What a year!
In a year that included mixed-up seasons, limited spectators and plenty of cancellations, the 2020-2021 school year turned out to be a pretty good one for athletes in Northeast Philadelphia.
We had teams make it to the state championship, we had teams make it to league championships and we had teams pull off upsets to make deep runs.
We also had a special group of athletes who played, practiced and did well in school despite the pandemic. The year posed a lot of problems, including remote learning for the bulk of the year, but we still have a lot of stars that deserve recognition.
Because of the pandemic, we didn’t have our usual sports banquet this year. But all winners will still get a plaque, courtesy of Spike’s Trophies.
Before we get into the good stuff of the awards, a huge shoutout to the athletes, both former and current, at St. Basil’s, Hallahan and Bishop McDevitt, which are closing at the end of the year. Both schools were great institutions that produced great students and athletes and they’ll be missed, but to the kids transferring to new schools, you’ll do fine wherever you end up. Good luck!
Catholic League Player of the Year
Brooks Henderson, Father Judge
The sophomore shortstop led the Crusaders in many offensive categories, including average, hits, RBIs and doubles. He also provided a strong glove at the most important infield position.
Behind Henderson, the Crusaders won a first-round playoff game and fell one out short of upsetting Archbishop Wood in the quarterfinals. In fact, the game ended with a walk-off grand slam for the Vikings.
It gave the Crusaders a taste of postseason baseball, and that will help. Henderson will return next year for the Crusaders, who will have most of their team back in the fold.
Public League Player of The Year
Ike Matos, Northeast
Behind any good baseball team is a great leader. That’s what Matos was for the Vikings. The junior catcher handled a deep pitching staff, and was responsible for making sure everybody in the infield knew what was going on. He also learned to call a game.
He was even better at the plate. Matos hit .571 with 20 hits, two doubles and 19 RBIs for Northeast, which has advanced to the semifinals of the Public League playoffs.
Matos served as the leadoff hitter for the Vikings, and next year he’ll return to lead the team again.
Coach of the Year
Tom Juhas, Northeast
Northeast didn’t have a lot of returning players this year, but they did have a coach who was returning for his final season. And his last one may have been his best.
The Vikings went 9-3 on the season, and loaded up against tough teams in the nonleague schedule because Juhas believed this year could be a special one. He wasn’t wrong, either. Northeast is playing in the Public League semifinals. A win will send them back to the Public League championship game.
Juhas, who teaches math, is returning as a teacher, but is stepping away from baseball to spend more time with his grandson.
Catholic League Player of the Year
Reilly Mehaffey, Archbishop Ryan
The Ragdolls had their share of stars, and that’s the reason they ran roughshod through the Catholic League en route to the league championship.
Mehaffey hit .452 with an on-base percentage of .512. She scored 38 runs and truly set the table for the high-scoring Ragdolls.
Ryan had five seniors lead the way, and Mehaffey set the table. She was also a force on defense, playing second base, while also helping out at shortstop and outfield when the situation called for it.
Mehaffey had offers to play in college, but she’s instead opted to join the Air Force.
Public League Player of the Year
Aubrey Seider, Franklin Towne Charter
The Warriors always have a goal of winning the Public League championship, and this year, they had a pitcher come in and surpass all expectations.
Seider, a freshman hurler, came in and went 9-0 during the regular season and won her first two playoff games. During the regular season, she struck out 66 batters and allowed .22 runs per inning. She was also productive at the plate, leading the team with a .576 on-base percentage.
She made the Carpenter Cup team and will lead the Warriors in the Public League semifinals, which are this week.
Coach of the Year
Paige Lang, Franklin Towne Charter
Franklin Towne Charter had a young team, but that didn’t lower expectations. If anything, it raised them because once the season got going, the younger players looked like veterans.
Lang, who had just three seniors on the roster, guided the Warriors to a perfect 9-0 record.
Franklin Towne has advanced to the Public League semifinals and is two wins away from bringing home a Public League title.
Behind Lang, the Warriors also hammered Cardinal O’Hara 20-4 in the District 12 championship game, which earned them a spot in the state tournament.
Most Courageous Athlete
Lou Nazario, Abraham Lincoln
A car accident nearly destroyed Nazario’s football career, and it did keep him from playing quarterback, the position he played a season ago. But despite a rebuilt knee, he was able to play offensive line, and when injuries took their toll on the unit, he stepped right in and became a starter.
