Four Zephs to continue careers
Four Whitehall student-athletes recently revealed where the next chapter in their lives will take them, with local universities benefiting from those decisions.
Bret Legath, Markes Cruz, Dez Boykin and Braxton Marrero all announced that they will be playing collegiate football in Pennsylvania as part of the National Letter of Intent Press Conference at Whitehall High School on Feb. 8.
All four seniors were integral parts of two district championship teams, and they hope to bring that winning tradition with them to their respective schools of choice.
Cruz will be heading to Shippensburg University this fall. The three-year starter played a big piece in helping establish Whitehall as one of the most potent offenses in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. As a tackle, he helped the Zephyrs offense put up big numbers in both the running and passing game, creating holes up from while also keeping the pocket clean for the quarterback.
Cruz said that the biggest deciding factor as to why he chose Shippensburg was the family atmosphere. He said that while coaches sometimes give it lip service, he witnessed that brotherhood bond on his visit.
“A lot of teams preach that, but I did see that when I went to Shippensburg,” said Cruz.
He said that everyone gets along and that once practice is over, players don’t go their separate ways, but stay connected. Instead, they talk together which helps create that family atmosphere.
“I liked that,” said Cruz.
He also said that while he went on other visits, both official and unofficial, once he saw the interaction among the team and coaching staff at Shippensburg, his mind was made up.
“Ship just blew them all away,” said Cruz.
Shippensburg is part of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. They’re coming off a year in which they finished 10-2, their final loss coming in the first round of the NCAA playoffs where they lost to West Chester University.
The team is coached by Mark Maciejewski who’s been at the helm for seven years. Cruz will be a welcome addition to the Red Raiders program that’s scored more points than any other PSAC team over the last six years.
Cruz will be studying Exercise Science at Shippensburg. He said that his goal is to make a seamless transition from high school to college, both on the field and in the classroom. He said he doesn’t want to have to worry about being a student-athlete at Shippensburg, and will continue to do the necessary work as it relates to both areas.
He also said that he wants to play all four years as he wants to try and play his freshman year.
Cruz was a three-year starter at Whitehall, and was part of a winning tradition at Whitehall under head coach Brian Gilbert. He said that his fondest memory was winning the 5A District 11 championship as a senior, something that will remain with him since it was his final year wearing the maroon and gold.
Cruz said that one of the most valuable lessons he learned as a student-athlete at Whitehall was bettering himself every day, and that included the times when it was unsupervised.
“It meant working hard when no one was looking,” said Cruz. “To get where you want to be, you have to work out on your own.”
Bret Legath also decided that Shippensburg University was the right fir for him. The Red Raiders will now have 2/5 of Whitehall’s explosive O-line and that means bad news for the rest of the PSAC.
Legath also expressed that a tight family atmosphere swayed his decisions to become part of the Red Raider family. Additionally, Legath said that Shippensburg’s location was also attractive since friends and family could come see him play, something that’s been a big part of his high school experience at Whitehall.
Legath said that the coaching staff was instrumental in creating that family atmosphere, and were the most welcoming coaches he met while on his four official visits.
“It just felt good,” said Legath.
He said that camaraderie among teammates is essential, and he felt that during his visit to Shippensburg.
The Red Raiders play the same up-tempo offense he’s been accustomed to at Whitehall and sees that as an advantage. They also like to spread the ball around, using run-pass options and other schemes that will require mobility up front. The senior said that he’s equally comfortable run blocking or backpedaling to pass block.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” said Legath. “I can adapt.”
Legath will join a squad that was ranked 19th last season in American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II Coaches Poll. The Red Raiders will look to continue that success with another strong incoming class.
Legath, who was recently named to the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East/West Game, was a three-year starter as a guard. He played center as well, but made the transition to guard later in his high school career where he’s been one of the pillars of their success.
Legath will major in Elementary Education at Shippensburg. He said his goal is to graduate on the expected date, and that’s whether he redshirts his freshman season or is on the active roster. He’s also focused on maintaining a 3.0 GPA, and will strive toward working as hard in the classroom as he does on the football field.
As a student-athlete at Whitehall, Legath said that one important lesson he learned was that everyone on the team plays a vital role join the well-being of the whole unit.
“I learned that your football family is like your family,” said Legath. “You always have their back.”
Legath also believes that winning back-to-back district championships will resonate the most as he continues his athletic journey and beyond. They forged those victories as a team, and now he will have a new team to make more memories.
This was part one of our signing story. Look for additions stories in upcoming issues of the Whitehall-Coplay Press.