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Tri-City Times names All-Area grid team


A formidable lineup for what proved an interesting season


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Almont’s Garrett Savage runs to daylight during a playoff game versus Madison Heights Madison.

December 03, 2008
TRI-CITY AREA — From the opening snap to the final play, these athletes set themselves apart from the rest.

Here is a look at who was named to this year's edition of The Tri-City Times All-Area football team and the numbers each put up en route to those accolades:

Kicking

Ben McNally, Almont.

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The 6-1 and 170-pound junior proved true on 46 of 52 extra-point kicks and two out of three field goal attempts this fall. It was his first season at the varsity level.

"Ben's work ethic and inner drive are second to none," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman said. "He set a school record for extra points in a season," he noted.

"Ben is a great weapon to have and will be a key component to our future success. He is also a very accomplished European Futbol (Soccer) player as well."

Offensive backs

Neal Zott, Almont,

quarterback.

Zott completed 42 of 77 pass plays for 831 yards and six touchdowns during the 2008 campaign. He threw five interceptions en route to those numbers.

The 6-0 and 183-pound senior also carried the ball 75 times for 505 yards and five touchdowns.

And his impact did not end there for Almont. He also returned a total of 23 punts and kicks for 718 yards and six touchdowns.

Those aformentioned credentials enabled Zott to land Associate Press Division 5-6 All-State first team status as an All-Purpose player.

In addition to those accolades, Zott finished his second season as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team selection and as the recipient of league's Most Valuable Offensive Player Award.

"He was switched from split end (where he was first team All-State as a junior to quarterback this fall," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman said. "Neal made the transition and led us to our third consecutive conference championship and a MHSAA playoff appearance," he noted.

"He is arguably the best athlete in the BWAC and area. Neal was a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. He will play at the next level."

Jon Botwin, Capac,

quarterback.

Botwin connected on 71 of 136 pass attempts for 847 yards and 12 touchdowns this fall. He was intercepted seven times along the way.

The 5-10 and 150-pound senior also rushed the ball 90 times for 462 yards and four touchdowns.

"Jon wound up with over 3,000 yards total offense and 35 touchdowns during his career," Capac Coach Tom Manney said. "There is no question that he was an impact player for us during that stretch," he emphasized.

"He will be a tough player to replace."

Botwin ended his third season on Capac's varsity roster as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team choice.

He also earned his team's Offensive MVP Award at the Capac Football Awards night.

Steve McClure,

Almont, fullback.

McClure produced a Tri-City best rushing output of 1,003 yards on 157 carries, an average of 6.4 yards per tote, while amassing 19 touchdowns this fall.

"Steve was the heart and soul of our team," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman said. "Pound for pound he was one of the toughest players around," he noted.

"He was a great leader. When things got tough we looked for Steve to get us through it."

The 6-0 and 185-pound senior fullback, a tri-captain who moved to the position from halfback the previous fall, wrapped up his second season at the varsity level as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team pick.

Eric Tietz, Dryden,

runningback.

Tietz wound up with 977 rushing yards during the 2008 campaign.

The 5-8 and 150-pound senior required 110 totes to generate that total, leaving him with an average of 8.8 yards per carry. He furnished eight touchdowns and 10 PAT's along the way.

He also had two receptions for 34 yards.

"Eric is the most complete back on our roster," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "He does all of the little things we asked of him," he noted.

"Eric is extremely versatile, able to play either halfback or fullback. He is also a good blocker and has good hands when called upon to make a catch."

Tietz concluded his third season on Dryden's varsity as an All-NCTL first team selection.

Chad Butler, Dryden,

halfback.

Butler managed an output of 910 yards on 92 carries, an average of 9.9 yards per tote, while contributing 11 touchdowns and 11 PAT totes this fall.

In addition to those numbers, Butler contributed seven receptions for 144 yards to Dryden's cause. He collected one touchdown and a pair of PAT's along the way.

"He made the move from quarterback to halfback and did an outstanding job," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "Chad was the best pure runner on the team, he was explosive and got upfield in a flash," he noted.

The 6-0 and 170-pound senior wrapped up his third season at the varsity level as an All-North Central

Thumb League first team choice.

Garrett Savage, Almont, halfback.

Savage provided 885 rushing yards during the 2008 campaign.

The 5-8 and 165-pound junior required 107 totes to log that total, leaving him with an average of 8.3 yards per carry. He collected 12 touchdowns along the way.

Savage also managed two receptions for 55 yards, both of those catches resulting in touchdowns.

