ALLEGANY, N.Y. — As with most year-end banquets, it was a true celebration of everything that had come before it.
Fewer than 48 hours earlier, the Big 30 football season came to an official end with the ousting of both Coudersport and Ridgway from the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs.
And so, rather than a look-ahead, the 72nd annual Big 30 Football Testimonial Dinner, now a luncheon, provided an opportunity to reflect on all that the Big 30 accomplished in a collective bounce-back campaign this fall, primarily:
Seven (of 11) New York teams reaching the sectional semifinals, and one advancing to the title contest, by far the most in recent memory. A pair of Pennsylvania teams — the Elkers and Falcons — capturing district titles, Ridgway for the fourth-consecutive season and Coudy for the second-straight year.
Of course, it also served its intended purpose: to acknowledge the coaches and 30 players that made those teams great. And that’s what happened over a two-hour window inside The Hall at the former Allegany High School on Sunday.
Aside from the announcement of the 2019 Big 30 All-Star Football Team, a group dominated by players from Ridgway (5), Pioneer (4), Franklinville/Ellicottville (4) and Olean (4), the all-star committee handed out nine major awards before a crowd of about 150 players, parents, coaches and administrators.
And though Coudersport wasn’t quite as well-represented on the all-star squad, it was the most lauded in terms of overall hardware … and it was easy to see why.
The Falcons were the most dominant team in the Big 30, riding a spectacular run game and a stout defense to an unbeaten regular season — one of two local programs to achieve that distinction — 11-straight wins and a D-9 title before falling to Farrell in the PIAA Class A playoffs.
Along the way, they outscored opponents by an average margin of 46-4, posting six shutouts while scoring at least 42 points on eight occasions. As such, Coudy garnered the following:
Tom Storey received the Alfred Joe Bunnell-Rod Rohl Memorial Award as the Coach of the Year after being a finalist last season. He’s the first Coudy coach to earn that distinction since Paul Simcoe in 2005 and only the third Falcons boss to receive that honor, alongside Simcoe (‘05, ‘96) and Earl Brown (1978).
Storey, who has guided Coudersport to a mark of 25-11, two district titles and at least one playoff victory in all three of his seasons, was among a group of finalists that included Jason Marsh (Franklinville/Ellicottville), Jason Brooks (Portville) and Chris Dworek (St. Marys).
Additionally, senior Travis Gleason, who doubles as one of the key cogs in Coudy’s unstoppable ground game, was named the Defensive Player of the Year (Lou Foy Memorial Award) and the Falcons were named the Times Herald’s Small School Poll winner after running the table in the regular year.
F/E, the Big 30’s other unbeaten, which rode that mark to the No. 1 seed in the Section 6 Class D playoffs and the title contest at New Era Field before being knocked off by Clymer/Sherman/Panama, was also well-decorated Sunday.
Junior quarterback Logan Frank, in his first full season as the starter, collected the top player distinction, receiving the Gary Sage Memorial Award as the Player of the Year. Through the regular season, Frank rushed 100 times for 907 yards and 15 touchdowns while also completing 27-of-44 passes for 474 yards and another 11 scores in leading an F/E offense that averaged 38 points per game. He’s the first F/E player since the merger in 2014 to be named POY and the first from either school ever to earn the honor.
“He’s a very dynamic offensive player,” Marsh said of Frank, who won the award among six finalists, including Jayden Lassiter (Portville), Hayden Keck (Coudersport), Tra’e Hill (Pioneer), Jake Alcorn (Kane) and Paul Gresco (Ridgway). “He can do it all.”
Additionally, the Titans received a plaque as the OTH’s Large School Poll winner, edging fellow worthy candidates Ridgway, the D-9 Class AA champion, and Pioneer, which went 7-2 and reached the Section 6 Class B semifinals, for the accolade.
The other major award winner, naturally, came from one of the area’s other top programs: Ridgway’s Greg Simon was named the Lineman of the Year (E.B. Fitzpatrick-James Russell Memorial Award).
“Greg was the anchor that has allowed us to gain 3,884 yards,” Ridgway coach Mark Heindl said of Simon, before the Elkers began their playoff run. Simon is Ridgway’s first Lineman of the Year since Charlie Waldo in 1993.
A year after establishing them at the 2018 banquet, the Big 30 Athletic Fund, ran in conjunction with the all-star committee, announced the second winners of the 12th Man Award. This honor is given in the form of a plaque and a $500 scholarship to a senior from both New York and Pennsylvania “who has been part of a high school football program for four years and, while not necessarily the best player on the team, has displayed exceptional effort over his four-year career and been valuable to the program,” according to the criteria sent to the area’s 21 coaches.
This year’s Mike Abdo 12th Man Award winner (New York) was Rob Steele from Pioneer while the Joe Bizzaro 12th Man recipient (Pennsylvania) was Anthony Gerg from Elk County Catholic.
The last of the awards, handed out by one of the committee’s chairs, Jack Quigley, was the Big 30 Sportsmanship Award, named for Leon Abbott, which went to Wellsville.