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The best Punxsy sports moments of the year

December 29, 2010

Punxsy seniors (from left) Dane Kopas, Dylan Kachmar, Dom Bevak (front), Kyle Neal, Tyler Wingard and Braedon Pennington hold the 2010 District IX Class AAA Baseball Championship plaque high for everyone to see. (File photo by Dan Walk/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

There were many moments that Punxsy sports fans have cherished and won't soon forget from 2010. The following are Punxsutawney's greatest triumphs and achievements from this year.

Pennington honored by state

Punxsy's Braedon Pennington was named to the 2009 Associated Press All-State Class AAA First Team as a defensive back following his senior season by Pennsylvania sports writers after helping send the Chucks to their first District IX Class AAA title since 1991.

Pennington was honored in January 2010 — 16 months after not knowing if he would be able to play football again after a hard hit to the throat during a Sept. 5, 2008, football game.

The safety finished the 2009 season with 122 total tackles — an average of 10.2 per game. He also provided a jarring hit on Clearfield's Trey Campman to clinch the district crown.

"(Pennington's recognition) doesn't surprise me. If you watch the game, he controlled a lot of games from the safety position," Punxsy head coach Alan Nichol said in January. "It's not a secret across Western Pennsylvania that he's a big hitter. He can cover, he can catch the ball out there, and to top it off, he can tackle and hit to the point that he changes the game. Game after game, he made so many fantastic plays."

Young surpasses 100 victories

As a junior, Kody Young became the second wrestler in PAHS history to record 100 victories Jan. 26 in Punxsutawney with a win by pin in 1:20 over Clarion's Ricki Elliot.

With the victory, Young joined Matt Means, who finished with a school record 110 individual triumphs in 2006.

Young's father, Buddy Young — who is also a coach of the Chucks — said the accomplishment was more memorable than when his son reached states for the first time in 2009 as a sophomore.

"Other than him being born, this is probably the greatest moment we've had," Buddy said. "Getting states is great, but 100 (wins) is a huge accomplishment. It's the milestone of wrestling. It's what people want to do."

Young finished the 2009-2010 season with 109 victories, and he entered this season ready to break the mark and try to advance to states for the second time.

Kopas breaks 1,000-point barrier

During his senior season, Dane Kopas became the 10th PAHS boys to break 1,000 points and became the first at the school since Dave Constantino did in 1988.

Kopas, who played off the bench as a freshman and started since he was a sophomore, nailed a jumper on the right baseline with 2:26 left in the first quarter to surpass 1,000 career points Feb. 3 at home against Brookville.

"The team was my focus first, and if it wasn't for all four years of good teammates, I wouldn't have gotten it," Kopas said of the milestone.

Spack advances to states

A week after winning the district title at 112 pounds, Seth Spack made it to the state championships in Hershey by finishing second at the regional tournament in Altoona.

Spack reached the regional final, and since three wrestlers from each weight class advance to states, his berth was already clinched, even though he lost to Bellefonte's Thomas Traxler by a 14-1 major decision in the regional final. Spack upset Franklin's Trevor Graham in the semifinals to clinch the state berth.

"Seth got hot at the right time," Punxsy head coach Eric Eddy said. "He came out this weekend, knocked off some big names and put himself in the state tournament. That's a great accomplishment as a sophomore."

Spack's teammate, Kody Young, finished one win shy of a state berth at regionals after winning his third-straight district title a week prior.

Four Punxsy athletes reach state meet

Punxsy seniors Nick Wehrle and Alexis Bianco were joined by underclassmen Nikki Martz and Kevin Byars as the school's four state track and field qualifiers May 19.

Wehrle, who was named the most outstanding boy on the track, won the 400-meter dash at districts, while Bianco claimed her second consecutive high jump title.

Martz, a junior, won the javelin for a third time, and Byars, a sophomore, out-leaped all triple jump competitors.

