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Big Things Happening in District 9 Football With Upcoming Combine and Plans for Grid Hall of Fame

BROCKWAY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Laser-timed 40s. Specific drills for position groups. Coaches and scouts in attendance watching every move of the participants to blend the eye test with high-tech ones.

This isn’t a scene out of Indianapolis and the NFL Scouting Combine. This will unfold at Frank Varischetti Stadium for the second annual District 9 Football Combine on Saturday.

There will be 18 schools from the district and 118 players taking part. Many more college coaches and scouts will be there, too.

“This is Mike Kunes’ brainchild,” said Brockway head football coach Jake Heigel. “He came on our staff a couple of years ago and I kind of saw the other combines that were going on in the state and I thought a lot of them were like herding cattle. A lot of them feel like it’s the same thing being done for 30 years. How can we make it better?”

Kunes came in with fresh ideas. He is the Pennsylvania director of the National High School Strength Coaches Association and insisted to do a combine correctly, a laser-timed 40-yard-dash was needed.

“That’s what the coaches want to see. That’s what these high school kids want to do,” Heigel said. “Last year, our first year, went off without a hitch. We had 100 kids, I believe, and most of them were juniors and seniors. We had seven colleges there, and it went so well that the other colleges were requesting our laser-timed 40s.”

The Brockway combine also has a “flying 10” drill. That is the 10-yard time measure when a player reaches full speed.

That’s becoming an increasingly popular metric in college and the NFL.

Heigel said he wants this combine to be the standard.

“What we’re finding is college coaches are using the measurables at the combine to validate the film that we’re sending them, because we are in the middle of nowhere, right? The biggest critique you get is it is hard to tell on film because you never know what the competition they’re playing is, right? And you can validate someone who had a 1,000-yard rushing season because he ran a great laser-timed 40.”

Heigel hopes participation from both the athletes and college scouts and coaches continues to increase.

The buzz is already growing.

“If we can get one kid an offer he wouldn’t have gotten otherwise because of this combine,” Heigel said, “then it’s worth it.”

Heigel said the combine has already nurtured camaraderie within the district between the players.

“You would think with all the competition, there would be some animosity, but it brought all those guys closer together,” Heigel said. “They all took pictures together. They all followed each other on social media. We played a Thursday night game this past year and we walk off the field and we see five or sic guys from other schools shaking hands with our players because they met each other at the combine and became friends.”

The combine isn’t the only big news coming out of District 9 football.

Heigel and other coaches in the district are forming a coaches association, which he said is long overdue.

The newly minted association’s first goal: a District 9 Football Hall of Fame.

“Everybody in the room lit up when that idea got tossed out there,” Heigel said of a recent meeting of D9 coaches, where planning of the formation of the coaches association was discussed. “The main reason we met was about the combine and hashing out a 7-on-7 D9 football tournament. We threw out (the idea of a coaches association) and everyone was on board with it. And the question was, ‘What’s our mission statement? What do we want to accomplish?’”

A Hall of Fame seemed like a good place to start.

“It’s a way to entice all 23 District 9 teams to get into this association,” Heigel said. “And to get up to date with all the things that are going on in Pennsylvania and compare and contrast things that other coaches are doing. Taking pride in the district.”

The Hall of Fame is still in the initial stages, but Dave Katis, the former Athletic Director for the Clarion Golden Eagles, is offering a helping hand. He is on Clarion’s Hall of Fame committee and is going to help the D9 football coaches association with its bylaws.

The tricky part now is picking who will be inducted in what could be a massive first Hall of Fame class.

Union/A-C Valley coach Dan Reed floated an interesting idea.

“He said, ‘I know we’re talking 15 for that first class, but why not maybe 23? Maybe everybody has one for each of the member schools to start it off?’ Heigel said. “That’s actually not a bad idea.

“The hardest part is getting it established,” Heigel said. “We gotta make sure we do it right, and with the collective knowledge in that room, it could be really, really good.”