Top fall, winter athletes named

This may have been the most bizarre year in the history of high school sports.

Due to the pandemic, seasons were changed. Some were cut short. Some were moved to different times of the year. Some didn’t play.

But the ones who did certainly played well.

While seasons changed, the players were just as good as ever. In Northeast Philadelphia, we had teams make deep runs in the state playoffs, we had some guys and girls enjoy great individual campaigns and, as always, Northeast Philadelphia had its fair share of championships.

We delayed naming champions for the fall season because many teams opted to play in the spring, so today we are announcing those winners as well as the winter winners. Spring winners and overall winners will be announced shortly.

Due to the pandemic, there will be no banquet this year. Award winners will still receive plaques courtesy of Spike’s Trophies.

Congrats to all, and here’s to a much more normal 2021-2022!

Football

Catholic League Player of the Year

Anthony DeLuca

Father Judge

Anthony Deluca recovers a fumble during Judge’s win over Truman. PHOTO: MELISSA MASON

DeLuca has always been a star in the classroom, ranking among the top 10 in his senior class, but this year he developed into a true star.

A defensive end, he helped the Crusaders by registering six sacks in six games. He also had three fumble recoveries and 12 tackles for losses.

Also a lacrosse player, DeLuca helped the Crusaders go 4-2 in the spring. They actually won their division, earning the right to go for the spring championship, but opted to honor a commitment to play West Catholic instead of playing in the title game.

DeLuca is hoping to continue his career in college. After graduation, he is hoping to become a veterinarian.

Public League Player of the Year

Zaire McLaurin

Northeast

Zaire McLaurin is heading to Central Michigan next year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Vikings had their fair share of stars this year, but on defense, the guy who seemed to be involved in every play was McLaurin.

Behind the safety/linebacker, Northeast finished 5-1 during the spring season, and the only loss was to Imhotep Charter, considered one of the top teams in the state.

Nicknamed “Horse” for his work ethic, McLaurin helped the Vikings pick up shutouts in their first two games, and hung tough against a strong Neumann-Goretti offense in a 22-20 victory. He was also selected to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl, a state all-star game.

Next year, McLaurin will continue his career at Central Michigan.

Coach of the Year

Eric Clark

Northeast

The first-year head coach, who took over for Phil Gormley, had to wait to get started, but his team was beyond ready. Northeast won its first five games of the season, including triumphs over Catholic League schools West Catholic and Neumann-Goretti.

The Vikings were successful despite losing some players to college. Since the Public League played in the spring, Division I commits decided to sit out the season, so Tyreek Chappell and Elijah Jeudy departed for Texas A&M instead of playing their final season.

It didn’t seem to matter for Clark and the Vikings, who ran through their schedule. The only setback was to Imhotep Charter in the final game of the season.

Boys Soccer

Catholic League Player of the Year 

Sidiki Fofana

Archbishop Ryan

Sidiki Fofana led Ryan to the Class 3A quarterfinals. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Fofana started off his high school career as a very good player. He ended it an MVP candidate, an All-Catholic selection and a member of the All-State team.

The striker led the young Raiders to an undefeated regular season and a victory in the first round of the state playoffs. The run came to an end after a loss to Upper Moreland in the state quarterfinals.

Fofana became more of a playmaker this year, but still led the team in scoring with 12 goals and six assists. The Raiders finished 8-1.

Fofana will continue his soccer career next year at St. John’s Academy in York, England.

Public League Player of the Year

Christian Cardenas

Northeast

Christian Cardenas will play at Penn State Abington next year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Cardenas was one of the top offensive players in the Public League prior to this year, but due to graduation, the Vikings needed someone to solidify the defense. Cardenas not only volunteered to do it, he quickly became one of the top defenders in the league.

He did score two big goals in a nonleague game against Father Judge, when the Vikings tied the Crusaders 2-2, but during league play, he played defensive midfield, and he was a star.

Thanks in part to Cardenas’ heroics, the Vikings won another Public League championship. Their only blemish was the tie to Judge.

Next year he’ll continue his soccer career at Penn State Abington.

