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GCC players sign on with FCS college programs

| Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

When Duquesne and St. Francis (Pa.) clash on the gridiron next fall, don't be surprised to see Nate Stone or J.T. Astalos, two seniors at Greensburg Central Catholic, chasing Chase Keller, their former quarterback.

The three are part of a group of seven GCC seniors who will play collegiate football. Stone and Astalos are headed to Duquesne, and Chase Keller will join 2013 GCC graduate Marc Rodriguez at St. Francis.

But the games between the Northeast Conference (FCS) rivals won't be the only ones to feature members of GCC's Class of 2014. Seth Warburton recently chose Ohio Dominican, Tyler Balla is off to Mount Union, Nick Ireland selected Susquehanna and August Shotts will play at St. Vincent.

“It's great,” said Dan Mahoney, Greensburg Central Catholic's athletic director and football coach. “We're really proud. And I think the big thing, too, is they're all solid academic kids. I look for them to have a good four-year career wherever they're going.”

Keller is moving on to the next level despite a broken collarbone he suffered during the second game of the season. The injury was disappointing but far from career-ending.

“I think a lot of schools might have missed the boat on recruiting him because he has such great ability,” the coach said.

Mahoney said Ed Kilkeary will play baseball in college and is waiting to hear from the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

That brings the number of players from this year's GCC football team — which finished 5-5 and was eliminated in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs — who will play in college to eight.

Though this is nothing new for Mahoney — his son Pat graduated from GCC in 2011 and plays for Mount Union, a Division III powerhouse — the coach is thrilled.

He stresses the importance of education with his players and believes that success in the classroom goes “hand in hand” with their athletic accomplishments.

“Our high school team was real close. A lot of us studied together,” said Stone, who drew interest from Ivy League, MAC and Big East schools. “We always talked about how our academics came first, even if for Coach Mahoney that meant letting us miss a practice. Or if there was a big event coming up and we needed time to study, he allotted time for that.”

Stone played at Southmoreland during his freshman year before coming to GCC for the rest of his high school career. As a sophomore on a WPIAL semifinal team with players such as Rodriguez, who initially attended Maryland, and Zach Guiser, who went to Akron, Stone said he began to attract attention that he didn't receive as a starter at Southmoreland.

“Joining GCC was honestly I think one of the best things I've ever done,” said Stone, who will play in the NUC Texas vs. The World Game on Feb. 23.

“I put myself on a team of winners and kids who strive to be as great as they can be. Not taking anything away from Southmoreland, but it put me in a position to achieve the things that I have up to this point.”

While it's unlikely Mahoney's former players will see the field much as freshmen, anything can happen.

Stone can't wait to get to Duquesne so he can begin making his case for a starting spot. And once the season kicks off, he'll be excited for the matchup against St. Francis.

“It's definitely going to be fun playing against some of the guys I played high school ball with,” he said.

Mark Emery is a freelance writer.

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