DuBOIS — The last decade of high school football in the Tri-County Area will largely be remembered more for the wealth of standout players to hit the field than the success area teams had in the 2010s — particularly at the state level.
That’s not to say there wasn’t success at the district level, with the likes of Clearfield, Ridgway and Clarion dominating the decade.
Clearfield opened the decade by winning six straight District 9 Class 3A titles (2010-15), reaching the state quarterfinals in 2010 and 2013. The Bison added a seventh district title (District 6/9 Class 4A) in 2018. Ridgway closed out the 2010s with four straight D-9 titles — two each in Class A and 2A.
In between, Clarion won a pair of D-9 crowns in Class A in 2013 and Class 2A in 2017. The Bobcats’ 2013 squad made a magical run all the way to the state semifinals.
The only other local D-9 champs in the decade both came in 2010 when Curwensville won the Class A crown and Brockway the 2A title. The Rovers were the fourth area squad to reach at least the state quarterfinals in the decade.
Individually, there was no better all-around player in the 2010s than Clearfield standout Christian Lezzer (2010-13), who garnered TCS/CE Player of the Decade honors after leading the Bison through one of the best four-year stretches in school history.
Lezzer started primarily on defense as a freshman, then made an impact on offense at receiver as a sophomore before moving to quarterback his final two seasons. He was part of four straight D-9 Class 4A title squads that went a combined 48-5 during his career. Clearfield reached the state quarterfinals his freshman and senior seasons.
The Bison captured back-to-back TCS/CE Player of the Year awards as a junior and senior and joined former Bison QB Jarrin Campman (2007-08) as two of the five players to ever take home the honor twice since the award’s inception in 1995.
Lezzer was a true dual threat at quarterback, going over 1,000 yards passing and rushing as a junior.
Lezzer finished his standout career with 586 carries for 4,269 yards and 66 touchdowns on the ground and 26 catches for 529 yards and five scores. Through the air, he completed 87 of 180 passes for 2,112 yards with 27 TDs and 15 interceptions.
The Bison scored 73 touchdowns overall in his career and played a part in 100 when you factor in his TD passes. He had 448 points in his career.
Lezzer’s impact on defense was just as big as it was on offense. He was a hybrid player used in all three levels of the defense during his career depending on the game situation. He made 190 tackles, including 23.5 sacks, to go along with four interceptions, 19 passes defensed and nine fumble recoveries.
Here is a rest of the TCS/CE All-Decade Team for the 2010s.
Quarterback: Isaac Rumery, Clearfield (2015-2018) — Rumery, a three-year starter for the Bison, earned Class 4A All-State honors as a junior and senior while leading the Bison to District 6/9 Class 4A title in his final season. Clearfield went undefeated in the regular season that year.
Rumery posted three of the Top 5 individual passing seasons in Clearfield history, throwing for a career-best 2,643 yards and 33 touchdowns as a junior. Those marks each rank second in school history to only Chad Kroell’s historic 1994 season.
He fell just shy of that yardage mark as a junior (2,532) and threw just five interceptions in 176 pass attempts.
Rumery ended his career as Clearfield’s all-time leader in passing yards (7,006) — breaking Kroell’s mark of 6,088 yards set in 1994. He also ranks second to Kroell in school history in completions (373), attempts (613) and touchdown passes (77 to Kroell’s 79).
The Bison also ran for 1,595 yards and 27 touchdowns in his career.
Quarterback: Gabe French, DuBois (2011-2014) — French, a three-year starter who saw limited action as a freshman, thrived in the fast-paced, high-flying offensive attack run by then head coach Frank Varischetti.
French saw his numbers increase significantly each saw, culminating in a record-setting senior year that saw him garner Class 4A All-State honors while leading DuBois to an 8-3 record. He completed 205 of 294 passes (70%) for 3,571 yards that year with 41 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. The Beaver set school single-season marks for completions, yards and TD passes.
French ended his career as DuBois’ all-time leader in completions (510), passing yards (7.940) and TD passes (87). He threw 26 interceptions on 759 pass attempts and had a 67 percent completion percentage. He still owns the career TD mark.
Quarterback: Matt Miller, DuBois (2015-2017) — When Gabe French graduated, Miller stepped into the starting QB role as a sophomore. He missed the first game that season (2015) due to injury but started his varsity career with a bang in his first start — setting state and national single-game records at the time with 787 yards and 10 touchdowns in a 107-90 loss to Meadville.
