Two of the pleasant surprises among Valley football teams this season were the turnaround by Selinsgrove and the solid season by a young Danville team.
The Seals, 1-9 a season ago, lost in the final regular-season finale to Danville in the de facto Heartland Athletic Conference Division I championship game. Both went on to win District 4 titles with the Seals winning a state playoff game and Danville falling to eventual AA state champion Wyomissing.
The choice for The Daily Item Coach of the Year was a tougher one and resulted in the sports staff naming Co-Coaches of the Year — Danville’s Jim Keiser and Selinsgrove’s Dave Hess.
Keiser took a young team which had sustained key graduation losses, most notably quarterback Andrew Andreychik, and guided the Ironmen to the Heartland Athletic Conference Division I championship as well as a District 4 Class AA title, beating Mount Carmel, a team many favored, in the finale. After the loss the following week to Wyomissing in the PIAA quarterfinals, Danville finished 11-3.
“I am honored, especially to be named with Dave. He is someone I respect very much and has accepted me from day one,” Keiser said when informed of the Co-Coach of the Year honor.
Going into the season, Keiser admitted, he did not expect to be a district championship-caliber team. But things changed.
“I really didn’t expect to make it to the state quarters. We were bringing back a young but somewhat experienced team but with us breaking in a new quarterback and having to rebuild the defensive line and the lack of size, we were just hoping to get into the playoffs and hopefully build off that for next season, much the way we did in 2009,” Hess said.
He said that as the season went along, they saw the improvement of the young players and the coaches began thinking they might make a little noise in the playoffs.
That they did. The Ironmen won the school’s first District 4 Class AA championship since 1991, and first of any kind since winning the AAA crown in 1999.
He said the team is excited about next season, not just because of what happened this year, but because of the attitude of the kids after the playoff loss.
“They saw what they need to do to get to the next level and to beat a team like Wyomissing, and it is a lot of hard work, and they are willing to do it,” Keiser added.