Kopko, Piestrak Named All-state
Based on his size alone, it wasn’t going to be too long before Hanover Area offensive lineman Justin Kopko was going to see time on the field. In fact, the senior was a four-year starter for the Hawkeyes.
As far as Northwest’s David Piestrak was concerned, head coach Lon Hazlet identified Piestrak as an impact player when he was playing on the junior high level. And it was during the summer between Piestrak’s freshman and sophomore season that Hazlet decided to make him the starting quarterback.
Regardless of when they were able to become varsity football players, they were two of the best in their respective classifications. On Friday, it was announced that Kopko was selected to the Pennsylvania Football Writers Class 3A all-state team as an offensive lineman. Piestrak was named to the Class A team as an athlete.
On Thursday, Hazleton Area’s Damon Horton and Jacob Hunsinger were selected to the Class 6A team. Berwick’s Teagan Wilk was named to the Class 4A team.
Kopko has had himself a pretty good run since Hanover Area’s season came to an end. He announced he will be attending Penn State next fall and be a preferred walk-on on the football team.
“I think it was a four year goal of his to get his name on the banner in the gymnasium,” former Hanover Area football coach Mike McCree said, referencing the banner hanging in the school’s gym with the names of the football players tabbed all-state. “One of the things he talked about in the offseason was becoming an all-state player and leaving a legacy at Hanover Area. There are some pretty impressive names on that banner.
Kopko was a four-year starter for the Hawks where he played guard and tackle. A two-year captain, Kopko also played defensive tackle.
“He is a great kid,” McCree said. “One of the things that sticks out is his leadership, he always held his teammates accountable. He didn’t miss a day of practice or weightlifting.”
During his time as the quarterback at Northwest, Piestrak put up eye-opening numbers. This season alone, Piestrak threw for 1,278 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 15.4 yards per completion. He also rushed for 573 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He returned one punt 68 yards for a touchdown. As a defensive back, he registered 35 tackles, 25 of them solo. He picked off two passes.
“He had never really played football until ninth grade,” Hazlet said. “We saw him do things in junior high games that were special. That was my first year at Northwest. My offense is quarterback-driven between the run and pass. He didn’t play quarterback his freshman year. We spent the summer together before his sophomore season. I thought he would be the guy, but I wanted him to show me some intangibles. We brought him in and handed him the keys to the car.”
Piestrak put his foot on the gas from that point forward. For his career he compiled a total of 4,535 yards between rushing and passing.
“He had a tremendous career,” Hazlet said. “Probably the best part is he was willing to hand the ball off. He was willing to carry out fakes and look off receivers. It was all about his intent to win. He always put his teammates above himself.”
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