of pressure to manage for a senior, much less a heralded freshman like Tiquai Hayes…but Warfield helped keep composure for the team throughout the year.
He continued on a legacy of excellence that goes back nearly a century through those who came before him on the sidelines—Zmijanac, Yannessa and others.
He took his team to the top of the pile in 4A and should they go up officially, I expect them to dominate 5A, because, well, they’re Aliquippa and that’s what they do.
Take on all comers.
Unsung Hero Coach Of The Year: Jerry Haslett, Allderdice
Allderdice finished the season just 4-6, which probably leaves readers scratching their heads right now…However, Haslett’s carefully constructed “death march” outside of the City League had his team prepped for the playoffs. The reason he gets this nod, however, is not because they played Steubenville(OH), North Allegheny, Altoona and had a game at Oak Glen(WV) get postponed.
It’s because Haslett spent the entire season quietly working on a secondary offense at practice. Not once during the regular season did he show his hand. Not once did he hint that he had a secondary plan. He let sophomore QB Azerick Jetter play out entire games, do his “learning on the job” and get the reps that will benefit him the next two seasons. Did it bring some hiccups? Sure. However, it was all part of the master plan from the mad scientist of City League football.
When the playoffs came around, he revealed his new offense—Jetter was on the sidelines and it was junior wide receiver Jaerone Parker and senior Noah Johnston taking snaps from the quarterback position and carrying the ball out of a wildcat-esque formation. He leaned in on those two, but also got quality touches out of sophomore Terrell James, junior Eugene Hall, as well as senior Robert Brown.
It kept the ball away from the vaunted offense of Westinghouse, it cut Brashear down to size and it kept them competitive with Erie McDowell in the state tournament.
Haslett, no stranger to taking on tough competition, alluded to yet another difficult non-conference slate next year.
With Jetter, Parker, James, Hall and nearly all major contributors on both sides of the ball back, we can only assume that the Dragons staff will have another secondary offense prepared for next season…and Jerry will be in the mix for this award yet again.
Pittsburgh City League Awards
We spent much of our time this year covering the Pittsburgh City League with live broadcasts. As such, we would also like to recognize the Public League’s best for 2021.
Player Of The Year: Keyshawn Morsillo, QB, Westinghouse
Westinghouse had a number of weapons on the roster, but without Morsillo, who I would argue was the best QB at any school inside the City of Pittsburgh(That includes Central Catholic), the offense just doesn’t run as smoothly. His ability to find small spaces to complete passes and also use his legs when needed separated him from the pack as the top offensive threat in the City this year.
His finest performance came in the 35-34 win over Windber in the subregional final. In that game, he accounted for nearly 350 yards of offense(248 passing, 99 rushing, with 4 rushing TDs).
He finished the season with 1,511 yds passing and 17 TDs as well as 868 yds rushing and 16 TDs.
He’ll be back for an encore performance in 2022.
Coach Of the Year: Donta Green, Westinghouse
Jerry Haslett has been given the unsung honor, so that takes him out of the running for our City League coach of the year spot, which, theoretically, he should win as well—but we’ll spread the love around.
Green has brought Westinghouse to the top of the City League and has created a culture of winning where not only does the team expect to win in the City, they expect to win statement games outside the City League as well—They did so in 2021, with victories over Butler, who is a recovering program that had a solid season playing in D10; and Union Local of Ohio. Unfortunately, the marquee game for them against Kirtland(OH), was cancelled due to ‘Rona issues.
With the bulk of the offense back for 2022, including Keyshawn Morsillo, expect Green to rack up more victories and be in contention for this award next season.
Team of The Year: Allderdice and Westinghouse
Again, folks may scratch their heads and say, “How the hell can they hand out Team of The Year to a program with a losing record?”
Westinghouse had the best record and theoretically should be Choice A, coupled with the post season run. They have to be at the table and at the front of the conversation. Electric offense, big defense and played well outside the City.
Allderdice won the City League playoff, played the toughest slate and were in the McDowell game. They deserve a seat at the table as well.
Runner Up: University Prep and Brashear
University had two games cancelled(Brashear and Farrell) and join this party because they played Westinghouse to a one score game, beat DuBois in the subregional and took Juniata High to within one yard in the subregional final. They would likely fall in the honorable mention category. Disregard the losing record—They’re so young. This team will make noise next year. Coach Berry and his staff should be very excited.
Brashear also had two games cancelled and played a tough schedule. They took on Saint Vincent Pallotti of Maryland, McDowell, Erie High and had a game with Uniontown postponed.
They battled valiantly while undermanned due to a rash of injuries to their key offensive weapons, including the best player in the city, Tamere Robinson. Coach Andrew Moore and his staff kept getting creative, even as injuries piled up.
We are handing out runner up awards to the four city league teams who performed best week in, week out and represented the City so well in the playoffs.
There will be continued off season coverage of Pittsburgh City League football in the coming weeks.
Our Final Power Ranking
1.) Mt. Lebanon
2.) Penn Trafford
3.) Central Valley
5.) Serra Catholic
We reward the teams who made it to Hershey by placing them all in the Top 5.
Three Rivers Broadcasting would like to express thanks to the following businesses for their support of the High School Football season as promotional partners:
-Quick Drip IV
-Polish Falcons of America
-Carnegie Iron Werks
-Steel City Grease Traps
-The Guard Market
-Mother of Mercy Academy
-GymRat Performance Training
-Pennsylvania Football News
Additionally, please visit Pennsylvania Football News, our fantastic coverage partner at their website: www.pafootballnews.com for year round coverage of HS football in the Commonwealth and follow them on Twitter @pafootballnews