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Unbeaten league records, district gold medals and clutch big-game performances highlighted 2006 for Susquehanna County's best high school athletes and teams.
The Blue Ridge softball team experienced all of the above, throughout the season and on one magical June day at Shippensburg University.
When they were done, the Lady Raiders not only had made themselves the highlight of a successful year by county high school athletes. They had further established themselves as the most accomplished girls' sports program the county has ever seen.
Blue Ridge made the most of its third state championship game appearance in five years, winning its second Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class A championship in the most dramatic way – 1-0 over Iroquois on a no-hitter by Brittany Welch.
Welch struck out six of the first eight batters and finished with 11 strikeouts.
"I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said catcher Kate Donovan, who now has two state gold medals with one high school season left.
The Lady Raiders proved otherwise, one year after falling by a run in the state quarterfinals.
Blue Ridge rolled through a 26-0 season and won its first three state playoff games by a total of 20-1 before turning back Iroquois.
The Mountain View boys' soccer team and the Elk Lake and Blue Ridge girls' cross country teams all took their success to the state level.
Mountain View reached the semifinals, making it one of the four best Class A boys' soccer teams in the state.
After running together throughout the season as part of the Lackawanna League's cluster-meet schedule, Elk Lake and Blue Ridge pushed each other right to the end. The Lady Warriors were fifth and the Lady Raiders were 10th at the state championships.
Two of the county's top individual competitors also finished among the top eight in the state.
Mountain View's Matt Panasevich followed up a third District 2 title, which included the Class AA tournament's Outstanding Wrestler award, by placing fifth in the state. By the time the calendar year was over, Panasevich was in the starting lineup at Cornell, ranked as one of the nation's top 10 college wrestling teams. In between, he finished fifth in the National High School Coaches Association Senior Nationals, beating a pair of wrestlers who had been undefeated state champions.
Susquehanna's Amber Gaffey, who won a state championship as a sophomore, took her third state pole vault medal by tying for seventh as a junior.
Before finishing fifth in the state, Elk Lake's girls' cross country team had the most impressive of the district championships and one of the unbeaten league titles produced by county teams.
The Lady Warriors, who had a history of strong individual performers, won the district title in the first full season in which the school was able to field a full team.
Elk Lake defeated Blue Ridge by 31 points, the biggest margin of victory in any of the district's four team races, and ended the district title run of two-time state champion Dallas.
Blue Ridge's baseball team took a district title a day before the softball team and Mountain View added one as part of its best boys' soccer season ever.
There was drama involved in both Blue Ridge titles.
Jon Carpenter got the game-ending strikeout with two runners on base as Blue Ridge beat Bishop Hafey, 10-9, in Class A baseball.
In its toughest game of the unbeaten softball season, Blue Ridge outlasted Old Forge, 2-1, when Jocelyn Dearborn drove in Donovan in the bottom of the 10th inning. Dearborn, another player with two state titles and a season left, parlayed her softball skills into a scholarship at Fordham University.
Panasevich and Gaffey won district titles on the way to their state medals.
Montrose's Robert O'Malley joined Gaffey as a district track champion by winning the Class AA shot put.
The Elk Lake girls' cross country team was one of three fall sports teams from the county that all finished unbeaten in the Lackawanna League.
Susquehanna's girls' volleyball team and Forest City's boys' soccer team were the others.
Forest City won the Division III soccer title while Mountain View was unable to go unbeaten but did manage its first championship in Division I where every school it played against was larger in enrollment.
Montrose completed a second straight unbeaten season in Division III girls' basketball and Blue Ridge was perfect in Division IV softball. After coming up one match short two seasons in a row, Elk Lake was unbeaten to win the Division II wrestling title.
Mountain View boys also won division titles in basketball and volleyball.
On the college and professional level, several county athletes showed their success can extend beyond local high school competition.
Elk Lake graduate Ryan Place earned All-American honors by finishing sixth at the NCAA Division III National Cross Country Championships.
Place led the Allegheny College team to a third-place finish.
Courtney Parvin, a senior forward from Montrose, took her Springfield College team back to the NCAA Division III women's basketball national tournament. She surpassed 1,000 points for her career in the process of earning the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference Player of the Year award. Parvin finished fifth in school history with 1,185 points.
Another former Lady Meteor won a women's basketball award - for her coaching.
Nicole Chaszar, a former team MVP at Temple, was named Great Northeast Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Coach of the Year for leading her team to a 21-7 record in her first season as head coach.