Softball wins third title

Led by 5 2/3-innings from starting pitcher Kelsey Cook, 1 1/3-innings of clutch relief pitching work from Amber Lellock and four runs scored during the first two innings, the Punxsy softball team accomplished its third-straight district title by downing Clearfield May 26, 4-2.

With the tying run on first base with two outs during the sixth inning, a nasty change-up by Lellock led to a strikeout. An inning later, the Lady Chucks were not only champs again, but they helped manager Alan Pifer win his 100th-career game.

"That was like icing on the cake," Pifer said of 100 wins. "It felt real good."

Baseball takes seventh crown

For as well as starting pitcher Braedon Pennington was throwing, the Punxsy baseball team needed just one magical inning to win its seventh-straight district title June 2 over St. Marys, 3-2.

The Chucks were behind 2-1 in the sixth inning when singles by Zak Dickey and Dylan Kachmar brought in the tying run, and Kyle Neal's base-knock scored Kachmar, the go-ahead run.

After a 3-7 start, Punxsy won yet another title led by Pennington, who threw a complete game with five strikeouts.

"This was a lot of fun, considering where we were at at one point, 3-7, and couldn't put a game together," Punxsy manager Paul Hetrick said. "To get here and win this, this one feels pretty good."

Mesoraco moves from A to AAA

Three years and two months after being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, Punxsy's Devin Mesoraco advanced to Class AAA and is on the cusp of becoming a major leaguer.

During his first game with the Triple-A Louisville Bats, the slugger bashed a walk-off grand slam to lift his team to a victory.

By the season's end, the catcher had hit .302 during 113 games at three levels with 26 home runs, 75 RBIs and a .964 OPS.

He was given the Chief Bender Award as the franchise's Minor League Player of the Year in December.

Mesoraco expects to start the 2010 season in AAA, but may get the call-up to the Reds by the summer.

"It's obviously been my goal since I was two years old. I think at one point, my goal was just to make it to the big leagues. I think now, it's to have a career," Mesoraco said in September. "I want to be up there for a long time and do whatever I can do to be one of the guys who just sticks around for 10 or 15 years."

Boys' soccer has historic season

The Punxsy boys' soccer team fell one goal shy of a its first-ever district title, but it did beat DuBois for the first time ever — 1-0 Oct. 19 at home — and completed its home schedule with an undefeated mark of 8-0-1.

Better yet, senior Kody Young sent the team into the district final with an overtime goal over St. Marys, and Tyler Presloid — who broke the school record for goals in a season — was later named the UAVSL MVP.

Schall wins another district title

Milea Schall won her second district cross country title in a row and advanced to states for the third-straight year, while A.J. Meterko was going to states for a third time after taking second overall in the boys' race.

The Lady Chucks tied Bradford as a team, but finished in second place and were unable win a third consecutive team championship. Punxsy's Dane Baker, Alexis Young, Shannon Byerly and Juliann Boddorf also advanced to states.

Punxsy football goes 10-0

Though the Punxsy football team didn't have a chance at winning its 10th on the field, the Chucks went 10-0 during the regular season for the second time in school history after a victory by forfeit during Week 10.

Punxsy outscored opponents by a 323-39 margin during the regular season to accomplish the feat, which also was done in 1977 and 1963.

"The players have confidence in one another just like the good teams that I played on. (Going 10-0) is difficult," said Punxsy head coach Alan Nichol, who played for the 1977 team. "The bottom line was their effort, and the effort of these guys no matter what we asked them to do, carried the day."

Volleyball makes it six-straight titles

Led by 10 seniors who have been in the program since they were middle-schoolers, the Punxsy volleyball team won its sixth-straight district title in dominant fashion — sweeping Kane and St. Marys to obtain the crown.

"I'm just so proud of them, and I'm just so happy they came through and won it," Punxsy head coach Lisa Good said in November.

Adding to that, senior Hannah Neal, the team's libero, was named the district MVP after four seasons as a starter with the Lady Chucks.

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