WELLSBURG - Five key members of a Brooke senior class that played in two West Virginia state championship football games have signed to continue their academic and athletic careers.
Timmy Faulkner (West Liberty University), Mason Bates (West Liberty University), Gianni Fuscardo (Muskingum University), Cedric McAllister (Glendale Community College), and Ron Lancaster (Thiel College) will all represent the Bruins on the college level.
Hilltopper signee Faulkner, a four-year letterman, comes off a senior campaign at running back that saw him rush for over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns while catching 21 balls for 376 yards. He also spent four years as Brooke's kickoff returner.
"Timmy Faulkner waited his turn patiently to become the feature running back in our offense," said former Brooke head coach Tom Bruney. "He spent time behind Mount Union recruit Ryan Lazear, but as a senior Timmy moved into the starting position and left no doubt about his abilities as a football player with a spectacular season.
"It was difficult at times for him to wait his turn, yet we never heard a negative comment from him. He continued to do what was asked of him, to the best of his ability, and he always did whatever was important for the team to be successful due to his team-oriented attitude and tremendous athletic ability."
Hard work garnered the 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back All-State honors in West Virginia, as well as selection to several all-star teams and being named Two Rivers Athletic Conference player of the year.
Before getting his chance to shine offensively as a senior Faulkner spent two season as a key member of the Bruins' defensive unit at strong safety.
"We believe that Timmy will continue to have a stellar football career and emerge from West Liberty with a college degree that will lead him to a very successful life," said Bruney. "He was an absolute thrill to coach due to his fine character and team-first attitude. It was an honor and privilege to coach such a fine young man and develop a relationship that will last a lifetime.
"It will be a sincere pleasure watching Timmy succeed as he begins his journey through life."
Joining Faulkner at West Liberty is Bates, a 5-11, 175-pound cornerback.
"It has been a huge comfort to have this young man as our last line of defense," said Bruney. "Mason was a three-year starter and letterman at corner. He has great feet and tremendous agility in his hips and core area, which is essential for successful defensive back play."
The comfort level Bates provided allowed the Bruins to keep opponents' offenses guessing with a variety of defensive calls.
"Due to Mason's tremendous athletic ability, it allowed us to be a very aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. We became very productive with our blitz packages due to his ability to play man coveragem," said Bruney.
"He was also very productive in zone coverage which enabled us to be multiple in our coverage schemes. Because of his versatility and lock-down corner ability, Mason played extremely well against some of the best receivers the state of West Virginia has to offer."
Bates was called on to do a lot for the Bruins, especially his senior season when he was needed to add an offensive threat.
"As a senior, we asked Mason to play both sides of the ball for us," said Bruney. "Mason was very productive for our offense, not only as our second-leading receiver, but he was also called on to rush the ball several times over the year.
"Mason also did an outstanding job for us as well as our punter, kick holder, and returning punts for us for the second consecutive season. Mason was a vital player for our football team and his abilities contributed in many different ways to our success on the field."
Bruney and the Bruin faithful have no doubt Bates will be successful as he continues his career.
"We believe it is his attitude and work ethic which will allow Mason to succeed at the next level," said Bruney. "We believe he will become a major contributor to the program at West Liberty in the near future.
"It will be an honor to watch Mason succeed at the next level and graduate with a college degree which will undoubtedly lead Mason to a very successful adult life."
Bates' cornermate, Gianni Fuscardo, is taking his coverage skills to New Concorde to join the Muskingum program.
"Another comforting aspect of our defense for three consecutive seasons was having one of our best overall athletes in the school roam the secondary," said Bruney. "Gianni has been a starter and letter winner at corner for the past three seasons and now he will compete for a starting position in the Muskie's secondary."
The 5-9, 170-pound Fuscardo heads to a program that battles in one of the best Division III college football conferences in the country.
"Muskingum plays in the very competitive Ohio Athletic Conference," said Bruney. "We believe Gianni will be a perfect fit for Muskingum because he plays with the physical toughness and defensive savvy that are a must when competing in the OAC Conference.
"Gianni developed his mental and physical toughness on the field while starting as a sophomore and being asked to successfully defend some of the best receivers in the state of West Virginia."
Fuscardo leaves Brooke sitting at number three on the school's all-time career interceptions list. Something Bruney attributes to his work ethic and desire to get better.
