PUNXSUTAWNEY — From a position that rarely earns any attention or honors, Punxsy interior lineman Jake Shiock, a second-team Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference (KSAC) All-Conference player on both sides of the ball last season, was granted the ultimate honor by the KSAC's Big School Football division when the results were released Wednesday: KSAC Big School Lineman of the Year.
"All year, I've been singing the praises of our defense up the middle, and I think this award goes toward validating what I was saying," Punxsy head coach Alan Nichol said. "I continue to say that we were strong up the middle, and this vote shows that. It was just a real thrill to see Jake perform this year. As an offensive lineman, we got a lot of yards out of our boot pass and our trap running game, too, and he was the leader in all of that.
"He was the guy pulling and trapping our inside trapping game, too. So overall, it's good to see him recognized. I know the coaches around the league saw how well he performed, and it's great to see that."
Shiock, who was named to first-team All-Conference on both sides of the ball this season, was the Chucks' second-leading tackler with 74 total tackles behind only senior inside linebacker Hayden Muth.
According to Nichol, those numbers can be deceiving, though.
"Jake had a lot of tackles for a defensive tackle," he said. "A lot of times, you can't get to the other side of the ball down inside like that. Hayden's number is higher, but Jake's is just as impressive, because he averaged more than seven tackles a game from that spot. A good defensive tackle could finish the season with 42 tackles."
Shiock also added four- and-a-half sacks for a total of 26 yards lost, one fumble recovery and one caused fumble.
Nichol had plenty to say about his Lineman of the Year, knowing that it was hard to see the fruits of Shiock's labors in the middle of the pile.
"First of all, Jake has been starting for three years after battling a few injury problems his sophomore year, and he's been a real stalwart on bothsides of the ball," Nichol said. "Last year, he was second-team on both sides of the ball. But to be named top lineman in that conference is quite an achievement."
Nichol noted Shiock's attention to detail as one of the many attributes that helped his team this season.
"A lot of times during the year, (we watched) him on film, which basically gives him the award, because that's where the other coaches get to see him on film and in their game," Nichol said. "But on film, you see that he's quite a technician. You could use him as a training film in terms of his technique. I don't know that I've coached someone with his talent that has been the technician he is, too. His technique, particularly on defense, on getting to the ball is extraordinary for someone his age."
Nichol said Shiock has benefitted from good line coaches, but what has set him apart is the fact that he has taken advantage of the coaches' training.
The final characteristic Nichol noted that helped Shiock land the award is his physicality and toughness.
"To play defensive line requires a certain amount of toughness to keep your motor running play after play," he said. "It takes quite a bit of commitment. When you combine all those elements, you have quite a high school football player."
Three other Chucks were also honored for their performances this season and named to the All-Conference team: Senior wide receiver Luke Janocha, senior linebacker Hayden Muth and sophomore slot receiver Clayton Dale.
Janocha was the Chucks' leading receiver with 524 yards on 32 receptions, an average of over 16 yards per catch and three touchdowns in his senior campaign. He also added an element of leadership to a young Chucks' team.
"I can't explain how hard Luke worked over the offseason to make himself a better football player," Nichol said. "He was quite a leader out there on our team, and his 32 catches are pretty impressive, seeing as he only really played about seven-and-a- half games. I think the fact that he's first-team All-Conference says a lot about how hard he worked. He had a lot of big plays for us, and his play was outstanding all year."
Muth, the team leader in tackles (79) and interceptions (3), was another steady presence on the interior of a defense that was known for stopping the run up the middle.
"Last year, we saw Hayden a lot as a third starting inside linebacker, and he gave us a lot of spells on an undefeated team," Nichol said. "We expected big things from him this year, and he certainly delivered and was a force at inside linebacker. It's just the kind of job that he relishes. He was a big hitter all year, and he got to the football. That says a lot about him and his abilities. It's a fantastic honor for him."
At slot receiver, Dale was the youngest Chuck to earn the All-Conference nod, and Nichol noted that it was quite an achievement to be recognized so young.
"As a sophomore, Clayton Dale has been working really hard, and I think it's great that he was recognized as a sophomore," Nichol said. "The fact that other coaches recognized he was a force goes a long way to validate his hard work paying off. So, having both wide receivers named All-Conference is just a tribute to their hard work."
As is always the case, Nichol said, there were other players he felt could have easily been recognized with All-Conference nods, including quarterback Garrett Zimmerman and senior running back Alex Fedigan.
Zimmerman was the one feeding Janocha and Dale all season, amassing 1,351 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, but he was beat out by Moniteau's quarterback Kyle Armagost.
Fedigan had some stout competition at halfback, as well, with Moniteau's Dustin Geagan, Brookville's Zach Vroman and Karns City's Glenn Toy making the All-Conference squad.
"We're happy for the guys who made it," Nichol said. "We had other guys we thought could have been recognized, and any time you have an All-Star team, you feel there are other guys who performed well enough, but we're definitely happy for the guys who made it.
"We entered the season as a question mark in our passing game, but we definitely left the season as an exclamation mark, and Garrett had a lot to do with that, too. But, I still can't say enough about the hard work these guys did to make themselves All-Conference football players."