"Garrett was the fastest player in our program," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman said. "He had a much improved work ethic and that led to his accomplishments on the field this past season," he noted.

"Garrett led our team in rushing during conference play and was our second leading rusher overall. He was able to accomplish all of this despite missing one game due to an injury. Garrett will be one of our leaders for the 2009 season."

He finished his initial season on Almont's varsity as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team pick.

Wes Jonik, Dryden,

halfback.

Jonik logged an output of 640 yards on 74 carries, an average of 8.6 yards per tote, while generating 10 touchdowns and one PAT this fall.

He also caught two passes for 35 yards.

"Wes was our leading rusher before he got injured against Carsonville-Port Sanilac," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "He has great speed and quickness," he noted.

"Wes also really committed himself to his faking and blocking this year. That enabled him to become a complete Wing-T back."

The 5-8 and 160-pound senior concluded his fourth season on Dryden's varsity as an All-North Central Thumb League first team selection.

Receivers

Adam Van Dyk,

Imlay City, receiver.

Van Dyk put up outstanding numbers for Imlay City during the 2008 campaign, registering a school record-setting output of 38 catches. His effort eclipsed the former standard of 37 receptions, that being set by former Grand Valley State University standout David Kircus who went on to play in the NFL.

The 6-0 and 170-pound senior wound up with 478 receiving yards. That works out to an average of 12.6 yards per catch.

"Adam had a great senior year for us," Imlay City Coach John Forti said. "His numbers would have been even better had he not got injured in our next to last game," he emphasized.

Van Dyk wrapped up his second season on Imlay City's varsity as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team choice.

Pat Russell,

Almont, receiver.

Russell furnished 21 receptions for 480 yards, an average of 22.9 yards per catch, this fall. He collected three touchdowns along the way.

"Pat was a first-year varsity starter who led us in receiving yards," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman said. "He is a very athletic player," he noted.

"Pat has great hands and will put in a terrific offseason for more success next fall."

Matt Lynch,

Dryden, tight end.

Lynch supplied 20 receptions for 253 yards, an average of 12.7 yards per catch, during the 2008 campaign. He collected seven touchdowns and seven PAT's en route to those numbers.

"He is the best tight end we have had in my time here," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "Matt has great hands, runs great routes and makes the big catches when you need them," he noted.

The 6-0 and 170-pound senior concluded his third season on Dryden's varsity as an All-North Central Thumb League first team pick.

Linemen

Nick Vicari, Dryden,

center.

His presence up front enabled Dryden to generate 3,306 yards rushing last fall.

"He has been the best center in our league for the past two seasons," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "Nick is a powerful blocker at the point of attack, yet moves well for a guy his size," he emphasized.

"He has got a great football IQ, reads and recognizes defensive fronts and calls blocking assignments at the line of scrimmage."

The 5-11 and 340-pound center completed third season on Dryden's roster as an Associated Press Division 7-8 All-State Special Mention selection and an All-North Central Thumb League first team choice.

Ben Strouse, Almont, guard.

This fall the Almont offense proved a tough one to contain, thanks to the contributions of Strouse.

The 6-1 and 215-pound senior guard helped Almont roll up 3,200 yards via the ground route.

He shared Almont team captain duties with Neal Zott and Steve McClure in this his second and final season at the varsity level.

Strouse wrapped up his second year on Almont's varsity as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team pick.

Punting

Ben McNally, Almont.

The 6-1 and 170-pound junior punted the ball 18 times for 629 yards, an average of 34.9 yards per kick, this fall.

Defensive Linemen

Chee Vang, Capac,

noseguard.

Vang provided Capac with 42 tackles during the 2008 campaign.

"He had a knack for stepping it up when we needed him the most," Capac Coach Tom Manney said. "Chee made several big plays for us in close wins against Richmond and Imlay City this fall," he noted.

The 5-6 and 163-pound senior completed his second season on Capac's varsity as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team selection.

Dillon Melly, Almont, tackle.

Melly managed 62 tackles, including two stops for a loss and one quarterback sack, this fall.

The 6-2 and 246-pound junior, a two-year veteran at the varsity level, also contributed a blocked punt to Almont's cause.

"He will be one of our leaders for the 2009 football season," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman commented. "Dillon is our best interior defensive lineman," he noted.

"When he wants to play he causes havoc for other teams. With another great offseason Dillon will be a major force for us next fall."

Jacob Ferrell, Almont, tackle.

