Warrior trio headed to Classic|
Friday, June 22, 2012
By Andy Stine Sports Writer
ALLPORT - High school football players make a lifetime of memories every Friday night in the fall. For three West Branch seniors who just graduated, they get to make one more memory together.
Luke Burnisky, Ronnie Gurbal and Broc Bell will lace their cleats and represent the Warriors for the North in the 28th annual Lezzer Lumber Classic tonight.
"It's a sense of pride," said Burnisky. "It took a lot to get here to be able to call myself an all-star."
"It's an honor," said Gurbal. "I feel proud that I was selected as one of the 40 players to be on an all-star team. It's been one of my goals since I was a sophomore."
However, the trio will not be alone in the all-star game. They will have their well-known head coach Lester Smeal with them as their head coach.
"It's a real special treat to have these kids here," said Smeal. "That senior group was a real special group for us. I started with them when we started the youth program here. And then I ended up being their head coach their senior year.
"The work ethic and the commitment to football they showed and to put together the season they did last year, it's really special."
If you look around on the field tonight, you may find a Warrior out there quite often.
Gurbal will take the field at tight end, where he had six receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. Burnisky will line up as a defensive end, where he had 61 tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery last season.
Due to the shortage of linemen, Bell will be playing on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Bell also had a stellar senior season for West Branch. He had 46 tackles, two sacks and four fumble recoveries to lead the Warrior defensive line.
While they all will be playing different positions on the line, they all feel the same about being selected for the Classic and for playing for Coach Smeal one final time.
"It means a lot to me," said Bell. "It obviously means I made an impact during the season and showed some people that I'm capable of doing good things. It shows that people wanted me to play in this game, and it makes me proud to play in this game."
"We ended on a rough note up in Blairsville, but now it's kind of nice to be with Coach Smeal and getting to have a second chance," said Gurbal.
"Plus with the other guys, it's been a real honor to play with Luke and Broc."
Although Gurbal and Bell both had mixed feelings about playing which side of the ball, Burnisky said he would rather play defense because he likes the intensity that comes with playing defense.
However, Burnisky admits it takes some time to get used to playing only one side of the ball.
"During the regular season, I'd never leave the field," said Burnisky. "It's weird getting in a position that you're only playing defense. I'm coming off the field more than I would in a normal game. I like it, though, cause I'm just focused on one position."
While this will be their last high school football game, Burnisky and Gurbal will both be continuing their football careers at the collegiate level.
Burnisky will be attending Edinboro University, while Gurbal will be heading to Juniata College. Bell plans on entering the work force and hopefully finding a job as a mechanic.
Even if the all-star game is only an exhibition, all three players had no doubts of wanting to win their final game at the high school level. There's also no questioning that Smeal would like to pick up a win.
"I talked to the whole team and I said ‘this is a playoff game. It's win or nothing at all,' " said Smeal. "It's one shot and you don't have next week. When this one is over, it's over."
Kickoff is slated for 7 at War Vets Field in Huntingdon.