Central Valley’s Sean FitzSimmons receives Bill Fralic Memorial Award

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Saturday, December 4, 2021 | 3:43 PM


About 12 hours after getting showered with Hershey’s Kisses as he helped his team to a PIAA semifinal win, Sean FitzSimmons was putting away syrup-soaked pancakes in a room full of former Pitt football greats.

It’s been a pretty sweet couple of days for the senior from Central Valley.

After breakfast, the future Pitt Panther lifted a bulky miniature statue into the air to signify his newfound standing: best senior interior lineman in the WPIAL.

FitzSimmons was the recipient of the third Bill Fralic Memorial Award, besting five other finalists Saturday morning at Longue Vue Club in Verona.

The award is the namesake of Fralic, the former Pitt superstar out of Penn Hills who went on to an All-Pro career in the NFL before cancer took his life in 2018.

A legend in Western Pennsylvania, he had colleges looking at him when he was in eighth grade. Pitt retired his number while he was still playing. He is known for popularizing the pancake block.

“It’s an honor to win … it was an honor just to be nominated for it,” FitzSimmons said. “Bill Fralic, he’s a legend. I am so happy to win.”

FitzSimmons (6-foot-3, 280 pounds) was the Class 3A finalist.

The others were: Kanye Hawkins of Clairton (Class A), Mason Manos of Neshannock (2A), Billy McChesney of Greensburg Salem (4A), Trent Fraley of Moon (5A) and Donovan Hinish of Central Catholic (6A).

Hinish is a Notre Dame commit, while Fraley will play at Marshall and Hawkins at Lackawanna.

McChesney is headed to Columbia to wrestle.

“All six nominees were all good enough to win that award,” FitzSimmons said. “I’m blessed to win.”

That FitzSimmons is a Pitt recruit and won the award on the same day Pitt was playing for the ACC championship was a happy coincidence.

His winning seemed to fit a theme. But Fralic Foundation trustee and award panelist P.J. Murray said FitzSimmons earned the win with his play, not his college choice.

“Sean won the award at Heinz Field in the WPIAL championship,” Murray said. “He has a lot of Bill (Fralic)’s qualities that we look for. Bill was a mauler and had a mean streak.

“It doesn’t matter if a kid is going to Slippery Rock, Bethany, Notre Dame, Pitt or Penn State. … It’s about the best lineman.”

FitzSimmons did his homework on Fralic long before he was up for the award.

“I knew about Fralic since I was a little kid,” FitzSimmons said. “Pitt always has some good dudes, especially linemen.”

FitzSimmons and Central Valley won their 26th straight game Friday night, 35-21 over District 6 champion Central, to advance to their third straight PIAA final in Hershey.

The Warriors, fresh off a WPIAL three-peat, will play for a state title next Saturday.

On his final play at his home stadium Friday, FitzSimmons flattened Central quarterback Jeff Hoenstine with his third sack of the night to punctuate the win. Hoenstine led the state with 56 touchdown passes.

FitzSimmons, a defensive tackle, came in with 107 tackles, 43 for loss, and 18 sacks. Central Valley averages more than 260 yards rushing per game and has over 50 rushing touchdowns.

“There’s a lot of irony,” Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said. “He gets a sack on the final play of his last home game, you have Pitt playing. … It all seems to fit together. Since his freshman year, he has made an impact on our program. He embodies all the criteria for this award. I know he’s humbled and ecstatic.

“We’re glad to be here this morning. Who needs sleep when you’re winning football games in December? We couldn’t ask for much more.”

FitzSimmons joins past winners Logan Danielson of Thomas Jefferson (2019) and Miguel Jackson of Pine-Richland (‘20).

The latest recipient called Danielson one of the best players he has blocked against.

The ceremony featured speeches from new Pro Football Hall of Fame member Jimbo Covert, another Pitt alum, and former Penn Hills coach Andy Urbanic (virtually).

“When you win, the quarterbacks and running backs, those guys get all the credit,” Covert said. “When you lose, the line didn’t to its job and block.

“No other unit in football works together more than the offensive line.”

North Huntingdon artist Cody Sabol who, like the linemen, makes a living using his hands, speed-painted a portrait of Fralic and Covert.

The William C. Fralic Foundation also presented a check to the Pittsburgh Elite NFL Flag Football program, which will have a presence at the national championship in February in Las Vegas.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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