The 5-10 and 210-pound sophomore generated 62 stops in his initial season on Almont's varsity, including five tackles for a loss and one quarterback sack, during the 2008 campaign.

In addition to those numbers, Ferrell collected a pair of fumble recoveries and an interception.

"He was a high energy player, very coachable and had a great work ethic," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman said. "Jacob had a great sophomore season and will be looked to as a leader next fall," he noted.

Joe Battisti, Dryden, end.

Battisti provided Dryden with 20 solo stops, 34 assisted tackles and four-and-a-half quarterback sacks this fall.

"He was a force for us at the defensive end position and opposing teams rarely ran at him after the first quarter because of that fact," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "Joe gets off the ball as good as anyone I have ever coached and does an amazing job when on contain," he emphasized.

The 5-10 and 170-pound senior wrapped up his third season on Dryden's varsity varsity as an All-North Central Thumb League first team choice.

Frank Calabro,

Dryden, end.

The 6-0 and 220-pound senior generated 12 solo stops, 14 assisted tackles and one quarterback sack during the 2008 campaign.

"He was the anchor end on the backside for us this fall," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "Frank has excellent technique and it really paid off for him," he noted.

Calabro concluded his this second season at the varsity level as an All-North Central Thumb League second team pick.

Linebackers

Tom Chilcote, Almont,

linebacker.

Chilcote was credited with a Tri-City best output of 115 tackles, including five tackles for a loss and a pair of quarterback sacks, this fall.

The 5-9 and 175-pound senior also contributed one interception and one fumble recovery to Almont's cause.

"He had a great nose for the ball and proved tough to block," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman said. "Those assets allowed Tom to lead us in tackles this fall," he noted.

Chilcote ended his first year as a starter on Almont's varsity as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team selection.

Ben Strouse, Almont,

linebacker.

The 6-1 and 215-pound senior amassed 96 tackles, including 15 tackles for a loss and 10 quarterback sacks, during the 2008 campaign.

Strouse also contributed three fumble recoveries and one blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown to Almont's cause.

"He was the most dominant defensive lineman I have ever coached," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman said. "Ben is the hardest worker and strongest player in our program," he noted.

"He has the strength, speed, work ethic and intelligence to play at the next level."

Strouse concluded his second season on Almont's varsity as an Associated Press Division 5-6 All-State Special Mention selection and an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team choice.

Al Clark, Dryden,

linebacker.

The 5-11 and 225-pound linebacker furnished 21 solo stops, 55 assisted tackles and one-and-a-half quarterback sacks during the 2008 campaign.

He also forced two fumbles, broke up a pair of pass plays and returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

"He has great field vision as a defender," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "Al provided us with great leadership as a captain the past two years," he noted.

"He is a force to reckon with. Al is an amazing punishing tackler who moves really well and has great instincts."

Clark completed his fourth season on Dryden's varsity as an All-North Central Thumb League first team selection and an Associated Press Division 7-8 All-State honorable mention choice.

Jacob Zuby, Capac,

linebacker.

The 5-11 and 154-pound senior amassed 65 tackles during the 2008 campaign.

He also contributed a pair of interceptions to Capac's cause.

"He led by example out on the field," Capac Coach Tom Manney said. "Jacob could always be counted on to give all he had no matter what the score was,' he noted.

"We will definitely miss having him on our team next year."

Zuby finished his second season on Capac's varsity as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team pick.

He also claimed his team's Defensive MVP Award and was an Ironman Award recipient at the Capac Football Awards night.

Darren Hunsucker,

Capac, linebacker.

The 5-9 and 156-pound senior notched 61 tackles this fall.

He also collected a pair of interceptions along the way.

Hunsucker concluded the year as an All-Blue Water Area Conference honorable mention choice.

The two-year varsity veteran, who shared team captain duties with Jon Botwin, Jacob Zuby and Nick Osborn this fall, also claimed his squad's Most Inspirational Award at the Capac Football Awards night.

Matt Lynch, Dryden,

linebacker.

Though known primarily for his prowess on the offensive side of the football, Lynch proved a formidable competitor when he tested his skills at linebacker this fall.

The 6-0 and 170-pound senior, a three-year veteran on Dryden's varsity, drove that point across by accumulating 22 solo stops, 30 assisted tackles plus two-and-a-half quarterback sacks during the 2008 campaign.

He also contributed a pair of fumble recoveries, both for touchdowns, and broke up one pass play.

"Matt is a hard worker," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "That ethic helped him have a good season for us at a outside linebacker position this year," he noted.

