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Tribune-Review Terrific 25: Ligonier Valley's Collin Smith named Player of the Year

| Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, 8:03 p.m.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Ligonier Valley quarterback Collin Smith, poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Ligonier Valley quarterback Collin Smith, poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
Ligonier Valley's Jacob Neiderhiser becomes emotional while gathered with his team following their 31-27 loss to Southern Columbia in their PIAA 2A semifinal game at Bald Eagle Area High School on Friday Dec. 2, 2016, in Wingate.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Ligonier Valley's Aaron Tutino (6) goes 28 yards following a pass reception before being stopped by Bishop McCort's Carnell Andrews (5) during the third quarter of the PIAA District 6 Class AA championship game on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, at Mansion Park in Altoona. Ligonier Valley won 35-7.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Ligonier Valley running back Jackson Daugherty (12) picks up 5 yards and a first down against Cambria Heights during a District 6 Class AA playoff game on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, at Weller Field in Ligonier. Ligonier Valley won 37-0
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Ligonier Valley inside linebacker Elijah Parrish (59) reacts after making a stop for a loss on third down during the first quarter against Bishop McCort in the PIAA District 6 Class AA championship game Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, at Mansion Park in Altoona. Ligonier Valley leads 21-0 at halftime.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Jeannette quarterback Gio Vonne Sanders eludes Rochester's Darius Goosby during their WPIAL Class A semifinal Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, at Fox Chapel.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Springdale fullback Ben Sowinski (23) is stopped by Jeannette's Eric Hall (55) after a 1 yard gain during the first quarter of a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal game on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, at Franklin Regional Stadium in Murrysville. Jeannette won 69-21.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Jeannette running back Kareem Hall (7) breaks free for first-down yardage during the first quarter against Greensburg Central Catholic on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in Carbon. Jeannette won 56-0.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Clairton's Lamont Wade scores his third touchdown past Jeannette's Mark Wormack during the fourth quarter of the WPIAL Class A championship game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, at Robert Morris University.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Derry’s Tyler Balega rushes against Central Valley during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 at Derry. Derry won 33-20.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Derry’s Noah Wiencek celebrates his sack with Derry’s Dominic DeLuca against South Park on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 during a football game at Derry Area High School.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Derry’s Owen Whitacre rushes for a touchdown against Central Valley during the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 at Derry. Derry won 33-20.
Derry’s Dom DeLuca tackles Elizabeth Forward running back Brian Malloy during the first quarter of their WPIAL contest at Trojan Stadium on Friday, Sept. 02, 2016, in Derry. Derry defeated Elizabeth Forward 27-15.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Mt. Pleasant quarterback Johnny Yester breaks away from South Park defenders to score on a 10-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, at Viking Stadium in Mt. Pleasant. Mt. Pleasant defeated South Park, 24-7.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Mt. Pleasant defensive lineman Kurt Aumer tries to pull in a fumble by South Park's Jordan Kmonk in the second quarter at Viking Stadium on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Mt. Pleasant. Mt. Pleasant defeated South Park 24-7.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Hempfield running back Jordan Kempka (left) follows Bussy Remaley's (71) blocking on North Allegheny's Joshua Lugg (right) for a short gain during the first half on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, at Hempfield.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Hempfield quarterback Justin Sliwoski (11) completes a pass to Nick Diandreth for a first down during the second half against North Allegheny on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, at Hempfield. North Allegheny won 42-7.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield defensive back Traynor Granatire tries to hold onto Greensburg Salem running back Teegan Hahn on a run during the first quarter of their WPIAL season-opening contest at Offutt Field on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Greensburg.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Penn Trafford’s Brendan Kelly reacts after his team beat Woodland Hills during a football game in Harrison City on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. Penn-Trafford won 26-7.
Lillian DeDomenic | for the Tribune-Review
Norwin receiver Anthony DelleFemine eludes Shaler defenders during a game on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, at Norwin Stadium.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Kiski Area's Ross Greece (2) is brought down for a loss by Franklin Regional's Bryce Lauer (71) on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Murrysville.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional tight end Bennett Verona (15) catches a pass from quarterback Simon Behr and goes seventy-five yards for the touchdown versus Kiski Area on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Murrysville.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Yough's Dustin Shoaf during the Westmoreland County Coaches Association 7 on 7 Football Tournament at Mt. Pleasant High School's Viking Stadium on Thursday July 21, 2016, in Mt. Pleasant.
Barry Reeger | Trib Total Media
Greensburg Central Catholic's Jassan Eubank (6) breaks a tackle attempt by Jeannette's Gio Vonne Sanders on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, at GCC.
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Penn-Trafford's Logan Hawkins (66) celebrates as time expires against Pine-Richland during the WPIAL Class AAAA football semifinal on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, at Penn Hills High School. Penn-Trafford won 38-34.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Derry's Hunter Edminston reacts after a tackle against Central Valley during a WPIAL 3A playoff game on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 at Derry. Derry won 33-20.