Ethan Kilmer, a former Wyalusing High School athlete with ties to Susquehanna County, made a big impact first as a walk-on at Penn State, then by making the National Football League's Cincinnati Bengals.
Kilmer began 2006 by catching six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in Penn State's 26-23, triple-overtime victory over Florida State in the Orange Bowl. By the time the year was over, Kilmer had his first professional touchdown on an interception return for the Bengals.
David Battisti, a graduate of Susquehanna High School and Kilmer's uncle, was honored with induction into the Susquehanna University Sports Hall of Fame.
Battisti was a three-year starter at Susquehanna University where he was a second-team Academic All-American after throwing for 1,610 yards to help the Crusaders to a Middle Atlantic Conference championship season in 1989. At the time of his graduation in 1991, Battisti was the program's career leader in passing completions (255), yards (4,087) and touchdowns (38).
Two Montrose graduates continued their professional careers.
Chris Snee continued his climb through the ranks of the top offensive linemen in all of professional football. Snee started the year by competing in the NFL playoffs after helping the New York Giants go 11-5 to win the 2005 NFC East Division title.
Rich Thompson worked toward a return to Major League Baseball by earning a promotion from Class AA to Class AAA where he played for the Indianapolis Indians, the top farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Regional minor league sports teams were also in the news.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons became the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees after landing an affiliation as the top minor-league team of the New York Yankees when an 18-year relationship with the Philadelphia Phillies ended.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins completed a wire-to-wire run, leading the American Hockey League East Division standings every day of the 2005-06 season. The Penguins have now spent much of the first three months of the 2006-07 season on top of the entire AHL.
WEEK IN REVIEW
The first Community Foundation Basketball Tournaments were held, involving a total of five of the six Susquehanna County high schools.
Four teams each competed in the girls' tournament at Elk Lake and the boys' tournament at Montrose.
Amanda Jennings was named Most Valuable Player of the girls' tournament after leading Elk Lake to the title with a 50-27 victory over Mountain View.
Donovan scored 19 points to lead Blue Ridge to a 51-32 victory over Susquehanna in the consolation game.
The tournament debuted with a close game in which Erica Lewis scored 16 points to lead Mountain View past Susquehanna, 55-51.
Christy Glidden scored 20 points and Katie DeWitt added 13 for the Lady Sabers.
Elk Lake then reached the final by rolling over Blue Ridge, 53-32.
Jacklyn Vaow led a balanced scoring attack with 13 points while Jennings and Brooke Shingler added 12 each.
Montrose and Elk Lake advanced to play in the boys' final, which was scheduled for Friday night.
Elk Lake rallied from 18 points behind in the first quarter to edge Susquehanna, 65-62, in the first game of the boys' tournament.
Jeff Liddick connected three times from 3-point range while scoring 15 points to lead Montrose, which rallied in the fourth quarter to pull out a 46-43 lead over Blue Ridge.
Blue Ridge led after each of the first three quarters, including, 35-33, heading into the final eight minutes.
Ben Hinkley went 6-for-8 from the line and led the Raiders with 13 points.
In girls' basketball, Montrose played in the Lynett Memorial Tournament where it lost Wednesday's tournament opener, 45-35, to powerful Abington Heights, the eventual champion.
The Lady Meteors led, 7-6, until Abington Heights ran off 13 straight first-quarter points to take control.
Montrose kept the game even the rest of the way, with each team scoring 26 points over the final three quarters, but never was able to get closer than six points.
Brittany Ely led the Lady Meteors with 10 points while Monica Turner and Caitlin Ely scored eight each.
Becky Burke, who scored 33 in the first meeting between the two teams, led Abington Heights with 21 points.
Scranton Prep defeated Montrose, 54-26, in the consolation game.
The Classics led just, 17-11, before pulling away in the second half.
Brittany Ely scored nine points and was named to the all-tournament team.
In boys' basketball, Robbie Johnson was named Most Valuable Player after scoring 16 points while leading Mountain View to a 50-48 victory over Forest City in the final of the Forest City Rotary Tournament.
Johnson had 20 points in an 80-54 victory over Western Wayne in the first game.
Forest City opened the tournament with a 68-25 victory over St. Rose.
In high school wrestling, Susquehanna was 15th out of 23 teams after the first day of action in the Tunkhannock Kiwanis Tournament.
Montrose was tied for 17th and Mountain View was 23rd.
Abington Heights was leading the two-day event.
Josh Jenkins of Susquehanna won three matches at 189 pounds to reach the semifinals.
