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Chris Masse presents the 4th Annual Sun-Gazette coverage area Top 50: 40-31

Pictured: Canton QB Michael Smithers led his team in rushing in 2017


Every Monday we will bring you Chris Masse’s 4th Annual Sun-Gazette coverage area Top 50, broken up in segments of ten. Today we present numbers 40-31:

No. 40: Ahmahd Keyes, Warrior Run: a dynamic play maker on both sides of the ball, Keyes made huge strides as last season progressed and helped Warrior Run win 2 straight game late in the season. junior could be poised for big season this fall

Keyes had 4 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown in a 16-9 win at Hughesville and averaged 24.5 yards per catch, finishing with 319 yards. Keyes is a big-play tight end who could become a nice weapon this season. He’s also a a quality linebacker who had a team-high 5 sacks. Keyes had 2 sacks and 2 blocked punts in a Week 9 comeback win against Montgomery and has tremendous athletic ability. Keep an eye on him as he now has more experience to go along with that.

No. 39: Brayden Strouse, Montgomery: three-year starting quarterback and good defensive player who can lineup at d-end or linebacker. Has been outstanding leader last 2 seasons and helped Montgomery make huge bounceback, reaching D4 A final last season

Strouse threw for 1,207 yards, 10 touchdowns last season, the best numbers by a Raiders QB since 2013. He also ran for 3 touchdowns and played some excellent late-season games. very smart QB who does nice job audibling and recognizing defenses. over 2000 yards last 2 years

Strouse also helped the defense make big strides last season and his versatility helps out the Raiders. comes hard off the edge and has a nose for the ball. one of the team’s most valuable players

No. 38: Michael Smithers, Canton: one of the area’s premier quarterbacks, Smithers excelled in his first season starting, throwing for 1,620 yards and 13 touchdowns. Strong-armed and mobile QB, also led team in rushing with 483 yards and 6 touchdowns. He played some at RB too

Smithers is versatile and had some big passing nights, throwing for 265 yards against Wyalusing and 261 vs Troy. He also had a 100-yard rushing game and made huge strides. Could be even better with more experience under his belt

Smithers also a defensive asset who had 10 tackles against D4 A champ Wyalusing. He helps ignite a potentially explosive Canton offense this fall and has some excellent receivers at his disposal.

No. 37: Dakota Hill, South Williamsport: A big and strong junior lineman who was a key cog on one of the district’s most dominant offensive lines last season. Keeps getting stronger and the junior 275-pounder helped South average 387 yards and nearly 35 points per game last year.Hill is a punishing run blocker who helped South top 3,000 yards rushing, go 9-2 and repeat as HAC-III champion. first-time starter jelled well with 3 exceptional seniors and made immediate impact.

Look for Hill and fellow returning starter Rion Withers to anchor South’s line this season and he will likely also make a big impact along the defensive line as South tries to build on its winning tradition

No. 36: Larry Bilyeu, Muncy: The senior made a huge impact in his first season at Muncy a year ago and was one of team’s defensive standouts, helping it go 7-4 and win first league title since 2005.

Bilyeu had 6 1/2 sacks in Muncy’s first five games and finished his season with an 8-tackle performance against Wyalusing in D4 semifinals.. He also will be one of the team’s top offensive linemen and was a beast in season opening win at Warrior Run, having 3 sacks. Bilyeu was 2nd on Muncy in sacks and tackles for loss, finishing with 17

No. 35: Levi Gaiotti, Canton: An outstanding 2-way starter who is an excellent receiver and also is a quality linebacker. 2nd leading receiver and tackler on last years team.

Gaiotti is a 6-2, 200-pounder who can be a match-up problem. Two TDS of more than 70 yards vs Sayre, also had 78 tackles, 2 INTs in 9 games. Topped ten tackles  four times. Gaiotti had 59 catches last 2 seasons and is one of many talented starters returning for Canton this fall.

No. 35: Logan Balouris, Montoursville: The junior linebacker burst onto the scene for a young team last season and was playing like one of the area’s premier linebackers by season’s end. Has very bright future. High motor, smart, good instincts. A good player to build around. Balouris averaged 6.7 tackles, finishing 2nd on the team, covers good ground and had 21 tackles in his last 2 games, topping 10 each time. A physical and smart player who had career-high 11 tackles in 29-7 win against Hughesville. Grew better and better each week

Balouris reminded me last year of a young Logan McKeag and that is quite a compliment. If he stays healthy all season look for Balouris to make a run at 100 tackles and possibly play a bigger role offensively.

Riley Strausbaugh, Montgomery

No. 33: Rhyle Strausbaugh, Montgomery: An excellent linebacker and the defensive leader for Montgomery’s best team since 2000 last fall. Strausbaugh finished with 122 tackles, including 11 for loss and a sack. did that despite a late-season injury

Strausbaugh was the 2017 NTL-II Defensive player of the year and D4 2nd team linebacker, helping Montgomery make a 4-win improvement and reach first D4 final in 17 years. smart, aggressive and hard-hitting

Strausbaugh has developed into a strong leader for Montgomery and sets the tone for the defense. he has been absolutely critical in helping the Red Raiders come so far, so fast.

No. 32: Brent Burleigh: Part of the Burleigh quarterbacking monarchy over the last 6 seasons that has produced 5 straight 1,000-yard seasons and 5 straight years with 20 or more touchdowns. The senior quarterback shined in first year as starter in 2017. Burleigh threw for 1270 yards and 20 touchdowns, helping NP-Mansfield reach districts for 4th straight season. Burleigh also ran for 3 TDs and threw at least 1 TD in 10 of 11 games and topped 100 yards 8 times. Was outstanding vs state champ Southern in D4 quarters with 225 yards, 3 TDs

No. 31: Matt Barber, Cowanesque Valley: 1 of the area’s most versatile athletes, there really isn’t much Barber can’t do or didn’t do last season. CV’s leading rusher and receiver also ranked among top 10 in area in those categories throughout last season.

in addition to everything he does offensively, Barber also 1 of team’s best defenders and huge on special teams. basically never leaves the field and is 3-year starter in all areas. part of a really promising group of returning starters for a team that could make nice climb

Barber ran for 513 yards, 4 TDs last season while catching 43 passes for 601 yards and 6 TDs. totaled 1014 yards and had 324 yards in returns. averaged 6.1 tackles per game as a safety and was captain as a junior. also returned fumble for TD, had a sack and an INT


Next Monday, 30-29

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