Miller went on to complete 206 of 326 passes for a school single-season record 3,620 yards with 32 TDs and 11 interceptions that season. The Beaver finished his career completing 58 percent of his passes (518 of 894) for 8,048 yards, 70 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. He became just the second District 9 QB to go over 8,000 career yards, joining Port Allegany’s Matt Bodamer (10,948, 2012 grad) and Brockway’s Derek Buganza (9,752, 2010 grad). Buganza’s one year playing in the decade wasn’t enough to crack the All-Decade squad.
On top of that single-game mark, Miller still owns the school record for career completions and passing yards.
Running back: Nick Stewart, Curwensville (2014-2017) — Stewart, one in a long line of standout backs for the Golden Tide, put up numbers unmatched by other running back during his four-year varsity career.
Stewart, a two-time Class A All-State selection, ran for a career-best 2,030 yards as a junior and scored a career-high 27 rushing TDs as a senior.
He was the true definition of a workhorse back for the Tide, churning out 1,106 carries for a District 9 record 7,324 yards (7.2 avg.) while scoring 94 touchdowns in the ground. He also hauled in 46 catches for 576 and five scores.
Stewart scored 100 touchdowns overall and had 652 points in his career.
Running back: Alex Holland, Curwensville (2009-2011) — Holland was one of the best all-around players in the area and District 9 in the early part of the decade.
He, a three-year starter at running back and linebacker, was a two-time Class A All-State selection at running back. Holland was named the 2010 TCS/CE Player of the Year after setting a then D-9 single-season record with 2,600 rushing yards to go along with 29 touchdowns while leading Curwensville to a D-9 Class A title.
Holland, who had two 2,300-yard plus season, finished his standout career with 793 carries for 5,754 yards and 64 TDs. He finished with 476 career points. He still holds the D-9 single-game rushing record with 419 yards in a win at Kane in 2010.
Defensively, he made 254 tackles with 3.5 sacks, 12 caused fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and one interception.
Running back: Austin Newcomb, Clarion-Limestone/Clarion (2016-2019) — Newcomb was a late bloomer when compared to some of the other running backs to come through the area last decade. But once it all clicked for Newcomb, who put up some huge numbers in his final two seasons — which were split between Clarion-Limestone and Clarion Area once the rivals merged as part of a co-op this past season.
After running for 357 yards as a sophomore, Newcomb put together a historic season in what proved be the final year of football at C-L. He captured TCS/CE Player of the Year honors after breaking Holland’s District 9 single-season rushing record with 2,627 yards on 253 carries (10.4 avg.) while scoring 35 TDs on the ground. He added 572 yards and five TDs as a receiver and finished the season with 43 total touchdowns and 298 points.
Newcomb, who ran for just under 1,300 yards this past season, finished his career with for 421 carries for 4,230 yards and 67 TDs on the ground. He also had 55 catches for 1,260 yards and 17 scores. Newcomb found the end zone 77 times in his career, scoring 518 points.
Running back: Seth Caldwell, Clearfield (2013-2016) — Caldwell was a staple in the Bison backfield for four years during the middle portion of the decade, rushing for at least 800 yards all four years. He had a pair of 1,200 yard seasons, posting a career-best 1,345 as a junior.
Despite his small size (5-8, 160), Caldwell was a workhorse for the Bison and finished his career with 806 carries for 4,439 yards and 47 touchdowns. He also hauled in 22 catches for 254 yards and five more scores. Caldwell found the end zone 52 times in his career and scored 316 points.
He also made 155 tackles on defense and had four interceptions.
Offensive Line: Steven McClure, Curwensville — Like Munchak, McClure also was a two-time Class A All-State selection while paving the way for one of the school’s standouts. He played a vital role in Stewart becoming D-9’s all-time leading rusher.
McClure also was a main cog along the defensive line throughout his career, recording 205 career tackles. He posted 14.5 sacks, six caused fumbles and had seven fumble recoveries.
Offensive Line: Todd Munchak, Curwensville (2008-11) — A two-time Pennsylvania Sports Writers Class A All-State selection, Munchak was the anchor of the offensive lines that paved the way for Holland during his standout career. He was a junior on the Golden Tide’s 2010 D-9 Class A championship squad.
While he largely played on the offensive side of the ball, Munchak had 38 tackles along the defensive line as a senior.
Offensive Line: Quentin Bloom, Clearfield (2018-2019) — Bloom moved into the Clearfield Area School District prior to his junior year and promptly became a staple up front for the Bison, garnering Class 4A All-State honors both years he wore a Clearfield uniform.