L.B. Feduchak, a freshman guard from Mountain View, is a member of the Marywood University basketball team.
Feduchak has appeared in three games so far for the Pacers (4-3). He has played 15 minutes, hitting his only shot while adding two assists, a rebound and a steal.
THE WEEK AHEAD
League competition resumes in high school sports, highlighted by Saturday afternoon's girls' basketball game featuring two-time defending Lackawanna League Division III champion Montrose at Forest City, one of the division's two unbeatens.
In high school wrestling, the Zurn-Bush Tournament is scheduled for Saturday at Elk Lake.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
CALE YARBOROUGH Can’t Stand To Lose – When the name, “Cale” comes up in NASCAR racing circles, there’s never any doubt who’s being referred to. It’s Cale Yarborough, an acknowledged legend in the world of stock car racing.
Year after year, from his first victory in 1965 to his last in 1985, capacity crowds came to see the Timmonsville, S.C. native race because of his fast pedal-to-the floor, hard-charging, driving style.
Cale Yarborough at Daytona in 1968.
Photo courtesy of NASCAR
One man that has been around Cale for several decades is Charles “Slick” Owens. I have a lot respect for “Slick,” mainly, because he never talks bad or down about a person.
“Slick” has forgotten more about racing than most of us will ever learn.
Owens began his career in racing in the early 1950s. During his 40-plus years in the business, he has either worked for or been associated with some of the biggest names in the sport, including Yarborough.
“I worked for Cale for 11 years,” said “Slick.” “At one time, when he worked for John Holman (Holman-Moody Racing), I was his boss. Back then he did all kind of things, like sweeping the floors and getting parts.
“He lived down on the lake close to my house and he could always come up with something.
“We had a trampoline on the bank of the lake that we worked out on. Sometimes we would go fishing and Cale would put a diving suit on and dive down into the water and come back up with a catfish.
“Whenever I asked how he did that, he said, ‘Buddy, I’m fast.’ He’d go back down and come back up with another one.
“I didn’t know how he did it, but later on, he told me he had dumped some old racing tires in the water, and the fish would get inside those tires, and he would reach his hand inside those tires and grab them.
“Cale and I used to do a lot of water skiing. He decided that we needed to build us a kite that could be towed behind the boat, and we would be lifted way up in the air. John Holman found out about it and said, ‘No race driver of mine is going to get hurt flying a kite behind a boat.’
“Cale would try anything. He had a small bear that he took along with him in his airplane. During one flight, this bear got out of the cage and almost caused Cale to crash.
“His father was a pilot, and they had a single engine plane when Cale was a young boy.
“Cale’s father had taken him up several times and taught him different things about the plane.
“Cale had a young friend and you know how boys are, about telling tales. Well, one day Cale and this friend of his got in the plane and took off. They flew around about 30 minutes, when Cale decided it was time to get back on the ground.
“Trouble is, Cale had never landed a plane.
“He told his friend, ‘Here, I’ve done all this flying, now you take over the controls and land this thing.’
“’Naw, you just go ahead and land it,’ said his friend. ‘I don’t care anything about landing it. I’ve landed a thousand times or more, you land it.’
“Well, they kept going on back and forth like this for quite a while, until finally, Cale ‘fessed up that he had never landed a plane.
“’I was just kidding you. I don’t know how to land one of these things,’ he said.
“Cale said after he told his friend that he had never landed a plane, the friend turned kind of pale and sickly looking and then spoke up, ‘I was lying to you, too. I’ve never flown a plane before.’
“They did get it down, but I think it wound up on its nose.
“Cale is a lot of fun, but he’s also one of the bravest men I’ve ever known. And the thing is, he never got hurt much. He did a lot of free-fall parachuting that would scare you to death, and I know what I’m talking about because I was a paratrooper in the Army.”
Putting all the joking aside, Cale Yarborough has stood in victory lane 83 times, set on the pole 68 times and is the only driver to have won three consecutive Winston Cup Driving Championships. In spite of his impressive record, one incident has gone down in history as the most talked about in his 31-year career as a driver.
Most racing fans recall Cale from the 1979 Daytona 500 – a race that was won by Richard Petty.
On the last lap, Donnie Allison was leading Yarborough as they went down the backstretch. Yarborough attempted to get by Allison on the inside, but Allison dropped down and closed him off. Both cars banged against each other several times before they spun into the infield.
Petty went on to take the checkered flag, while Donnie’s brother, Bobby finished the race and then roared back around the track to help Donnie. Helmets were off, and fists were flying as television cameras beamed the fracas to a world-wide audience of millions.