Boys Coach of the Year

Ryan Haney

Archbishop Ryan

Ever since taking over the boys program four years ago, Haney was hoping to have a special season that ended in a championship. Due to coronavirus, the Catholic League didn’t play, but the Raiders would have had a legit shot at winning.

They finished unbeaten in Catholic League play and advanced to the state quarterfinals after winning the program’s first-ever state playoff game.

The young team outscored its foes 25-2 on the year, 20-0 in Catholic League play.

The Raiders will miss some of their top players, but the bulk of the team will return in the fall looking for another strong campaign.

Girls Soccer

Catholic Player of the Year

Emily Deluisi

Archbishop Ryan

Emily Deluisi won Catholic League championships during her freshman and junior year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Playing out of position, the normal defender played center midfield for the Ragdolls and helped them to another strong campaign. Deluisi proved to be a key playmaker for Ryan, which advanced to the state tournament and lost in penalty kicks in the first round.

Deluisi was one of the top players in the area, earning First-Team All-Catholic and First-Team All-State selections.

Next year, she’ll continue her soccer career at Division I Rider University, where she plans on majoring in business. There, she’ll likely move back to defender.

Public League Player of the Year

Camryn Yaletsko

Philadelphia Academy Charter

Due to more problems with coronavirus, the Philadelphia Academy Charter soccer team joined forces with the George Washington squad so the schools had enough to have a team.

The team needed a leader, and Yaletsko, a junior, stepped up and filled that role, bringing the teams together.

Yaletsko also played well, scoring three goals, adding five assists to go along with 17 shots and 24 steals. Those numbers helped the team advance to the Public League semifinals, where it fell to Masterman.

Next year, Yaletsko will be a captain for the third straight year.

Coach of the Year

Jon Geist

Archbishop Ryan

This was a down year for the Ragdolls, as they didn’t win the Catholic League championship. Of course the thing that prevented them from winning was there was no Catholic League championship. Had there been one, Ryan would have been in contention as it has been every year under Geist’s watch.

Ryan did qualify for the state playoffs, but the run was ended in penalty kicks in the first round. It was a good year for the Ragdolls, and the future remains bright.

Next year, the team will do it without its coach. Geist resigned after the season and is now coaching the woman’s team at Chestnut Hill College.

Winter Awards

Boys Basketball

Catholic League Player of the Year

Dom Vazquez

Archbishop Ryan

Ryan guard Dom Vazquez

The Raiders had a lot of good players, and Vazquez wasn’t the top scorer on the team. But when the team needed a play, he was the guy they turned to because he was so clutch with the ball.

Vazquez was the starting point guard and his heady play was a big reason the Raiders finished in fourth place in the competitive Catholic League, and he played a huge role in helping Ryan advance to the state championship game.

A tough defender, Vazquez ran the offense to perfection, and dished out 13 assists in the state semifinal win over Chester.

Next year, Vazquez will play at Arcadia.

Public League Player of the Year

Matt Williams

Abraham Lincoln

Matt Williams, a junior combo guard, helped Abraham Lincoln reach the Public League championship game.

The junior guard suffered from coronavirus during the offseason, so he missed some time, but when he returned, he was ready to go.

The swing guard led the Railsplitters in scoring and helped them to a 13-5 record and a trip to the Public League championship, where they fell to Imhotep Charter, one of the top teams in the state.

Williams played some point guard, and was one of the team leaders throughout the year.

Next year, he’ll return, and the Railsplitters will once again be expected to contend for the Public League championship.

Coach of the Year

Joe Zeglinski

Archbishop Ryan

The Raiders didn’t have a lot of luck this year. Their season was delayed two weeks because of coronavirus, so the team had to jam its Catholic League schedule into a short period of time.

Ryan hung tough, finishing fourth in the tough league and qualifying for the playoffs. The Raiders then went on to win the 5A city championship and run through the state tournament to get to Hershey, where they fell to Cathedral Prep in the finals.

This was the second straight year the Raiders advanced to at least the quarterfinals of the state tournament and the final four of the Catholic League.