"Gianni has continued to improve every single time he steps on the field due to his conscientious approach to the game," said Bruney. "He wants to be the best player at his position and his work ethic and attitude have to motivate him to that end.
"At times, during his senior season, many of our opponents game-planned to throw away from Gianni when passing the football."
Bruney sees it as a no-brainer that any college coach would want Fuscardo as part of their program.
"Gianni has the things that a college coach will look for in a recruit," said Bruney. "He has a high intensity motor that you just can't coach.
"This combined with his physical and mental approach to the game became the intriguing factors for his recruitment. Gianni is a prime example of what a young man can do when he takes the god-given talent and combines it with a great attitude and work ethic."
Fuscardo and Bates' fellow defensive back and wide receiver, Cedric McAllister, will take either his explosiveness to Glendale Community College.
The question is on which side of the ball he will be used.
"Cedric was a jack-of-all-trades over the past three seasons, playing many critical areas for us on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball," said Bruney. "Cedric will now take his ability to wear many hats to Arizona for the Glendale Community College football program.
"To start, Cedric will compete for a safety position. However, because of his physical ability, he can always move to the other side of the ball and compete for a wide receiver position."
McAllister was the Bruins top receiver his senior year while also coming up huge on defense as the season progressed.
"Cedric established himself as the leading receiver on offense and finally found a home in the defensive secondary at safety," said Bruney. "He stood out defensively by gathering in several key interceptions during the second half of the season."
The 6-foot, 190-pound, three-year letterman could also contribute with his prowess on special teams. Something Bruney says McAllister has taken pride in excelling at.
"Sometimes forgotten in the world of football is special teams play and he started for three consecutive seasons on every one of our special teams," said Bruney. "We have never had a player do that before and it is easy to say that Cedric is the best special teams performer our program has had over the past 20 years.
"He excels at this facet of the game because of his tremendous understanding of the game and his uncanny ability of being in the right place, at the right time. Plus, unlike many other players, Cedric always understood the importance of special teams play and how it fits into the over all scheme of the game of football."
Bruney expects big things from McAllister as he makes the move out west.
"Cedric truly understands the concept of commitment," said Bruney. "Since moving up to varsity action as a sophomore, Cedric has made a commitment to become the best student-athlete he can.
"We believe that he, due to his overall character as a fine young man, will succeed at the next level and enjoy continuing his football career.
"Cedric is a fine example of why we, as coaches, continue to coach."
With 6-foot, 350-pound Ron Lancaster signing with Thiel College, the Tomcats get a player that not only provides size and strength to their defensive line, but a player who leads by example.
"If you want to discuss the measure of a man and what it means to be a true team player, then the discussion must always turn to Ron Lancaster," said Bruney. "Over the past three seasons, Ronnie has been a major contributor to the success of the Brooke High football program in many different ways.
"While doing so, Ronnie earned the respect of his fellow teammates and the entire coaching staff, while displaying a team-oriented attitude and a never tiring work-ethic."
Lancaster continues his leadership within the Bruins' football program despite having graduated and made his plans for the next level.
"An example of Ronnie's unselfish character is that over the past few months he has worked with the returning members of next year's football team in our off-season program, helping them learn the philosophy and concepts of the strength and conditioning program," said Bruney. "Ronnie excelled in this area for us and became an immediate leader of our program due to his work ethic and attitude in the off-season program."
Lancaster excelled on both the offensive and defensive lines for Bruney and showed an athleticism for his size that allowed him to be used as more than simply a lineman.
"He was also a very important part of our goal line and short yardage offense playing in the powerback position where he was used mostly as a lead blocker," said Bruney.
Lancaster wasn't the vocal leader for Bruney's Brooke teams, but he led through his example on and off the field.
"Many times true leaders will display that leadership through action," said Bruney. "This was the approach Ronnie took and because of his intensity and attention to detail, he was able to motivate his teammates to follow."
There is a possibility that when his onfield career is over Lancaster will take a spot motivating young players from the sidelines as a coach.
"Ronnie has mentioned that a possible career in education and coaching is in his future and due to the leadership he displayed in our program, we believe that Ronnie will be a fine coach and teacher if he so chooses," said Bruney. "The profession of coaching is in desperate need of people with the character of Ronnie Lancaster."