Faced with choice between football, lacrosse at Mount Union, Hampton senior picks both

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Saturday, April 13, 2024 | 11:01 AM


One thing is certain about Hampton two-sport standout Gabe Gannelli and his upcoming college days.

He’s not going to have much free time on his hands.

Gannelli, a senior, committed to Mount Union to play football and lacrosse, continuing the sports at which he excelled with the Talbots.

“For me, it was one of the main parts of going to college,” he said. “Being able to perform at the highest level, with the sports that I do very well at, was major for me.”

While most multi-sport athletes are forced to settle on one sport at the next level, Gannelli will play football in the fall and lacrosse in the spring after committing to the Division III school last month.

“It’s exciting for him to get this opportunity to do football and lacrosse in college,” Hampton football coach Steve Sciullo said. “I think it’s pretty neat. I think it will keep him focused.”

Gannelli has earned accolades in both sports at Hampton. He is a two-time all-WPIAL defender in lacrosse and a two-time first-team all-Greater Allegheny defensive end in football. He had double-digit sacks in each of his final two seasons, including 13 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries as a junior.

Gannelli has helped the lacrosse team to a 4-1 start this spring (through April 7) as the Talbots try to take another step after reaching the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals last season.

“I’m doing pretty well,” he said. “I can’t complain about anything. I just want to continue to grow and get ready for the college level.”

Gannelli was initially recruited by Mount Union to play lacrosse. He visited the Alliance, Ohio, school, about a 90-minute drive from Hampton, in April 2023 and stayed in touch with the coaching staff. Gannelli said Mount Union lacrosse coach Dominic Perella, a Western Pennsylvania native, convinced the school’s football staff to watch some more film on the 6-foot, 220-pounder. The football coaches were intrigued and invited him to join one of the nation’s top Division III programs.

Gannelli said other schools were showing interest in him for either football or lacrosse, but Mount Union was the only one that would accept him for both sports.

“I think it will be a really good fit for him,” Hampton lacrosse coach Andy DeMichiei said. “From a lacrosse perspective, he will have the opportunity to step on the field as a starter from day one. He has that type of ability. …It’s a big commitment for them, and he’s a player that will impact the team.”

Perella, Mount Union’s second-year lacrosse coach, is aware of the challenges that await Gannelli. Perella played the same two sports — football and lacrosse — at Thiel after graduating from Seton LaSalle. He was an assistant coach at Peters Township and Seneca Valley, and his roster includes nine former WPIAL players, Hampton graduate Grant Dunmire, a junior midfielder, among them.

The Purple Raiders’ legendary football program, under fourth-year coach Geoff Dartt, has won 13 NCAA Division III championships since 1993, most recently in 2017. They have lost only two Ohio Athletic Conference games in the past 33 years and have a mind-boggling overall mark of 439-23-1 since 1990.

Like all D-III programs, Mount Union doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, but Gannelli, who plan to major in criminal justice or accounting, said he “was able to get a good bit of money off” through academic considerations.

As far as playing two sports, plus the academic demands, Gannelli said he sought advice from his older half-brother, Erik Hultgren, a former all-conference midfielder for Seton Hill lacrosse.

“He told me it’s like a full-time job,” Gannelli said. “He just played lacrosse, and he said it was tough for him to balance it. But I’ve always been optimistic, and I think I will be able to stay steady through the entire process.”

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