Heading into the 2003 season, Notre Dame coach Sam Alvaro told anyone that would listen this could be one of the school's most talented groups in more than a decade. Apparently most of the Mason-Dixon Conference coaches agreed.
The Irish, who finished 9-1 in the regular season and won the league title, landed seven players on the first team all-conference squad. In addition, Alvaro, who is in his second year, was named the Mason-Dixon coach of the year.
Alvaro, a 1991 graduate of Notre Dame, took over a program in 2002 that hadn't had a winning season since 1988. He led the team to a 6-4 record that season before this year's breakout season. The Irish went 9-1 and gained a berth in the Class A playoffs -- the school's first since 1986.
Seniors Trey Simmerman, Jon Harris, Casey Mossallatti, Joey Brunetti and Jamie Sampson and juniors Tyler Musgrave and Josh Johnson represented Notre Dame on the first team.
Musgrave, the Irish's quarterback, completed 70-of-124 passes for 1,358 yards and 19 touchdowns with just five interceptions. His favorite target was Johnson, who led the team with 38 receptions for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Simmerman gave Notre Dame one of Class A's most versatile offense. The senior standout rushed for 1,555 yards and 23 touchdowns on 200 carries. His 26 total touchdowns were among the highest in the state.
Paving the way for that offense was a line which played nearly intact for three seasons. Mossallatti (5-foot-11, 250 pounds) helped lead that unit which led a Notre Dame offense that averaged 42.8 points and 341.3 yards of total offense per game.
Brunetti led a defense which gave up less than a 7 points per game. The hard-hitting linebacker was a first-team selection for the second consecutive season. Harris led a run defense which gave up less than 100 yards per game on the ground.
Sampson played along side Brunetti at linebacker and was a pivotal part of the offense as well, rushing for 500 yards on 102 attempts and providing lead blocking for Simmerman.
South Harrison had one representative on the first team. Senior lineman Brian Scheuvront was selected to the unit.
Other area players included Walker Kocher (RB/LB, jr.) and Billy Adams (RB/LB, jr.) of Valley Wetzel.
The remainder of the first team includes: Cameron's Casey Hughes (RB/DB, sr.), Isaac Stewart (RB/LB, sr.), Mike Cain (RB/DB, sr.), Adam McCaulley (OL/DL, sr.), Clayton McCombs (SE/S, sr.) and Jeffrey Cumpston (RB/LB, jr.), Madonna's Jake Myers (RB/LB, jr.), J.J. Guida (RB/LB, sr.), Matt Hirkala (T/DE, jr.), Anthony Gianni (G/DE, jr.), Michael DeCaria (WR/DB, jr.), Paden City's Brian Casto (QB/DB, sr.), Ryan Sapp (WR/DB, sr.), Tim Hommel (LB/WR, sr.), Steve Blatt (LB/RB, jr.), Clay-Battelle's Aaron LaPoe (RB, sr.), Travis Rose (OL/DL, sr.), Dan Owens (LB, soph.), Bishop Donahue's Tyler Schorr (G/LB, sr.) and Jason Fazio (WR/DB, sr.) and Hundred's Jeremy Kelch (OL/LB, sr.)
Four players from Notre Dame were named to the second team. They were Tyler Vincent (LB, sr.), David Martino (DE, sr.), Jon Thomas (WR/LB, sr.) and Andrew Hendricks (TE/DB, sr.).
South Harrison's Nathan Nutter (RB/LB, jr.) was named to the second team.
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org