Friday, September 25, 2009
Top 10 football players (Sept. 1999 to present)
Blogger's note: This is the third installment of the 10th anniversary series. It covers the top 10 football players and it was, by far, the most difficult to judge. There are WPIAL record setters and big-time Division I players who did not make this list.
10. Jim Gallagher, Peters Township
Gallagher was so good at baseball, most people forget he remains one of the most heavily recruited quarterbacks from Washington County the past 15 years. An excellent passer, Gallagher could hit the deep receiver, complete the touch pass or rifle it into traffic. His best attributes were his feet and his knowledge of the game.
9. Doug Rheam, Canon-McMillan
The perfect fit for the Big Macs' offense, Rheam was a quarterback who could outrun defenders, run them over and pass with surprising accuracy. As a linebacker, he was one of the WPIAL's best and, thanks to his stellar senior year, the O-R quit naming an Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year because he was both.
8. Ernest "Mick" Williams, Monessen
A dominating nose tackle at Pitt, Williams was a fullback and linebacker for the Greyhounds and one of the best small-school players in recent memory. Delivered the biggest hit I've ever witnessed at a high school game when, on the final play at Carmichaels, he leveled the Mikes running back near the sideline. Still can't get the sound of that impact from my memory.
7. Travis Thomas, Washington
Thomas graduated Washington as the No. 3 rusher in school history, heady company for the future Notre Dame special teams captain. A rare combination of size, speed and power, Thomas could break a 90-yard run as easily as he could grind out three yards on fourth-and-1. He was also an outstanding linebacker.
6. Andrew Sweat, Trinity
A four-year starter (his freshman year was at safety), Sweat emerged during Trinity's 2005 WPIAL Class AAAA playoff run. His quarterfinal performance against Mt. Lebanon and a game at West Mifflin during his junior year go down in Hillers history. Sweat might be the surest tackler to hit Washington County in decades.
5. Lanfer Simpson, Waynesburg
Simpson's junior year was every bit as good as Sweat's junior year at Trinity. The bruising fullback rushed for 1,000 yards or more in three straight season to finish with 4,010 in his career. As a linebacker, he's one of the best in school history plus he played in two WPIAL Class AA championships, winning one.
4. Lee Fritz, Waynesburg
Fritz was never much of a talker, he let his play do everything for him and, to this date, I've yet to cover an athlete at the high school level who found as many ways to win as he did. Fritz could do everything on the football field and, until recently, was the only quarterback in WPIAL history to run and throw for 1,000 yards in the same season. The scary thing is he was a better defensive back.
3. Bobby Hathaway, Carmichaels
Watching Hathaway punish opponents during his playing days with the Mikes could be frightening. In every game and versus every opponent, he was clearly the best player on the football field. A dominating runner, Hathaway could run at fullback or tailback with equal success. At linebacker, few players every finished a tackle as thoroughly as the leading scorer in Carmichaels history.
2. Mike Hull, Canon-McMillan
Who knows? By the end of his senior year, Hull could top this list. He's that good. A starter since his freshman year, Hull adds a dimension of game-breaking speed to the fullback position and he's nearing 3,000 rushing yards for his career. At middle linebacker, Hull has no peers. That's why many believe he'll be the next great one at Penn State.
1. Dan Mozes, Washington
When Wash High needed one-yard for a touchdown on a fourth-and-1 in the 2001 PIAA Class AA championship, the play call was the run behind Dan Mozes. And J.R. Ward found a huge hole to go through as the Prexies went on to win. An All-American center at West Virginia (he even appeared in Playboy), Mozes was the most dominant defensive lineman this area has seen in some time. That's why he was the 2001 Defensive Player of the Year.
He's also the best high school football player this area has had the past decade.
Honorable mention (all these players were considered for the Top 10)
Perry Ivery (Fort Cherry), Mike Vernillo (Fort Cherry), Robert Heller (Rinngold), Mike Yancich (Trinity), Ben Jennings (Trinity), Donte Valentino (California), Mike Sutton (Washington), Andrew DiDonato (South Fayette), Marques Parks (South Fayette),Cody Endres (Trinity), Doug Fife (Peters Township), J.J. Knabb (Peters Township), Dan Conley (Burgettstown), Rocky Doman (Carmichaels)