Connellsville's Maher earns Division I scholarship
Since the early days of his football career, Connellsville senior Jade Maher had a dream of one day stepping under center and calling plays for a Division I college team.
On Wednesday, that dream became much more of a reality. Maher, Connellsville's quarterback for the past four seasons, signed a letter of intent to play football and continue his education at Virginia Military Institute. Maher received a full scholarship to play football for the Keydets. VMI will join the Division I Southern Conference beginning with the 2014-15 season.
“Ever since I was little, I dreamed of going to a Division I (school) and I can't wait to get started,” Maher said. “It's a great opportunity for me, and I'm looking forward to representing Connellsville and doing the best I can.”
According to Maher, VMI will be graduating two senior quarterbacks, which means that the incoming freshman could make an immediate impact.
“I just have to go there and work my tail off,” Maher said. “Nothing will be handed to me.”
In his career at Connellsville, Maher was a four-year starter and two-year captain. He was twice named to the All-Quad East Conference. Maher threw for 3,128 yards and 29 touchdowns in his scholastic career. He has a 3.98 GPA and plans to study civil engineering.
Maher will be one of five Connellsville players expected to play at the collegiate level. Also signing letters of intent Wednesday were Austin Brooks and Jimmy DeMarco.
Brooks received nearly a full scholarship to play football at Division II Mercyhurst University in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. DeMarco received a partial scholarship to play at Division II West Virginia Wesleyan in the Mountain East Conference.
Brooks was recruited as a center for the Lakers.
“It's awesome, and it shows that all the hard work pays off,” Brooks said. “I'm excited to go there and win and hopefully get a piece of a championship.”
A two-year captain with Connellsville, Brooks started on the offensive and defensive line for three seasons with the Falcons. He earned two All-Quad East Conference honors. He has a 3.3 GPA and plans to study criminal justice.
DeMarco was also a two-year captain and twice earned All-Quad East recognition. A four-year starter, DeMarco was recruited as a linebacker by the Bobcats. DeMarco finished his high school career with 394 tackles. He has a 3.8 GPA and is undecided on a major.
“It means a lot that I'm going to get a good education and play some football,” DeMarco said. “It's a pretty good deal for me.”
Seniors Chris Russell and Austin Heinbaugh are also expected to play football in college. However, neither has come to a final decision on their school of choice. Both have received academic scholarships.
Russell was a two-year starter. The fullback rushed for 879 yards in his senior season. He earned All-Quad East honors once and has a 3.6 GPA. Russell is considering Division III Marietta College and Thiel College as his top two choices.
Heinbaugh was a one-year captain and earned All-Quad East honors once. He was a two-year starter on the offensive and defensive line. He has a 3.7 GPA and is considering Division III Washington & Jefferson College and Thiel College as his top choices.
“I am very proud of all five young men, not only for their athletic and academic accomplishments, but how they carry themselves as representatives of our school and community,” Connellsville football coach Dave McDonald said.
“There is over $600,000 in athletic and academic scholarship money (they have earned), which is a real tribute to their parents, faculty and staff in the Connellsville Area School District.”
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at email@example.com.