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Valley Sports Report
THE VALLEY - Athens’ Connor Davidson started, and excelled, in three varsity sports as a freshman. He is the 2023-24 Valley Sports ReportBoys Newcomer of the Year.”

In the fall on the gridiron, Davidson was a dual-threat QB for the Wildcats on offense, and a difference-maker on defense.

Davidson completed 42.1 percent (72 of 171) of his passes for 841 yards, and 11 TDs, with six interceptions. He rushed for 512 yards, and four TDs on 143 carries. He also had two receptions for 17 yards.

Defensively, he led the Wildcats with 61 tackles, including 26 solo stops, and two tackles-for-loss.

On the mats, Davidson posted a 28-13 record, wrestling at 152 and 160 pounds — not easy weight classes for freshmen. He finished second at the North Section Tournament.

On the diamond, Davidson hit .300 (21 hits in 70 ABs) with three doubles, nine RBI, 17 runs scored, and four stolen bases. He also walked 11 times and had a .390 on-base percentage.

Athens dominates this year’s list with six of the seven top newcomers in 2023-24.

(NOTE: These awards are designed to honor three-sport athletes, but two-sport athletes will occasionally make the list, and on a very rare occasion a one-sport athlete might be included.)

The 2023-24 Valley Sports Reports Boys “Newcomers of the Year”
Connor Davidson, freshman, Athens:
See above.

Graham Wanck, freshman, Athens: Wanck made an immediate impact for the Wildcats, qualifying for States in the fall, and narrowly missing out in the spring.

Wanck finished ninth at the prestigious McQuaid Cross Country Invitational  this year in a time of 16:13 in a field of 369 runners in the A-1 Small School race. He won the McDaniel-Baxter Invite, and finished second at the Owego Invite, and the Forbes Invite.

In the postseason, he finish third at the NTL Coaches Invite, and 13th at District 4 Championships, before capping off the season with a 53rd-place finish at the PIAA Championships.

This spring, Wanck finished second in 1,600 and in the 3,200 at the NTL Championships, and was on the fourth-place 3,200-meter relay team.

At the District 4, Class 3A Championships, Wanck finished third in the 3,200-meter run in a school-record time of 9:38.42 — eclipsing the previous mark by more than 19 seconds, and his previous-best time by more than 20 seconds. He missed out on States in 3A, but would have easily qualified in 2A. He was ninth in the 1,600 at Districts, and ran on the seventh-place 3,200 relay.

Brendan Cooke, freshman, Athens:
Cooke made a big impact for the Wildcats on the diamond, and the mat, and showed he will be a major contributor on the gridiron the next few years.

This spring, Cooke led the Wildcats in hitting, and was one of three to earn Gold Gloves on the All-Valley team.

Cooke hit .412 (21 hits in 51 ABs) with three doubles, one triple, one home run, 10 RBI, eight runs scored, and one steal. He walked 11 times, was hit by pitches twice, and had a .531 on-base percentage, to go along with a .580 slugging percentage for 1.110 OPS.

On the mats, Cooke posted a 17-15 record in a very tough 139-pound weight class. He finished fourth at the North Section Tournament.

On the gridiron, Cooke had 16 tackles, including seven solo stops, in eight games. He also had one interception, and one pass break-up.

Eli Hicks, freshman, Athens: Hicks narrowly missed out on a trip to States on the links, then made it to States in a swim relay this winter.

In the fall, Hicks finished fourth in the NTL with an 82.4 scoring average in his first varsity season on the links. He finished third at the District 4, Class 3A Championships, losing out in a playoff to his teammate Evan Cooper for the final spot at States.

During the winter season, Hicks swam on the District 4 gold-medal 400 free relay team, and also on the second-place 200 medley relay. He was eighth in the 100 free, and ninth in the 50 free at Districts.

Ben Shaw, freshman, Waverly:
Shaw shined on defense for the state champion Wolverine football team, and was a big part of the baseball’s Section IV championship game appearance.

A high-energy sideline-to-sideline defender at inside linebacker, Shaw led the Wolverines with 101 tackles, including 38 solo stops. He also had three fumble recoveries.

Offensively, Shaw completed 10 of 13 passes for 106 yards, and three TDs, and rushed 12 times for 53 yards.

This spring, Shaw, a very good defensive catcher, hit .214 (12 hits in 56 ABs), but walked 18 times and was hit by seven pitches for a .457 on-base percentage. He had two doubles, 11 RBI, 12 runs scored, and three stolen bases.

Eli Chapman, freshman, Athens: On the gridiron, Chapman was a jack-of-all-trades for the Wildcats. He 15 catches for 156 yards, and two TDs, had 30 rushing attempts for 155 yards, and one TD, and completed 11 of 24 passes for 132 yards, one TD, and two interceptions.

Defensively, he had 37 tackles, including 23 solo stops, as well as one interception and one fumble recovery. He also had six punts for an average of 30 yards.

This spring, Chapman hit .261 with a double, four RBI, nine runs scored, and nine stolen bases in 23 at-bats. He also walked 10 times, and had a .471 on-base percentage.

Nick Grazul, sophomore, Athens:
Already established on the the diamond, Grazul made an impact on the soccer pitch, and the basketball hardwoods this year.

A smart and ultra-athletic player, Grazul was the top soccer newcomer in the Valley despite being away from the sport for several years. He had three goals, and two assists.

A heady player on the hardwoods, Grazul plays bigger than his size, and uses his body well to create shots, and shoot over taller defenders when taking the ball to the hoop. He’ll be one of Athens’ go-to-guys the next two years.

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