Pittsburg seniors Spencer Bernhardt and Jeremiah Jones will represent the Purple Dragons at the Shrine Bowl in July — Bernhardt on the football side and Jones in the cross country two-mile race.

Pittsburg seniors Spencer Bernhardt and Jeremiah Jones will represent the Purple Dragons at the Shrine Bowl in July — Bernhardt on the football side and Jones in the cross country two-mile race.

Bernhardt and Jones were honored at a ceremony on Wednesday but Jones was unable to attend.

Bernhardt, a three-year letterman and Pittsburg State recruit, started at quarterback, defensive back and punter his senior year. He rushed for 515 yards and nine TDs, passed for 961 yards and eight TDs, totaled 1,476 all-purpose yards and recorded 19 tackles, as well as two interceptions while opposing teams often threw away from him.

Bernhardt found out about the Shrine Bowl selection a day before National Signing Day earlier this month, when he made his decision to play for the hometown Gorillas official.

Not a bad two-day stretch for a high school senior. Also, Pittsburg defeated Parsons in a Southeast Kansas League basketball game the night before he signed with Pitt State.

“That was an amazing day,” Bernhardt said. “I got my stuff ready to sign and then having lunch with my dad, Coach Nickelson tells me I get to go to the Shrine Bowl, which is another dream of mine since I’ve watched the Meiers — Kerry and Dylan — play in the Shrine Bowl when I was little.”

With his family heritage, Bernhardt understands the history of playing in the Shrine Bowl and Pitt State football.

“It’s been a dream my whole life,” Bernhardt said of playing at Pitt State. “It feels good to get it done.”

Bernhardt’s father, Ben, has been on the PHS football coaching staff since 1983 and his grandfather, Larry Garman, coached the Purple Dragons for 34 seasons.
Pittsburg won three state titles — 1983, 1988, 1990 — compiled a 255-84-5 record over those 34 seasons. Garman has been a volunteer assistant with Pitt State since he retired from the PHS job.

Three-sport athletes might be rarer nowadays at the high school level (Bernhardt plays football, basketball and baseball).

Look at Jeremiah Jones, who might be even rarer among three-sport athletes since he’s ran cross country, wrestled and played tennis during his four years at Pittsburg High. He also runs track.

“He’s always positive, always willing to go the extra mile in running,” Pittsburg head cross country-track coach Gary Ausemus said on Wednesday. “Nobody has a bad word to say about Jeremiah. He’s always smiling and always willing to help anybody do anything they can.

“He enjoys being involved in athletics and activities. He’ll do whatever anybody asks him to do and he’ll ask if he can do more. He’s always happy, easy to get along with.”

Jones placed fifth at the recent Class 4A state wrestling tournament in Salina, giving him three medals during his PHS career.

Pittsburg wrestling coach Scott Rieck talked about what seniors Jones and Gershom Avalos meant to a young wrestling team this season.

“Jeremiah and Gershom have been in the stable of ours for three or four years now,” Rieck said after Senior Night duals against Independence and Columbus. “Jeremiah’s looking for his third state medal and there’s only been a few of our kids that have medaled three times. For him, if he achieves three medals, that’s huge.

“They (Avalos, Jones) are our leaders this year. They’re not vocal people. What they are is leaders that lead by example. They’re both great guys where nothing negative comes out of their mouth. Avalos and Jones are two of the most positive people you’ll ever meet in your life.”

Jones will be joined in the Shrine Bowl All-Star Cross Country Race by area runners Jonny Adamson of St. Mary’s Colgan (who ran with Pittsburg runners before league, regional and state competition) and Steven Porter of Southeast, as well as Paige White of Baxter Springs on the girls side.

The Shrine Bowl festivities will be in Topeka in July and will be coming to Pittsburg again in 2014.