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When I agreed this summer to cover a high school football season opener in Harrisburg, it was with the intention of writing a column about Bishop McDevitt’s latest star running back, Jameel Poteat, a Pitt recruit.
Sometimes someone else catches your eye.
As I watched Bishop McDevitt’s 23-0 victory over Gateway – an upset of sorts, considering the Crusaders are one of the state’s top Class AAA teams but the Gators are a perennial WPIAL Quad-A powerhouse – it wasn’t Poteat that left such a powerful impression as one of his teammates.
I couldn’t take my eyes off Bishop McDevitt defensive end Noah Spence, a 6-foot-3{1/2}, 230-pound junior who was more dominant defensively than Poteat was offensively despite taking an occasional play off. Spence had sacks of 11 and 6 yards, made a Greg Romeus-like pass deflection at the line of scrimmage and even ran a tight end reverse on offense.
“He’s a beast,” Gateway coach Terry Smith said. “He’s the best player I’ve seen in high school football since Gronkowski.”
Gronkowski would be former Woodland Hills tight end Rob Gronkowski, who starred at Arizona and was a second-round draft choice of the New England Patriots.
“We had to send a guy to double team,” Smith continued. “That’s why we got so much pressure up the middle. He looks like Godzilla. I think he’ll be a top-five player in the country. His first three steps are quicker than anyone I’ve seen. He’s big, fast, strong, physical. He has the ability to change the game.”
Crusaders coach Jeff Weachter said Spence, whose father played at North Carolina State, has been “offered by everybody in the country.” Weachter rattled off such as Florida, Notre Dame, Oregon and Southern Cal among the suitors but said Pitt was the first to make a verbal offer. Dave Wannstedt made a strong impression when he pulled Spence aside as a freshman at a Pitt camp, as the Panthers are considered the clubhouse leader.
How good is Spence?
“He’s going to challenge Shady for best player I’ve ever coached,” Weachter said.
Shady would be LeSean McCoy, the former Pitt star tailback who now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. The former McDevitt star showed up on the sideline Saturday afternoon, wearing an airbrushed T-shirt designed to look like the No. 10 jersey of current Crusaders star Poteat.
Poteat rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and had three receptions for 15 yards, but the 5-foot-11, 210-pounder won’t remind you of McCoy. Poteat is more of a between-the-tackles power back who has some shiftiness in traffic and showed a nice spin move, but he didn’t display the breakaway ability of McCoy or his successor, Dion Lewis.
Then again, Poteat injured his left knee in the second quarter – he said trainers told him it was the meniscus; he had it bandaged with ice, but didn’t seem overly concerned – and his longest run was 15 yards.
“Since I was 12, we’ve been close,” Poteat said of McCoy. “He’s like a big brother to me now. He almost ran on the field when I fell. He told me to get my shoulders north-and-south, to get 6 or 7 yards and wear them down so I could set up for somebody else.”
Nevertheless, Terry Smith was impressed with Poteat, who was the focal point of Gateway’s game plan as the latest in a long line of McDevitt backs that includes Ricky Watters, McCoy and Syracuse’s Mike Jones.
“Poteat’s a great player,” Smith said. “He’s carrying on the tradition of McDevitt running backs. Pitt’s getting a good one. He took some good hits and kept battling.”
Many of those hits came courtesy of Gateway safety Armstead Williams, a 6-3, 205-pounder who played outside linebacker last season. Williams was the second-best player on the field, behind only Spence.
Poteat likened Williams to former Southern Cal safety Taylor Mays.
“He’s a head-hunter,” Poteat said. “He was flying out there.”
Williams said Iowa, Maryland and Purdue are his top three college choices at the moment, but added that “any other college can jump in.” Word is that Williams likes Pitt, but the Panthers haven’t offered. They already are above their available scholarship limit, but Williams could be a steal if Pitt gets him late.
Speaking of steals, Gateway senior defensive end Sascha Craig doesn’t have any scholarship offers but played an outstanding game. Smith said Mid-American Conference programs are interested, but schools see the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder as a ‘tweener and want to watch tape of him at linebacker.
Problem is, that’s Gateway’s deepest position.
“He’s a tremendous athlete, our only three-year starter,” Smith said. “We’re trying to get him over the hump, get his first offer. We played a tremendous team today, and he showed up.”

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