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Rick O'Brien: Just for kicks: They put the foot into football

Our tour of the local high school football talent, which has focused on offensive and defensive players so far, continues today as we give equal time to the top kickers in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Our tour of the local high school football talent, which has focused on offensive and defensive players so far, continues today as we give equal time to the top kickers in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Here is one man's list of this season's most productive kickers:

1. Mike Bennett, La Salle, senior, kicker-punter. Bennett was the first-team all-Catholic League Division AAAA selection. He's a lefty kicker who booted a winning 35-yard field goal in the snow against Easton and has hit nine field goals. Three of his six kickoffs Saturday against Ridley resulted in touchbacks.

2. Jack Ruggieri, Avon Grove, senior, K. For his steady contributions, Ruggieri, a Division I-A prospect, garnered first-team all-Ches-Mont League National Conference honors. He was a first-year kicker.

3. Tom Weathers, Penncrest, junior, K-P. Weathers was 57 for 60 on extra-point attempts and 6 for 6 on field-goal tries. He earned first-team all-Central League honors.

4. Mark Tiberi, Malvern Prep, senior, K-P. In helping the Friars lay claim to a piece of the Inter-Academic League title, he averaged 40 yards per punt and delivered five field goals.

5. Matt Kirkpatrick, Upper Perkiomen, senior, K-P. He averaged 37 yards per punt, with a 67-yarder in a matchup against Owen J. Roberts, and totaled 47 points, including a pair of field goals.

6. Owen Radtke, Father Judge, senior, K. With six field goals and 28 PATs - including a 5-for-5 effort in a season-opening win over Council Rock North - he was a bright spot in a down year for the Crusaders.

7. Nick Visco, Archbishop Wood, freshman, K. The rookie produced seven field goals and 41 PATs in the Vikings' run to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals.

8. Sean Baner, William Tennent, senior, K-P. With many punts that pinned foes deep in their territory, he was selected first-team all-Suburban One League National Conference.

9. Patrick Connaghan, Chestnut Hill Academy, senior, K-P. Before moving over to the the basketball court, he totaled 44 points, with one field goal, for the Inter-Ac League tri-champions.

10. Corte Rumph, Pennsbury, senior, K. One of the highlights for Rumph was a 39-yard field goal in a Week 4 win over Council Rock South.

Twenty others, listed alphabetically: Dan Acchione, Garnet Valley, senior, K-P; Tom Bongiorno, Ridley, senior, K-P; Casey Boyd, Upper Dublin, senior, K-P; Tim Carroll, West Catholic, senior, K; Bill Castor, Conwell-Egan, senior, K-P; Dave Faraldo, Father Judge, sophomore, P; Adam Fender, Marple Newtown, senior, K; David Gianninni, Souderton, sophomore, P; Dylan Harris, North Penn, senior, K-P; Anthony Hensley, Abington, senior, P; Will Huff, Neumann-Goretti, senior, K-P; Zach Lepore, Owen J. Roberts, senior, P; Will Mau, West Chester Rustin, junior, K; Ryan McDonough, Wissahickon, senior, K-P; Aaron Morgan, Haverford School, freshman, K; Bryan Reice, Neshaminy, sophomore, P; Drew Siegfried, Bishop McDevitt, senior, P; John Michael Staudenmayer, Plymouth Whitemarsh, junior, P; Dan Vanderslice, Monsignor Bonner, senior, K-P; John Wellbrock, Sun Valley, senior, P.


Conestoga's Dennis Leighton and Brad Herzlich have committed to Villanova and Brown, respectively.

Leighton, a first-team all-Central League selection, is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound defensive back. The 6-3, 205-pound Herzlich, a second-team pick at linebacker, recorded 154 tackles, including 27 solo stops.

Stout defense

In La Salle's 35-7 romp over Ridley in Saturday's PIAA Class AAAA state semifinal, the Explorers' defense yielded only 89 yards rushing and 89 passing through three quarters. Overall, coordinator John Steinmetz' unit forced four turnovers, all fumbles.

Linebackers Shane Brady and Ryan Saraceni, and safety Kevin Forster each posted five tackles. End Steve Sinnott produced four solo tackles, including a third-quarter sack, and batted down a pass.

Sinnott and tackle Steve Szostak had solo sacks. Brady was joined on his first-quarter sack by end Cameron Cappo.

Both of linebacker Anthony Cognetti's fumble recoveries came in the fourth quarter. The first was forced by end Joseph Naji's hit on quarterback Colin Masterson. The second, which Cognetti returned 36 yards to the Ridley 22, was caused by Saraceni's tackle of wideout Norm Donkin after a 7-yard gain.

Ridley's three first-half fumbles were forced by, in order, Brady (recovery by Szostak), Mark DiFrangia (on a punt return, recovery by Patrick Resch), and Forster (recovery by cornerback Vinny Migliarese).

Team to watch

Ridley will lose several standouts to graduation, including Masterson, wideout-cornerback Alex Nicolino, defensive end Casey DePrinzio, two-way tackle Rob Crispin, and linebacker Casey Decker.

But a number of talented juniors are expected to return for coach Dennis Decker: running back-linebacker Sam Dixon-Dugan, receiver-cornerback Dion Shaw, running back Shahaid Smith, and wideout-safety Donkin. Also expected back is up-and-coming sophomore running back-linebacker Jalen Randolph.

With Dixon-Dugan, Smith, and Randolph in the offensive backfield, the Green Raiders certainly have the potential to better this season's 30.1 points-per-game average.

By the numbers

In Ridley's loss to La Salle, Smith (14 carries for 103 yards) and Randolph (6 for 63) combined for all of the Green Raiders' 166 rushing yards. . . . Decker registered a team-high 12 tackles, including eight solo stops. Dixon-Dugan was next in line, with eight tackles, including a pair of sacks. Fellow linebacker Dillon Hayner notched six tackles, batted down a second-quarter pass, and had a third-quarter hurry. . . . Donkin, who made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch of a Masterson pass late in the second quarter, made four solo tackles.

Masterson, sacked three times for a total loss of 15 yards, completed 11 of 27 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. For the season, he passed for 2,400 yards and 25 scores. . . . Sixteen different players made tackles for La Salle. . . . With Jamal Abdur-Rahman (21 carries for 120 yards and two TDs) leading the way, the Explorers netted 138 yards rushing on 43 attempts. That total was diminished by Dixon-Dugan's second-quarter sack, which resulted in a loss of 26 yards and a fumble that was recovered by lineman Jesse Conserva.

Extra points

Massachuetts was in this weekend to look at La Salle QB Drew Loughery, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 102 yards against Ridley. . . . Matt Craig, a junior tailback for Springfield (Delco), finished with 1,809 yards rushing and 22 TDs. He had 23 receptions for 190 yards, and 7 two-point conversions. . . . In 7 games, Souderton's Derek Brown totaled 15 TDs, 724 yards rushing and 297 receiving. . . . Wissahickon QB Brandon Gunn passed for 987 yards and ran for 954. . . . Upper Perkiomen's Chase Fleming rushed for 1,127 yards and 15 TDs. At linebacker, he posted 100-plus tackles, with 31/2 sacks, and returned an interception for a score. . . . Frank Yurick, a two-way tackle for Upper Dublin, notched a team-high 86 tackles and had 11 pancake blocks. . . . Haverford School end Sam Shea finished with 59 tackles, including seven sacks, and recovered two fumbles. . . . Downingtown East sophomore workhorse Drew Harris rushed 365 times for 2,002 yards and 30 TDs.