Apollo-Ridge’s Jake Mull puts best foot forward in multiple sports

Sunday, September 18, 2022 | 4:32 PM

Throughout the WPIAL, there are athletes who play a sport in every season.

Some might add a second sport in one of those seasons, but not many are like Apollo-Ridge’s Jake Mull, who makes it work in five sports: football, soccer, basketball, baseball and track and field.

“I couldn’t imagine my life without all the sports I play,” said Mull, a starter and key member of the Vikings football team and Leechburg co-op soccer team.

“I love it. It’s my favorite thing to do. I want to be a part of a team, work hard and help win games.”

Soccer is Mull’s main sport in the fall. It takes precedence.

It’s a working relationship with football through the games, the practices and the film sessions, all while maintaining a focus on academics.

“I’ve learned a lot about time management in the seasons with two sports and all of my responsibilities in keeping up my grades,” Mull said.

“After practices, it’s straight to finish my homework, and then I make sure I get enough rest. In the morning, I wake up fully refreshed.”

Apollo-Ridge football coach and athletic director John Skiba said he appreciates Mull’s dedication to academics and his focus on excelling in every sport.

“He’s a great student, and it’s impressive to see him balance everything,” Skiba said.

“The biggest thing with him is making sure he gives his body enough of a break and rest. He is such a big part of both sports in the fall, and he is always going 100 percent. The trainers do a really good job of taking care of him and making sure he’s on top of his game.”

While he’s in season with football and soccer, Mull also has an eye on the basketball season, where he is the starting point guard.

Last year, injury cost him all but nine games. He averaged 7.1 points, 3.2 assists and 2.5 steals.

Mull has risen to a level in football where he rarely leaves the field. He’s a starting wideout and safety and handles the punting and kicking duties. He also returns kicks.

In eighth grade, he fared well at running back and also was the kicker. But while soccer was his No. 1 sport in the fall, he said he wasn’t sure what his future was in football.

As a freshman, he was the kicker and he delivered 31 extra points. Keighton Reese, a junior at the time, did the punting.

“I wasn’t really planning on continuing with football after my eighth-grade year,” Mull said. “But I talked with the coaches, and they told me they would work with me to help me improve my kicks. They also made sure to work around my schedule with soccer and helped me stay focused with both soccer and football and what I needed to do with my classes. I decided to keep going, and that’s what kind of started this whole thing.”

In Mull’s sophomore year, Gavin Cole transferred back to Apollo-Ridge and earned the kicking duties.

“Gavin was a little bit better than me. The coaches asked me if I wanted to try a different position,” Mull said.

“I originally told them no, and I again considered not playing. They said I was a great athlete, and they really wanted me to play. I was in a defensive role, and I felt I got better throughout the season.”

Last year, Mull expanded his football resume to the offensive side of the ball at receiver and saw time as a starter at free safety. He also regained his kicking duties and added a punting role.

Mull started this year in a big way with career bests of four catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-28 Week Zero win over Leechburg.

“Over the summer, we did some 7-on-7s, and something just clicked,” Mull said. “The first week, I was more than excited to see what I could do.”

He hoped to keep the momentum going the next week against Valley.

Mull took a tough hit to the ribs during a first-quarter run and left the game. He came back in the second quarter and picked off a pass and returned it 45 yards to snuff out a Valley drive and give Apollo-Ridge strong field position in what was a tight game.

He suffered a second shot to the ribs on the interception return and left the game for good before halftime. Apollo-Ridge took several injury hits in that game, including the loss of starting quarterback Karter Schrock to a leg injury, but was able to hold on for a 35-19 win.

Mull was a late-week decision before the Vikings’ Week 2 game at Deer Lakes on Sept. 9, but he was in the lineup. He also didn’t miss any Leechburg soccer matches.

“I know there is an injury risk, no matter what sport you play, and both my football coach and soccer coach know that, if possible, I want to be out there,” Mull said.

On Friday, he caught three passes for 49 yards in a 28-14 loss to Ligonier Valley. He added six tackles.

Mull had a key grab in the third quarter — a 32-yarder from to Ligonier Valley’s 1-yard line — that set up Nick Curci’s 1-yard plunge to cut the Vikings’ deficit to 21-14.

Three of his punts traveled better than 40 yards.

In soccer, Mull, a forward/midfielder, helped Leechburg jump to a 2-0 start with three goals and an assist in shutout wins over Derry and Greensburg-Salem.

The 2021 Section 2-2A honorable mention selection has four goals and three assists for a Blue Devils team looking to bounce back from a current five-game winless streak. Leechburg tallied 16 shots Saturday but tied Armstrong 0-0.

The teams Leechburg faced through four setbacks — Knoch, Freeport, Shady Side Academy and Deer Lakes — own a combined overall record of 21-8.

“Jake has an engine that just never shuts off,” Leechburg soccer coach Brad Walker said.

“He is just an athlete, no matter what he plays. He would probably excel in any other sport he picks up. For us, he just finds himself in the right place at the right time and is very instinctive.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .


More Football

Trib HSSN football players to watch for 2022 Week 5
This week on Trib HSSN for week of Sept. 26, 2022
Penn Hills heats up behind strong play from offensive, defensive lines
High school roundup for Sept. 24, 2022: Xavier Nelson sets receiving records in Bishop Canevin win
Trib HSSN WPIAL football rankings: Week ending Sept. 25, 2022