LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa – When he was hired to revive Temple University’s struggling football program, Al Golden arrived with a plan.
The former Penn State tight end, who learned his craft from such coaching luminaries as Joe Paterno, Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Al Groh, has a particular type of player in mind when he hits the recruiting trail.
“I’m looking for leaders,” Golden said Thursday night, prior to delivering his keynote speech at the Manheim Touchdown Club banquet. “I want team captains. I want kids who are willing to take responsibility. To play for us, you have to share our core values.”
And Lancaster County has an abundance of players that fit the profile, he added.
“One of the things I said when I got (to Temple) was that we are going to recruit the local area hard,” the second-year coach said. “And in 18 short months, I’m happy to say we’ve done a good job of reconnecting with the players close to home.”
One of the players Golden landed was Matt Balasavage, a star tight end and soon-to-be graduate at Lancaster Catholic.
Balasavage accepted Golden’s scholarship offer last summer, prior to his senior season with the Crusaders. He was part of a solid recruiting class that the second-year coach hopes will turn the team around.
“We came away with a young man at Lancaster Catholic that we’re very proud of,” said Golden, who at age 37 is the fourth-youngest Division I coach in college football. “This is a very industrious kid, this is a leader, this is a kid from a great family. This is the kind of kid we wanted to get back to — a self-starter, a kid who excels in the classroom.
“We think he’s a very good player, and obviously a kid that we’re counting on coming in and playing.”
The leadership qualities Golden extols were on display Thursday night at the Lancaster Host Resort, where the Touchdown Club honored some of the best and brightest among area athletes.
The club gave out six $1,000 scholarships — four to Manheim Central student-athletes and two to the A. Landis Brackbill Award winners.
It also presented player of the year awards to a pair of college stars, honored the Lancaster-Lebanon League High School Player of the Year and presented the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year award.
Players on Saturday night’s Tri-County All-Star game were also introduced by coaches Bruce Harbach (Lancaster Catholic) and Bob Forgrave (Hempfield).
Former Manheim Township quarterback Pat Bostick won the L-L League Player of the Year award over fellow nominees Nick Downey (Lancaster Catholic) and Marcus Zimmerman (Manheim Central).
Bostick, a 6-4, 220-pound Pittsburgh University recruit, finished his stellar high school career as one of the state’s top passers. His 7,259 passing yards are fifth all-time, and his 82 touchdowns are one of several career records he set at Township.
Bostick, who graduated early from Township and has already begun his freshman year at Pitt, is one of the top players ever to come out of Lancaster County.
He joins a lineage of quarterbacks that dates all the way back to former Conestoga Valley star Mike Cook — who won the first-ever Touchdown Club Player of the Year award in 1998 — and ex-Manheim Central stadout Matt Nagy, who won in 2000.
Other star QBs to come through the L-L League include Jeff Smoker, Chad Henne, Perry Patterson and Jordan Steffy.
Henne, a Wilson grad and University of Michigan senior, won the TD Club’s Division I and I-AA Player of the Year award for the second straight year.
Bostick said he is honored to be included with the stars who came before him.
“It’s a cool thing,” he said. “Chad Henne is going to be a Top 10 draft pick next year. Jeff Smoker and Matt Nagy are starting in the Arena League. Perry Patterson didn’t get drafted, but he’ll wind up playing professionally somewhere. … Jordan Steffy is going to start for Maryland this year.
“To be put in with that group is an honor. I grew up trying to emulate them.”
Scholarship winners from Manheim Central were Elizabeth Hess, Kelsey Landis, Travis Nissley and Daneen Zug.
Brackbill Award winners Sami Houseal and Bradley Wolfson also received scholarships.
The Upshaw Award went to Grand Valley State’s Michael McFadden for the second straight season, while Lebanon Valley junior and Lebanon Catholic grad Adam Brossman won the Division II and III Player of the Year award.
NOTES: The Tri-County All-Star game will be held Saturday at 7 p.m. at Manheim Central’s Rettew Field. Tickets cost $5 for adults and $3 for students
By KEITH SCHWEIGERT
Lancaster New Era