FOOTBALL RECRUITING: Central York, Kennard-Dale, York High standouts make college choices

  • Central York's Jack Smith committed to play at Sacred Heart University.
  • Kennard-Dale's Gabe Hulslander committed to play at Edinboro University.
  • York High's Marcellus John committed to play at Hudson Valley Community College.
Central York senior linebacker Jack Smith, left, breaks up a pass during the PIAA 6-A state semifinal game vs. McDowell.

While sitting in his second-period computer apps and web tools class, Jack Smith got a message that changed his life.

The Central York High School senior linebacker checked his phone and was shocked to see a message that he had hoped to receive for years. The Twitter message was from a coach at Sacred Heart University with a preferred walk-on offer 10 days after the Panthers’ 2020 season began in September..

“It was crazy to me,” Smith said. “At first when I saw the message I was like, ‘Seriously?’ I was not expecting anything like that, especially after two games. It was really exciting and almost unreal to see the message.”

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Smith was excited to tell Central York football coach Gerry Yonchiuk and his teammates, including his friend and neighbor, star quarterback Beau Pribula. Smith and Pribula had envisioned a future playing college football together as kids.

Four months after Smith received the offer he decided to make it official and commit to the Pioneers’ NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision program on Friday.

“It was really exciting, but it was also kind of relieving that my choice was made up and I didn’t have any more stress from recruiting,” Smith said. “But mostly just exciting that I get to play Division I football at a school I really like and for a coach I really like.”

Achieving his goal: The 6-foot, 210-pounder entered the season coming off a York-Adams League Division I second-team all-star campaign in 2019 and became a defensive leader on the team.

Although he already had success on the field, his recruiting had not taken off before his senior year began. Smith sent emails to nearly 30 college coaches, and when he heard from Sacred Heart, it made him realize he was close to achieving his ultimate goal.

“Coming into the season it was more of like a hope and a dream for me, but as the season started going it started to get more realistic,” Smith said. “It was always something that I dreamed of, but I wasn’t sure if it was something I would be able to do. As my senior year went on, I realized this was something I could actually do and it was really exciting for me.”

As the season progressed, Smith’s success on the field continued. The linebacker led the Panthers’ defense during an incredible run to the PIAA Class 6-A state title game and recorded 106 total tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and three forced fumbles.

Central York's Jack Smith, right, is seen here in a file photo.

Smith added another preferred walk-on offer from NCAA D-I FCS Saint Francis University in December and was named to the Pennsylvania Football Writers’ 6-A All-State Team. He was also a Y-A League first-team all-star and was selected to the 2020 Maxwell Football Club Mini Max Team.

Joins growing list of committed Panthers: During the season, several other Panthers won awards and decided their college futures. Pribula committed to Penn State, Judah Tomb committed to Saint Francis, Josh Gaffney signed with Albany, Kyle Fontes committed to Bucknell and Taylor Wright-Rawls signed with Bryant University. Running back Isaiah Sturgis also holds preferred walk-on offers from Sacred Heart, Saint Francis and Wagner College.

York High wideout arrived late to football, but now he has opportunity to play in college

“All the recognition and all the awards and being able to play Division I football is all just a huge blessing,” Smith said. “It really shows that hard work really does pay off. It’s nice to see everything pay off for me and all my teammates.”

Central York's Jack Smith, right, celebrates a 48-21 win over York High during York-Adams League District 3, Class 6-A championship football action at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

When Smith and Pribula began playing football as kids years ago, the goal was to play NCAA football. The magical season the Panthers’ players, coaches and fans will never forget has been punctuated by the realization of a dream born years ago as a kid. 

“It’s just unreal,” Smith said. “It’s everything I could have ever hoped for. I set goals for this kind of stuff and to achieve everything I have been setting out and working so hard to do, it just feels good to have everything pay off and see all my dreams come true.”

Gabe Hulslander runs through a drill during a team practice at the school Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. He is a close friend of Patrick Maloney, a former Kennard-Dale lineman, who suffered a serious head injury last year as a senior and is currently with the team as an assistant coach. Bill Kalina photo

Hulslander to Edinboro: One day after Smith announced his commitment, another Y-A standout defender decided where he will play in college.

Kennard-Dale senior Gabe Huslander announced he will play for NCAA Division II Edinboro University, which sports the same red-and-black colors as the Rams’ neighboring rivals, Susquehannock.

“First off, I’d like to thank God for the gifts he has given me and the opportunity to play the game I love,” Hulslander wrote on Twitter.

“I’d also like to thank my family, friends, teachers, coaches, former and past, for their never-ending support and their desire to make me a better  person and player. It’s been a long journey with many ups and downs, but without my Mom and Dad I would not be in the position I am today and for that I am eternally grateful and I love you both. I’d also like to thank all the coaches that took a chance on a kid from Kennard-Dale and gave me the opportunity to be a part of their respective teams. But with that being said, I humbly announce that I will be continuing my academic and football career at Edinboro University! I am officially a Fighting Scot! (Swore to myself I’d never be seen in Susky colors, but this is worth it!)”

Hulslander was the Y-A D-II Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 and also a first-team all-star on the offensive line. He had five sacks in 2020.

York High's Marcellus John scores a touchdown during football action against Northeastern at Smalls Athletic Field in York City, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. York High would win the game 32-7. Dawn J. Sagert photo

John to Hudson Valley: Along with Smith and Huslander, a third Y-A defensive all-star committed to a college program last week. York High senior defensive back Marcellus John announced he will attend Hudson Valley Community College on Jan. 20

John was a Y-A D-I first-team all-star cornerback in 2020 and an honorable mention safety in 2019. Hudson Valley plays in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

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