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Rick O'Brien: Inquirer's top high school safeties

We've reached the end of our position-by-position tour of the local football talent. This week, we rank the top safeties in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

No. 10 on the field but No. 1 on this list, Eric Williams of Pennsbury watches a Neshaminy player lose the ball. Williams broke up a key pass in overtime as the Falcons won that Nov. 6 game.
No. 10 on the field but No. 1 on this list, Eric Williams of Pennsbury watches a Neshaminy player lose the ball. Williams broke up a key pass in overtime as the Falcons won that Nov. 6 game.Read moreBOB WILLIAMS / For The Inquirer

We've reached the end of our position-by-position tour of the local football talent. This week, we rank the top safeties in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

When putting together this top-10 list, which we cranked up to 12, we considered ability, open-field tackling, skill at helping out against the run, and potential to excel at the next level. The selections were based on our observations and input from area coaches.

1. Eric Williams, Pennsbury, senior, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. Bound for Pittsburgh, the athletic and quick-footed Williams, also a wide receiver, made many big plays for the Falcons. In overtime of a 27-21, league-clinching win against Neshaminy on Nov. 6, he stepped in and batted away a fourth-and-4 pass intended for the tight end.

2. Lonnie Richardson, Strath Haven, senior, 5-11, 195. Though slowed by injuries, this two-way standout earned first-team all-Central League honors on defense. He was also a dangerous running back.

3. Terrell Chestnut, Pottsgrove, junior, 5-11, 175. Terrific in one-on-one coverage, the Division I-A recruit almost made the same impact at free safety as he did at quarterback.

4. Rahmier White, West Chester Rustin, senior, 5-11, 180. With six interceptions, he helped the 11-1 Golden Knights retain their Ches-Mont League American Conference championship. His brother, Rondell, was a solid cornerback.

5. Michael Brown, Penn Charter, senior, 5-9, 185. Speedy and smart, Brown did a little bit of everything for the Quakers. He was a major threat as a kick returner.

6. Adam Smith, Interboro, junior, 6-1, 170. He was the quarterback of the Bucs' bone-rattling defense. In the District 1 Class AAA final against Pottsgrove, he notched nine tackles, with six solo stops.

7. Kevin Forster, La Salle, junior, 6-1, 175. Forster, also a key contributor as a receiver, is one of the Explorers' surest tacklers. He had two solo tackles and a pass breakup in Saturday's 17-14 win over Easton in the snow.

8. Brandon Gunn, Wissahickon, senior, 5-10, 205. Gunn, who threw for 898 yards and ran for 975, made three interceptions. He is hearing from Stony Brook and Rhode Island.

9. Kevin Regan, Roman Catholic, senior, 6-4, 200. A 1,000-yard passer, Regan earned first-team all-Catholic League Class AAAA honors as a defender.

10. Nate Smith, George Washington, sophomore, 6-0, 175. He made a big impact as a freshman, with four interceptions, and continued his steady play this season. He doubled as a wide receiver.

11. Skyler Mornhinweg, St. Joseph's Prep, sophomore, 6-3, 190. His future may be as a quarterback, but his height and range are also valuable to the Hawks' secondary. He was a first-team all-Catholic pick.

12. Ryan Woods, Garnet Valley, senior, 6-1, 180. At free safety, Woods was involved in 77 tackles, including 32 solos. As a wide receiver, he made a team-high 18 catches for 319 yards and four scores.

Twenty others to watch, listed alphabetically: Joshua Bangura, Dobbins, senior, 6-1, 190; DeVonne Boler, Central, senior, 5-10, 190; Pat Brewer, Coatesville, senior, 6-0, 185; Mike Ciotti, Pennsbury, senior, 5-9, 170; Anthony DiNolfi, Norristown, junior, 5-9, 150; Conor Foote, Lower Merion, senior, 6-0, 175; Mike Goodrich, Downingtown West, senior, 5-9, 150; Taylor Hamilton, Council Rock North, senior, 6-0, 185; A.J. Jones, Haverford School, senior, 6-3, 205; Ray Manuel, West Catholic, senior, 5-9, 175; Chris O'Brien, Malvern Prep, junior, 5-11, 170; Andrew Onimus, Cardinal O'Hara, senior, 6-2, 175; Kevin Phillips, Unionville, senior, 5-10, 165; Robert Quarterman, Bok, senior, 5-9, 175; Jerry Rahill, Archbishop Wood, senior, 6-0, 180; Brandon Robles, Downingtown East, junior, 5-10, 160; Andrew Siegfried, Bishop McDevitt, senior, 6-1, 185; Tyleel Taylor, Northeast, senior, 5-8, 170; Connor Thompson, Father Judge, junior, 5-11, 175; Dwight Williams, Neshaminy, junior, 6-2, 185.

