Back in the saddle

Young guns lead Eagles back to postseason

Times Observer file photo Youngsville’s Gage Hendrickson fights to get a shot away during a game against Saegertown in February. Hendrickson averaged a double-double for the season (16.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg) to help lead the Eagles resurgance with an 11-11 regular season record and a trip to the District 10 playoffs.

The 2018-19 school year was a historic one for high school athletics in Warren County.

As such, we decided to take a look back at the athletes and teams that made this season so special.

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive overview of each team, but rather a look back at some of the most memorable moments.

We reviewed the seasons for the Eisenhower Knights Tuesday, Sheffield Wolverines Wednesday and Tidioute Community Charter School yesterday. Today we look at the year that was for the Youngsville Eagles.

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Times Observer file photo Youngsville’s Naomi Swartzbaugh clears a hurdle during a race against Titusville in April. Swartzbaugh earned a trip to the PIAA State Track and Field Championships in the 300 hurdles in her senior season. The Eagles school record holder in the 100 hurdles was named the Region 4 Female Athlete of the Year and was first-team all-region in the 100, 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles.

For 15 years, the Youngsville boys basketball team struggled to keep up with region and district opponents. During the 2017-18 season the Eagles went 4-18 and were outscored by 385 points. That group was primarily constructed with freshmen and sophomores. They took it upon themselves to change the way they approached the offseason and the results were immediate. The 2018-19 Eagles finished the regular season 11-11 and had shaved the point differential by 311 points (-74).

Youngsville opened the season by winning the Forest Area Tipoff tournament and had perennial region powerhouses Cochranton and Cambridge Springs on the ropes when the two teams visited the Eagle’s Nest this season. Though they were unable to close out those games, it showed that the young squad was ready to compete at that level. Youngsville also went 5-0 against county opponents on the season.

The young squad turned to junior captain Gage Hendrickson to lead the way this season, and the big forward delivered. He was a walking double-double, averaging 16.7 ppg., and 11.0 rpg. while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 82 percent from the free throw line.

Youngsville drew the defending District 10 champs, West Middlesex, to open play in the team’s first postseason appearance in over a decade. The young squad got off to a slow start and couldn’t recover as the Eagles went one-and-done in the playoffs. Still, the groundwork was laid for Youngsville to take an even bigger step forward next season as all but one of their top eight players return.

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The basketball team wasn’t alone in breaking through barriers.

After breaking Mike Shine’s school record in the high jump at the 2018 District 10 Track and Field Championships, Youngsville sophomore Jake Hogg had his sights set on even bigger prizes in 2019.

After coming close many times throughout the season, Hogg set a new school high jump record at the Warren County Meet. During a steady rain, the Eagle soared over the bar at 6 feet, 5 inches.

As impressive as that feat was, he did one better a couple weeks later.

On the biggest stage, at the PIAA State Track and Field Championships, Hogg cleared 6 feet, 6 inches to claim fourth place in the event. He also earned Region 4 Athlete of the Year honors and was first-team all-region in the triple jump and javelin.

Hogg wasn’t the only Eagle to earn Athlete of the Year honors either.

Senior Naomi Swartzbaugh brought home that honor after a stellar final high school campaign. The school record holder in the 100 hurdles was dominant in that event throughout the season, but it was her blistering run in the 300 hurdles at districts that propelled her to states. She took home district silver and was also first-team all-region in the 100, 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles.

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The girls volleyball team showed marked improvement.

The Lady Eagles went 6-9 on the season, double their win total from the previous two years combined. Wins over Warren County Christian, Sheffield and Tidioute helped the Eagles go 3-1 in county play.

On the mat, junior Jake DeSimone wrestled his way to regionals.

Senior baseball players Nyko Mercado and Sam Hoover each earned all-region honors.