He helped protect Rumery as a junior as the Bison went 12-1 and reached the state playoffs as the District 6/9 champs. The Bison went 9-3 this past season as Bloom ended his career blocking for new Clearfield signal caller Oliver Billotte, a sophomore.
Offensive Line: Ryan Pasternak, DuBois (2014-16) — Pasternak was a dominant force in the trenches throughout his career with the Beavers. He was a three-year starter on offense, providing protection for both French and Miller during their record-setting careers at QB for the Beavers.
He also was a starter on the defensive line his final two seasons, recording 176 career tackles — 92 his senior year. He also had 11 sacks, two caused fumbles, five fumble recoveries and one interception.
Offensive Line: Ben Smith, Clarion-Limestone/Clarion (2016-2019) — Smith was a standout on both sides of the ball during his three-year career at Clarion-Limestone then Clarion when the schools’ formed a co-op this past season.
He was a Class A All-State selection as a junior at C-L when he helped pave the way for Newcomb to set he D-9 single-season rushing record, then blocked for his teammate during their senior season in a Bobcat uniform.
Smith also was a force on defense, compiling 229 career tackles, with a career-high 77 this past season with he Bobcats. He had 11.5 sacks, five interceptions, four caused fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
Offensive Line: Alexander Burkhardt, Clarion (2012-15) — Burkhardt, who played in two games as a freshman, became a staple on the Bobcats offensive line his final three seasons. He played in eight games as a sophomore when Clarion reached the state semifinals, then went on to earn Class A All-State honors as a junior when teammate Ian Corbett ran for 2,000 yards.
Burkhardt helped pave the way for a pair of 1,800-yard rushers in his career in Corbett and Damien Slike.
Wide Receiver: Kyle Hopson, DuBois (2015-2017) — Hopson was the final record-setting receiver to come through Varischetti’s offense before playing for new coach Justin Marshall as a senior.
Hopson, who played alongside Miller, put together a monster junior season in 2016 — setting District 9 single-season records for catches (101) and yards (1,655) while hauling in 19 touchdowns. That impressive season earned him the TCS/CE Player of the Year Award, as well as Class 4A All-State honors.
Hopson, who also was an All-State selection as a senior, finished his standout career with school career records for receptions (199), receiving yards (3,174) and TD catches (31).
Wide Receiver: Bryan Dworek, Brookville (2016-2018) — Dworek, a two-time Class 2A All-State selection, was yet another skill position player to thrive in an offensive system led by Varischetti, who served as the Raiders offensive coordinator Dworek’s junior and senior seasons.
Dworek had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons his final two seasons — posting Brookville single-season records for catches (85), yards (1,406) and TD grabs (21) his junior year. He also set school single-game records for catches (17) and yards (322) and tied for the mark TD catches (5) his senior campaign.
Dworek finished his Raiders career with 179 catches, 2,881 yards and 33 TD catches. He added 254 yards rushing and two scores, finishing with 35 total touchdowns and 214 points. He also had 50 tackles and five interceptions on defense.
Wide Receiver: Dante Dawson, DuBois (2013-15) — Before Hopson came along, Dawson was the receiver who rewrote the Beavers’ record book when it came to receivers in Frank Varischetti’s high-flying offenses.
His best season came as a senior, when he earned Class 4A All-State honors under the Athlete tag after hauling in 79 catches for 1,326 yards and 12 TDs.
Dawson ended his career as DuBois’ all-time leader in catches (157), receiving yards (2,588) and tied for the most TD catches (29). His 1,326 yards was also the single-season mark. Hopson went on to smash all of those records.
Dawson wasn’t only an offensive weapon though, as he had 144 career tackles with five interceptions and three fumble recoveries. He finished with 32 total TDs, scoring three times on returns (1 each on an interception, punt and kickoff).
Wide Receiver: Cody Hearst, Clarion (2011-13) — Hearst was a key two-way player (receiver/DB) for the Bobcats in the early part of the decade and was a senior on the 2013 squad that put together a magical season. Clarion went 14-1 that season and won a D-9 Class A title on its way to reaching the state semifinals before falling to eventual state champ North Catholic. He had 63 catches for 1,285 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013 to go along with 68 tackles and three interceptions.
Hearst finished his career with 96 catches for 2,021 yards and 21 TDs. He also had 155 tackles and nine interceptions on defense.
Athlete: Anthony Benson, Brockway (2011-14) — Benson was a true dual-threat for the Rovers during his career and also a weapon in the return game.
