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Rick O'Brien: The last line of defense: Safeties

We take a break from packing for next weekend's trip to Hershey to present the top safeties in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

We take a break from packing for next weekend's trip to Hershey to present the top safeties in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

When compiling this subjective top-10 list, we considered tackling skills, coverage ability, and potential to excel at the next level.

1. Nate Smith, Archbishop Wood, Sr., 6-0, 185. Headed for West Virginia, the athletic and quick-footed Smith, also dangerous as a wide receiver and kick returner, has been a big-time playmaker for the Vikings.

2. James Griffin, Strath Haven, Sr., 5-11, 160. Griffin registered 53 tackles, including 32 solos, and four interceptions. At running back, he netted 1,109 yards and 13 touchdowns.

3. Julian Kaminoff, New Hope-Solebury, Sr., 6-0, 175. Kaminoff, slowed this season by nagging injuries, has scholarship offers from Fordham, Buffalo, and Monmouth.

4. Taishan Tucker, Roman Catholic, Sr., 5-9, 175. Tucker's play at free safety helped the Cahillites go 8-4 and return to the Catholic League Class AAAA championship game.

5. Danny Wynne, North Penn, Sr., 6-0, 195. With Wynne making an impact as a strong safety and outside linebacker, the Knights have yielded an average of 9.1 points over the last 12 games.

6. Nick Dudley, Downingtown East, Sr., 6-0, 180. Dudley's play was key in the Cougars' drive to the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA quarterfinals.

7. Mike Gentile, Haverford High, Sr., 6-1, 170. Gentile, also a quality receiver and kick returner, was involved in 90-plus tackles and made five interceptions.

8. Adam Regensburg, Hill School, Jr., 6-0, 185. Regensburg recorded 73 tackles and eight interceptions. As a receiver, he had 40 catches for 410 yards and five TDs.

9. Kenny Williams, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Sr., 5-10, 165. A four-year starter for the Colonials, Williams was involved in 53 tackles, including 41 solos. He made two sacks.

10. Dan Sherry, St. Joseph's Prep, Jr., 6-2, 200. Sherry, a strong safety for the Hawks, was always around the ball and a sure tackler.

Twenty others to watch, listed alphabetically: Joe Carlini, Malvern Prep, Jr., 5-8, 160; John Casey, University City, Sr., 5-8, 175; Brett Flannery, Chestnut Hill Academy, Sr., 5-11, 160; Parker Foti, Downingtown West, Sr., 5-9, 170; Jim Haley, Monsignor Bonner, Jr., 6-2, 175; Ryan Hickey, Council Rock South, Sr., 5-7, 170; Zach Jones, West Chester Henderson, Sr., 6-1, 175; Robert Knox, Upper Moreland, Sr., 6-1, 180; Kevin Malone, West Catholic, Sr., 6-0, 185; Sean McAneney, Upper Dublin, Sr., 6-2, 185; Dave McGrath, Garnet Valley, Jr., 5-10, 165; Chris Morgan, Haverford School, Sr., 6-0, 180; Doug Ott, Unionville, Sr., 6-3, 205; Matt Robinson, Father Judge, Jr., 6-2, 175; Casey Saverio, Hatboro-Horsham, Sr., 6-0, 190; Marquan Scott, Frankford, Sr., 6-1, 175; Thaddius Smith, Cardinal O'Hara, So., 5-10, 170; Mark Thompson, Cheltenham, Jr., 6-2, 220; Marquis Weathington, Coatesville, Sr., 5-10, 175; Ryan Yenchick, Phoenixville, Jr., 5-9, 165.

Thomas honored. Garnet Valley's Andrew Thomas, a senior defensive tackle, is one of 12 High School Football "Rudy" Awards finalists.

The "Rudy" Awards recognize student-athletes who have the "ability to inspire and motivate teammates, classmates, and communities."

The 5-11, 190-pound Thomas, of Chadds Ford, showed his character and leadership skills in helping his family through trying times - including a young brother's injury, his mother's stroke, and his father's job loss.

To help with mounting bills, Thomas, a captain and first-team all-Central League selection, started a lawn-care business that generated $1,000 a month.

The "Rudy" Awards winner will be announced Jan. 15.