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County trio will be fun to watch

It’s always fun watching Slippery Rock University football.

It’s even better when players from Butler County are contributing to that success.

Seneca Valley graduate Brandon Fusco, Butler graduates and brothers Bob and Tim Vernick and Slippery Rock High School graduate Josh Kniess are just a few former county players who went on to make a tremendous impact toward SRU continuing its winning tradition over the years.

This year’s Rock recruiting class includes four more guys who may make their presence felt at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium before their playing days are over.

Slippery Rock High School wide receiver John Sabo, Knoch tight end Jake Murphy, Freeport defensive back Ben Lane and former North Catholic defensive lineman Daniel Long, a Sarver resident, are all part of SRU’s 2023 recruits.

All four careers should be intriguing to follow.

Lane was an electric running back for the Yellowjackets, rushing for 1,100 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also had 72 tackles and two interceptions on the defensive side of the ball.

SRU’s coaches view him as a lock-down corner, as such players are extremely hard to come by at any level of football. Lane may one day prove his value on the offensive side of the ball or in the return game on special teams.

Murphy is a gritty tight end-linebacker whose immediate role at The Rock will be as a blocking tight end or fullback. But he caught 42 passes for more than 800 yards at Knoch in 2022 and made 70 tackles from his linebacker position.

This kid loves to hit people and may wind up being a big hit himself as a productive pass-catching tight end. At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, he’s got the frame to withstand the punishment inside.

Sabo was a productive high school receiver who is following in his father’s footsteps by attending The Rock. Also named John, his father was a receiver on a Rock PSAC West championship team. His son hopes to follow suit.

Sabo is 6-2 and Rock coach Shawn Lutz is already comparing him to current productive receiver Kyle Sheets. Sabo has the work ethic to make his career count at the college level, especially staying in his hometown.

Long spent his senior season at Highlands after playing for North Catholic. At 6-2, 230, he is a lanky defensive end who will likely get bigger. His body type fits many defensive ends before him who have thrived in The Rock’s defensive scheme.

Lutz and his staff are bringing in 11 players from the WPIAL. A few of them are among the best District 7 has to offer this year.

Seeing local high school athletes succeed at the next level while staying home is a good thing.

We get to enjoy their talents for four more years.

John Enrietto is sports editor of the Butler Eagle

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