As tradition goes, every time the Ligonier Valley football team won a football game this season, the team would celebrate by singing the song ‘Rocky Top.'

Collin Smith said that tradition was started before he was playing.

Now the senior will be celebrating to a new song the next four or five seasons at West Virginia University. The late John Denver's ‘Country Roads' is played before the game and after every Mountaineers victory.

And yes, Smith has already memorized the words.

“When you hear that song after a game, you get butterflies,” said Smith, a quarterback/safety. “It's so unbelievable.”

That also can describe the season Smith and his Ligonier Valley teammates had. The Rams went 14-1, won the Heritage Conference title, the Appalachian Bowl, their first District 6-AA title and were one win away from playing in the PIAA championship game for the first time.

Smith completed 163 of 274 passes for 3,011 yards and 42 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,013 yards and 22 touchdowns and played injured throughout the playoffs. On defense, he had 74 tackles, two interceptions and forced two fumbles.

Smith was named first-team all-state at quarterback after being a first-team safety in 2015.

For his efforts, he is the Tribune-Review Football Player of the Year.

Looking back, what can you say about this historic season?

It was awesome. It came with preparation. We all worked really hard for the accomplishments we made. Going 14-1 was an awesome season, and it was great for us and the community.

What did it mean to see the district communities united?

It was neat. There were signs hanging from Seward to Stahlstown and the fire truck parades. The fans were supportive, and every game became a home game in the playoffs. Without them, I don't think we would have gone as we did. When we were driving to games, fans would be on the street corners yelling and screaming “Go LV.”

What do you think about the performance of your teammates?

I couldn't have done it by myself. The receivers were unbelievable. They went up and caught balls that I didn't think were catchable. One area that didn't get the proper credit was the offensive line; they gave me all the time in the world to throw. They really improved throughout the season.

Do you have a funny story about (senior linebacker) Elijah Parrish?

Probably the funniest thing I'll always remember was his junior season. I was out with an ankle injury and our trainer was yelling at Eli and he didn't know why. Eli's nose was broken in half, and blood was all over his face. I said “you all right?,” and Eli said “I've never been better” and he ran back on the field. He wasn't coming off the field.

What made Parrish a good defensive leader?

He made hard plays look so easy. He could do anything as a linebacker. Eli was a scary dude. When he hit you, you knew you got hit by Elijah Parrish. He was an unbelievable player.

What did it take for the defense to post seven shutouts?

Our defensive backs were ball hawks, the D-line and linebackers were awesome. The entire team liked to hit.

Was there any game that stands out?

Winning the District 6 championship because we had never won one in school history. (He was 21 of 26 for 293 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for three TDs). It was cool to accomplish that.

Who is the person you looked up to the most?

My dad (Greg). He played at Marshall, and if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be the player that I am today. He was my role model.

If there was one person you could have dinner with, who would it be?

That's a tough one. Harrison Smith, Minnesota safety, that would be cool. I watched him when he played at Notre Dame. He's my favorite player. We'd talk about how he plays.

What was your pregame meal?

I'd get a Philly steak and cheese from Subway for away games. Home games, I'd eat pizza with the coaches.

What's your favorite meal that your mom cooks?

You can't beat steak and potatoes.

What drew you to West Virginia?

I felt most comfortable at WVU. They gave me an opportunity to play. I love their tradition. My biggest thing about recruiting is go where I felt most comfortable. I had a good relationship with the coaching staff.

What do you think about the Big 12 Conference?

I love the schedule. It's going to be tough: Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Good competition, and I can't wait to get started.

What type of music do you like?

You can catch me listening to Taylor Swift. I'll listen to pretty much anything. I like 21 Pilots. It depends on the mood. I like metal before a football game.

What is something you do that would surprise your friends?

I'm an avid comic book reader. I have a really big collection. I like Captain America.