Nazario played well at the new position, and he did it while focusing on many other things. Not only was he in school, but he recently became a father, and was working a lot as a delivery driver to pay for his daughter.
Nazario had hoped to play college ball, but he’s since decided to forgo college, at least for the time being, to secure a job.
Katie Lepkowski, St. Hubert
Lepkowski was a two-sport star, playing soccer and lacrosse for the Bambies, and she did a great job in both sports. She also served as a captain.
She did a lot of great things on the field this year, but the best thing might have been before a game started
When the Bambies played Hallahan in soccer, Lepkowski and her teammates wore blue ribbons and blue tape to honor their opponents. It was one of the final games for Hallahan, which is closing at the end of the school year.
Lepkowski gives her coaches credit for the idea, but she played a huge role in going through with the gesture to make their opponents feel better.
Lauren Hagy, Archbishop Ryan
Hagy started as a freshman for the Ragdolls softball team, which won the Catholic League championship that year. But she certainly didn’t take that as a reason to slack. Instead, she used it as a reason to get better.
Not only did Hagy work hard with her hitting instructor, she worked out hard to lose more than 30 pounds before her senior season. The conditioning made her a much better player, especially in the outfield.
She was still a great hitter, which she proved all year, including in the championship game, finishing with four hits as the Ragdolls won their second title during her career.
She’ll bring that fire next year to Holy Family, where she’ll continue her softball career.
Payton Pugh, St. Hubert
It’s one thing to be a good leader in one sport.
Pugh was a leader in three.
The senior was a key member of the Bambies’ volleyball team, where the First-Team All-Catholic selection was the team leader.
She followed that up by being the captain on a basketball team that went unbeaten in the Blue Division. The Bambies didn’t compete in the postseason since only the Red Division was eligible, but Pugh did set the table for the young team to be very competitive next year.
She was just as important in the spring, when she was honorable mention All-Catholic in lacrosse.
On top of being a dynamic player in all three sports, she was also the one who helped mentor the younger players.
Unsung Hero Award
Teddy Westervelt, Archbishop Ryan
When you play on a team with one of the most talented players in the state, sometimes another great player can get overlooked. That was how it was for Westervelt, who was a star in his own right.
And when the Ryan soccer team needed a big goal, Westervelt always seemed to come through. He had great chemistry with Sidiki Fofana, and the two worked together up top to keep the Raiders unbeaten in Catholic League play and helped them win a game in the state playoffs.
His biggest goal came in the team’s closest regular season game, a 2-1 victory over Archbishop Wood.
Next year, he’ll continue his career at Randolph-Macon College.
Emily Livewell, St. Hubert
If you’re looking for someone with spirit, you don’t have to look any further than the top cheerleader in the Catholic League.
That’s what Emily Livewell was named this year when she won the All-Catholic award during the Catholic League championship.
Livewell also helped the Bambies win a state championship and led them to a great showing during nationals, which were held virtually.
Livewell will continue her cheerleading career next year at Temple.
Teammate of the Year
Justin Blythe, Father Judge
Whether it was on the court or on the road, the Crusaders senior point guard was always looking after his teammates.
During games, he helped a young Crusaders team grow. The team struggled to start the year, but thanks to his efforts, the team improved every time it took the court and, by the end of the year, started putting wins together, getting victories in four of its final eight games.
Off the court, Blythe was responsible for getting his teammates to practice and games. One of the only guys on the team who had his license, Blythe happily shuttled his friends to and from the school.
Next year, he’ll play for Alvernia.
Northeast Philadelphian Award
Ava Coyle, Penn Charter
In today’s landscape, it’s unusual to have an athlete play three sports.
It’s almost unheard of to have one play three sports and be a Division I athlete in one of them. But that’s what Coyle did.
Also a field hockey and basketball player, Coyle became a star lacrosse player in high school. After giving up the sport in grade school, she returned to play and quickly became one of the top players in the Inter-Ac. She caught the eye of the University of Louisville, which offered her a scholarship during her junior year. The Mayfair resident will go into the school in the honors program.
Northeast Philadelphian Award
Matt Bowes, La Salle
The tight end wasn’t the flashiest player in the area, but he was one of the best. In fact, the guy best known for his blocking was one of the best in the state, which is why he was selected to represent Pennsylvania in the Big 33 game last month.
