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Four Golden Eagles earn First Team Big 8 Selections at Big 8 Conference Banquet

The Big 8 Conference held its 30th Annual Banquet and Awards Presentation on Wednesday night. The ceremony and meal was held at the Smithfield Fire Hall where the ladies of the Fire Company furnished the football players, coaches and guests with a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
Doug Dyke served as master of ceremonies and invocation was delivered by Gawan Stoker.
The All-Star selections were announced with Honorable Mentions standing at their seats and receiving an ovation from the crowd. Second Team All-Stars received certificates and First team honorees were awarded plaques.
Prior to the presentation of 2002 Conference honors, past champions were honored with plaques going to Indian Valley for the winner 20 years ago. John Monsell, coach of the 1982 Chief Logan squad accepted for the Mingos who are now part of the Indian Valley jointure. Gawen Stoker, present head coach at Indian Valley, received the award for the Big 8 champ 10 years ago, when Stoker was the head coach of Bald Eagle Area, the 1992 Big 8 champion.
Recognition was also given to past-Big 8 players, who are presently pursuing an education and playing football at the college level. A total of 29 athletes were honored, including Tyrone graduates Albert Hammers and Josh Taylor at St. Francis and Doug Roseberry at Pitt.
The 2002 Big 8 First Team All-Stars were predominately seniors with 20 of the 29 picks on offense and defense coming from the senior class. There were nine juniors and no sophomores or freshmen selected. There were six juniors and a sophomore chosen for the Second Teams to go with 22 seniors and there were three freshmen, one sophomore, 14 juniors and 24 seniors on the Honorable Mention list. Bellefonte ninth grader Mike Mundy took two of those three freshmen spots, picked as Honorable Mention on both offense and defense,
Aaron Jeffries, a Tyrone senior, was one of only three players selected on both the First Team offense and defense and was the only Golden Eagle chosen to the First Team Big 8 Defensive Team. Jeffries was named to the First Team defense in the defensive secondary and on offense as a wide receiver. On offense, Aaron was one of just three players who were unanimous selections.
“Aaron is one of the best receivers I’ve ever coached,” said Tyrone head coach John Franco. “He ranks right up there and I’ve had good fortunes to coach some All-State receivers at Altoona and Bishop Guilfoyle and at Tyrone. I’ve had some great receivers and Aaron is as good if not better than the best. He deserves all the honors and is an outstanding football player.”
On offense, Jeffries was joined by teammates Blake Cowfer at guard and Tyler Mertiff at quarterback. Cowfer was an Honorable Mention in 2001.
Jeffries has 43 catches currently for 778 yards and nine TDs. Aaron needs just 32 yards receiving to eclipse the Tyrone record of 810 yards by Steve Johnson in 1999, which was set in 15 games.
“Again, I’ve had the experience of coaching some great quarterbacks,” said Franco, “and Tyler is up there among the best. He has had an outstanding career at Tyrone, not just as a quarterback, but as a defensive back, receiver, you name it. He is also the last remaining player from our state championship team that is still on the team. He has been here forever and we greatly appreciate his efforts.”
Tyler Mertiff, who has thrown for a Tyrone-record 1,457 yards with 12 TD passes this season, completing 57 per cent of his passes and moves up from a Second Team pick at quarterback last year and was a First Team selection at defensive back in 2001.
Joining Jeffries, Mertiff and Cowfer on the First Team Offense are Seth Napikoski of Lewistown at center, Tristan Lawson of Lewistown and Jake Hall of Huntingdon at guard, Dmetri Patitsas of Huntingdon and Tyler Peck of Indian Valley at tackle and Eli Halterman of Bald Eagle Area at tight end. Coby Huff of Lewistown is at wide receiver, and Jon Riley and Damien Gresko of Huntingdon, Derek Weaver of Indian Valley and Adam White of Philipsburg-Osceola are the running backs. Geoff Kozak of Huntingdon was the place-kicker.
The First Team Defense includes Taylor Van Buskirk of Huntingdon and Joe Stewart of Lewistown at the ends, Matt Hepfer of Bellefonte, Josh Mills of Huntingdon and Mike Rose of Lewistown on the defensive line, Damien Gresko of Huntingdon, Matt Catherman of Bellefonte and Matt Fetzer of Indian Valley at linebacker and Jeffries, J. B. Baker of Lewistown, Brad Clark of Huntingdon and Ryan Smeltzer in the secondary. Stephan Keefer of Indian Valley was the punter and Jon Riley of Huntingdon was chosen o special teams.
Brian McManigal on the line, Dan Grazier at linebacker, Tyler Mertiff in the secondary and Josh Good on special teams made the Big 8 Conference Second Team on defense, while Good also made Honorable Mention as a defensive end along with Blake Cowfer and Boyd Taylor on the defensive line, and Ryan Clark in the defensive secondary.
On offense Brian McManigal was Honorable Mention at center, Dan Grazier at tight end and Ryan Clark at wide receiver. There were no Eagles nominated to the Second Team Offense.
“These kids have all come a long way from their sophomore years,” said coach Franco. “This year in particular, each and every one of the kids really deserved the honors. I am really happy for them. I think any time an individual gets an honor in football, that’s an honor for the team. We are going to miss all these guys, this year’s seniors are going to highly missed by all of us.”
The other two-way First Team picks were Jon Riley, special teams on defense and running back on offense and Damien Gresko, running back on offense and linebacker on defense. Riley, a senior, and Gresko, a junior are both from Huntingdon. Both Riley (running back) and Gresko (offensive tackle) are repeats on the First Team Offense last year.
Tyrone and Indian Valley were announced as Co-Junior High champions. For the Golden Eagle junior high team, this is their second straight title, winning the inaugural Big 8 Junior High championship last year.