Best of the PIL


Joe Bozikovich, Wilson Ð football

Bozikovich's presence as a 6-2 lineman/PIL defensive player of the year last season piqued the interest of schools such as Michigan, Michigan State and even Notre Dame.

The interest is from afar these days, even though the Trojan senior was all-PIL as an offensive lineman. A high ankle sprain in midseason affected his play.

Wilson lost in overtime to Tigard in the second round of the state playoffs. Most of the team's graduating class began playing together in the fifth grade. 'I'm going to remember this group of guys for the rest of my life,' Bozikovich says.

His ankle is better, and he's returning to workouts with former coach Steve Brannon, who is now at Central Catholic. He wants to get stronger for college scouts.

'Losing was tough, but now it's time to move on,' he says. 'It's time to get ready for the next level.'

The 275-pounder apparently has a simple approach. His favorite quote, as listed in the Wilson football program is: 'One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.'

Sean Setzer, Wilson Ð football

Setzer, the PIL offensive player of the year in football last year, shares the award this season with Tracy Harrell of Jefferson and Brandon Pietrzyk of Marshall.

'I think I used the offseason well in preparing for the year, but I probably could have done more,' the 6-3 quarterback says. 'I think I could have focused more on the mental aspects of the game. That might have made a difference.'

He threw for 1,695 yards and 19 touchdowns in the regular season, with just nine interceptions. He also punted, started at free safety and kicked Wilson's lone field goal in the playoffs.

Setzer, also a varsity basketball and baseball player, left the field only for kickoffs in the second-round loss to Tigard. He is pondering a move to NCAA Division I or I-AA football.

'I don't think I'll ever forget about this season or last season,' he says. 'It was a great experience.'

Tracy Harrell, Jefferson Ð football

When Harrell started playing football in the fifth grade, he often was placed at center, not running back, because he was skilled at snapping the ball. He laughs at that now.

'I was a small center, but I could always snap well,' says Harrell, a 5-10 senior who ran on the state champion 4x100-meter relay team last spring.

Harrell used his speed to frequently score four TDs a game for the Jefferson frosh team. He didn't play football as a sophomore because his grades needed improving and he heard a lot of discouraging talk from older students who pointed out that his exploits hadn't come against varsity competition.

TR Smith, Jefferson's quarterback, helped convince Harrell, who idolized Barry Sanders as a youngster, to rejoin the football team as a junior. This season, Harrell ran for 1,203 yards and 10 TDs, averaging 9.3 yards per carry.

Harrell is busy training for the track season. He was the lone junior in the state 100 final and also ran in the 200.

With his sprint background, Harrell is hoping to play college football at a large school such as Oregon or Oregon State.

Brandon Pietrzyk, Marshall Ð football

Perhaps none of the all-city athletes was further from player of the year at the start of the season than Pietrzyk, who caught all of seven passes in 2002 in a run-based offense.

In Marshall's pass-oriented offense this season, Pietrzyk caught 31 passes for 833 yards and 13 TDs, leading the PIL. Many of his touchdowns were on plays longer than 50 yards. He also led the league in scoring during the regular season with 90 points.

'I had coaches tell me for years they were going to throw more,' the 5-9 senior says. 'But every year I was used as something like a wide lineman. This is the first year I've ever been used as a receiver.'

Marshall, which had a strong cast of returners from last year's second-place PIL finisher, reached the state playoffs for the second straight season but lost in the first round.

'Your school is what you make of it,' he says. 'You could go to another school, but you would still get out of it what you put into it.'

Pietrzyk plans to play basketball and baseball this school year. He hopes to play college football.

Molly Paterno, Grant Ð soccer

The Grant senior began playing soccer as early as age 5 as a midfielder. This season, she helped the Generals win two playoff games and reach the quarterfinals, where they lost on a last-second goal to eventual state champion Sheldon.

Paterno played basketball and ran track at younger ages and practiced ballet for nine years. She quit to focus more time on soccer and played on the varsity team all four years.

'I always loved soccer,' she says. 'It's how I've met so many people, so many friends.

