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North Allegheny seniors look for winning sendoff

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
North Allegheny's Jeremy Gonzales (right) gives the 'three-peat' sign as the Tigers celebrate with the championship trophy after defeating Woodland Hills in the WPIAL Class AAAA final on Nov. 23 at Heinz Field. Gonzales grew up in the Deer Lakes School District.

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Playoff history The Tigers are in the PIAA final for the second time in three years, beating LaSalle College, 21-0, in 2010.

Coach In eight seasons at North Allegheny, Art Walker is 84-18 with three WPIAL Class AAAA championships and a PIAA crown.

Stat leaders Passing: Mack Leftwich, 159-248-3,132-43 TDs; Rushing: Alex DiCiantis, 21-1,170-13 TDs; Receiving: Gregg Garrity, 62-1,185-17 TDs.

Starting offense

QB 11 Mack Leftwich 5-11 190 Sr.

RB 22 Alex DiCiantis 5-11 200 Sr.

WR 82 Gregg Garrity 5-10 165 Sr.

WR 1 Brendan Coniker 6-0 180 Sr.

TE 44 Kevin Edwards 6-2 217 Sr.

TE 89 Zach Lyon 6-0 190 Sr.

LT 57 Patrick Kugler 6-4 280 Sr.

LG 58 Nick James 6-4 235 Jr.

C 54 Jeremy Gonzales 6-1 220 Sr.

RG 67 Duke Lundahl 5-10 227 Sr.

RT 62 Taylor Nikithser 6-4 235 Sr.

K 2 Ben Ziolkowski 5-8 160 Sr.

K 8 Jason Buchert 5-6 135 Sr.

Starting defense

DT 57 Patrick Kugler 6-4 280 Sr.

NG 54 Jeremy Gonzales 6-1 220 Sr.

DT 62 Taylor Nikithser 6-4 235 Sr.

OLB 89 Zach Lyon 6-0 190 Sr.

ILB 44 Kevin Edwards 6-2 217 Sr.

ILB 31 Layne Skundrich 5-10 188 So.

OLB 24 Ben Schweiger 5-10 165 Sr.

CB 1 Brendan Coniker 6-0 180 Sr.

SS 21 Chas Smith 6-0 176 Sr.

FS 3 Jack Henderson 5-10 170 Sr.

CB 6 Elijah Zeise 6-3 196 Jr.

P 11 Mack Leftwich 5-10 190 Sr. COATESVILLE (13-2)

Playoff history Coatesville won its first District 1 title since 1992 with a 59-28 victory over Spring-Ford on Dec. 1. The Red Raiders are making their first trip to the PIAA football championships.

Coach This is Matt Ortega's fourth season at Coatesville following five seasons at York.

Stat leaders Passing: Emmett Hunt, 146-229-2,982-43 TDs; Rushing: Daquan Worley, 211-1,617-19 TDs; Receiving: Chris Jones, 68-1,478-24 TDs.

Starting offense

QB 6 Emmett Hunt 6-2 210 Sr.

RB 4 Daquan Worley 5-10 185 Jr.

WR 2 Dre Boggs 5-10 170 Sr.

WR 13 Chris Jones 6-0 175 Sr.

WR 14 Vinnie Williams 5-10 175 Sr.

TE 9 Tyler Burke 6-4 240 Jr.

LT 74 Colin Raysor 6-6 290 Jr.

LG 52 Titus Richards 6-3 290 Jr.

C 69 Andrew Baker 6-1 300 Sr.

RG 53 Dylan Morgan 6-1 250 Sr.

RT 55 Joe Phillips 6-3 250 Sr.

K 89 Jon Bollenbach 6-0 175 Jr.

Starting defense

DE 55 Joe Phillips 6-3 250 Sr.

DT 33 Mike Boykin 5-10 220 Jr.

DT 53 Dylan Morgan 6-1 250 Sr.

DE 44 Clinton Leslie 5-11 215 Sr.

LB 21 Devonte Suber 6-0 185 Jr.

LB 9 Tyler Burke 6-4 240 Jr.

LB 10 Steve Pawling 6-0 190 So.

CB 1 Jason Totoram 5-10 170 Sr.

SS 29 Isaiah Flamer 5-10 180 Jr.

FS 15 Jay Stocker 6-2 180 So.

P 6 Emmett Hunt 6-2 210 Sr.

Top high school sports
Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 11:00 p.m.

With only a couple practices and one game left, North Allegheny coach Art Walker wants his players and coaches to fully appreciate the season's final days.

It's an acquired approach for Walker, who's planning his third trip to Hershey.

“You've really got to take some time and do your best to enjoy it,” he said. “I've focused on doing that the last couple years. Enjoy the opportunity and enjoy what comes with it because every season isn't going to be like this.”

Few programs experience one season like this. The Tigers have had three. But with a roster heavy in seniors, this weekend completes a record-setting run for North Allegheny, a three-year span that already includes 44 victories, three consecutive WPIAL titles and one state championship.

“This group has won more games than any group of North Allegheny football players in history,” Walker said. “It's going to be a tough act to follow, there's no question about that.”

It's not that the Tigers won't be good again next season, but for 19 of 22 starters, Saturday will be their final game. The Tigers face District 1 winner Coatesville in the PIAA Class AAAA championship at 6 p.m.

It's time to appreciate this final road trip.

“We talked about it,” Walker said, “because we're so senior-oriented this year. It's like, hey, let's enjoy these kids.”

Coatesville will be making its first trip to the state championships. The Red Raiders use a spread offense led by 2,900-yard passer Emmett Hunt (6-foot-2, 210 pounds). The senior has thrown 43 touchdowns and just three interceptions as a first-year starter.

Senior wideout Chris Jones (6-0, 175) ranks as Hunt's top receiver, with 68 catches for 1,478 yards and 24 touchdowns. Another senior, Dre Boggs (5-10, 170), ranks second with 33 catches, 804 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“We have to make sure they don't score big plays very quickly,” Walker said. “We have to work the clock a little bit. We don't want to get into a shootout with them.”

In Walker's mind, a victory at Hersheypark Stadium would be the only suitable sendoff for his seniors. The Tigers' place in WPIAL history is secure as the first to win three consecutive Class AAAA titles. But another state title would earn them a spot in PIAA history. Among Quad-A champions, only Central Bucks West has won multiple state titles during a three-year span. CB West won three straight between 1997-99.

“We're going to try to finish this thing how they deserve it to be finished: on top,” Walker said. “It would put a fitting end to a great career. We'll have fun with that.”

Fun has been a part of this team's personality. Most were around in 2010, when the Tigers won the PIAA title with a victory over La Salle College. This NA roster is a little more light-hearted than that group, Walker said — a trait he's fine with during an 18-week marathon.

“They joke around a little bit more,” Walker said, “but when it's time to play, they're very business-like. There are probably more lighter moments than we've had in the past, but I think that's based on the amount of experience they've had. We didn't have to teach them what this process is about.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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