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Rick O'Brien: The last line of defense: Area's top 12 at safety

We've reached the end of our position-by-position tour of the local football talent. We close with the area's top safeties.

We've reached the end of our position-by-position tour of the local football talent. We close with the area's top safeties.

When compiling this top-10 list, which we cranked up to 12, we considered tackling skills, coverage ability, and potential to excel at the next level. The selections were based on personal observations and input from area coaches.

1. Terrell Chestnut, Pottsgrove, Sr., 5-11, 180. Bound for Pittsburgh, the athletic and quick-footed Chestnut, also a quarterback, made many big plays for the Falcons. In four seasons, he directed the squad to a 43-9 record.

2. Kevin Forster, La Salle, Sr., 6-2, 180. A do-everything player for the Explorers, Forster also played receiver, filled in at quarterback when Matt Magarity was out with a concussion, and returned kicks. He will play lacrosse at Maryland.

3. Dwight Williams, Neshaminy, Sr., 6-3, 195. The free safety, who notched 47 tackles and a playoff interception, also starred at wideout. Williams, now playing hoops, made 35 catches for 665 yards and seven touchdowns.

4. Brandon Robles, Downingtown East, Sr., 5-10, 170. A third-year starter who posted five interceptions, Robles earned first-team all-Ches-Mont League National Division honors for the second consecutive season.

5. Matt Conroy, Bishop McDevitt, Sr., 6-1, 195. Conroy showed why he was a first-team all-Catholic choice in a nonleague contest vs. St. Joseph's Prep. He made 10 of his game-high 13 tackles (nine solos) in the opening 16 minutes.

6. Anthony DiNolfi, Norristown, Sr., 5-10, 180. DiNolfi, a first-team all-Suburban One League American Conference pick, was always around the ball. He also served as a quality wide receiver.

7. Tyler Gallen, Cardinal O'Hara, Sr., 6-1, 175. With sure tackling and good hands, Gallen helped lead the Lions to a 9-2 record and second place in the Catholic League Class AAA Division. He made 26 catches for 470 yards and four TDs.

8. James Griffin, Strath Haven, Jr., 5-10, 155. A strong tackler at free safety, Griffin, clocked at 11.1 seconds in the 100-meter dash, played a pivotal role in the Panthers' turnaround. On offense, he was a halfback and QB.

9. Dennis Regan, Roman Catholic, Sr., 5-11, 180. Regan, a first-team all-Catholic selection, intercepted five passes. He had two picks against Father Judge, returning one for a 53-yard score.

10. Adam Smith, Interboro, Sr., 6-1, 185. Smith, who started at QB for most of the season, was key in the Bucs' drive to the PIAA District 1 Class AAA semifinals and a Turkey Day win over archrival Ridley.

11. Shane Morrell, Episcopal Academy, Sr., 6-3, 180. Morrell, a first-team all-Inter-Ac League pick, totaled six interceptions. As a receiver, he netted nearly 500 yards on 37 receptions.

12. Kenny Williams, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Jr., 5-9, 165. For the improved Colonials, who went 6-5 overall, Williams posted 99 tackles and two INTs.

Twenty others to watch, listed alphabetically: Kyle Adkins, Archbishop Wood, Jr., 5-11, 170; Nick Craig, Haverford School, Sr., 5-10, 180; Anthony D'Ambrosio, West Chester Rustin, Sr., 5-11, 180; Lamont Davis, Northeast, Sr., 5-7, 165; Norm Donkin, Ridley, Sr., 5-11, 185; Mike Gentile, Haverford High, Jr., 6-0, 160; Brentt Golson, Academy Park, Jr., 5-9, 160; Ryan Hickey, Council Rock South, Jr., 5-8, 165; Matt Holmes, Avon Grove, Sr., 5-10, 160; Kevin Malone, West Catholic, Jr., 5-11, 170; Dylan Moore, Pennridge, Sr., 5-10, 170; Donovan Morris, George Washington, Sr., 5-11, 160; Peter Mulville, Downingtown West, Sr., 6-3, 170; JoJo Rava, Malvern Prep, Sr., 6-1, 170; Sean Reilly, Central Bucks East, Sr., 6-0, 195; Jake Richard, West Chester Henderson, Jr., 6-0, 180; Jason Skyrm, Souderton, Sr., 6-0, 180; Tyrone Stone-Davis, Mastbaum, Sr., 6-2, 180; Connor Thompson, Father Judge, Sr., 5-11, 190; Derron Thompson, Harry S Truman, Sr., 6-2, 205.