Steve McClure, Almont, linebacker.

The 6-0 and 185-pound senior provided 43 tackles, including three for a loss and two quarterback sacks, during the 2008 campaign.

He also contributed an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown to Almont's cause.

"Steve was the heart and soul of our team," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman said. "Pound for pound he was one of the toughest players around," he noted.

McClure ended his second season on Almont's varsity as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team choice.

Mason Day, Imlay City, linebacker.

Day wound up with 52 solo stops during the 2008 campaign.

"He was one of our most reliable players this fall," Imlay City Coach John Forti said. "Week in and week out you could always count on Mason to give a 100 percent effort," he emphasized.

"His greatest asset, though, was his intelligence. He was able to understand what was expected of him and apply to game situations."

The 5-9 and 160-pound senior completed his second year at the varsity level as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team selection.

Defensive backs

Eric Tietz, Dryden,

defensive back.

The 5-8 and 150-pound Tietz collected 23 solo stops, including two quarterback sacks, and registered 43 assisted stops during the 2008 campaign.

Tietz also defensed three pass plays, returned an interception for a touchdown, forced one fumble and blocked one kick.

"He is a smart player, either lining up for us a linebacker or as a second safety in a 4-3 look," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "Eric is a great tackler and that allowed him to put up the numbers that he did," he noted.

Tietz wrapped up his third season on Dryden's varsity as an All-North Central Thumb League first team choice.

Neal Zott, Almont,

defensive back.

Zott contributed 60 tackles, including two for a loss, this fall.

He also collected four pass deflections and two interceptions.

"As you can tell by his stats he got the job done everywhere we asked him to play," Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman said. "Neal will be missed when next season rolls around," he noted.

Zott completed his second full season on Almont's varsity as an All-Blue Water Area Conference first team pick.

Chad Butler, Dryden, defensive back.

The 6-0 and 170-pound senior registered 23 solo and 16 assisted stops during the 2008 campaign.

Butler also defensed five pass plays, recovered a pair of fumbles and intercepted a pass.

"He was a great cover corner for us this fall," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "Chad had great natural instincts and that was why teams didn't throw at him hardly at all," he noted.

Cody Paupert, Dryden, defensive back.

Paupert provided 16 solo and 25 assisted tackles this fall.

The junior also defensed nine pass plays.

"He has amazing field vision as a safety," Dryden Coach Brian Tresnak said. "Cody is rarely caught out of position and helps guys get lined up right for coverage," he noted.

The 5-7 and 150-pound performer concluded his second season on Dryden's varsity as an All-North Central Thumb League first team choice.

Second team - Aaron Thompson, Imlay City, quarterback; Cody Paupert, Dryden, quarterback; Joe Johnson, Capac, runningback; Addam Wierbicki, halfback, Almont; Geno Volante, Dryden, runningback; Al Clark, Dryden, fullback; Matt Burgess, Capac, split end; Chase Orzel, Almont, center; Frank Calabro, Dryden, offensive tackle; Brian Ladner, Dryden, offensive guard; Nate Forrest, Dryden, offensive tackle; Dane Walker, Imlay City, offensive line; D.J. Salet, Imlay City, receiver; Joe Christunas, Imlay City, receiver; Matt Burgess, Capac, receiver; Shawn Kaiser, Capac, offensive line; Dillon Melly, Almont, tight end; Evan Crean, Dryden, defensive tackle; Nate Forrest, Dryden, defensive lineman/linebacker; Shawn Kaiser, Capac, defensive lineman; Eddie Niemi, Capac, defensive lineman; Kyle Bailey, Dryden, linebacker; Nick Osborn, Capac, linebacker; Tom Bolday, Capac, linebacker; Darren Saunders, Imlay City, linebacker; Andrew McDunnah, Capac, linebacker; Joe Schram, Capac, defensive back; Pat Russell, Almont, defensive back; Cody Paupert, Dryden, defensive back; and Geno Volante, Dryden, defensive back.

Coach of the Year - Brian Tresnak, who directed Dryden to a 10-1 overall mark, a 9-0 regular season record, a second-place showing in their Division 7 district and a pacesetting 7-0 North Central Thumb League standing, earns Tri-City Times All-Area Coach of the Year accolades.

He shares that honor with Almont Coach Jeremy Ferman. This fall he directed the Raiders to a 9-3 overall mark, a Division 5 regional title game appearance, a district championship and a 5-2 Blue Water Area Conference standing (which was good enough to tie Cros-Lex, Yale and Richmond for first place).

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