Led by two Ohio State recruits and four Michigan recruits, the Mahoning Valley will be busy on today’s signing day.
By JOE SCALZO
Vindicator sports staff
YOUNGSTOWN — Ursuline High football coach Dan Reardon only played against one area team during the regular season, so you’ll have to forgive him if he didn’t realize just how talented this year’s senior class was in the Valley.
Led by two Ohio State recruits, four Michigan recruits and 30 Division I or I-AA recruits, this year’s recruiting class has both quality and quantity. Add in 13 non-Division I players (so far) and today’s Signing Day should be one of the best in Mahoning Valley history.
“Wow, that many?” said Reardon, whose team played Mooney in the regular season and Crestview in the playoffs. “That’s awesome.
“We have a great football tradition in this area and all the college recruiters know it. As a result, they spend a lot of time here.”
The Irish, fresh off back-to-back Division V state titles, have three seniors headed to Division I schools, led by Ohio State recruit Jamel Turner, who is attending Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy and is on track to graduate and be eligible for the Buckeyes.
He joins Boardman defensive lineman J.T. Moore as the two OSU recruits.
Irish running back Allen Jones, who holds the school’s career rushing record, was the first recruit for new YSU coach Eric Wolford, who nabbed five area players in his first recruiting class.
Ursuline linebacker Dawalyn Harper verbally committed to Toledo last year but numerous sources said he’s considering YSU as well.
Warren Harding has two Michigan recruits: WR/DB Deaver Williamson, who won a 100-meter title at last June’s state track meet, and linebacker Davion Rogers. It continues a trend for Harding, which sent linebacker Prescott Burgess (now with the Baltimore Ravens) and receiver Mario Manningham (New York Giants) to Ann Arbor in recent years.
This year’s Raider class also includes LB Lewellyn Coker (Syracuse) and RB/DB Mike Dorsey (West Virginia) and WR/DB Andrew Zitnik (I-AA Holy Cross), OL/DL Santiago Mason (I-AA Texas College) and five non-Division I recruits.
“We have a lot of great kids,” said Harding coach D.J. Dota. “Warren’s always had a strong tradition and this has been one of those years where we have a lot of kids who have a chance to play at the next level.
“It’ll be a proud day [today] for us as a football program.”
Mooney safety Ray Vinopal and Liberty linebacker Antonio Kinard are the other two Michigan recruits. Vinopal is one of six Cardinals headed to Division I schools, joining RB Braylon Heard (Nebraska), QB Alex Zordich (Buffalo) and YSU recruits Zach Larson (OL), Eric Franklin (OL) and Donald D’Alesio (WR/DB).
The Cardinals went 15-0 last season and won the Div. III state title.
Kinard is the third Leopard to go to Michigan in the past two years, joining RB Fitzgerald Toussaint and DB Isaiah Bell, who both committed last February. Leopards lineman Charlie Dann is headed to I-AA Georgetown.
Liberty has become a recruiting hotbed over the past decade and just had its first player drafted into the NFL last April when defensive back Bradley Fletcher was picked in the third round. The school’s recent success has been good for up-and-coming Leopards, and for other Valley schools, said Liberty coach Jeff Whittaker.
“When recruiters were coming in last year, they kept telling me this is one of the best years that this particular area has had as a group,” Whittaker said. “That says a lot for the Valley and for the football we play in this area.
“It’s good for those athletes, but it helps for junior recruiting too because it gets those coaches in the schools. And they always ask you about athletes from other schools, so the process sort of helps everyone.”
Boardman has three Big Ten recruits, with Moore joining LB Ryan Phillis (Indiana) and WR Chase Hammond (Wisconsin). Add in Hubbard WR/DB Kurtis Drummond (Michigan State) and you get eight Big Ten recruits. Eagle RB Andre Givens and Wilmington RB/DB Derrick Burns are both headed to Pitt, while two other area players are going to Army: Canfield kicker Billy Fisher and Warren JFK LB Ryan McCollum.
Poland has two Div. I recruits in safeties Luke Wollet (Kent State) and E.J. Kosec (Duquesne), Howland has one (DB Mike Mangiarelli, Maine), Newton Falls has one (OL Stephen Page, YSU) and Hickory has one (RB/DB El’Rico Jones, Akron).
Last fall, the Valley had a record 17 teams qualify for the playoffs and two win state crowns. When you see today’s recruiting class, it’s easy to see why.
“This year’s class is top-heavy with elite talent,” said Mark Porter, who runs the Ohio recruiting Web site ScoutingOhio.com. “I’m already looking ahead to next year and I don’t know how it can match this year.
“It’s certainly a banner year.”