Gorman: Mt. Lebanon WR raising eyebrows, profile
Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Melnyk has been trying to sell college coaches on junior receiver Troy Apke, but he kept encountering one problem.
“When you mention a kid and say he's a pretty special player but only caught nine balls last year, they kind of raise their eyebrows,” Melnyk said.“I think people are starting to find out about him.”
Apke raised eyebrows — and his profile — Friday night in a 39-36 overtime victory at Woodland Hills.
After catching nine balls for 182 yards and a touchdown last season, Apke had 12 receptions for 273 yards and three touchdowns against the Wolverines.
“Last year, we had Luke Hagy, and we were obviously going to run him a lot,” Apke said. “I had my role, which was blocking. This year, I needed to step up, and I just know that every time I get the ball, I have to make a play.”
Call the win at Woodland Hills his coming-out party as a bona fide major-college prospect.
“I guess it was,” Apke said. “I didn't notice how many yards and catches I had during the game, but it did boost the team's confidence.”
No play was bigger than his left-handed grab of a corner fade for a 13-yard touchdown with a defender holding his right arm with 49 seconds left that sent the game into overtime.
“Amazing,” Melnyk said.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Apke has speed to match his leaping ability. He was timed in the 40-yard dash in the 4.43-4.45 range at college camps this past summer.
Pitt already has offered Apke a scholarship. The Panthers had two advantages in their early discovery: Apke's father, Steve, was a star linebacker at Pitt in the mid-1980s and Pitt linebackers coach Chris Haering coached Apke at Mt. Lebanon last season.
“I like Pitt,” Apke said, “but I'm open-minded.”
Apke now ranks among the WPIAL leaders with 28 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns.
“When coaches look for those measurables, they say OK,” Melnyk said. “Now, he's got some great tape with performances.”
A former receivers coach at Division III Albright College, Melnyk has worked with Apke on his route-running and said he has become a threat to use his speed not only on deep posts, but coming out of breaks on shorter routes.
“I'm excited because I've got him a whole 'nother year,” Melnyk said. “I think he's going to be a pretty special kid.”