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NEW YORK STATE FOOTBALL: TIOGA'S BELLIS NAMED CLASS D 'PLAYER OF THE YEAR' AGAIN; 10 TEAMMATES ALSO RECOGNIZED — SIX ON FIRST TEAM (2024-01-11)

Valley Sports Report
SYRACUSE — Senior Caden Bellis was named the New York State Class D “Player of the Year,” for the second year in a row, while six of his teammates were first-team selections, and four received honorable mention recognition from the New York State Sportswriters Association.

Bellis, who capped his career with a 40-0 record at QB with three state titles, was a dangerous dual-threat quarterback, and a sure-fire tackler at strong safety / linebacker.

“Whatever accolades Caden receives for his efforts on the gridiron are well-deserved, and I’m glad he is being recognized as the Sportswriters’ Player of the Year for second year in a row,” said Tioga coach Nick Aiello. “

“He had fantastic senior season and a phenomenal career,” added Aiello. “His stats speak for themselves, but his leadership and ability to perform in big games is what I’ll remember most.”

Bellis completed 69.9 percent (51 of 73) of his passes for 1,350 yards, 28 TDs, and just one interception. He also rushed for 737 yards and 12 TDs on 55 carries — an average of 13.4 yards per carry, and ran in a pair of two-point conversions.

Bellis will graduate as the all-time leader in nearly every passing statistic in program history.

Defensively, Bellis perfected the ankle tackle, leading the Tigers with 89 tackles, including 22 solo stops, and five tackles-for-losses. He also had two interceptions.

FIRST TEAM
Drew Macumber, senior, running back:
A steady performer with big-play capability, Macumber led Tioga with 1,296 rushing yards, and 30 TDs on 159 carries. He also had one catch for 79 yards, and a TD.

“I’m glad Drew was recognized as a first-team running back,” said Aiello. “He was the best running back out of all the teams we faced this year.  

“He was reliable in every big game we had in the past two years, and his best games were in big games,” added Aiello.

Valentino Rossi, senior, wide receiver: The Tigers didn’t throw the ball as much as they did in 2022, but when they did, the results were eye-popping. Rossi had the most impressive numbers of all, hauling in 13 catches for 467 yards (35.9 yards per catch), and eight TDs.

“Tino is being recognized for receiving, and he was a threat to go the distance anytime we got the ball in his hands, but he was also a tremendous blocker for us,” said Aiello.

“I’m happy for him and can’t wait to see what he can do at the next level,” added Aiello.

Tate McCauley, junior, lineman: McCauley was the driving force on an offensive line that paved the way to 407.9 yards in total offense per game, including 310.5 rushing yards per game.

Defensively, he was a physical presence on the defensive interior. He had 44 tackles, including seven solo stops, and one fumble recovery.

“Tate deserves this recognition,” said Aiello. “He worked hard in the off-season and really turned it on as the season progressed.

“He has lineman’s mentality and continues to get better and better at the finer points of line play,” added Aiello. “I’m glad we have him for one more year.”

Evan Sickler, senior, All-Purpose: Like Rossi, Sickler is a tremendous down-field blocker, and a dangerous receiver as well. He had 13 receptions for 416 yards (32 yards per catch) and a team-high nine TDs. He also ran the ball 11 times for 134 yards (12.2 yards per carry), and one TD.

“Ev was about as all-purpose as you can get,” said Aiello. “Running, catching, returning, holder, free safety in the zone, locking down the opponents best receiver in man … this is really nice recognition for him and well-deserved.”

Gavin Fisher, senior, place-kicker: Fisher finished his senior season with 99 PAT kicks in 105 attempts, and also had a 26-yard field goal. Fisher was 9-for-9 in the state semifinal, and 9-for-9 in the state final. He was also 9-for-9 in last year’s state final.

His ability to kick the ball deep on kickoffs also helped Tioga to win the field-position battle throughout the season.

“Fish-cat set numerous New York State records for us this year, including extra points in a season and career,” said Aiello. “He also went 9-for-9 on extra points on more than one occasion. 

“His kickoff and punting ability also helped us win the field-position battle throughout the season.

“After being left off this list last year, I’m very happy that he is recognized as a first-teamer this year,” added Aiello.

Ousmane Duncanson, senior, linebacker: Duncanson is an explosive athlete, and sure-fire tackler, who forced opposing coaches to game-plan for his presence. He missed three games, and led Tioga at 7.4 tackles per game. He also had seven tackles-for-loss, five QB sacks, and two fumble recoveries.

“When Ous first moved into the district as a sophomore, he didn’t have much linebacker experience,” said Aiello. “It took one full-contact linebacker drill to realize we had found a spot for him.

“He improved dramatically throughout his sophomore and junior season, but this year he played at a whole different level,” noted Aiello. “His closing speed to the ball and his tackling ability was something very special to watch.  

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a better linebacker in New York State this year,” he added.

Honorable Mention
Karson Sindoni, senior, tight end:
A tremendous blocker, Sindoni led Tioga with 14 receptions for 317 yards (22.6 yards per catch), and six TDs.

“Karson deserves this recognition,” said Aiello. “In a run-first offense, he was a sure-handed threat in our play-action game and had the speed to turn receptions into touchdowns.

“He was also an excellent blocker for us – especially with double-teams and setting the edge,” added Aiello. “He’s looking to play at the next level and I’m excited to see where he ends up.”

Garrett Godfrey, junior, lineman:
Godfrey got better and better as the year progresses — on both sides of the ball.

“I’m real happy Garrett was recognized,” said Aiello. “Garrett played as well as any lineman could in the second half of the season, on both sides of the ball. 

“He’s another one we have back next year and he is already setting himself up to have an outstanding senior season,” added Aiello.

Cameron Rought, senior, lineman: “Cameron Rought is also very deserving,” said Aiello. “Cam started playing football a little later than the other guys, but he put in the work to excel at the left tackle position for us.

“Cam is a gifted lineman with great feet and natural strength,” added Aiello. “He’s also looking to play at the college level, where I think he will continue to grow and excel as a lineman.

Gianni Silvestri, senior, defensive back: Silvestri had a nose for the ball in the defensive secondary. He registered 57 tackles, including 18 solo stops, and three tackles-for-loss.  He also had one interception, one fumble recovery, and two forced fumbles.

“This was a very pleasant surprise,” said Aiello. “Gianni is usually being recognized for his wrestling achievements, but he is also an outstanding football player. 

“He’s tough and was a sure-tackler as a defensive back, especially in the open field,” added Aiello. “He was a guy we could move around in a game plan, and trust that he could get the job done.”


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