Class AAAA: Five players to watch
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SHAYNE HALE -- GATEWAY FB-DE
Gateway's Shayne Hale doesn't look like your average 18-year-old.
"Sometimes we go to an under 21 club," said Gateway teammate Cameron Saddler. "He always gets carded because they don't believe he's under 21." The football field is the same for Hale. Often times, it's like he's a man among boys. Hale is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior at Gateway who can dominate opponents. He's a fullback on offense, but is known as a standout linebacker. He made the Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 as a junior, racking up 105 tackles, 58 solo and 13 tackles for losses. Rivals.com ranks him the No. 1 inside linebacker in the country and Super Prep the No. 2 linebacker overall. The funny thing is Hale won't play linebacker this year. He has been switched to defensive end. Gateway's coaches like the talents of linebacker Jim Wilson and also wanted to get him in the starting lineup. "This way, we get two of our best players on the field instead of one sitting behind the other," said Gateway coach Terry Smith. "We threw it out to Shayne in the summer months, and he was a little upset about it. But we sat him down and said this is what's best for the team. He said, 'Coach, if this is what's best for the team, then I'm for it.' "Defensive end is actually a nice fit for Shayne. It's probably where he'll play in college." Hale is being heavily recruited, but has narrowed his list to West Virginia, Michigan, Virginia and Ohio State. Hale and Saddler, a running back-defensive back, might go to the same school. -- By Mike White
JOSH VICK -- KISKI AREA QB
A quarterback named Vick is trying to answer questions about himself. But this Vick isn't worried about guilt or innocence. Josh Vick is trying to prove he is fully recovered from a knee injury. Vick (6 feet 3, 205 pounds) led the WPIAL in passing yardage the first half of last season. But a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the fifth game led to season-ending surgery. In five games, he completed 52 of 101 passes for 1,147 yards. He is back for his senior season, hoping to prove to colleges the battle over wounded knee is over. "Some of them have said they want to see senior game film on me," Vick said. "But I'm healed up. The only time I think about it is when I'm putting a brace on it. I'm 100 percent." That's a good thing for Kiski Area, a team trying to compete with the big boys of the Big East Conference. The Cavaliers were 4-6 last season and did not score a point in their final three games against Woodland Hills, Gateway and Central Catholic. "I want to pick up where I left off last year because we were having a great year on offense," Vick said. Akron has offered a scholarship. Pitt has shown interest. Toledo, Northwestern and Ohio also are watching. Vick already might have scholarship offers without the injury. "It will drive you crazy if you think too much about what might have happened if I didn't get hurt," Vick said. "You can't deal with what could've been. You have to deal with the hand you're dealt." -- By Mike White
CAM SADDLER -- GATEWAY RB-DB
Depending on the day and his mood, Cam Saddler will tell you he's anywhere from 5 feet 7 to 5-9.
No matter the variance, Saddler is small -- except in the eyes of the Gateway football team. To the Gators, he's Yao Ming.
"He's the lifeline of our team," said Gateway coach Terry Smith. "He wills this team. They look at him and see his size and stature and see everything he does, and I think it motivates them."
Saddler is a senior running back/defensive back/kick-returner. Despite his size, big colleges have recruited him to play slotback and return kicks. West Virginia, Michigan, Virginia and Syracuse are his finalists.
Last season, Saddler returned five kickoffs for touchdowns, one short of the national record. He averaged 36.1 yards on 20 kickoff returns, rushed for 1,045 yards, and the average length of his 20 touchdowns was 42.1 yards.
Saddler has a vibrant personality and loves to play practical jokes on his teammates.
"I guess I am what I am because of my upbringing," Saddler said. "My dad is never serious. Guys come over the house all the time after practice just to hear some of the things he says. My mom is always happy, too. Dealing with those two has made me the person I am. I do well in school, too, because I would get knocked out if I didn't."
As for this season?
"We know defenses are going to play nine in the box against us," Saddler said. "But I've got all the trust in the world in those fat hogs up front on the line. They're great."
-- By Mike White
QUENTIN WILLIAMS -- CENTRAL CATHOLIC TE-DE
Quentin Williams rarely wastes words. He's the kind of high school football player who isn't boisterous and does not brag, but one who would rather show what he can do on Friday nights . Although short on words, Williams, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound tight end/defensive end at Central Catholic, is long on talent.
"As far as my athleticism and my size, I guess I do kind of take some people by surprise," Williams said. "I think that might have to do with me being quiet, too. I just kind of go about my business."
And going about that business not only yielded 22 catches for 424 yards and six touchdowns last year, but forced scholarship offers to come streaming in. Williams, also a good student and stellar baseball player, has 18 scholarship offers, from everywhere from Oklahoma to Vanderbilt to Iowa to Rutgers, Stanford and Michigan State.
That said, he doesn't feel any pressure to make a decision.
"I'm just kind of laying low with the decision and feeling it all out," Williams said. "I'm not in a big rush to choose and, really, I don't have to be. I'm just going to see what happens."
-- By Colin Dunlap
TINO SUNSERI -- CENTRAL CATHOLIC QB
Seems the football world is enthralled by the long, tall quarterback. Yes, college recruiters can't get enough of the lean, 6-foot-4 kids who can wing it downfield.
Central Catholic senior quarterback Tino Sunseri likes those guys, too, but he also knows, at 6 feet 11/2, that the ultimate measure for quarterbacks might not be how far the top of their head is from the ground.
"Nowadays, you have the 6-4 quarterbacks that everyone loves," Sunseri said. "Because of how big I am, I kind of get the second seat. I think I make up for it with my accuracy and my arm strength and, now, I have been studying film a lot more. It doesn't bother me that those big kids get noticed so much because I know what I can do."
And what the Louisville recruit did last year opened more than a few eyes. He tossed 14 touchdowns and completed 86 of 151 passes for over 1,400 yards as he stampeded Central Catholic to a 10-2 record and the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals.
Last year at this time, the scuttlebutt was about his highly-publicized transfer from a North Carolina school to Central Catholic. But this year ...
"Everyone is just talking about football, not all that other stuff," said Sunseri, flashing his signature smile. "I like it a lot better that the focus is on football, where it should be."
-- By Colin Dunlap
First Published August 28, 2007 9:30 pm