Bowes, a Somerton native, was one of the stars on a La Salle team that lost just two games during the fall, both to St. Joe’s Prep.
The versatile Bowes made plays in the passing game, but his biggest contributions came when he was blocking. He lined up mostly at tight end, but also played H-back and fullback.
Next year, he’ll play football at Bloomsburg.
Female Scholar Athlete
Dana Bell, Archbishop Ryan
There are few softball players with the skill of Bell. A former pitcher became the team’s starting shortstop this year and helped the Ragdolls go undefeated during the regular season and then go on to win the Catholic League championship. It was her second championship during her career.
Thanks to her heroics at the plate, where she hit third in the potent lineup, Bell was voted MVP of the Catholic League.
Also a volleyball player, Bell’s best statistics came in the classroom, where she was ranked in the top 1 percent of her senior class. She was also a member of the school’s mathletes team.
She’ll use her softball skills and brains next year when she attends Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Andrew Lukashchuk, Archbishop Ryan
Lukashchuk is a quick learner in school and on the track.
Also a soccer player, Lukashchuk was All-Catholic in four races, the 110-meter high hurdles, the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, the 4×100-meter relay and the 4×400-meter relay. Not bad for a runner who didn’t start until late in his sophomore year and missed his junior outdoor season because of the pandemic.
While his times are impressive, his grades are even better. Lukashchuk ranks sixth in his senior class at Ryan.
He hopes to continue to get better at the sport. He plans to walk on next year to the University of Pennsylvania’s track team, and wants to major in engineering.
Female Athlete of the Year
Timoney Lamplugh, Nazareth Academy
Lamplugh would have been a great choice for this award based on her two main sports, basketball and softball. But this year, when the Pandas soccer team needed a goalie, she jumped right in and filled the void.
Then in the winter, she stepped in and was one of the top players on the Pandas basketball team, starting at forward.
But her top sport was softball. She set the table for the Pandas at catcher. She hit just under .600 with an on-base percentage of over 60 percent. She ended the season with five doubles, one home run and 30 hits.
Lamplugh is going to the University of South Carolina next year, but she’s not planning on playing sports.
Male Athlete of the Year
Aaron Lemon-Warren, Archbishop Ryan
It would be hard to have a better season than the Raiders top player had this year. He was First-Team All-Catholic, and the Class 5A Player of the Year after leading Ryan to the state championship game. He also helped the Raiders qualify for the Catholic League semifinals.
For the year, he averaged nearly 19 points per game and more than eight rebounds. His best game was in a state semifinal when he helped the Raiders run over Chester. In that one, he scored 36 points. He also fell just shy of scoring 1,000 points. He would have had it if he didn’t miss the bulk of his junior year with a broken foot.
Lemon-Warren had multiple Division I offers, but he’s looking for more. He’ll do a year of prep school at Mount Zion Prep.
The fall winters are (football) Catholic League Player of the Year, Anthony DeLuca, Father Judge, Public League Player of the Year, Zaire McLaurin, Northeast and Coach of the Year Eric Clark, Northeast; (boys soccer) Catholic League Player of the Year, Sidiki Fofana, Archbishop Ryan, Public League Player of the Year Christian Cardenas, Northeast and Coach of the Year, Ryan Haney, Archbishop Ryan; (girls soccer) Catholic League Player of the Year, Emily Deluisi, Archbishop Ryan, Public League Player of the Year, Camryn Yaletsko, Philadelphia Academy Charter and Coach of the Year, Jon Geist, Archbishop Ryan.
The winter winners are (boys basketball) Catholic League Player of the Year, Dom Vazquez, Archbishop Ryan, Public League Player of the Year, Matt Williams, Abraham Lincoln, Coach of the Year, Joe Zeglinski, Archbishop Ryan; (girls basketball) Catholic League Player of the Year, Gianna Grassifulli, St. Hubert, Public League Player of the Year, Bendu Borbor, Frankford, Coach of the Year, Dave Schafer, St. Hubert; (wrestling) Catholic League Wrestler of the Year, Sean O’Toole, Archbishop Ryan, Public League Wrestler of the Year, Gehad Mohammad, Northeast, Coach of the Year, Mike Siravo, Northeast; (swimming) Male Swimmer of the Year, Jeremy Cox, Father Judge, Female Swimmer of the Year, Hannah Storm, Archbishop Ryan.