Westmoreland County football players sign on with college programs

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 | 8:57 PM

Braden Brose was up bright and early Wednesday morning. But since school was canceled because of the snow and ice he could not fax his football letter of intent to Delaware.

So, the Hempfield senior got creative.

He snapped a picture of the autographed letter and texted it to his future coaches.

Call it a sign of the times on signing day.

“I'm just glad to finally be a part of the team,” Brose said.

A late-bloomer in the recruiting game despite his 6-foot-4, 240-pound size and monster senior season, Brose had his patience tested but never took his eyes off the road.

All of the traveling to seven-on-seven passing events, advertising his whereabouts and highlights on social media and fruitless visits to schools paid off for Brose, who only had Division II offers early on. When Delaware offered a scholarship, the big-pawed Brose grabbed it.

“I don't look at it like that I'm going D-1,” Brose said. “I look at it like I'm going to a good school and I can play the sport I love for four more years.”

Brose had 57 receptions for 812 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. All three totals are single-season program records.

“He will do great at Delaware,” Hempfield coach Rich Bowen said. “His best football is ahead of him.”

Penn-Trafford senior John Gay IV also took his time on the path to college football, making visits and combing through the details, namely weighing whether military life and football could work as one.

He believes they can, which is why he chose to attend the Air Force Academy. The standout running back (6-foot, 190) rushed for 1,285 yards and 19 touchdowns last season for the WPIAL Class 5A runner-up Warriors.

“John is a cerebral player who hates to lose,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “He practices each day like it's a game. He studies opponents and does everything asked of him.”

A third sleeper from the area who did not fully fall through the cracks, but nearly did, is Franklin Regional senior Bryce Lauer. The standout linebacker, who broke school records for single-season (161) and career (368) tackles, signed with Towson (Md.) a day after verbally committing.

An all-state pick, Lauer (6-2, 245) was strongly considering Robert Morris, but his offer went away when the Colonials made a coaching change.

That made him rethink and restart the process.

“It means a lot after everything I went through with the change at RMU,” Lauer said. “I can't wait to get back at it. But one thing is for sure: I'm going to miss playing for coach (Greg) Botta and the entire coaching staff at Franklin Regional.”

And Botta will miss seeing Lauer hamstring quarterbacks. Botta has coached numerous linebackers that went on to strong college careers. He expects Lauer to follow suit.

“He second-guesses himself; he's his harshest critic,” Botta said. “But he has all the tools to be a great one, wherever he goes.”

Wednesday marked the first day of the NCAA's regular signing period, but Norwin graduate Steve Petrick had seen this movie before. Petrick, a redshirt freshman tight end, went through his second signing day after transferring from Temple to Robert Morris. Petrick (6-5, 250) only played in three games last season. He initially signed with James Madison out of high school.

A pair of the county's top linemen, Penn-Trafford's Logan Hawkins (Akron) and Belle Vernon's Blake Zubovic (Pitt) signed during the NCAA's inaugural early signing period in December.

Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter is headed to Duquesne as a preferred walk-on.

Division II recruits also could sign Wednesday and a number of local players did. The list includes Latrobe tight end Jason Armstrong (Mercyhurst), Ligonier Valley wide receiver Jackson Daugherty (Cal, Pa.), Latrobe tailback/receiver Iven Etienne (Clarion), Penn-Trafford defensive end Will Mayr (IUP), Belle Vernon defensive lineman Logan Petrosky (Shippensburg), Belle Vernon wide receiver/defensive back Logan Pfrogner (Walsh), Norwin offensive lineman Jake Smetak (Cal, Pa.), Penn-Trafford defensive back Cam Suman (IUP), Belle Vernon H-back Derek Thomas (Walsh) and Jeannette defensive lineman Jalen Jones (Cal, Pa., preferred walk-on).

Jeannette star athlete Robert Kennedy, meanwhile, chose to take the junior college route. He announced he will attend Lackawanna College in Scranton. Kennedy threw for 1,462 yards and ran for 1,356 while accounting for 47 touchdowns for Jeannette, the WPIAL and PIAA Class A champion.

Norwin's Tevin Thrift, hampered by injuries that limited him to five games this season, also plans to play at Lackawanna.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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