The Northeast Times will host the 33rd Annual Northeast Sports Awards Banquet on Wednesday, May 17, at 6 p.m. at Cannstatter’s, 9130 Academy Road.
It seems like just yesterday we were getting ready for football and soccer season.
But that was actually nine months ago, and now we are preparing for summer. That means it’s time to select the best of the best for the spring season, and hand out the overall awards.
Once again, Northeast Philadelphia made it tough for the selection committee. There were a lot of championships, a lot of tremendous individual efforts and great strides made by a lot of teams.
More than 30 coaches and athletes will be honored for their athletic and academic accomplishments.
Tickets are $25. The guest speaker will be Flyers public address announcer Lou Nolan.
The event is sponsored by Steamfitters Union and Archbishop Ryan.
Catholic League Baseball Player of the Year: Chuck Kelley, Father Judge
When Dan Hammer graduated, a huge void was left in the Crusaders’ lineup. Chuck Kelley more than filled the void.
Kelley emerged as the ace of the staff and ever since he took the ball, Judge has been winning.
He’s 4–2 in Catholic League play with an ERA of 2.01. What’s more impressive is that he’s seen some top teams in the PCL. This comes one year after he suffered an injury that cost him much of his sophomore season.
The junior hurler has started eight games on the year and twice he’s gone the distance for the Crusaders, who are still in striking distance of first place in the Catholic League.
Public League Baseball Player of the Year: Nick Herrera, Frankford
There are a lot of reasons the Pioneers are the top team in the Public League thus far, but according to Frankford coach Juan Namnun, Nick Herrera is having one of those magical seasons.
When pitching, Herrera is more than holding his own, winning two of his three decisions and maintaining a 2.73 earned run average.
But Herrera is even better at the plate.
He’s hitting .593 with 16 hits, 12 RBIs, six runs scored and six doubles.
The Pioneers are 9–1 and haven’t lost since dropping their non-league opener to Father Judge.
Baseball Coach of the Year: Juan Namnun, Frankford
On paper, this isn’t the most talented Frankford team, but the Pioneers have won nine straight games and every time they take the field, they’re better than the day before. Much of that credit belongs to Namnun, who guided the Pioneers to the Public League championship game a season ago before falling to Olney Charter.
Namnun has a few seniors who are leading the team, but the improvement of the younger players is evident.
The Pioneers should be poised for another playoff run, and their tough non-league schedule, which included games against Judge and Ryan, means they’ll be ready to face the toughest of competition when postseason begins.
Catholic League Softball Player of the Year: Lindsey Davies, St. Hubert’s
The Bambies had a better 2016 season than anyone anticipated when they advanced to the Catholic League championship.
This year, they can no longer sneak up on anyone, but they don’t have to. They have Lindsey Davies.
The sophomore has been a force in the circle and at the plate.
She is batting .472 with four extra-base hits and 12 RBIs.
Her biggest contribution is with her arm. The youngster maintains a 1.87 earned run average and has struck out 25 batters in 36 innings.
Davies gets the ball in Hubert’s important games and she still has three shots at bringing a Catholic League championship home to the Bambies.
Public League Softball Player of the Year: Michelle Slaughter, Franklin Towne Charter
For the second year in a row, Michelle Slaughter is guiding the Franklin Towne Charter softball team to greatness.
Last year, her arm was a key reason the Coyotes won the Public League championship, and this year, she’s back in the circle doing her thing.
She’s won all six of her games, maintains a 1.48 earned run average, and has held opponents to a .173 batting average.
She’s just as productive at the plate, hitting .391 with nine RBIs and four stolen bases.
The crafty pitcher emerged as one of the best softball players in the Public League a season ago, and if the Coyotes defend their crown, they will do so on the strength of Slaughter’s arm.
Softball Coach of the Year: Danielle Vittitow, Nazareth Academy
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. This was supposed to be a year the Pandas got their feet wet and the team, which is largely made up of underclassmen, learned how to play against the top competition in the Catholic Academies League, which is one of the toughest leagues in the area.
But Danielle Vittitow, who starts three seniors, five sophomores and two freshmen (the lineup includes a designated hitter), has helped the Pandas to wins in seven of their first 10 games. Only one of those losses was to a league foe.
The Pandas still have tough games ahead, but they’re in position to win their league, which would be an amazing accomplishment considering the inexperience of the players.
Special Achievement: Jerry Brindisi
When Jerry Brindisi coached the North Catholic soccer team, he helped every kid he coached.