He amassed 4,527 yards on offense — 1,993 rushing with 42 TDs and 2,534 receiving with 21 scores. Benson also made a major impact in the return game for the Rovers with several punt and kickoff returns for scores. He finished his career with a school record 68 touchdowns and scored 410 points.
Defensively, Benson had 107 tackles, four interceptions and a pair of sacks.
Placekicker: Phil Esposito, Brockway (2009-2012) — Esposito, a four-year starter for the Rovers, is among the most prolific kickers in District 9 history.
A Class 2A All-State selection as a junior and senior, Esposito finished his career with 264 kicking points. He kicked 225 extra points and went 174-for-178 his final three seasons during the decade. He also booted 13 field goals in his career
Defensive Line: Justin Kasmierski, Ridgway (2013-2016) — Kasmierski was a key player in the trenches on both sides of the ball for the Elkers and become a dominant force on the defensive side his final two seasons.
He garnered Class A All-State honors as defensive lineman as a senior in 2016 after recording 97 tackles, including 11 sacks, while intercepting a pass on the Elkers’ D-9 championship squad. He also was a main cog along the offensive line that season.
Kasmierski posted 106 tackles as a junior, including 3.5 sacks.
Defensive Line: Ian Corbett, Clarion (2013-15) — Corbett was a standout two-way player for the Bobcats in the first half of the decade. He was a three-year starter on defense, including as a junior on the 2013 D-9 Class A championship squad that went 14-1 and posted nine shutouts on defense while reaching the state semifinals before falling to eventual state champ North Catholic.
He made 90 tackles with a career-high 12 sacks and two fumble recoveries that season, while rushing for 1,247 yards and 20 TDs on offense.
Corbett finished his career with 213 tackles, including 26.5 sacks, with three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. He also ran for 3,660 yards and 58 touchdowns in his career to go along with 525 yards receiving and seven more scores. The Bobcat had 68 career TDs and scored 424 points.
Defensive Line: Morgan Murray, Brockway (2010-2012) — Murray, who started all three years he was on varsity, was a dominant force in the trenches on the defensive side for the Rovers. He made a huge splash as a sophomore on the 2010 D-9 Class 2A title squad that reached the state quarterfinals and kept on producing throughout his career.
Murray racked up 239 tackles, including 21.5 career sacks, and recovered five fumbles.
Defensive Line: Hunter Keith, Clearfield (2011-13) — Keith, who reached the varsity level as a sophomore, was a staple up front on both sides of the ball his final two seasons.
On offense, he helped protect and open holes for Player of the Decade Christian Lezzer. Defensively, he recorded 85 career tackles, including three sacks and was stout against the run on three D-9 Class 3A championship squads.
Defensive Line: Avery Francisco, Curwensville (2015-2018) — Francisco played at the varsity level all four years of his career and became a stalwart along the defensive line for the Golden Tide as a sophomore.
Francisco amassed 215 tackles in his career — 200 of which came over his final three seasons — with 10.5 sacks and six fumble recoveries. He also ran for 700 yards and eight TDs in his career and had 155 receiving yards and four scores.
Linebacker: Matt Collins, Clearfield (2014-2016) — Collins was a two-year starter who garnered Class 3A All-State honors each of those seasons. The Bison, who had 23 tackles as a sophomore, was a tackling machine during that two-year span as a starter.
Collins amassed 345 tackles with 3.5 sacks, four interceptions, four caused fumbles and two fumble recoveries during his two seasons as a starter.
Linebacker: T.J. Armstrong, Clarion (2009-2012) — A three-year starter who missed most of his sophomore season due to injury, Armstrong was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive said — especially his final two seasons when he earned back-to-back Class A All-State First Team honors at linebacker.
Armstrong racked up 346 tackles in his standout career, including 26 sacks (12 as a freshman), to go along with five caused fumbles, five fumble recoveries and six blocked kicks.
The Bobcat also ran 1,961 yards and 30 TDs in his career.
Linebacker: Evan Furlong, Ridgway (2016-2018) — Furlong was the face of the Elkers’ defense during most of its current run of four straight District 9 titles. He was a starter on the first three of those squads before graduating.
His best season came as a junior in 2017 when he garnered Class 2A All-State honors after racking up 186 tackles, including 2.5 sacks.
Furlong, who missed four games due to injury as a senior, posted 351 tackles in his three-year varsity career. He also had 7.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception while running for 544 yards and six touchdowns on offense as a fullback.
Linebacker: Damien Slike, Clarion (2010-2013) — Slike, who started three years on defense before taking over a larger role on offense his final two seasons, closed out his Bobcats career as a senior on Clarion’s 2013 state semifinal squad.
