Top Five High School Sports Stories in Jefferson County/DuBois area

Brookville PIAA Wrestling Champs
BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – With DuBois Central Catholic’s 5-2 loss to West Greene in the PIAA Class A softball semifinals Monday, the high-school sports season in the Jefferson County/DuBois area came to an official close.

But what a sports season it was. From Brookville’s PIAA team title in wrestling to DCC’s run in softball to Punxsutawney’s 13th straight District 9 Class AAA baseball title, there were plenty of great stories from the area during the 2015-16 school year.

Here are my top five favorites stories from the year.

5. Brockway football’s run to the District 9 title game

At the end of last school year if someone had said the Brockway football team would make the District 9 Class A title game there wouldn’t have been a whole lot of shock. The Rovers had a talented group coming back, and as long as they stayed healthy, they were going to be among the favorites to win District 9.

But a funny thing about staying healthy. It actually has to happen.

The first major injury was when star linebacker Mike Martino went down with a knee injury at the end of July. It was a blow, for sure, to the Brockway hopes but not one that they didn’t seem poised to overcome, especially when the Rovers started the season 4-0.

But in that fourth game, star running back Tony Isabella, who ran for 522 yards and nine touchdowns in 3 ½ games, suffered a season-ending knee injury as well.

There was no way the Rovers were going to contend now, was there?

It sure didn’t look like it when Clearfield pasted Brockway 28-7 in the first game after the Isabella injury and then Kane beat the Rovers 21-14 the following week.

But Brockway came together rolling off four straight wins to reach the District 9 playoffs. The Rovers then dispatched of Elk County Catholic and Redbank Valley to reach the District 9 title game where they faced Kane again.

And oh how close it came to being a storybook ending for Brockway when the Rovers took an improbable 17-14 lead on a touchdown run by Mark Latuska, who stepped in for Isabella and ran for 1,024 yards and 16 touchdowns of his own, with 1:23 to play.

But, alas, it wasn’t to be for Brockway as it was Kane with the storybook ending in a 21-17 victory. But that doesn’t take away from the great story the Rovers became in overcoming adversity to reach the title game.

4. Punxsutawney baseball wins 13th straight District 9 Class AAA title

It doesn’t matter how many teams are in a classification. Anytime a team wins 13 straight District titles it has to be doing something right. And Punxsutawney baseball has built a District 9 dynasty that might never be matched. When the Chucks beat Clearfield 8-1 May 26, they won their 13th straight D9 Class AAA title.

Pitcher John Matthews was at the heart of this team, and Matthews threw a gem in the title game giving up an unearned run on three hits and two walks while striking out eight.

Matthews was back at it a little over a week later, helping the Chucks to a 3-2 win over Blackhawk in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs allowing two runs, one earned, in seven innings.

While Punxsy’s season came to an end in a 4-3, nine-inning loss to Hamburg June 9, it was another fantastic baseball season in southern Jefferson County.

3. Young and Ortz win state title

It’s not often a county with three high schools produces one state champion in wrestling let alone two. But that’s exactly what happened in Jefferson County this year, as Punxsutawney’s Kaleb Young and Brookville’s Tate Ortz both took home state gold.

Young, who is headed to Iowa, won the Class AAA at 160 pounds with a 5-3 win over Mifflin County’s Trent Hidlay.

Ortz, meanwhile, followed up his strong showing at the dual-meet championships by taking home gold at 132 pounds in Class AA. A Clarion University recruit, Ortz defeated Bishop McDevitt junior John Popa, 7-2, to win the state title.

2. DuBois Central Catholic making the PIAA Class A semifinals in softball

The Lady Cardinals were one of a handful of favorites entering the season, and they rolled their way to the District 9 title with a 22-0 record. It was their second D9 title in three years. Once in the state playoffs, they easily dispatched Windber, 16-0 in three innings, bringing a game with last year’s PIAA runner-up Conemaugh Valley. This is where many thought the run might end. But DCC rode the wave of pitcher Riley Assalone, who had a streak of allowing just one earned run in 70 innings finally snapped in the PIAA semifinals, to a 3-0 win that sent the Lady Cardinals to the PIAA semifinal game for the first time in school history. While the semifinals didn’t go DCC’s way, a 5-2 loss to WPIAL champion West Greene ended the Lady Cards season, the future looks bright for DCC, which loses just two starters. So bright in fact, that manager George Heigel said the team was probably a year ahead of schedule reaching the semifinals.

1. Brookville winning the PIAA Class AA dual-meet wrestling title

This wasn’t necessarily unexpected with many seeing the Raiders as the favorites going into the PIAA dual-meet championships. But how often do we see the pressure of expectations keep a team from winning?

Not this time.

Led by pins from Gavin Park and Tate Ortz, Brookville defeated Saucon Valley, 33-24, Feb. 13 to claim the second dual-meet title in school history.

The Raiders also got a technical fall from Keelan Kunselman, a major decision from Cole Aaron and decisions from Calen Hetrick, Dane Clever, Noah Cieleski and Tyler Cook in getting the championship match victory.

The victory was also the 600th dual-meet win in school history adding a double-special to a special day.

And while beating Saucon Valley was the capper of a magnificent run, the semifinal match victory, 29-27, might have been the sweetest.

With three weight classes left to wrestle, Brookville trailed rival Reynolds, 21-20.

But Ortz pinned Ryan Harnett to put the Raiders up five, 26-21. Then Aaron, beat Set Hogue, 5-1, to clinch the victory for Brookville, which didn’t need to wrestle the final bout.

Brookville also went on to win a second team title at the individual championships, but that one isn’t quite as special as winning the dual-meet title.

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