ADAMS TWP — Their daily battle against each other undoubtedly helped both Gabe Spurlock and Marshall Robinson realize a dream.
The Mars football standouts both signed a letter of intent Wednesday to continue their academic and athletic careers. Spurlock chose Duquesne University while Robinson is headed to New England to attend the University of Massachusetts.
As an offensive lineman, Spurlock became used to facing Robinson, a nose guard, in practice. Both players were named to the Greater Allegheny Conference First Team last November.
“He is such a great talent,” Spurlock said of his teammate. “Facing him definitely helped me work on my technique. If I can block Marshall, I can block anybody.”
Robinson also came away from those drills with a unique respect for Spurlock.
“Gabe was the most challenging offensive lineman I faced all year,” he said.
Spurlock (6-foot-4, 280 pounds) was recruited by Duquesne as an offensive tackle. He saw the school and football program as a perfect fit.
“I went for my official visit Jan. 16,” he said. “It felt like home and I knew right away that that’s where I wanted to go.
“I’ve spent my whole life near Pittsburgh. I love the city and like the idea of staying close to home.”
The Dukes compete in the Northeast Conference, going 6-6 last season under veteran head coach Jerry Schmitt.
Spurlock, who plans to major in athletic training, helped the Planets’ offense pile up over 3,400 yards and 44 touchdowns last season.
Mars went 7-4 overall and reached the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals.
“He did a tremendous job for us,” said Mars coach Scott Heinauer. “He’s a very bright kid and will be able to pick up an offensive system in college.”
Robinson stands 6-3 and weighs 360 pounds. He estimates that he was either double or triple-teamed 90 percent of the time last fall, yet was still able to wreak havoc with opposing offenses.
“He’s a force to be reckoned with,” said Heinauer. “He has a lot of ability. UMASS wants him to drop some weight and that will make him faster.”
Robinson said he chose the Mid-American Conference school because “I felt like I belonged there. It’s a place where I can see myself growing into a man.” He will major in sports management.
The Minutemen went 3-9 in 2014, the program’s third season at the Division I level.
Though he moved to the Mars Area School District just a few years ago from Detroit, Robinson is taking away good memories from his time with the Planets.
“I loved it,” he said. “It was a great bunch of kids and I couldn’t have asked for better teammates.”
When asked what their favorite moment was in a Mars uniform, neither Spurlock nor Robinson hesitated.
“The Hampton game last fall,” said Robinson of Mars’ 20-14 victory over the previously unbeaten Talbots Oct. 24. “There’s no better feeling than to beat an undefeated team in overtime that just happens to be your rival.”