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  • Five from Pittsburg sign to play college football

  • Pittsburg High School had five players sign on the dotted line Wednesday afternoon to play college football next year.

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  • Pittsburg High School had five players sign on the dotted line Wednesday afternoon to play college football next year.
    Spencer Bernhardt signed with the hometown Pittsburg State Gorillas, Dakota Taylor and Zack Woods signed with the Fort Scott Community College Greyhounds, Kaleb Owens signed with Coffeyville CC and Keenan Carter signed with Independence CC.
    “We do have five young men signing on to go onto the next level and play,” Pittsburg head coach Tom Nickelson said. “These five have been major contributors to the Purple Dragon football program for many years but in particular their last two. All of these guys have shown great leadership in the weight room, on the practice field, on game nights and in the classroom. I’m very honored these five have chosen to use their athletic ability to further their education and to better themselves.”
    Nickelson also let it be known that Bernhardt will represent Pittsburg in the 2013 Kansas Shrine Bowl, continuing a fine PHS tradition.
    Bernhardt, a three-year letterman, 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 opponents often threw away from him.
    With his family lineage, Bernhardt understands the history of Pitt State football and playing in the Shrine Bowl.
    “It’s been a dream my whole life,” Bernhardt said of playing at Pitt State. “It feels good to get it done.”
    Bernhardt found out about the Shrine Bowl on Tuesday, a day before National Signing Day.
    Not a bad two-day stretch for a high school senior. Oh, and Pittsburg defeated Parsons last night in a SEK basketball game.
    “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. It was just a great day (Tuesday and Wednesday).”
    Woods led Pittsburg last season with 20 receptions for 630 yards and on defense, the two-year letterman recorded 48 tackles and 2.0 sacks from outside linebacker. Nickelson called Woods “a tremendous athlete.”
    “It feels great,” Woods said of signing with FSCC. “It’s what I’ve wanted to do since my sophomore year and I can’t imagine life without going on to play football. Football is something I love and I’m dedicated to work hard.”
    Woods said that he will be focused on wide receiver for the Greyhounds, who signed former PHS receiver Jornell Fondren last year.
    Taylor, a two-year starter at right guard, was a key player upfront for an offensive line unit which helped Pittsburg score 60 points in back-to-back games for the first time in school history (at least in records dating back to 1920). Pittsburg scored 69 against Parsons and 67 against Coffeyville.
    Page 2 of 2 - “He was a very dependable senior, knew everybody’s checks, everything to do on the field and was a very valuable part of our offensive line that averaged 42 points this year,” Nickelson said. “They paved the way.”
    Taylor went through some trials and tribulations playing football.
    “Being able to continue football is a blessing,” Taylor said. “I’ve been injured the past few years and I’ve played through that injury.”
    Woods and Taylor were high school teammates and now have a chance to be college teammates.
    “That’s a big impact,” Woods said. “Dakota and I are good buddies and we’ve known each other for a while. We’ve cried on each other’s shoulders, the games we’ve lost and we’ve been there for each other all the time. It’s a good feeling knowing that I’m going to have someone I trust and someone that’s going to push me and someone that I can push to get better to get us onto the next level.”
    Owens caught six passes for 118 yards last season for the Purple Dragons.
    “We got Kaleb two years ago,” Nickelson said. “He moved in from Joplin after the tornado, moved right in and started making an impact for us immediately. He was a two-year letterman for us and played wide receiver and defensive back.”
    Owens will be traveling more than his classmates to play football next year.
    “I’m very excited to go to Coffeyville,” Owens said. “It’s going to be a nice place to start out my college football career.”
    Carter was a key contributor upfront on what turned out to be a bruised-and-battered PHS defensive unit.
    “Keenan started at shade for us this year, his senior year,” Nickelson said. “He was not here last year but he was a major part of the program as a freshman and a sophomore. We got him back. He slid right back into his spot, starting shade, one of the strongest players on our team, great motor, great work ethic, great kid.”

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