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BG’s Myrick shines again

Keegan Myrick didn’t get the chance to return to the PIAA championship game in his senior year, but the Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic senior is back at the top of the Altoona Mirror’s All-Star team as the Mirror’s football player of the year.

Myrick, who also won the award as a junior, had plenty of competition for the honor this season as Central quarterback Jeff Hoenstine, Tyrone wide receiver Damon Gripp, Bellwood-Antis running back Zach Mallon and Altoona quarterback Marcus Day all received high consideration.

“The competition is so good around here and in the Laurel Highlands, so it feels good to accomplish this and be able to win it for a second time,” Myrick said.

The Mirror’s football coach of the year award was also one of the closest votes in the history of the award. Altoona’s Vince Nedimyer Jr. edged Central’s Dave Baker by just two votes, 32-30. Williamsburg’s Ryan Hileman, who directed the Blue Pirates to a 5-4 season and their first playoff victory since 1989 after consecutive 0-10 campaigns, finished third with 24 votes. Northern Bedford’s Garry Black, who led the Black Panthers to a District 5 Class 1A title, finished fourth with 16 votes.

Nedimyer said while he was excited to be honored, he wanted to give the majority of the credit to his players and assistant coaches.

“I surrounded myself with people that share the same beliefs as me,” Nedimyer said. “Our success was a direct result of the hard work and time they put in all year long. The most important part is they treated our kids with respect, and I believe our kids bought into what we were preaching and it ended up in success on the field.

“Our kids worked so hard, and they are the season for our success. I am very lucky to have the coaching staff that I do from ninth to 12th grade.”

Nedimyer actually voted for Baker, and the Central veteran coach voted for the Mountain Lion boss.

“(Baker) has been doing it year in and year out, and he’s such a great guy,” Nedimyer said. “When we occasionally would be at coaching meetings, I’d always try to take in everything he said.”

Plenty of coaching decisions led to Nedimyer being recognized for his team’s turnaround from a 1-9 season in 2019 to this year’s 4-3 record that included a District 6 title win over State College and a District 4-6 regional championship over Williamsport, but one stands out.

Trailing by 14 with less than 10 minutes to play in the District 6 championship against the Little Lions, Altoona scored a pair of touchdowns in the final eight minutes to pull within a point.

Nedimyer and his staff went for a two-point conversion, and Kyle Pheasant paid it off by running into the end zone for what turned out to be the winning score.

“As soon as Aaron (Carothers) intercepted the ball (to set up Altoona’s winning drive), I remember talking to my coaches on the headset about going for the win,” Nedimyer said. “We felt like we had nothing to lose. Obviously, we had the district championship to lose, but with how far we had come, there was no way we weren’t going for the win.”

Myrick’s team also won a district title in Class 1A. He finished with 1,141 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing and caught 21 passes for 277 yards and another score.

Though his overall numbers were down somewhat from a year ago, that had more to do with Bishop Guilfoyle having more weapons and playing less games.

“Last year, we were one dimensional and needed him to do everything in every aspect of the game,” BG coach Justin Wheeler said. “This year, Konner Kiesewetter stepped up and had a great year throwing the ball, so we wanted to be balanced to try and get back to the state championship. So, we didn’t need to get the ball to Keegan 40 times, but in every big game and every big moment that we needed a big play, we knew we could turn to him.”

The Marauders finished 7-3, but one of those losses was due to a forfeit for using an ineligible player in a game they won 48-0 on the field against Forest Hills.

“It felt a lot better on the body, but I want the ball every time,” Myrick said. “But if it helps the team, I do whatever it takes to win. If we win with me carrying the ball one time, I’d rather have that than 40 carries and we lose.”

Myrick also returned a fumble for a touchdown and rushed for another in the PIAA semifinals.

“Defensively, he’s been the best playing in our secondary for three years,” Wheeler said. “He didn’t have as many interceptions this year, because not too many people threw his way. Any time we faced a top receiver, he was usually matched up with them.”

Myrick has an offer from Division I Lehigh as a preferred walk-on but is still weighing his options to play at the next level.

“He’s such a great runner, so we liked to get the ball in his hands as many ways as possible,” Wheeler said. “He can take a direct snap, he can run the ball out of the backfield and he did a great job as a receiver. He worked hard to become a better receiver, and he really did a great job with that this season. He can do anything that you need him to.”

Hoenstine, only a sophomore, led the area in passing despite suffering a season-ending injury in the District 6 Class 3A final against Tyrone. His 1,823 yards through the air were nearly 400 more than anyone else in the Mirror’s core coverage area, and he added 23 touchdowns — tied for a single-season Central record — and threw just two interceptions.

Gripp had 15 more catches and 353 more yards than the next closest receiver in the core area. He finished with 55 catches for 983 yards and eight touchdowns despite playing only eight games.

Mallon led the core area in rushing and scoring, and Day was the centerpiece on the field to Altoona’s turnaround.

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