Zach Barket wanted nothing more during his final high school football season than to rush for more yards than he did as a junior for Schuylkill Haven.
My, was that easy.
Not only did Barket eclipse that mark, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound running back broke the state’s single season record for rushing yards and touchdowns with 4,195 yards and 66 touchdowns.
With so many major colleges paying attention, Steelton-Highspire’s Jordan Hill spent last summer focusing on his conditioning.
Down the stretch of the Rollers’ chase for a second PIAA Class A championship in as many seasons, there was no single player more dominant than the 6-2, 288-pound Hill. The defensive tackle made 44 tackles his last three playoff games, including a season-high 19 in a semifinal victory over Schuylkill Haven.
With their impact on opposite sides of the ball, Barket and Hill earned co-player of the year honors on The Associated Press Pennsylvania Class A all-state high school football team.
Riverside’s Joe Klebon made the team as a specialist for scoring nearly 50 touchdowns in a variety ways, while teammates Kevin Sochovka (linebacker) and Matt Talerico (defensive back) also made the team.
Barket averaged a remarkable 10.3 yards per carry and 4.4 touchdowns per game, scoring an average of every five times he touched the ball.
“All I wanted to do was get more than the 2,500 yards I had last season. That was my goal,” said Barket, who is being courted by a long list of Ivy League and Patriot League schools.
“I certainly didn’t expect to get 4,000 yards. Our line helped a lot, they got a lot bigger and stronger. And I got bigger and stronger,” he said.
Hill proved that dominating players don’t always carry or catch the ball.
“I knew this was my last run. When the playoffs hit, it was one and done and I didn’t want to go out without another state title,” said Hill, a Rutgers recruit who had 117 tackles, 12 1/2 sacks and 41 tackles for a loss.
“My junior year I was tired down the stretch, so I worked hard on my conditioning. Everyone was always double and triple teaming me,” he said. “So I knew I had to be in shape to be an impact player in the playoffs.”
After guiding Steel-High to a second consecutive state championship, Rollers coach Rob Deibler is the Class A coach of the year.
The Steelton native and Steel-High graduate has averaged nearly 10 wins a season during 10 seasons on the job. He is one win shy of 100 in his career, with only 30 losses.
“It wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t always easy,” Deibler said. “We had so many great kids back with character. But with the success we had, there were a lot more distractions. It was hard to keep the kids focused.”
Barket, Steel-High’s Jeremiah Young and Dan Ciabattoni of Reading Holy Name are the first-team running backs. Young is the state’s all-time leading rusher with 9,027 yards. Ciabattoni rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The quarterback is Camp Hill’s Tyler Shover, who threw for 2,483 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for 1,022 yards and 20 more scores.
Bloomsburg wide receiver Devin McLaughlin, Clairton junior Kevin Weatherspoon and Camp Hill’s Jordan Weber are the first team wide receivers.
Connecticut recruit Steve Greene, a 311-pounder from Bishop Carroll, leads an offensive line that includes David Spence of PIAA Class A finalist Clairton, Terry Perfilio of Farrell, Mike Murphy from Schuylkill Haven and Shane Rugg of Bishop McCort.
Dane Domonkos from Bishop McCort had 11 field goals and averaged nearly 50 yards per kickoff. He also played offense and defense.
Tony Reda from Monaca also made the team as a specialist.
Hill leads a defensive front that features a combination of power and quickness. Chawn McCowen (300 pounds) from Mercyhurst Prep and Rochester’s Paul Everson (238 pounds) are the big guys with power and Minersville’s Kevin Putalavage (160 pounds) and Line Mountain’s Aaron Inch (205 pounds) are smaller players with quickness.
Schuylkill Haven’s Ryan Fehr, Brad Banas from Chartiers-Houston and Zach Garber from Monaca are linebackers who each accounted for at least 100 tackles. Fehr was the top tackler with 146.
Jordan Smith from Steel-High and Bishop McCort’s Eric Lowry are also first team defensive backs.
Defensive specialist Eddie Ball of Clairton lined up everywhere on the field and made an impact at each position. First-team punter James McCombie of Bishop Carroll averaged 41.2 yards.