Hillers hope to build a winner
By Mike Kovak, Staff writer
The recent run of Division I talent is undeniable and it puts Trinity in some elite company. The Hillers football team is pumping out college prospects the way perennial powers Gateway, Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Aliquippa do.
Last year alone, three Trinity linebackers went Division I when Andrew Sweat (Ohio State), Mike Yancich (Penn State) and Brandon Weaver (Ohio) signed letters of intent.
They joined former Hillers Andy Miller (Ohio State), Cody Endres (Connecticut) and Mark Faldowski (Army) at major college football programs.
"First, you have to be blessed with players," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said. "But there's a couple things you can do. You identify these players at a young age and get them training. Our kids basically train for football, even if they're playing another sport, 11 months out of the year.
"It makes a difference. We can't make someone 6-5, but is someone is blessed to be 6-5 and they train hard, you see where they can end up."
The pipeline from Trinity to Division I programs figures to continue this year as a pair of seniors have an opportunity, while one junior could be among the nation's top recruits.
There's no denying that the next few weeks for senior defensive end Jack Jamerson and senior offensive lineman Nate Lojek will be critical. Practice for Trinity football and every fall sports team in the PIAA begins today and the first scrimmage date is Saturday, Aug. 16.
Jamerson, at 6-4, 245 pounds, is one of seven returning starters on defense for Trinity, which finished 7-4 a year ago after advancing to the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals. Jamerson enters camp with seven offers, including Akron, Ohio, Kent State and an appointment from Army. Iowa and Wisconsin are in the initial phases of interest.
On the other side of the defensive line will be junior Kenny Wilkens, cousin of former Washington High School standout and current Cleveland Brown Travis Thomas. According to scout.com, Wilkens in the nation's 48th best recruit in the Class of 2010.
"In shorts and cleats, you're not going to find a guy as good as Ken Wilkens. Now, it's up to him to become a force," Dalton said. "If he does, we're definitely looking at defensive end as one of the strengths of our team."
Wilkens (6-3, 235) projects as a linebacker prospect in college and, last year, he backed up Sweat.
Based on potential, one of the nation's more coveted underclassmen backed up Pennsylvania's most heavily-recruited group of linebackers. Yet, somehow, Trinity allowed more than 30 points on four occasions.
"We must not be very smart coaches," Dalton quipped.
Trinity has made major strides in recent years though many view the 2007 season, which saw the Hillers win just its fourth postseason game, as disappointing.
Coaches from the Big Seven Conference have a different point of view when it comes to the Hillers.
"In my opinion, Trinity and Chartiers Valley were the second and third best teams in the state last year," Elizabeth Forward coach Garry Cathell said during last week's Big Seven Football Conference Media Day. "Chartiers Valley gave (Thomas Jefferson) it's best game by far."
Thomas Jefferson won the state championship with a 16-0 record. Trinity lost to the Jaguars, 35-14. TJ coach Bill Cherpak didn't dispute Cathell's comments.
"That's someone's opinion but I'm not sure (Cherpak) is a guy that just passes out free complements," Dalton said. "Just look at the job he's done. How can't you respect that?"
That's where Trinity wants to be and the Hillers believe they're developing the talent to get to that level.
And, this year, they'll be counting on Lojek (6-4, 306) to solidify an offensive line where he's the lone returning starter.
"Nate's a guy that will get offers once they get tape of him from scrimmages," Dalton said. "I think the line will end up a strength of this team if they play up to their performance level."
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