ALLEGANY — A four-year starter, Andrew Bernard earned some more recognition for his performance on the line for Randolph’s football program Sunday afternoon.
Announced as a Big 30 All-Star in the Olean Times Herald that day, Bernard left Saturday’s 71st annual 2018 Big 30 Football Testimonial Dinner with a plaque declaring him the best lineman in the paper’s coverage area.
Bernard won from a field of four finalists nominated by the Big 30 football all-star committee to take the E.B. Fitzpatrick/James Russell Memorial Award for Unsung Lineman of the Year.
“It’s a great honor, one of the best I’ve ever received and I just hope to keep it (a) good name and a good honor,” Bernard said of the award.
As the “Unsung” award title suggests, linemen don’t usually get the headlines and recognition their teammates at running back or quarterback might. But Bernard quickly recognized his classmate Deter Miinte, another Big 30 offensive all-star at running back this year.
“It means a lot,” Bernard said of his award. “I try to do my best. It’s just an honor to see I also have another Big 30 member, one of my running backs (Miinte) up here too.”
Bernard played the last two years for Randolph/Frewsburg after the schools merged football programs but started all four years of his high school career. He tried his hand at leadership this year.
“I just took everyone under my wing, tried getting everyone on the same page,” Bernard said
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Bernard is currently undecided on a college but plans to play football. He leaves high school ball with too many proud moments to list just one.
“I just have so many memories with this team and just every moment I’ve had with them has been an honor with them, with this team,” he said.
The Cardinals ran behind Bernard’s side of the line 80 percent of the time and chipped in on defense with 56 tackles and six sacks. Lineman of the year nominees included Ben Sherry (Elk County Catholic), Trevor Smith (Pioneer) and Ian Woodruff (Smethport).
Bernard, who also won his divisional (Class C South) lineman of the year award, and Smith are both 2018 Trench Trophy Hall of Fame Inductees, and thus nominated for the top Lineman of the Year award in Western New York. The Trench Trophy honorees are invited to a banquet Dec. 5, when the Lineman of the Year will be named.
Smethport still had a game to play Monday, but first coach Adam Jack and the Hubbers’ football team collected some hardware Sunday afternoon.
Jack, who has the Hubbers undefeated (11-0) headed into this Monday’s rematch against Coudersport in the District 9 Class 9 championship, won the Big 30’s coach of the year award, the Alfred Joe Bunnell/Rod Rohl Memorial Award, and his team earned another plaque as the No. 1 team in the Times Herald’s final small school poll.
Jack, who noted his team practiced earlier Monday morning, thanked his assistant coaches by name — Jim Berlin, Gary Howes, Ryan Yingling, Joel Lent, Colby Austin, Jim McGuire and volunteers — and alluded to Smethport’s three Big 30 all-stars, Ian Woodruff (OL), Nathan Hollowell (S) and Blake Kinner (DE).
“It also helps to have very talented kids this year,” Jack said. “Three of them are here today. Thank you to those guys.”
Jack also thanked his wife and family for the sacrifices they’ve made due to the time commitment coaching entails. He spoke of a “coaching brotherhood” in the area, who have helped him as just a second-year head coach.
“Even though we are competitors on the field, I’d like to say thank you to several of you in the room who have been generous with me and our staff in regards to advice and recommendations of not just X’s and O’s but how to handle kids, how to build a program.
“A lot of you are in this room: Tony Gerg, Mark Heindl, Jeff Puglio, Todd Silfies (who) isn’t here today, Justin Bienkowski. It’s that type of sharing that helps football in the area to continue to exist and grow and get better. We may not be large in numbers but I think we play a pretty good game around here.”
The Big 30 football all-star committee honored its award winners and introduced the 31 players on the 51st annual Big 30 All-Star Team at the banquet, held at The Hall in the former Allegany High School building.
The committee selected Jack from a trio of finalists also including Pioneer’s Jim Duprey and Coudersport’s Tom Storey.
Pioneer senior running back/linebacker Mike Rigerman earned consideration on for awards on both sides of the ball, as he ultimately won the Big 30 player of the year (Gary Sage Memorial Award) unanimously and stood as a finalist for defensive player of the year. Rigerman’s numbers spoke for themself this season, as he led Western New York with 2,116 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns on 233 carries. He also made 101 tackles on the year.
Ridgway senior linebacker Evan Furlong, a repeat Big 30 all-star, won the top defensive honor, the Lou Foy Memorial Award. Limited to seven games due to injury, Furlong still had 54 tackles (24 solo), eight of them for loss, and four sacks.
The Big 30 Athletic Fund, the organization that encompasses the football all-star committee, introduced two new scholarships at the banquet. Athletic Fund president Brian Green presented the 12th Man Award to seniors from New York and Pennsylvania: “to a senior who has been part of a high school football program for four years and, while not necessarily the best player on the team, has displayed exceptional effort over his four-year career and been valuable to the program,” the official criteria sent to coaches for nominations read.
With that in mind, the committee chose Allegany-Limestone’s Gabe MacWilliams for the Mike Abdo 12th Man Award and Bradford’s Noah Meyer for the Joe Bizzaro 12th Man Award. Both players received $500 scholarship checks with their award plaques. The Athletic Fund added these awards to the scholarships it already awards to at least three seniors a year (all sports and genders considered): nearly $40,000 to 61 students from 32 schools since 2006.
Athletic Fund secretary and scholarship committee Kelly Lounsberry presented the Joe DeCerbo Memorial Award, given posthumously to Bradford’s Mike Walter. Meant to honor an individual involved in football who endured a hardship, the committee chose to honor Walter, a dedicated statistician and broadcaster following the Owls, after receiving a touching nomination letter from coach Jeff Puglio, which Lounsberry read for those in attendance.
“I will never forget the unwavering support I received, and still do, from the administration at the high school,” Puglio’s letter concluded. “That support, however, shadowed in comparison to the support I got from Mike. No matter where I was, around town, out to dinner, if Mike saw me, I’d get a loud ‘Let’s go Owls!’ Mike loved being around the team and the players. He was always proud to give me the score report at halftime of the games. Whenever I saw Mike, he was sure to be smiling. He was always happy to ask how the team was looking and was always ready for the next Owls win. The program and the community will miss Mike, but his impact will last for many years to come.”
Retired Bradford athletic director Tim Walter accepted the award on behalf of his brother, who passed away at age 62 in April, thanking Puglio for his letter.
“Everything that was read up here was true,” Tim Walter said. “And those of you that were in this room that knew my brother Mike can attest that he was an avid Owls fan, all sports but primarily football, and he loved his Owls. You could see him at all the games just hanging out with his clipboard, keeping the stats and just chit-chatting with everybody that was there. He loved the Owls. That was his life. Thank you very much, everyone.”
Angee’s catered the luncheon and Ried’s Food Barn donated the beverages.