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Ursuline pair makes mark in Division II

Several area products are leaving their mark on college gridirons this fall.

A pair of Ursuline graduates and defensive linemen will be playing in NCAA Division II second-round playoff games today. If both their teams win, they would wind up playing against one another in a Dec. 7 quarterfinal — for the second season in a row.

Sha’haun Williams is a senior playing for Notre Dame (Ohio) College and Jeff Marx is a redshirt sophomore playing for Slippery Rock University.

Ranked 13th nationally and seeded third in the regional, Notre Dame College is 11-1 and will play at second-seeded Kutztown University of Pennsylvania (11-1) at noon today, while eighth-ranked and top-seeded Slippery Rock is 11-0 and will play host to fifth-seeded Shepherd University at 1 p.m.

“I was a freshman playing defensive tackle at Ursuline when (Williams) was a senior playing defensive end,” Marx said. “We keep in touch. In fact, we just texted this week and he wanted a little scouting report on Kutztown’s offensive line since we just played them (on Nov. 16). I told him I’d help him this week, but he’s on his own next weekend if we both win. I’m hoping we do because we have a little revenge in mind.”

Notre Dame defeated Slippery Rock 21-17 in the quarterfinal round last season in the teams’ first-ever meeting when Williams posted seven tackles, forced a fumble and had two quarterback hurries.

Notre Dame is a member of the Mountain East Conference (MEC) and Slippery Rock, Kutztown and Shepherd are all members of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).

The Ursuline graduates (Williams in 2014 and Marx in 2017) both had detours before settling in the programs where they are now.

Williams, a three-time all-state performer in high school, competed at Notre Dame College in 2014 and 2015 before transferring to Youngstown State, where he was a member of the Penguins’ 216 team but did not play. He returned to compete with the Falcons last season.

Marx attended the U.S. Naval Academy out of Ursuline, but never played a down and then transferred. The 6-0, 295-pound Marx has been a grand performer since arriving to play with The Rock. He was a first-team all-league pick last season and again this year when he supplied 26 tackles and four tackles for loss, along with a sack, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery in the regular season.

Williams was an All-American last season when he led all Division II players with 20 sacks and was second in tackles for loss with 24.5. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound hammer for the Falcons has already been named first-team all-MEC for the second season in a row.

Despite missing two games with an injury, Williams registered 48 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and nine quarterback hurries and forced a fumble in the regular season. In per game averages, he was ranked eighth in Division II with 1.06 sacks and was 13th with 1.7 tackles for loss.

One of Marx’s Slippery Rock teammates also is proving that the Mahoning Valley moulds defensive linemen. Zach Bader, a 2015 Poland graduate, is a redshirt senior. The 6-1, 290-pound specimen had 19 tackles and four tackles for loss, along with a sack and fumble recovery. He, too, changed his collegiate path. Bader was a member of the 2015 Youngstown State team before leaving for The Rock.

“It’s pretty cool that all of us have a Youngstown connection and we’re playing on the defensive line,” Marx said. “It gives us a sense of pride. We get down and dirty and play tough-nosed football and that’s a reflection of good coaching there and living with that blue-collar mentality there.”

GOLDEN BEARS PRIDE

A pair of former Youngstown East players — Gei’vonni Washington and Mark Herron — also were recently honored for big college seasons.

Washington, a 5-9, 185-pound running back at Ashland University, was named the Freshman of the Year in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference. He led the conference in rushing (1,205 yards) and scored nine touchdowns on 264 carries. He also grabbed 23 passes out of the backfield for 203 yards as the Eagles finished 7-4.

Washington, whose uncle, Steve Clinkscale, once was an assistant coach at Ashland and currently is an assistant at Kentucky, was named second-team all-league.

Washington played his first three seasons in high school at Warren G. Harding, so he never was teammates with Herron, who competed at East but was a 2017 graduate of Chaney. The Cowboys just reinstated their football program this fall.

Herron, a 5-11, 165-pound junior safety at Wooster, was named second-team all-North Coast Athletic Conference. In his second season as a starter, Herron logged 55 tackles and had an interception in his first season as a strong-side safety for the Fighting Scots, who finished 6-4.

GETTING THE PAC

Two more area products earned all-Presidents Athletic Conference laurels.

Tyler Smith a 6-2, 210-pound senior linebacker at Waynesburg University, is a Poland graduate who earned second-team honors after racking up 97 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also had an interception and fumble recovery and he preserved a 14-13 homecoming win over Thiel by blocking the extra-point kick for the Yellow Jackets, who finished 1-9.

Former John F. Kennedy standout Bruce Johnson was an honorable mention selection as a 6-4, 255-pound junior offensive lineman at Saint Vincent. The Bearcats finished 3-7.

bemerine@tribtoday.com

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