Girls Basketball

Catholic League Player of the Year

Gianna Grassifulli

St. Hubert

The Bambies were the top team in the Catholic League Blue Division this year and the transfer was a main reason.

The three-sport star averaged 11.9 points per game and 10 rebounds for Hubert, which won the division with a 10-0 record. Overall, the Bambies went 10-2. Because of coronavirus, the Blue Division didn’t have a playoff, but Hubert did qualify for the Catholic League Class 5A championship game, where it fell to Cardinal O’Hara.

Grassifulli, a junior, was named the MVP of the Blue Division. She also stars on the school’s soccer and softball teams.

Public League Player of the Year

Bendu Borbor

Frankford

The Pioneers needed a leader this year and they got one in the form of a junior swing guard.

Dubbed “Bebe,” the Nigerian-born star, who played most of her minutes on the wing, averaged better than 22 points per game for Frankford. She also became the captain of the young Pioneers and worked herself into becoming the leader they needed.

In normal years, Borbor is also a star softball player, but the school didn’t play this year due to numbers.

Coach of the Year

Dave Schafer

St. Hubert

The Bambies have been building toward success and this year they enjoyed a perfect season in Catholic League Blue Division play, winning all 10 of their games. They finished 10-2, but one of their losses was to Cardinal O’Hara in a battle for the right to represent District 12 in the state playoffs. O’Hara won and went on to run roughshod through the state en route to a championship in Hershey.

Not only did the Bambies win the Blue Division, they had only one game within 10 points, a four-point triumph over Conwell-Egan.

The Bambies should be competitive again next year. Many of their key contributors, including MVP of the division, return.

Wrestling

Catholic League Wrestler of the Year

Sean O’Toole

Archbishop Ryan

This was a bizarre wrestling season, but the junior 120-pounder didn’t miss a beat, finishing the season 20-2, including nine wins by pin. He picked up another 10 victories by forfeit, which was a result of many kids opting out of the sport due to coronavirus.

He was All-Catholic and took second in the district, qualifying for regions where he didn’t place.

For his career, O’Toole has 70 victories. Next year he’ll return in hopes of helping Ryan win the Catholic League championship and in the process picking up 100 wins.

Public League Wrestler of the Year

Gehad Mohammad

Northeast

Mohammad was the team leader for the Vikings, guiding them to the Public League championship. The heavyweight was All-Public and took second at districts. He went on to finish sixth at regionals.

On top of being a strong wrestler, his experience was shared with the younger wrestlers in the shortened season, and he was always there to make his teammates better. They listened because he was so respected.

This will likely mark the end of Mohammad’s wrestling career. Next year he plans on attending Community College of Philadelphia, and will not wrestle.

Coach of the Year

Mike Siravo

Northeast

For months, it was unclear if the Public League was even going to participate in wrestling. After nixing the fall season and postponing the winter one, teams had little time to prepare for the season.

But once it was a go, Siravo had his Vikings ready and they carried that to the Public League championship, the school’s third in the last four years.

Siravo juggled lineups and an inexperienced roster to win the championship.

The Vikings bested Overbrook in the championship. They went on to win the team title in the All-Public tournament.

Swimming

Boys Swimmer of the Year

Jeremy Cox

Father Judge

With La Salle being one of the top swimming programs in the country, it’s not easy for other teams in the Catholic League to get All-Catholic representatives, but the senior was able to break through this year.

Cox was All-Catholic in the 100 breaststroke, where he took second team. He not only stars at Father Judge, but competes at NRG Swim Club, where he has been one of the top swimmers for years.

Next year, he’ll continue his swimming career at Canisius College in Buffalo.

Girls Swimmer of the Year

Hannah Storm

Archbishop Ryan

It’s hard to imagine someone having a better season than Storm, a junior.

She qualified for two events in states and was All-Catholic in four events, the 50 freestyle, the 200 individual medley, the 200 individual medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay. At states, she placed 15th in the 200 individual medley.

This was the third year in a row she earned All-Catholic in four events.

She helped the Ragdolls take second place in the Catholic League. Next year, she’ll return, eyeing another Catholic League team crown and another shot at going to states.