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SV’s Royal, Mars’ Hartle headed to California (Pa.) for football

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Mars’ Connor Hartle (right) tracks down Indiana quarterback Trevor Smith and makes a tackle in the teams’ game at Mars Athletic Complex in 2022. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

It’s the time of year when thousands of high school athletes across the country choose where they will continue their academic and athletic careers.

For two Butler County football players, the destination is California (Pa.).

Seneca Valley offensive lineman Roman Royal and Mars defensive end Connor Hartle were two of 35 players added to the Vulcans’ roster on Wednesday.

Roman Royal2/9/24

"We are thrilled to introduce our 2024 class, as these young men are great people, students and players," said Cal head coach Gary Dunn in a released statement. "I'm proud of the work that our coaching staff put in to build relationships with this group. I would like to thank our admissions department and entire athletic administration for helping us sign a great class. I cannot wait for these young men to arrive for training camp and build on the tradition of Vulcan Football."

Royal (6-foot-4, 285 pounds), also a wrestler at SV, started at right tackle for the Raiders the last two years and Cal sees him playing the same position in college.

“The biggest transformation I saw in Roman came between his junior wrestling season and when we started summer camp last August,” said SV football coach Ron Butschle. “His lower half is already developed and when his upper half catches up, he’ll be a 300-pound dominant tackle.

“Footwork, hands, effort and leadership ... he has it all.”

Royal began attending football camps to improve prior to his sophomore season.

“It was the next year as a junior at those camps, I was consistently being pulled aside by Division II coaches. They were telling me what they liked about me and that’s when I realized I had a chance to play at that level.”

Before making his decision, Royal also considered two other PSAC schools — Mercyhurst and Seton Hill — along with Youngstown State.

“I liked the coaches at Cal, the facilities and their marketing program. That’s what I will be majoring in. I was able to check off all the boxes there.

“I love football and was hoping to find a school that offered me money to help pay for my education. I found it with Cal.”

During his junior and senior seasons at Mars, Hartle tallied 149 tackles and 34 stops behind the line of scrimmage, including 18 sacks. His play helped the Planets reach the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals this past fall.

Hartle also considered Seton Hill, Saint Vincent, Westminster and Grove City. He will be a preferred walk-on at Cal with the chance to earn scholarship money.

“He was a diamond in the rough,” said Mars coach Eric Kasperowicz. “He has a big frame, but is undersized (6-3, 180) for his position. He can easily put on 30 to 40 pounds.

“It was a tremendous pleasure to coach Connor the last two years. He was good against the run and even better versus the pass. He’ll be tough to replace, without a doubt.”

Hartle, who plans to major in finance, will play outside linebacker for the Vulcans.

“In the system they run, I will be an edge rusher and that’s very similar to what I played in high school.”

“I was told I’ll be red-shirted and I’m glad that’s what they plan to do with me,” he said. “That will give me the time to pack on the weight I need to compete at that level.”

Hartle appreciates the relationships he has built from playing football and anticipates more to come.

“I started playing in the second grade and was able to form a bond with a lot of kids,” he said. “Once we got to the high school team, those bonds just became stronger. Coach K has created an amazing culture there.”

California was 7-3 overall last season and 6-1 in conference play.

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