Area gridders earn all-Ohio accolades
Six area football players earned one of the state’s biggest honors Tuesday evening when the Associated Press released its Division V all-Ohio squad.
Four gridders from Martins Ferry and two from St. Clairsville earned a spot on one of the top three teams.
Three of those players – Martins Ferry’s Robert Vargo, St. Clairsville’s Jaylon Brown and Zac Musilli – earned a spot on the first-team after brilliant seasons.
The other three players recognized were Martins Ferry’s Luke Straub and Arjay Burress on the second team and senior Marcus Sutton on the third-team defensive unit.
Vargo, who shined at defensive end and tight end, was named to the all-Ohio team as a defensive player. Last month, he was named Eastern District Defensive Player of the Year after helping the Purple Riders to a 9-1 season and berth in the playoffs.
“This honor means a lot to me because there aren’t many kids who can that they were first-team all-Ohio,” Vargo said. “I made it one of my personal goals and something I wanted to strive for. I am glad I achieved this and all of my hardwork paid off.”
Vargo utilized his 6-ft-6 frame to alter the passing games of many teams. He batted 11 balls down during the season and was a constant in opposing teams’ backfields. He recorded 39 tackles.
He was also a standout at tight end. As a blocker, he graded out at 93 percent and caught 14 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown.
While the individual accolades mean a lot to Vargo, the fact that the Riders won a piece of the Buckeye 8, the OVAC Class 4A title, brought back SPARKY with a win against Bellaire and advanced to the second round of the playoffs carry much more meaning.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the team this year,” Vargo said. “We fought through adversity and never gave up in games. I’ve never had more fun with a group of guys (than I did with this team) and I thank them. I also want to thank the coaches for everything and making me a better player by pushing me to be my best.”
Brown, meanwhile, put the finishing touches on a brilliant high school career with another superb season for the Red Devils.
An all-Ohioan last year, Brown earned his first appearance on the first-team listing after rushing 171 times for 1,328 yards and 20 touchdowns in just 10 games. He missed the Harrison Central contest because of an injury.
“This is a great honor, but I know I wouldn’t have earned it without my teammates and coaches,” Brown said. “We pushed each other to be great. I really want to thank the coaches for giving me the opportunity. Plus, I want to thank my parents for all of their support.”
Brown, who was a second-team selection in 2012, finished his prep career with 4,268 yards rushing, 828 yards receiving and 82 total touchdowns.
The senior speedster will continue his career at Youngstown State next season.
“We had an exceptional season this year, and even though it didn’t end the way we wanted to, it was still spent with a great group of guys,” Brown continued.
Musilli, meanwhile, earned his first appearance on the all-Ohio first team after another solid campaign for the Red Devils.
During the season, Musilli connected on 45 PAT kicks and five field goals.
“I worked hard in the off-season and was glad I was able to play to the best of my ability,” Musilli said. “I had a great group of seniors to play with. Plus, I can’t thank Coach (Brett) McLean enough for giving the the opportunity to play.”
Burress earned a spot on the second team after bursting onto the scene as the Riders’ go-to-guy in the ground game. He ran for 1,056 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season. He was also a standout placekicker with 31 PATs and defensively he had 31 tackles.
Straub was named to the second-team as an offensive lineman. The 5-11, 255 pound senior graded out at 92 percent as a blocker and on the defensive side he had 57 tackles, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and an interception.
Sutton earned a spot on the third team by virtue of a standout season at linebacker. He was the Purple Riders’ leading tackler during the regular season with 64 stops. He also was a solid runner offensively with 600 yards and five touchdowns.
The Division VI and VII squads will be announced this evening.