Slike put together his best season as part of the 2013 run. He racked up 103 tackles and three fumble recoveries on defense while rushing for a 1,896 yards and a school-record 37 touchdowns. He also had 361 yards receiving and five TDs.
The Bobcat finished his career with 288 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four interceptions, three caused fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He also ran for 3.092 yards and 50 touchdowns and had 742 yards receiving and 13 TDs. He had 65 total touchdowns in a Clarion uniform and scored 408 points.
Linebacker: Shane Marshall, DuBois (2010-2012) — Marshall was a staple at linebacker for the Beavers at the start of the decade and put together monster seasons as a junior and senior — posting a career-high 113 tackles as a junior in 2011.
He finished his career with 250 tackles and had seven sacks, three interceptions, three caused fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He also ran for 249 yards and scored seven TDs in limited action on offense.
Defensive Back: Spencer Miller, Clarion (2014-17) — A four-year starter on defense, Miller became one of the main leaders for the Bobcats late in his career as a two-way starter in the secondary and at quarterback.
He put together a monster senior year on both sides of the ball (quarterback/DB) in 2017, leading Clarion to a D-9 Class AA title and the state quarterfinals as part of a 12-1 season. He earned TCS/CE Player of the Year honors and was named a Class 2A All-State defensive back after recording 133 tackles, five interceptions and 13 passes defensed.
He racked up 282 career tackles, 14 interceptions and 17 passes defensed.
Offensively, Miller had a pair of 1,000-yard passing seasons as a starter, finishing with 2,123 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his career. He also ran for 959 yards and 14 scores.
Defensive Back: Ryan Lezzer, Clearfield (2013-2016) — A four year starter, Lezzer was a standout two-way player for the Bison through the middle of the decade.
Defensively, Lezzer recorded 148 tackles and had 16 career interceptions — recording at least three each season — with 23 passes defensed and three fumble recoveries. He also had 115 career catches for 2,130 yards and 23 TDs and ran for another 855 yards and 11 scores. He scored 224 career points (37 TDs, 1 2-point conversion).
Lezzer was a two-time Class 3A All-State pick — once at receiver and once as a defensive back.
Defensive Back: Neil MacDonald, Ridgway (2054-17) — A three-year starter on defense, MacDonald became the driving force as a two-way starter (DB/running back) behind the start of the Elkers’ current dynasty of four-straight District 9 championships.
MacDonald was part of Class A title squads as a junior and senior, earning All-State honors as a defensive back each of those seasons — posting 100-plus tackles and over 1,000 yards rushing both years.
The Elker racked up 371 tackles in three seasons out of the secondary to go along with seven interceptions, two caused fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He also ran 2,494 yards and 32 TDs and added 409 yards receiving and six more scores. MacDonald had 42 career touchdowns, three on punt returns,and scored 254 points.
Defensive Back: Brock Barrett, Redbank Valley (2014-17) — Barrett proved to be a key player in the secondary during his Bulldogs career, earning Class A All-State honors as a junior after a breakout campaign. He picked off nine passes and made 42 tackles that seasons.
Barrett finished his career with 101 tackles, 13 interceptions and a pair of caused fumbles. He also made an impact on offense where he hauled in 90 catches for 1,078 yards and 10 TDs to go along with 570 yards rushing and six more scores.
Defensive Back: Ben MacDonald, Ridgway (2012-2014) — MacDonald, a three-year starter on both sides of the ball, was a hard-hitting safety for the Elkers who earned Class A All-State honors in the secondary as a senior when made 114 tackles and picked off five passes.
MacDonald finished his career with 339 tackles from his safety position with nine interceptions. He also started at quarterback all three seasons, passing for 2,731 yards and 20 TDs and rushing for 1,876 yards and 38 touchdowns. The Elker scored 243 points in his career.
Punter: Jarrett Esposito, Brockway (2013-2016) — Esposito followed in the footsteps of older brother Phil and took over the kicking/punting duties for the Rovers following his graduation. Jarrett went on to be a four-year starter and two-time All-State pick as a kicker (Class 2A).
He averaged close to 34 yards a punt over his final three seasons and was at 35 yards a punt as a senior. He landed 24 punts inside the 20 in his career.
The Rover also finished his career with 231 kicking points. He made 183 of 198 extra points, with most of those misses coming his freshman year. Esposito also booted 16 field goals in his career, six of which were 37-plus yards. His career long was a 48-yarder.