What was the last movie you watched?

“Star Wars, Rogue One.” It was awesome.

What does it mean to be a Ram?

Everything. The program is unbelievable. I don't think I would have been able to accomplish what I did if I wasn't here at Ligonier. I'm so grateful.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

Football all-stars

Kurt Aumer DL

Mt. Pleasant, sr., 6-3, 260

This Monmouth recruit and team leader had 44 tackles, 18 for loss, and two quarterback sacks.

Tyler balega RB/S

Derry, sr., 5-11, 175

Balega, an all-state pick, rushed for 1,726 yards and 27 TDs and caught 14 passes for 184 yards.

Jackson Daugherty WR/S

Ligonier Valley, jr., 6-3, 180

He missed half of the season with a finger injury but had 44 catches for 743 yards and nine TDs.

Anthony DelleFemine WR/DB

Norwin, sr., 6-2, 170

He had 41 catches for 816 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had two interceptions and a score.

Hunter Edminston DT

Derry, sr., 6-0, 200

He was a force up front, allowing Noah Wiencek, Owen Whitacre and Dom Deluca to wreck havoc.

Jassan Eubank TE/LB

Greensburg C.C., sr., 6-3, 225

The two-way starter had 23 catches for 265 yards, made 101 tackles, 22 for loss, and forced four fumbles.

Teegan Hahn RB/LB

Greensburg Salem, sr., 6-0, 195

Hahn had 71 tackles, seven forced fumbles and two sacks. He also rushed for 545 yards and five TDs.

Eric Hall C/LB

Jeannette, sr., 6-0, 215

Hall was a dominating offensive lineman who also was one of the team's top tacklers.

Kareem Hall RB/LB

Jeannette, sr., 5-9, 190

The senior ran for 1,089 yards and caught 17 passes for 276 yards, scoring 21 touchdowns.

Logan Hawkins DL

Penn-Trafford, sr., 6-2, 270

This two-way starter had 43 tackles, eight quarterback sacks and five tackles for loss.

Brendan Kelly LB/TE

Penn-Trafford, sr., 6-0, 220

He led P-T with 81 tackles, and had three sacks, four tackles for loss and 13 catches for 181 yards.

Bryce Lauer LB

Franklin Regional, jr., 6-3, 245

The hard-hitting linebacker made 139 tackles, including 100 solo stops and 16 tackles for loss.

Jake Neiderhiser OT/DT

Ligonier Valley, sr., 6-2, 295

He helped anchor the lines for the Rams and was a big reason for the team's first District 6 title.

Elijah Parrish G/LB

Ligonier Valley, sr., 5-9, 206

Parrish led the defense, which posted seven shutouts, with 160 tackles and 16 tackles for loss.

Bussy Remaley C

Hempfield, sr., 6-3, 270

The Robert Morris recruit was an offensive leader who helped Hempfield average 24.2 points.

Gio Vonne Sanders QB/LB

Jeannette, sr., 5-11, 175

Sanders threw for 1,570 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 563 yards and 12 scores.

Dustin Shoaf RB

Yough, so., 6-2, 180

The Cougars sophomore rushed for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns and also made 61 tackles.

Justin Sliwoski QB

Hempfield, jr., 6-2, 190

He completed 149 of 269 passes for 1,954 yards and 19 TDs and rushed for 578 yards and nine TDs.

Aaron Tutino WR/DB

Ligonier Valley, so., 5-11, 160

The all-state WR had 55 catches for 1,183 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also was a return specialist.

Bennett Verona TE/LB

Franklin Regional, sr., 6-2, 220

This two-way starter finished with 85 tackles, 63 solo, and was a key blocker in the FR running game.

Owen Whitacre HB/OLB

Derry, sr., 5-11, 195

Whitacre had 60 tackles and 11 quarterback sacks and also scored four touchdowns for the Trojans.

Noah Wiencek RB/DL

Derry, sr., 6-2, 240

Mr. Sack had 14 quarterback sacks and 56 tackles for the Trojans' defense. He scored for six TDs.

Mark Wormack TE/LB

Jeannette, sr., 6-1, 215

He had 13 catches for 189 yards and three TDs before moving to tackle; also one of the top tacklers.

Johnny Yester QB

Mt. Pleasant, sr., 6-1, 165

He set Mt. Pleasant passing records, completing 64 of 105 passes for 1,433 yards and 19 TDs.

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