The LaBrae football program will be missing some of its most valuable pieces this season with the graduations of Zach Miller, Carrington Herron and Troy Chieffo.
The trio helped the Vikings go 24-18 and make the Division IV state playoffs twice in their varsity careers under coach Bill Bohren.
They will now take the next step in their athletic and academic careers as Miller has signed to play at Youngstown State and Chieffo will go to Bluffton. Herron was originally leaning toward Mercyhurst but he said he has also received an offer from Gannon.
"Zach was a four-year letterwinner for us, one of the few we've had," Bohren said. "He's been one of our best defensive players over the last two years. He averaged over 100 tackles per year; he's an outstanding player and one of our captains. He's going to be a really good college player. He's also a great young man."
Miller said he is undecided on his major but is leaning toward education. He is a 5-foot-9, 195-pound linebacker and fullback.
"It's close to home and it's a good football program," Miller said when asked why he chose YSU. "It seems like every year they're getting better and I want to be a part of something great.
"It seems like they've been recruiting a lot from around this area. I feel like it's a good fit for me and I'm a good fit for them."
"Zach played extremely well in our playoff game at Orrville. He scored our touchdown," Bohren said. "During the course of the year he had a lot of games where his tackle number was extremely high. We would be concerned if he was getting to the ball so much because where was everybody else?"
Bohren said Herron filled many roles for LaBrae in his varsity career.
"Carrington did a lot for us. We really moved him around," Bohren said. "His sophomore year he was our quarterback but he kept getting bigger and stronger so we moved him to H-back. This year defensively we played him as a down tackle. His junior and senior years he was outstanding for us."
After tearing his ACL in his junior season against Champion, Herron said he was able to turn that to his advantage and bulked up to a 6-1, 265-pound defensive tackle and tight end.
"I couldn't run or anything; all I could do was lift and I got in the weight room and got bigger and stronger," he said.
He said that playing quarterback also helped his game on defense.
"Being a defensive tackle, it helped me realize what the offense was trying to do as far as snap counts and checking the defense before they audible," he said.
Herron said the Campbell game from last season is the one he remembers the most because it helped propel the Vikings into the playoffs.
"It took us to a 4-1 record and helped us make the playoffs," he said. "It was our homecoming game. Campbell had a pretty good team and just came off a big win over Girard. It felt good beating Campbell."
While he hasn't made his decision on where he will go to school yet, Herron said he will major in business in sports management.
"Both are going to offer scholarship money, which is always a plus," he said. "The main thing is where I feel most comfortable at."
Herron said that if he does choose Mercyhurst, there is a local connection there.
"Dave Arnold graduated from Warren G. Harding and coaches (defensive ends) at Mercyhurst, so it helps that someone from the area is there. It helps with school work and questions I have. It's kind of ironic because Gannon is their crosstown rival. I'll be going to visit Gannon pretty soon."
Arnold is the younger brother of Harding football coach Steve Arnold.
Chieffo, a 5-11, 230-pound center, said he chose Bluffton over Bethany and Lake Erie College because he felt he fit right in with the team and coaches.
"They had a great atmosphere," he said. "I like the coaching staff. I really enjoy them and they're easy to talk to. They have a group of guys that have a tight bond like at LaBrae."
"Troy was two-year starter or us and played center," Bohren said. "He graded out extremely well in his senior year. He's going to go to Bluffton College and he's going to be a fine college player. He's the type of kid you could always count on."
Chieffo said he plans to major in education in history and minor in coaching. He said the Bluffton coaching staff plans to shift him to nose tackle.
He said he feels the Bluffton program is on the rise.
"I heard it's good," Chieffo said. "Last year they went 5-5 and won their conference but didn't make the playoffs. They play a lot of good competition."
"Our last game against Steubenville Central Catholic," he said of his biggest games at LaBrae. "Our running game did so good and I was able to see our running back go by me for a touchdown. Salem because it was such a hard fought game. I'll always remember it. Also, Campbell because they were good too but we pulled it out in the end."
Bohren added that the three should excel at the next level.
"They should do real well," he said. "I think they all worked hard in school. It's never going to be a problem that they wouldn't work hard in school."