Brindisi is still helping kids as an assistant at Roman Catholic, where he still teaches with the same love and passion he had while coaching the Falcons. But away from the soccer field, he’s still doing a lot to help kids from the old North Catholic neighborhoods.
Brindisi continues to keep the Falcon spirit alive, and he does it by raising money and helping kids from across the city and beyond pay for a Catholic school education..
The man who helps run the North Catholic Soccer Hall of Fame even helped Cardinal Dougherty plan its soccer hall of fame this year.
He’s also had a huge hand in the Norphans, a nonprofit that raises money for people and groups that need it the most in the name of North Catholic.
Holy Family University Female Athlete of the Year: Brianna Rock, Soccer
Whoever said soccer doesn’t have a lot of scoring never watched Brianna Rock play.
The junior led the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference with 12 goals and 27 points during the regular season. For the year, she scored 13 goals and amassed 29 points.
Behind the striker’s offensive punch, Holy Family finished 9–7–3 and advanced to the semifinals of the CACC tournament, where the TIgers fell in a shootout.
Rock recorded a hat trick in a 7–0 victory over Dominican College, and she got better as the season went on, scoring goals in two of the final three games of the year in helping the Tigers attain a playoff berth.
Next year, Rock will return to the mix and the Bensalem native will once again be heavily relied on for offense.
Holy Family University Male Athlete of the Year: Dyllon Hudson-Emory, Basketball
There might be a way to defend Dyllon Hudson-Emory. But thus far, nobody has figured out how to do it.
The Harrisburg native poured in an average of 22.5 points per game, but what really made him such a difficult player to defend was his consistency.
In 28 games, Hudson-Emory scored at least 11 points in 27 of those games. The only game he didn’t notch double digits was a game where he scored six points, but that was due to foul trouble, not poor shooting.
The junior was also an iron man for the Tigers, playing an average of 38 of the 40 minutes a game.
While scoring was his game, Hudson-Emory also contributed in other ways. He pulled down about eight rebounds a game while handing out three assists and about two steals per affair.
The Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg) graduate will once again be one of the top players in the CACC next year when he returns to the team.
Most Courageous Athlete: Joey Greenstein, Franklin Towne Charter
Joey Greenstein is Mr. Franklin Towne Charter.
The senior class president was a top player on the Coyotes’ basketball team and he’s currently starring on the school’s baseball team as an outfielder.
And this year, he’s been doing it all for dad.
About one week into 2017, Greenstein’s father, also named Joe, suffered a heart attack and died. Ever since, Greenstein has been playing with a heavy heart. His father was a huge influence on him, and losing him has taken a toll. But it hasn’t affected his performance.
Greenstein’s greatest game actually came hours after his father’s funeral when he scored a career-high 25 points in a win over Elverson.
Sportsmanship Award: Marc Rodriguez, Father Judge
Marc Rodriguez could have won at least four different awards, but the thing that made him such a special player is the way he conducts himself on and off the court.
Whenever someone talks about Rodriguez’s game, which helped him become the first 1,000-point scorer in Father Judge history and a first team All-Catholic selection, they usually follow it up with, “And he’s such a great kid.”
That’s because Rodriguez is such a great kid.
Whenever the Crusaders would suffer a tough loss, Rodriguez would make sure to pick up his teammates. That attitude was on display after Judge was eliminated by Ryan in the second round of the playoffs. Instead of being upset that his historic career was over, Rodriguez consoled his teammates and at the same time congratulated the Raiders on their triumph.
Next year, Rodriguez will take his talents to East Stroudsburg, where he’ll continue his basketball career.
Unsung Hero Award: Gerri Passalacqua, Little Flower
Gerri Passalacqua is a three-sport star and in every sport, she brought something different to the table.
The senior played volleyball in the fall, serving as a team captain.
During the winter, Passalacqua was an undersized forward on the basketball team, going up against some of the most talented players, and held her own in helping the Sentinels compete against top teams.
And her leadership was once again on display during the spring. Little Flower is under the tutelage of first-year head coach Mark Fusetti, and Passalacqua has been like a player-coach. The senior looks out for the skipper and helped him get acclimated to his new role.
While Passalacqua has a lot of talent, what makes her such an asset is her work ethic and leadership abilities.
Northeast Philadelphian Award: Michael and Lexi Hnatkowsky, Penn Charter
It’s extremely uncommon to name co-winners of an award, but it’s almost impossible to pick between these two three-sport seniors.
Michael enjoyed a fantastic year in football, where he was a four-year starter for Quakers coach Tom Coyle, a Father Judge graduate. He also starred on the Quakers’ basketball team and runs the sprints for the Penn Charter track team.