State semifinals

Here is next weekend's playoff schedule:

PIAA Class AAAA Semifinal: Ridley (13-1) vs. La Salle (12-1), 1 p.m. Saturday at Northeast's Charlie Martin Memorial Field.

PIAA Class AAA Semifinal: Archbishop Wood (11-2) vs. Selinsgrove (14-0), 7 p.m. Friday at HersheyPark Stadium.

PIAA Class AA Semifinal: West Catholic (12-2) vs. Lancaster Catholic (13-1), 1 p.m. Saturday at Coatesville.

La Salle-Easton

Jamal Abdur-Rahman carried 17 times for 61 yards in the Explorers' 17-14 snow-covered victory over the Red Rovers on Saturday. His fourth-quarter interception at the 1-yard line while playing cornerback and Sam Feleccia's 7-yard run on third and 6 sealed the victory. . . . Out of the Wildcat formation, Feleccia, normally a wideout, gained 40 yards on five second-half attempts. "We've used it before," La Salle coach Drew Gordon said. "There's no better guy to give the ball to at the end of a game than a kid who's 6-3 and 230." . . . Easton's 14-0 lead in the first quarter was La Salle's largest deficit since it trailed George Washington, 21-7, late in the third quarter of last year's District 12 final. . . . End Steve Sinnott had five tackles, including a pair of sacks. Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Red Rovers at first and 10 at the La Salle 18, quarterback Justin Pacchioli wriggled free from tackle Ryan Geiger, but Sinnott was right there to drop him for a 13-yard loss. . . . Inside linebacker Ryan Saraceni produced three solo tackles in the second half. He dumped running back Quran Hughes for a 2-yard loss in the third quarter. . . . Tackle Steve Szostak posted four solo tackles and recovered a second-quarter fumble at the Easton 21. That turnover set up Drew Loughery's right-to-left, 5-yard touchdown toss to tight end Steve Jones. It was Jones' first catch since the 24-14 win over Cardinal O'Hara on Nov. 7.

Ridley-North Penn

In the Ridley Green Raiders' 19-10 win Friday, linebacker Sam Dixon-Dugan, recently back from an injury, registered seven solo tackles and a hurry in the final 21 minutes. His biggest stop came early in the third quarter on a fourth-and-1 play at the Ridley 6. He stormed into the backfield and dropped Knights tailback Craig Needhammer (10 carries for 39 yards) for no gain. . . . In addition to his 93-yard kickoff return for a second-quarter score, Ridley cornerback Alex Nicolino totaled a team-high nine tackles, including eight solos. Six of fellow cornerback Dion Shaw's seven tackles were solos. . . . Ridley quarterback Colin Masterson completed 8 of 14 passes for 101 yards. For North Penn, Todd Smolinsky was 14 for 25 for 103 yards, with two interceptions (Casey Decker and Norm Donkin). . . . Knights linebacker Mike Culbreath had seven solo tackles. Fellow linebacker Needhammer also chipped in seven stops, with six solos.

Extra points

George Washington's Sharrif Floyd, a 6-3, 305-pound senior, has been selected to play in the Aloha Prep Bowl on Saturday in Honolulu, Hawaii. On Jan. 9, the two-way lineman will compete in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. . . . Cardinal O'Hara will host its third annual College Night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. next Monday in the cafeteria. Interested student-athletes should bring unofficial transcripts and highlight film. . . . In 11 games, Abington's Sam Kind completed 134 of 247 passes for 1,894 yards and 20 TDs, with 9 interceptions. For his career, he was 302 for 551 for 4,445 yards and 50 TDs, with 16 interceptions.