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Gators players see action in all-star games

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
A trio of football seniors, Montae Nicholson (6), Joe Robak (57) and Brenon Thrift (8) represented Gateway at all-star football games the past two weeks. All three helped the North team dominate the South, 59-21, at the fourth annual Chesapeake Bowl all-star game Dec. 28, 2013, in Virginia Beach, Va., while Nicholson played for the East team in U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, 2014, in San Antonio, Texas. Nicholson made three tackles in what turned out to be a 28-6 West victory.

Gateway senior Montae Nicholson donned the black and gold of the East team in Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and despite coming out on the losing end of a 28-6 decision to the West, he was able to show his talents in front of an NBC national-television audience.

Nicholson made three tackles from his safety position.

He also got a chance to play with and against some of the top stars in the nation and got a first look at players he will face over the next several years.

Several players in Saturday's game from the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, announced their college decisions live on TV from the game.

Nicholson, however, was not among that group, as he made a verbal commitment to Michigan State at an event with family and friends Dec. 19 at Gateway High School.

Another player from the East team — 6-foot-1, 287-pound offensive lineman Brian Allen from Hinsdale, Ill. — also made a verbal commitment to play for the Spartans.

The players from both the East and West teams met at the start of the week for practices and other activities in and around San Antonio.

For Nicholson, part of the trip included watching his future team take on Stanford in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

It was a fun start to the new year for Nicholson, as the Big Ten champion Spartans scored a 24-20 victory over Pac 12 champion Stanford.

Nicholson is the fifth player from Gateway to be selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl since 2005.

He joins Justin King, Shayne Hale, Corey Brown and Dorian Bell on that short list.

In addition to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Nicholson, along with a couple of his Gateway teammates, received news that they were named to the Pennsylvania Football News Quad-A All-State team.

Nicholson joined North Allegheny's Elijah Zeise as two of three first-team selections at wide receiver.

Senior Brenon Thrift, the state's sack leader with 16 this season, shared second-team defensive-line honors with four other players, including Penn-Trafford junior Trey Blandford and Woodland Hills senior James Eggleston.

Also on the second team defense from Gateway is senior defensive back Anthony Davis, while senior linebacker Zaihe Regus, who set a Gators record in 2013 for tackles in a single season, was named to the third-team defense.

Chesapeake Bowl

Nicholson, Thrift and senior Joe Robak all came home winners from the fourth-annual Chesapeake Bowl all-star football game Dec. 28 in Virginia Beach, Va.

The Gateway trio helped the North team break out to a 31-0 lead in the first half and a 50-0 halftime advantage before finishing off a 59-21 win.

Nicholson made several catches and caught two touchdown passes from Blackhawk senior Chandler Kincade.

Thrift recorded seven tackles, including two sacks, and Robak found success on offense at guard, tackle and tight end.

“The South had some great players,” said Thrift, a Temple recruit.

“(The North squad players) all got a long really well. We jelled quickly.”

Thrift said it was fun to line up next to North teammate Courtel Jenkins, a 6-3, 305-pound senior defensive tackle from DePaul Catholic in New Jersey. Jenkins has verbally committed to play at Miami (Fla.).

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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