With camps, college visits back, TribLive HSSN Preseason All-Stars are busy this summer

Thursday, July 22, 2021 | 8:54 PM

As Josh Jenkins walked into Kennywood Park, passing the merry-go-round and the Sky Rocket, the Sto-Rox quarterback marveled at just how much life has improved in a year.

At this time last summer, Western Pennsylvania’s high school football players were mostly staying close to home and wondering whether there’d be a 2020 season at all. Now, with optimism for a more normal fall, many are making up for lost time with a hectic summer that has kept them on the go.

Their latest stop came Thursday at Kennywood for an event honoring the 25 players on the TribLive HSSN Preseason All-Star Football Team. The live-streamed show recognized the top players in the WPIAL and City League.

The event didn’t take place last summer when gathering sizes were restricted statewide.

“As I was walking into Kennywood today, I was looking at everybody,” said Jenkins, a junior who ranks among the WPIAL’s top passers. “Last year we couldn’t even do this because covid was a big thing and shut down everything. Now, to walk in here and see everybody, it’s crazy.”

Along with Jenkins, the preseason all-star team featured Central Valley’s Landon Alexander and Sean FitzSimmons, Central Catholic’s Donovan Hinish and Anthony Speca, Gateway’s Brad Birch and Patrick Body, Belle Vernon’s Quinton Martin and Devin Whitlock, Thomas Jefferson’s Nick Bryan, Laurel Highlands’ Rodney Gallagher, Mt. Lebanon’s Joey Daniels, North Hills’ Robert Dickerson, Perry’s Tyreese Fearbry, Serra Catholic’s Pharoh Fisher, Pine-Richland’s Jeremiah Hasley, Blackhawk’s Lorenzo Jenkins, Kiski Area’s Brandon Lawhorn-Moore, West Allegheny’s Gavin Miller, Armstrong’s Cadin Olsen, Chartiers Valley’s Lamont Payne, North Allegheny’s Jacob Porter, Brashear’s Ta’Mere Robinson, Woodland Hills’ Deontae Williams and Penn-Trafford’s Cade Yacamelli.

Twenty-three of the 25 all-stars attended Thursday’s event.

“We’ve wanted to do this since middle school,” said Dickerson, speaking for himself and Blackhawk’s Lorenzo Jenkins, a former youth-league teammate in the North Hills. “It’s nice to have our goals come true.”

Said Lorenzo Jenkins: “It’s honestly been a dream of mine since eighth grade to be a part of this.”

Yet, their trip to West Mifflin wasn’t their longest this summer.

Jenkins visited “dream school” Florida State in June along with camps at Pitt and Youngstown State. Dickerson, a two-sport standout, attended Penn State’s football camp while also playing baseball tournaments on weekends.

Recruits weren’t able to make campus visits with coaches last summer when the NCAA declared those months a dead period on the calendar.

“This summer feels more like my freshman and sophomore year,” Dickerson said. “It’s back to normal.”

High school football teams across the state will start heat acclimatization Aug. 9. The first practices are Aug. 16 with Week Zero season openers Aug. 27.

In recent weeks, Josh Jenkins and his Sto-Rox teammates made visits to Ohio State and Pitt, along with 7-on-7 passing camps at Slippery Rock, Westminster and St. Francis. A year ago, there were no camps.

“I didn’t even know what a camp felt like,” said Jenkins, who hasn’t slowed down much all summer.

He is not alone.

With football season only weeks away, some all-stars were hoping to squeeze in another college trip or two before the summer ends. Whitlock was headed to Harrisonburg, Va., for a camp at James Madison.

“My summer has been all filled up,” said Whitlock, a senior at Belle Vernon. “I’m just making up lost time that I’m trying to get back.”

Watch an archived broadcast of the TribLive HSSN Preseason All-Star Football Team selection show.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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