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Hedlund, John selected to Big 30 All-Star Team

A new-look Big 30 Football All-Star Team is dominated by experience.

The Olean Times Herald’s 51st annual gridiron squad features only four repeat selections — Ridgway linebacker Evan Furlong, Salamanca safety Tyler Hedlund, Pioneer running back Mike Rigerman and Elk County Catholic offensive lineman Ben Sherry. They are among 26 seniors named to the team.

The all-stars will be feted today at the 71st annual Big 30 Football Testimonial at the Town of Allegany Fourth & Maple Complex, where this year’s major award winners will be revealed.

The star-studded group includes a Connolly Cup finalist (Rigerman), a pair of Trench Trophy Hall of Fame inductees (Randolph/Frewsburg’s Andrew Bernard and Pioneer’s Trevor Smith) and four District 9 League division MVPs (Bradford’s Donny Pattison, Furlong, Smethport’s Blake Kinner and Otto-Eldred’s Chris Connelly).

Pioneer, Ridgway and Smethport — teams with a combined 30-2 record — account for 11 all-stars.

Pioneer (9-1) posted its first undefeated regular season since 2011 and reached the Section 6 finals for the first time since 2001. The Panthers were rewarded with four all-star choices — their most since 2011. In addition to Rigerman and Smith (defensive end), cited were offensive lineman Lane Patton and defensive back Nick Rinker.

Ridgway, set to appear in a District 9 championship game for the third straight year, has four representatives, as it did in 2016 and 2017. The Elkers (10-1) continued their trend of playing strong defense and have three all-stars on that side of the ball — cornerback Daunte Allegretto, lineman Chase Pontious and Furlong. Junior Jake Wickett made the team as a running back.

Smethport returned to glory, earning its first league title and undefeated regular season since 2001. The Hubbers have their most all-star honorees since that year, garnering three spots on the team. Chosen were Ian Woodruff (offensive line), Nathan Hollowell (safety) and Kinner (defensive end). Smethport is 11-0 heading into Monday’s District 9 Class A final against Coudersport.

Ten of the Big 30’s 22 teams finished .500 or better in the regular season and qualified for the playoffs. Those squads combine for 26 of this year’s 31 all-stars.

Allegany-Limestone, despite its 2-6 record, has three picks by virtue of Conner Golley earning the optional kicker spot on the team. Also honored were junior wide receiver Ben Giardini and linebacker Patrick Walsh. The last time the Gators had three Big 30 all-stars was 2006.

Bradford had its second straight winning campaign (6-5) and has three all-stars for the second consecutive year: Kevin Ackerman (center), Jaron Ambrose (safety) and Pattison (running back).

Six teams had two selections: Coudersport (running back Stephen Kelly and center Elijah Ayers), Elk County Catholic (junior running back Stephen Bobby and Sherry), Olean (quarterback Alex Weakfall and defensive lineman Alex Pantuso), Otto-Eldred (junior wide receiver Cameron Magee and linebacker Chris Connelly), Randolph/Frewsburg (offensive lineman Andrew Bernard and running back Deter Miinte) and Salamanca (Hedlund and linebacker Ira John).

It’s the third straight year with multiple all-stars for Otto-Eldred. For Salamanca, it’s the first time since 2012.

Franklinville/Ellicottville (offensive lineman Steven Rowland) and Portville (sophomore linebacker Jayden Lassiter) are represented with one player each. Lassiter is the lone sophomore all-star.

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