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Gateway, Plum seniors among Best of the Batch All-WPIAL football team

| Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, 2:00 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Steelers/Karl Roser
Gateway senior Aidan Howard, standing at far left, and Plum senior Jake Chapla, standing sixth from the left, were honored at the preseason game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers at Heinz Field on Aug. 23, 2015. The group of 26 players recognized is the fourth annual Best of the Batch All-WPIAL Football Team.

Gateway senior wide receiver and defensive back Aidan Howard gave a verbal commitment to Virginia in June.

He also accepted an invitation to play in a national all-star game in Florida in January.

As Plum senior kicker Jake Chapla gets set to start his final high school season, he also is looking ahead to athletic and academic opportunities in college.

Bowling Green, Pitt, Lehigh, Colgate, Penn, Temple and Army are among the finalists from an original group of more than 30 FBS and FCS schools that had shown interest.

On Sunday, the two local products were among more than two dozen of the best and brightest high school players who received honors at Heinz Field for their selection to the 4th annual Best of the Batch All- WPIAL football team.

The team members were recognized before the start of Sunday's exhibition game between the Steelers and Green Bay Packers.

The players then led the Terrible Towel Wave right before kickoff and watched the action from the newly built club at the scoreboard end of Heinz Field.

“They treated us like kings,” Chapla said. “It's such an honor to be selected to this team and share the honor with some of the best in western Pennsylvania.”

Former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch and his Best of the Batch Foundation have teamed up with Champs Sports Network since 2012 to recognize the top players in the WPIAL.

The group, primarily seniors, is made up of 26 players from 22 school districts in all four classifications.

“On-field achievements are great, but they need to be partnered with education, because eventually, playing the game is taken away from you. You need to know what comes after football,” Batch said.

In addition to Chapla and Howard, the members of this year's team are quarterback Billy Kisner from Penn Hills, running backs Miles Sanders from Woodland Hills and Kaezon Pugh from Aliquippa; wide receivers Aaron Matthews from Clairton, Jordan Best from Union and Daundre Johnson from Valley; tight end Stephen Puhl from Woodland Hills; and linemen Brandon Ford from Upper St. Clair, Jacob Buccigrossi from North Hills, Paul Grattan from Mt. Lebanon, Mac Chambers from Trinity and Josh Lugg from North Allegheny.

Also on the team are defensive linemen Rashad Wheeler from Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Matt Hampson from Pine-Richland, Keith Wells from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Khalid Blunt from Washington; linebackers David Adams from Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Logan Thimons from Freeport, Terence Stephens from West Allegheny and Tymar Sutton from McKeesport; and defensive backs Lamont Wade from Clairton, Damar Hamlin from Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Khaleke Hudson from McKeesport and Hunter Hayes from South Fayette.

Michael Love is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5825 or mlove@tribweb.com.

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