“I had planned my move and was in a perfect position to shoot past underneath.” said Yarborough in a 2000 interview. “But he kept coming down and cutting me off each time I tried to pass. Finally we both just lost control and ended up in the grass. But it looked worse on film than what really happened. It was more of a scuffle than anything else.
“Heck, I’ve always been good friends with Bobby and Donnie, and Red Farmer. As a matter of fact, they’ve made me an honorary member of the Alabama Gang. But I never could stand to lose. I raced to win and if anybody got between me and the checkered flag I was going after him. You see, being friends off the track is a whole lot different than when you’re side-by-side at 200 mph with them on the track.”
It was with the Junior Johnson team that Yarborough probably had the most success of his racing career. He spent eight seasons behind the wheel of a Junior Johnson Chevrolet. He won fifty-five Winston Cup events as well as the Winston Cup Championship in 1976, 1977, and 1978.
“Cale Yarborough is the best driver the sport has ever seen,” said Johnson. “When you strap Cale into the car, it’s like adding 20 horsepower.”
After leaving Junior Johnson, Yarborough teamed up with Harry Rainer for fourteen more victories.
Driving a Monte Carlo prior to the 1983 Daytona 500, he became the first driver to officially break the 200 mph mark in a NASCAR stock car. Moments after establishing the new record, his Monte Carlo became airborne and wound up as a scrap heap of metal. Miraculously, he escaped injury, and went on to win his third Daytona 500. He retired from driving in 1988.
Meanwhile, NASCAR has set its 2007 Nextel Cup Series testing schedule that begins at Daytona International Speedway on Monday, January 8, running through Wednesday, January 10 for approximately half the teams. Test sessions for the remaining teams will resume Monday, January 15 through Wednesday, January 17.
Racing Trivia Question: When will the “Car of Tomorrow” be introduced?
Last Week’s Question: When will the 2007 Daytona 500 be run? Answer. The 2007 Daytona 500 will be run Sunday, February 18, and it is the Nextel Cup season-opening race.
You may e-mail the Racing Reporter at email@example.com.
Protz Inducted To PA Hall Of Fame
Dorothy Protz, Hallstead, PA was inducted into the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (PSFC) Hall of Fame at the organization’s mid-September convention, 2006.
Dorothy has the honor of being the first woman the PSFC has inducted.
Dorothy is a life member of the PSFC, the Hallstead Rod and Gun Club and the Canawacta Rod and Gun Club, having been active on both local and state levels for more than 40 years.
She has served as chair of the PSFC Membership and Credentials committees and represented our area at many directors’ meetings.
She is actively involved in Ducks Unlimited, area Youth Field Days and Friends of the NRA banquets.
Local Students Make Who’s Who Sports
Following is a list of students from our area who are featured in the fifth annual edition of Who’s Who Among American High School Students, Sports Edition.
Clifford: Dustin D. Steele.
Forest City: Stephanie M. Coleman, Jessica L. Short.
Nicholson: Lenny Hargrave, Jim Loder, Brittany L. Wilkins.
Montrose: Elysia M. Curry, Sean E. Daly, Leeanne E. Hawley, Mason G. Palmatier, Mylon G. Spolar.
Brackney: Collin R. Musa, Colin J. VanZandbergen.
Friendsville: Kayla L. Traver.
Great Bend: Zachary S. Pomeroy.
Hop Bottom: Danielle Congdon, Amber L. Ross.
New Milford: Curtis D. Herbert, Jordan S. Smith.
Susquehanna: C J Felter, Brittany Heller.
Former Locals Excel In Their Sports
The sons of former Susquehanna residents Robert Ficarro and Ann Westfall Ficarro of New Port Richey, Florida are doing great in sports. Alex, age 16 and Tristan, age 11 are starring in their respective sports.
Alex is one of the stars on his basketball team, scoring in double figures.
Tristan is a whiz on the baseball field; he batted 303 this year. He plays second base and centerfield. The first tournament of the season they played a team coached by Chet Lemon, a former Detroit player. They finished the tournament in third place. During the season they had a record of twenty-five wins and five losses. This is the first year the baseball team had played together.
Congratulations to Tristan on his baseball ability and also to Alex in his basketball!
Robert is the son of Mary Ficarro and the late Ben Ficarro of Susquehanna. Ann is the daughter of Jack and Mary Westfall of Florida. Robert is also a star bowler, averaging 218 for the season.
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