Braden Laux quarterbacked Belle Vernon’s first ever PIAA championship squad last season.
But Laux, who stands 6 feet 4 and weighs 215 pounds, will be playing a different offensive position when he gets to college, one that he has never played in his entire career.
Laux will be a tight end.
On Saturday, Laux made a verbal commitment to Eastern Michigan. He’s the second Belle Vernon senior to commit to an FBS school, joining Penn State recruit Quinton Martin.
Laux was a dual threat at quarterback his junior season, passing for 1,025 yards and rushing for 482. But colleges recruiting him preferred him as a tight end, he said.
“Pretty much everyone wanted me as a tight end,” Laux said. “I have the size for it, and I liked the idea. I think it fits me.”
Not only does Laux have great size, but he has also shown a lot of toughness as he has doubled as an outstanding defensive end. He made 32 tackles and was second on the team with five sacks last season. Laux came up big in the PIAA championship. He threw a touchdown pass to Martin and also collected a pair of tackles during Belle Vernon’s goal-line stand in the final minute, one that allowed the Leopards to escape with a 9-8 win against Neumann-Goretti in the Class 3A final.
Marshall, Western Kentucky and Maine all offered Laux, but Eastern Michigan ultimately came out on top. Laux said that Eastern Michigan started recruiting him at the beginning of last season and was the second school to offer him back in January. He began his official visit to the school last Thursday, and just before he departed Ypsilanti on Saturday morning, he informed Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton that he was committing.
“It’s like a family up there, a brotherhood,” Laux said. “All the players want to see each other grow and get better.”
Eastern Michigan has a pair of former WPIAL players on its roster, and Laux said he talked to both of them on his official visit — North Catholic’s Chase Arrington and Woodland Hills’ Kellen McDonough.
A season ago, Eastern Michigan went 9-4 and defeated San Jose State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Rising freshman offered
If Larry Moon didn’t appear to be over the moon when he received his first scholarship offer, that’s not to say he wasn’t.
“I didn’t show it, but deep down I was really excited,” said Moon, a rising freshman at Aliquippa.
Moon should have been. It’s extremely rare for a WPIAL or City League football player to pick up an offer before he even steps foot in high school. Moon, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound wide receiver-defensive back, received an offer from Pitt after an impressive showing at a prospects camp earlier this month.
“I went to the Pitt camp not knowing I’d get [an offer],” Moon said. “I just went to compete.”
Moon, who has since added a second offer from West Virginia, joins Khalil Taylor as incoming WPIAL freshmen with Division I offers. Taylor, who lives in the Hill District and will attend Shady Side Academy, was offered by UNLV in April.
Moon said he has been a Pitt fan growing up. His father, Larry Moon, played football at Freedom High School. And the younger Moon is also related to a pair of Aliquippa greats. Moon said Herb Pope is his uncle and Tommie Campbell his cousin.
Gonzalez to PSU
Penn State picked up a second commitment from a Central Catholic senior when wide receiver Peter Gonzalez committed to the school last Friday. Linebacker Anthony Speca committed to the Nittany Lions in January. Gonzalez, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound wide receiver, picked Penn State over fellow finalists Miami and Virginia Tech. After missing the first couple of games his junior season as he recovered from a knee injury, Gonzalez finished second on the team with 42 catches for 735 yards and six touchdowns. Gonzalez’s dad, Pete, was an all-Big East quarterback at Pitt, and Peter’s grandfather, Rod Kirby, was a linebacker at Pitt. The Panthers offered the younger Gonzalez but didn’t make his list of finalists.
A couple of WPIAL football players received their first FBS offers in recent weeks. Central Catholic junior wide receiver-linebacker-safety Bradley Gompers picked up offers from Power Five programs Pitt, West Virginia and Boston College. Peters Township junior linebacker Mickey Vaccarello was also offered by Boston College, while Elizabeth Forward senior defensive end Charlie Meehleib received offers from Air Force and Army.
Imani pair offered
Imani Christian could have a trio of juniors with Division I offers on its side when it begins defense of its WPIAL and PIAA Class 1A basketball titles next season. Center Alier Maluk has been the headliner since arriving at the school (his offers include Pitt, West Virginia and Auburn), and guards R.J. Sledge and Nate Brazil were offered by Fordham last week. And it would be no surprise if a fourth Imani junior also ends up with a Division I offer at some point. Dame Givner was the team’s leading scorer last season.
Neshannock’s Jack Glies (Potomac State).
Highlands’ Katelyn Myers (Pitt Johnstown); Northgate’s Stephen Goetz (La Roche).
Track and field commitments
Mount Pleasant’s Tiffany Zelmore (Seton Hill); Norwin’s Jaden Streussnig (IUP).