Three Wyoming Valley Conference football standouts landed spots on the Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State Class 2A team on Wednesday.
GAR defensive lineman Shakir Soto earned all-state honors for a second consecutive year. He was joined by teammate Lucas Benton, who made the team as a receiver, and Wyoming Area quarterback Nick O'Brien.
The Class A all-state team was also released Wednesday. No WVC players made that squad.
It's a great accomplishment being able to make it one time, Soto said. But to get it two consecutive years, it's a great feeling that all the hard work pays off in the long run.
Soto, a 6-foot-4, 255-pounder, will play at the University of Pittsburgh next season. He will sign his letter of intent on Friday and enroll in classes at Pitt in January.
O'Brien has verbally committed to Bucknell where he'll play in the secondary and be a returner. He starred on both sides of the ball and finished his career with 5,175 rushing yards – the third-highest total in WVC history.
It's fantastic, O'Brien said. To be named all-state in the state of Pennsylvania means a lot. It's a big accomplishment. It's a bigger football state and there are a lot of great players. To be recognized as one of the best in the state is fantastic.
Benton overcame an early-season hamstring injury to finish with 60 receptions for 901 yards and 12 touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder also rushed for seven TDs and has drawn interest from colleges at all division levels.
I knew there were a lot of seniors that graduated and moved on, so I had to step up and fill in their place, Benton said.
Soto and Benton have contributed on the varsity level since their sophomore years. Both provided leadership through their contrasting personalities. Soto is very outgoing, while Benton is more reserved.
They're two different kids, GAR coach Paul Wiedlich Jr. said. Shakir was more of a verbal leader. He rallied the defensive troops. All the hard work he's put in since seventh grade has paid dividends. This is another accolade and he's well deserving.
Lucas was more of leader by example. When the lights came on on a Friday night or a Saturday night, when he was 100 percent healthy he gave the fans their money's worth. Not just on offense, but all around. He's had a great three years for us.
O'Brien broke into Wyoming Area's starting lineup as a freshman on defense. He eventually became a starter on offense that season, playing running back before switching primarily to quarterback his junior season.
It's been a pleasure for four years, Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said.
In terms as being an athlete, he's a rare talent because of how diverse he is, how dynamic he is. But then he's someone who comes along with that athletic awareness – call it a football IQ – and the leadership ability which he grew and developed throughout his career.
The Class 3A and 4A all-state teams will be announced today.
While the WVC, which has just one Class A team, wasn't represented, the Lackawanna Conference fared quite well.
Dunmore coach Jack Henzes was named the Coach of the Year after leading the Bucks to the state championship game. He just completed his 46th year as a head coach, a career that started as Wyoming Area's first coach in 1966.
Dunmore players selected all-state were running back Daiqwon Buckley, offensive lineman James McHale and defensive lineman Mike Boland.
Old Forge had Shane Schuback selected as a linebacker and Brian Tomasetti chosen as a defensive athlete.
Wyomissing linebacker Alex Anzalone can add player-of-the-year honors to go along with a state title on his impressive high school football resume.
The Notre Dame recruit was selected the top player in Class 2A as part of the 2012 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State Football team released Wednesday.
Wyomissing's Bob Wolfrum was the overwhelming choice for Class 2A coach of the year.
In Class A, Clairton athlete Tyler Boyd won the top player award for the second straight season. Boyd totaled nearly 2,500 total yards and 40-plus touchdowns as a running back, receiver and occasional quarterback for the four-time state champion Bears.
Clairton beat Dunmore 20-0 for this year's crown.