'After we got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs last year, we really wanted to do well this year,' she says. 'We won a couple games and had a run, so we have that to look back on.'

Paterno's year was a huge success even before she was named player of the year because her club team, FC Portland Green Ñ which also featured Grant players Christine Soma, Allyssa Kessler and Ericka Volker Ñ won a national tournament.

Paterno hopes to play for a college program, perhaps at Oregon or a school in the powerful West Coast Conference.

Mirzet Sacirovic, Marshall Ð soccer

Sacirovic grew up in Sarajevo, Bosnia, before moving to Southeast Portland with his family two years ago.

His background, which includes learning English in the last two years, is fitting for a Marshall team that didn't exist in midsummer. The school added a schedule for a varsity team only after Athletic Director Tim Biamont talked coach Robert Gomez into organizing a group of players who were part of a Beaverton club league in the spring. The team started later than others in the PIL and played fewer games.

From nothing, the Minutemen reached the state playoffs as the PIL's No. 2 team, losing in the first round.

Sacirovic, a smallish junior forward, scored more than a goal per game despite constant defensive attention.

After a physical game with Lincoln, Gomez complained to the officials about the contact that Sacirovic was subjected to. Gomez pointed to a large tear in the player's jersey as proof. Marshall had only one set of jerseys, so needle and thread were required.

'I think that makes Mirzet a stronger player,' Gomez says. 'We're going to try and build around that so we can win in the playoffs next year. And we're trying to raise money for a set of road uniforms.'

Katie Pluchos, Lincoln Ð volleyball

A 5-9 senior, the outside hitter helped the Cardinals end Benson's three-year run as league champion. Lincoln didn't win a game at the state tournament but did establish some higher standards for future teams.

The 12-member all-league team included five Lincoln players, including two underclassmen.

'Hopefully, they can get back to the tournament next year, too,' Pluchos says. 'It would be nice to have started that tradition.'

Pluchos began playing in the fifth grade at Cathedral School in Northwest Portland, teaming with Lincoln teammates Katerina Jablonski, also a senior, and Jean Rho, a junior. Pluchos was an all-league pick last year, as well.

Pluchos' skills have continued to develop through club play with the Northwest Juniors program. Recently, she tried out and made the roster for the top NW Juniors 18-and-under team, which is coached by former Marshall and Gresham legend Rod Jones.

'I am so excited about getting to play on that team,' Pluchos says. 'That's going to be an adventure.'

She hopes to play collegiately.

Zuber Ahmed, Benson Ð cross country

Ahmed, who grew up in Ethiopia, has played soccer for much of his life and was on the Benson varsity team as a sophomore, scoring two goals as a forward.

He switched to track and field in spring and qualified for the state meet in the 3,000 meters. He finished fifth.

With a strong graduating class off to college this fall, he ran away from the PIL field in cross country and placed fourth at state, missing third by just a few feet.

Ahmed, who has older twin brothers who garnered more than $200,000 in scholarships on the way to graduating from Roosevelt last spring, says he is just beginning to realize his potential in cross country.

'I have no idea how good I can be,' he says. 'I just know that I need to sacrifice my body and do the best I can.

'I wish I had started running as a freshman.'

Natalie Todd-Zebell, Grant Ð cross country

A junior at Grant, Todd-Zebell hadn't run the varsity cross country distance of 5,000 meters until this year. But she had plenty of athletic training to fall back on, having trained as a gymnast for nine years.

She reached Level 8 while competing for the Sunburst Gymnastics Center in Milwaukie. Level 8 is three levels below Elite Ñ the level that gets performers on television.

Gymnastics training helped her adjust to the pole vault. She won the PIL title as a sophomore, clearing 11 feet.

Her training in cross country this fall went smoothly, starting with her first race, which she ran in 19 minutes, 38 seconds. At the district meet, she finished in 18:43. She finished 12th at state.

Todd-Zebell enjoys the tranquility of cross country.

'It's fun because you can think about so many things while you're doing it,' she says. 'And it seems like more people have a chance to do well.

'And I love the places I get to run.'