Colin Gdula didn’t enjoy watching games from the sidelines.
That’s not something he was accustomed to during a standout playing career at Forest Hills High School, and Gdula didn’t like biding his time along the offensive line for St. Francis.
Rather than sulk, Gdula decided to do something about it. One day during the spring he approached head coach Chris Villarrial.
“He didn’t like sitting on the bench and, one day, he came to me and said, ‘Coach, I’m going to start this fall.’ As a coach, you love seeing that,” Villarrial said Wednesday in the midst of his team’s preparation for today’s game at Northeast Conference rival Duquesne.
Of course, coaches have heard that before.
This time, however, Gdula’s guarantee was different.
“The best thing is he did something about it,” Villarrial continued. “Over spring ball, he graded out the highest among the offensive linemen. He meant what he said. He’s a great kid, he cares and he comes to work every day.”
This season, Gdula’s workplace has been at right tackle for St. Francis (2-2, 1-0), which has already matched or bettered its win total in any of the previous four years.
The main reason for the strong start and program optimism is a rushing offense that ranks among the nation’s best.
And, Gdula, a 6-foot-4, 284-pound starter, has been a key cog in a Red Flash run game that ranks first in the NEC and sixth in the Football Championship Subdivision at 271.3 yards per game.
After being a seldom-used lineman his first couple years at St. Francis, Gdula has started every game this year, and he’s anxious to take some shots at Duquesne, which has long been one of the premier programs in the NEC.
“We’re having a blast,” Gdula said, one of three juniors starting along the offensive line. “For me, to be out there every day and helping the team, it’s what I always wanted. And, this year, we’re a completely different team. Everything about us is different. The locker room is different. We’re playing together. We’re as one.”
St. Francis, whose losses have come to No. 6 James Madison and No. 13 Towson, is hoping the total sum of its parts is enough against Duquesne (3-1, 1-0) in a rivalry that dates back 99 years. The Dukes hold a 32-6 series advantage. Kickoff for the Red Flash’s fourth road game in five weeks is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field.
“We found out during those (losses to James Madison and Towson) that we did a lot of things well. There’s just been one or two things we have to work on,” said Gdula, who planned on attending Friday’s game between Forest Hills and Cambria Heights before the Red Flash board a bus this morning. “One thing we have to do is we’ve got to execute completely. We’ve got to finish. We have to finish every play.”
It’s that type of desire and team-first attitude that made Gdula stand out to Villarrial, who went from IUP to playing 11 years in the NFL between the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills as an offensive lineman.
“He’s a guy we rely on,” Villarrial said. “One reason our line has been successful is this is the second year together for this group. That’s a key component to building a successful offensive line.”
Colin Gdula didn’t enjoy watching games from the sidelines.
Danel helping Falcons to Division III tournament
When Chelsea Danel was a senior at North Star, the Cougars were able to win a District 5-AA basketball title.
Now Danel, a senior at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, is a key contributor on a Falcons’ hoops squad which upset top-seeded Lebanon Valley 53-47 in the Commonwealth Conference championship on Saturday. It was the ninth title for the Falcons in 13 appearances.
Ferndale grad aiding Duquesne women’s hoops
Matt Schmidt was hired as an assistant coach for the Duquesne women’s basketball team in June.
Now the former Ferndale High School standout will have his first opportunity to experience March madness with the Dukes, who are the sixth-seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament which opened Thursday in Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Va.
Icecats on way to national tournament
The Pitt-Johnstown hockey team needed to overcome some long odds to advance to the ACHA Men’s Division III national championship tournament in Coral Springs, Fla. next week.
- Local Sports Briefs 3-7-14
St. Francis wins NEC quarterfinal
Ronnie Drinnon hit a go-ahead basket and a pair of free throws in the final 48 seconds, scoring a career high 20 points as sixth-seeded St. Francis battled past third-seeded Bryant 55-54 in the Northeast Conference tournament Wednesday night.
St. Francis hasn’t been in the playoffs since the 2010-11 season and scrapped past Bryant (18-14) in a closely fought contest that saw five ties and five lead changes – three in the final 3:37.
Wake Forest beats Pitt in ACC opener
Dearica Hamby finished with 25 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and two steals as No. 11 seed Wake Forest women beat 14th-seeded Pittsburgh 72-58 in the first round of the ACC tournament on Wednesday night.
Hamby had a tremendous night in notching her school-record 22nd double-double of the season.
UPJ makes day special for young sports fan
The Pitt-Johnstown baseball team made one of the most important signings in the program’s history on Wednesday at the Sports Center.
Johnstown resident Jill Miller signed a letter of intent on behalf of her 4-year-old son Brandon, who is battling Chiari Malformation, a brain ailment that leads to pain throughout the young boy’s body on a daily basis.
Warren leads N.C. State past Pittsburgh
T.J. Warren scored a career-high 41 points and N.C. State surged past Pittsburgh 74-67 on Monday night.
Warren’s eighth 30-point game of the year gave the Wolfpack’s flagging NCAA tournament hopes a needed boost. N.C. State (18-12, 8-9 ACC) won for just the second time in its last six games, riding Warren for much of the second half.
The ACC’s leading scorer made seven straight shots at one point and finished 16 of 22 from the field. His emphatic dunk in the final seconds sealed it.
Bishop Carroll grad earns honor
After earning All-Patriot League recognition at the Indoor Track and Field Championships over the weekend, Bucknell senior Emily Waksmunski was honored for her success on the track and in the classroom as a winner of the 2014 Patriot League Indoor Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.
Waksmunski finished second in both the 1,000-meter run (2:55.98) and as part of Bucknell’s 4 X 800m relay (9:05.48).
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