First-year coaches honored, 4 Valley standouts earn player of year

Four Valley standouts earn player of the year

Staff report

Liberty’s Brian Jones started this season as the first-year coach of a team on an 18-game losing streak.

His Leopards ended it as All-American Conference National Division champions and Division IV regional semifinalists.

For that, Jones was named the Division IV co-coach of the year in the Northeast Inland district, one of four first-year Mahoning Valley coaches to earn the honor when the teams were announced Thursday.

Jones shared his award with Creston Norwayne coach Joe Harbour, whose team defeated Liberty 54-7 on Friday.

Warren Harding coach Steve Arnold was named coach of the year in Division I after leading the Raiders to a 9-2 record, a Lake Erie League championship and a playoff berth. Warren Harding went just 2-8 last season.

Fitch senior defensive tackle Billy Price, an Ohio State recruit, was named the division’s defensive player of the year after helping Fitch finish 9-2 and qualify for the playoffs after missing out in 2011.

In Division II, Howland senior running back De’Veon Smith earned offensive player of the year honors after helping the Tigers (8-3) win the AAC’s American Division and qualify for the postseason for the sixth straight season. The University of Michigan recruit set Trumbull County’s all-time rushing record. He ran for 1,751 yards and 25 TDs this season.

In Division III, Niles coach Brian Shaner earned top honors after helping the Red Dragons to their first playoff appearance since 2006. The Red Dragons went 5-5 last season and hired Shaner after he spent the past 10 years at Rayen and Youngstown East.

In Division V, Crestview’s standout running back, Nick Blower, was named offensive player of the year as the Rebels (11-1) won the Inter Tri-County League’s Tier One title en route to their first undefeated season in school history. Blower broke the school’s single-season rushing record with 1,729 yards and 21 TDs.

Ursuline coach Larry Kempe, who took over for Dan Reardon in the offseason, was named Division V’s top coach for his work with the Irish this season. The longtime assistant led Ursuline back to the playoffs after a one-year drought. The Irish (8-4) will play defending state champion Kirtland on Saturday night in the regional finals.

In Division VI, Youngstown Christian defensive lineman KaeVon Green was the defensive player of the year for his work in helping the Eagles (9-2) to their second straight playoff berth and their first appearance in the regional finals. They will play Mogadore tonight. In nine games, Green recorded 58 tackles and a team-best 16.5 sacks.

The all-district teams are chosen by a regional media panel based on recommendations from each team’s coach.

All-Ohio honors will be announced next week, with Division I-II on Monday, III-IV on Tuesday and V-VI on Wednesday. Mr. Football will also be announced on Wednesday.