MAHONING COUNTY PLAYER OF THE YEAR: CANFIELD SENIOR ANGELO BABARO
Mahoning County Player of the Year: Canfield Senior Angelo Babaro
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CANFIELD -- Canfield senior Angelo Babbaro appreciates all the games he won and all the awards he won and all the honors he won but he can't seem to get over the one thing he didn't win this year.
His last game.
"I can't even think about anything but that last game," he said. "I think I'm always gonna wonder what would have happened if I'd stayed in."
Babbaro, this year's Mahoning County Player of the Year, set single-season school records for rushing attempts (276), yards (1,931) and TDs (31), leading the Cardinals to a 14-0 start and their first state championship game appearance.
But with his team leading 14-3 in the second quarter of the Division II state final, Babbaro suffered a knee injury and spent the rest of the game on the sidelines. Toledo Central Catholic rallied to win 31-29.
"It was great to go undefeated and it was great to win the [Metro Athletic Conference], but that one game sticks out in my mind," he said.
Mooney senior Nate Burney finished second in the voting, which consisted of a media panel from local newspaper, television and radio outlets. Rayen senior Dwayne Smith was third, followed by South Range senior Joe Novak.
Ursuline senior Alex Allen edged Mooney quarterback Kyle McCarthy for last year's inaugural award.
"It's a great honor to be considered one of the best football players in the area but without my team, I wouldn't have gotten all these accomplishments," said Babbaro. "Without my line and [fullbacks] Kyle Banna and Joe Rosko blocking for me, this never would have happened."
Babbaro (5-foot-9, 182 pounds) went to St. Christine's before enrolling at Canfield High School his freshman year. He saw limited action with the Cardinals before this season where he emerged as the team's best big-play threat. He earned first-team all-Ohio honors at running back and was named the MAC's offensive player of the year.
"We're real excited about the award; it's certainly one of the most prestigious that you can gain from the media in the Mahoning Valley," said Canfield coach Mike Pavlansky. "It's well-deserved."
Burney, a two-year starter at tailback, set the school's single-season rushing record this year in leading the Cardinals to their second straight state championship appearance. Mooney beat Versailles in last year's state final and lost to Coldwater this season.
Burney also came within 100 yards of breaking Ted Bell's career rushing record at Mooney.
"Ted Bell is the standard-bearer that all running backs in the Mahoning Valley are measured against," said Pavlansky. "When you're closing in on Ted Bell's record, you've done something very special."
Babbaro met Burney at a few football camps this summer. Although they've never played against each other, Babbaro said he's been impressed with Burney's career.
"It's an honor to be put up there with him," said Babbaro.
Added Pavlansky, "For Angelo to be mentioned in that class is a great honor for him and it's certainly something our team is very proud of. They all had a part in it."
Babbaro plans to play football in college and has already received a full-ride scholarship offer to play running back from Villanova. He also has a visit planned with Youngstown State later this month and has received interest from several Division I-AA schools.
He's not sure whether he'll play running back or safety in college, but he is sure he wants to play a lot.
"I don't really know where I'm going to go and I don't really have a preference as to which position," he said. "I just want to go wherever I can play early and play the most."