His sister, Lexi, has a very similar resume.
Like her brother, Lexi is a star basketball player and runs track, but in the fall,occer is her sport of choice.
The pair enjoyed remarkable athletic careers. They combined to play 24 seasons of sports during their high school days.
Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Amanda Lawson, Archbishop Ryan
Amanda Lawson didn’t have a lot of time to study.
The senior was a captain on both the Ragdolls’ basketball and softball teams, playing a huge role on each team.
She also is the executive director of public relations for the Tribe-a-Thon, a dance marathon that raises money for sick children. She was also the class president.
Despite all those responsibilities, she managed to be one of the top students in the class, being part of the National Honor Society and the Spanish National Honor Society.
Lawson is bound for the University of Pennsylvania next year. She’s unsure about her major.
Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Frankie Okpala, Frankford
What Frankie Okpala did in athletics was great.
What he did in the classroom and in the lab was remarkable.
Okpala, who played soccer, football and basketball for the Pioneers, is ranked №1 in his class. He also did incredible work during his spare time.
Last summer, the native of Nigeria helped in trying to develop a cure for malaria, a disease that plagues his home country. The research took a lot of time, and he can’t test it until he graduates from college, but he believes he is well on his way to discovering a cure for the deadly disease.
Next year, Okpala will continue his education, though he hasn’t picked a school yet. He has been accepted to Ivy League schools, including Princeton and Penn.
Female Athlete of the Year: Skyler Petroski, Franklin Towne Charter
It didn’t matter the sport, Skyler Petroski was a top player.
During the fall, Skyler was an All-Public center midfielder, scoring seven goals and notching five assists in helping the Coyotes reach the Public League championship.
In the winter, Petroski was a captain on the basketball team, and played her way into another All-Public nomination.
Now in the spring, she’s one of the best hitters on the Coyotes’ softball team. She starts at third base and fills in as a pitcher, and last year was actually the winning pitcher in the Public League championship game.
Her coach in soccer and basketball will certainly miss her because of all the things she brings to the team.
“Coaching Skyler for the past four years, I watched her represent the best of Franklin Towne sports,” Brianna O’Donnell said. “Her commitment to her teammates, hard work on the fundamentals, and my favorite thing is her passion to compete (are what makes her so valuable).”
Male Athlete of the Year: Jaquan Amos, Northeast
If you blinked, you could miss him. That’s how fast Jaquan Amos is, and it’s why he is such an asset to Northeast High School.
Amos was arguably the best football player in the Public League, and his play on defense (he was a hybrid defensive back/linebacker) was key in helping Northeast win the Public League Class AAAAAA championship. And when the Vikings squared off with St. Joe’s Prep in the city championship, Amos proved he could play with the big boys.
Prep went on to win the state championship, and Amos more than did his part in helping Northeast stay competitive in that game.
Amos is also a star on the track, where he runs sprints for the Vikings’ indoor and outdoor track teams.
Last year, he was All-Public in outdoor track, and his times have improved this year. He also was All-Public during the indoor season.
“If there’s a better athlete around, I haven’t seen him,” said Northeast football coach Phil Gormley. “He’s a great kid, and a great athlete. He does so much (for the football team) and he was a great leader.”
Next year, Amos will continue his football career at Villanova. ••
Winners for the fall season are:
Catholic League Football Player of the Year, Justin Gies (Father Judge), Public League Football Player of the Year, Ormand Isom (Northeast), Football Coach of the Year, Phil Gormley (Northeast), Catholic League Boys Soccer Player of the Year, Sean McCormick (Judge), Public League Boys Soccer Player of the Year, Christian Escobar (Northeast), Boys Soccer Coach of the Year, Kraig Feldman (Northeast), Catholic League Girls Soccer Player of the Year, Kylie Bowers, (St. Hubert), Public League Girls Soccer Player of the Year, Raegan Kennedy (Franklin Towne Charter), Girls Soccer Coach of the Year, Todd Corabi (Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush).
The winners for the winter season are:
Boys Basketball Catholic League Player of the Year Izaiah Brockington, (Archbishop Ryan), Boys Basketball Public League Player of the Year, Marlon Sharpton (Abraham Lincoln), Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, Joe Zeglinski (Archbishop Ryan), Girls Basketball Catholic League Player of the Year, Monee Moore (Archbishop Ryan), Girls Basketball Public League Player of the Year, Taylor Fritz (Philadelphia Academy Charter), Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, Christopher Reid (George Washington) and Wrestler of the Year, Trevor Elfvin (Father Judge). ••