Gateway seniors sign on for future in college football

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Sunday, February 7, 2021 | 11:18 AM


It has become tradition with the Gateway football team that the first Wednesday in February is a day to celebrate the achievements of its senior players and also look ahead to what they hope are bright futures in college.

Last week was no exception as a trio of Gators standouts finalized the next step in their football and educational journeys on the opening day of the regular national letter of intent signing period.

“We all get excited with things like the first day of practice, game nights and playing for a championship, and signing day is right up there as one of the most exciting days of the year,” Gateway coach Don Holl said.

“It’s a day when you get to see dreams realized and are able to witness the path to success they have put in place.”

Jayson Jenkins will kick for Robert Morris, while lineman Jacques Taylor will test his mettle at Division II Notre Dame College (Ohio). Inside linebacker and tight end Diego Bledsoe will join the football team at Division II Bluefield State (W.Va.).

A fourth senior, Chamor Price, who has received interest from a number of Division I schools, will begin his collegiate journey at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.

The group joins standouts Derrick Davis (LSU) and Shane Thrift (Delaware) who signed Division I letters during the early signing period in December.

Holl said he expects other senior team members to make college decisions in the coming weeks.

Gateway, like many other teams in the WPIAL, played a truncated schedule because of covid-related cancelations. The Gators finished 5-1 overall. They shut out rival Penn Hills in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A playoffs before falling by one point to Peters Township in the semifinals.

Over the past four years, Gateway compiled a 43-7 overall record with WPIAL championships in 2017 and 2019.

The 2017 team went 14-2 and made it to the PIAA championship game in Hershey. The semifinal contest against Manheim Township came down to the wire, and Jenkins won it with a 23-yard field goal in the final seconds, 31-28.

“I am excited to head up to Robert Morris, and I am even more excited that I am able to share this (signing day) with all of my family here,” said Jenkins, who earned All-Big East Conference second-team honors for the 2020 season.

“I’ve looked forward to this opportunity for a long time. Having this shows that all of our hard work, myself and my teammates, has paid off.”

Taylor was a force in the trenches for the Gators, and he finished his senior season with 30 tackles, two sacks and an interception. For his efforts, he was voted an all-conference first-team pick at defensive end.

“I really never expected this day to come, but it is here, and it feels great,” Taylor said.

“I can’t wait to move on to the next level and show what I can do. I will miss coach Holl and all my other coaches who did so much for me, but they helped prepare me so much to move on to college.”

Bledsoe won a WPIAL championship as a sophomore at Steel Valley, but he was ruled ineligible after transferring to Gateway before his junior year.

But Bledsoe, Holl said, came to every practice in 2019 and worked to be ready for his chance in 2020. Bledsoe didn’t waste the opportunity to suit up for the Gators as he earned honorable mention all-conference honors at inside linebacker.

Bledsoe was a main cog of a Gateway defense that surrendered just 11.5 points in its six games played. He finished with 22 tackles, a sack and an interception while also catching a touchdown on offense.

Bledsoe will be a part of a football program at Bluefield which is coming back after a nearly 40-year hiatus. He connected with the Bluefield State coaching staff when defensive coordinator/linebackers coach David Blake saw Bledsoe’s Hudl highlights.

Bledsoe will share the field at Bluefield with a number of WPIAL products, including his cousin, E’Shawn Carter, a wide receiver and defensive back from Woodland Hills.

“This is a blessing to have this opportunity,” Bledsoe said. “I’ve been through a lot in high school. To be able to celebrate this with my family, friends and coaches, everyone, I couldn’t ask for more. It’s really exciting.”

Price led all Gateway receivers in 2020 with 18 catches for 346 yards and four touchdowns. He also made the most of the five times he carried the ball as he averaged 30.6 yards a tote.

He was selected to the all-conference first team offense as a multi-purpose athlete.

“Everybody’s journey is going to be a little different, and his path is going to require him to spend a little more time getting college ready while still being able to play football,” Holl said.

“We’re excited about that.”

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

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