Air Force Academy football makes recruiting push into Western Pa.

Sunday, May 17, 2020 | 12:50 PM

Two military service academies have successfully recruited Western Pennsylvania football players for years. Combined, Army and Navy had seven former WPIAL athletes on their rosters last fall.

The Air Force Academy wants to join them.

The Falcons have extended offers to a number of WPIAL juniors this spring including at least three more in the past week. Canon-McMillan’s Connor McMahon announced an Air Force offer Wednesday, and Upper St. Clair’s Luke Banbury and Baldwin’s Connor Lavelle revealed offers Friday.

Lavelle, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound safety and wide receiver, now has offers from all three service academies. Banbury (6-2, 220) is a linebacker and running back. McMahon (6-3, 250) plays tight end and defensive end.

Elizabeth Forward defensive end Chase Whatton and North Allegheny linebacker Nathan Hoke also added Air Force to their college options this month. Peters Township’s Donovan McMillon, Central Valley’s Ameer Dudley and some others around the WPIAL already had an offer.

Assistant defensive line coach Del Cowsette, a Cleveland native and former all-conference player at Maryland, has led the Division I FBS program’s efforts in Western Pennsylvania. The academy, in Colorado Springs, Colo., is much farther away than Annapolis, Md., or West Point, N.Y., a distance that likely impacts recruiting.

Air Force landed a WPIAL football recruit in 2018, when Penn-Trafford’s John Gay committed to the Falcons. However, Gay transferred to Lafayette after one year at the academy’s prep school.

Air Force went 11-2 overall last season and 7-1 in the Mountain West in coach Troy Calhoun’s 13th season. The Falcons defeated Washington State, 31-21, at the Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix.

Against the other service academies, Air Force defeated Army but lost to Navy last season.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at

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