York County pipeline developing to St. Francis University

Dante Green
York Dispatch
Danny Pham blocks a pass rusher in a game versus ETHS reading. August 28, 2021.

The minor leagues are a farm system for baseball that allows them to develop younger talent before sending players on to the major leagues. The NBA has a similar system with their g-league, and other sports have their developmental leagues.

York County high schools seem to be somewhat of a developmental league for one college — St. Francis University, which has sent close to 10 offers to local athletes over the past three years.

Recent offers from the NCAA Division I football program went to two local seniors, Central York lineman Danny Pham and York Suburban running back Mike Bentivegna.

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St. Francis — located in Cambria County, nearly three hours from York County — has a Football Bowl Subdivision program. No school boasts more York-area football graduates than St. Francis. The college football program, coached by Chris Villarrial, finished 5-6 last season, including 3-4 in the Northeast conference. The team appeared in one FCS playoff game back in 2016 and won its conference the same year. It has been competitive in recent years, compiling a 48-49 record since 2012. 

Their competitive program and proximity to York County have lured local athletes. Pham said he likes the campus and that the stadium reminded him of his high school.

“They have a nice campus from what I was shown when I visited," he said. "I really like the coaches. Coach Wilson was great to talk to.”

Mikey Bentivegna first game of the season versus Central York. September 2021.

Pham added that he could see himself at the school because he knows how many from his high school have decided to attend. He visited the school in early June for one of its football camps and worked out with the team.

Pham is one of the schools' top prospects for 2023, but he said he is focused on helping his team, which lost a lot of seniors, and proving doubters wrong this season rather than his college choice.

He said he was surprised and happy about the offer from St. Francis.

“I was shocked. I didn’t think I would get an offer,” he said. “I mean, they left me speechless.”

Pham said he likely won’t decide until after his senior year. He’s looking for a family-oriented school, similar to what he has experienced at Central York, an aspect that he felt during his visit to St. Francis. He also has offers from Gannon University and Clarion University. 

Bentivegna has yet to announce a commitment to any school, but he can decide to attend St. Francis at any point.

Danny Pham pancakes a defender versus Dallastown. October 22, 2021.

Bentivegna said he probably won’t decide until after the season, but St. Francis is a place he could see himself.

“Nice school. Enjoy the coaches. They all have cool personalities. Excited to get an offer from there. I could see myself fitting in,” he said. 

Bentivegna said he’s looking for certain things in a program.

“Good location. Since I was young, I wanted to go to college down south. Good academics. A good school that is going to move me around and I can fit in their offense,” he said.

The St. Francis football program already features several York County athletes: York High grad Tobee Stokes; and Central York’s Nick Basile, Brayden Bowers, Carter Glassmyer and Isaiah Sturgis. The Red Flash seems to be intrigued by the local prospects, attracting some of the best players from the York-Adams league.

Glassmyer was an all-state selection, maybe the best player from York County who has made his way to the program. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound athlete had 88 solo tackles, 126 total, and 15.8 tackles a game on average. He added seven tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions. He was York-Adams' defensive player of the year in 2021.

Time will tell if any of the 2023 class decides Loretto, Pennsylvania, is also in their future.