Signed, sealed, delivered

Team­mates now and then: Fath­er Judge seni­or foot­ball play­ers Brandon Spatz (left) and Vince LoStracco (right) signed Na­tion­al Let­ters of In­tent to both play their col­lege foot­ball at West Chester Uni­versity in the fall. They are pic­tured here with Cru­sade

Leav­ing the fa­mili­ar­ity of high school for the un­charted wa­ters of col­lege is one of the most ex­hil­ar­at­ing, al­beit ter­ri­fy­ing, ven­tures of any young per­son’s life.

Luck­ily for Brandon Spatz and Vince LoStracco, they won’t have to go through it alone.

The duo has spent the last four years as class­mates and foot­ball team­mates at Fath­er Judge; last Wed­nes­day, they en­sured they would do the same for an­oth­er four as both seni­ors signed Na­tion­al Let­ters of In­tent to play col­lege foot­ball at West Chester Uni­versity.

The Judge com­munity is known for the strong bond that is cre­ated between stu­dents dur­ing their time at the school, one that of­ten lasts a life­time. As a res­ult, it’s safe to say Spatz and LoStracco won’t be get­ting sick of spend­ing so much time to­geth­er any­time soon.

“Who doesn’t want to play col­lege foot­ball with one of their best friends?” Spatz asked. “That’s the most awe­some part to me. We’re good friends off the field and our fam­il­ies be­came close, so I’m glad we’re stay­ing to­geth­er.”

LoStracco didn’t ar­gue.

“I can say without a doubt that Brandon is the hard­est work­er on our team,” the 6-foot-4, 286-pound of­fens­ive line­man said. “He has a great fam­ily and he’s great to be around. As soon as we found out we’re go­ing to be team­mates again, we haven’t stopped talk­ing about it.”

Of­fi­cially sign­ing on the dot­ted line for West Chester was the cap­per on a whirl­wind seni­or year for both play­ers. 

It star­ted with the en­tire team’s trip to Ire­land — which LoStracco called “life-chan­ging” — to kick off the 2012 sea­son, one that ended with a dis­ap­point­ing 3-6 re­cord as the Cru­saders were be­set by in­jur­ies at key po­s­i­tions. Des­pite this fact, LoStracco was named a first-team All-Cath­ol­ic play­er at of­fens­ive line, while the 6-foot-1, 208-pound Spatz was named to the second team as a line­back­er. (He also caught 16 passes for 255 yards as a wideout.) 

Then, the two cap­tains dove right in­to the re­cruit­ing pro­cess, which could be most closely com­pared to an act­or go­ing on an au­di­tion to land his dream role. 

And al­though they ul­ti­mately ended up to­geth­er at West Chester, it wasn’t al­ways such a sure thing.

LoStracco said by phone that he had an of­fer in his pock­et from a Di­vi­sion I-AA school in In­di­ana (by com­par­is­on, West Chester com­petes at the Di­vi­sion II level), but the lure of stay­ing so close to his fam­ily and friends was too strong to turn down.

“My mom has nev­er missed one of my games,” he said. “I don’t know what I’d do without my fam­ily, so why play 13 hours away from home when I can be an hour away? Also, West Chester re­minded me of Judge in that they all hang out to­geth­er and are one big fam­ily.”

“Fam­ily” is a word thrown around a lot in sports, caus­ing it to lose some of its luster. However, any­body that has ever at­ten­ded or played sports at Judge knows the type of at­mo­sphere and ca­marader­ie the school fosters. 

Des­pite a dis­ap­point­ing win/loss re­cord, LoStracco said that he didn’t think he’d ever en­joy play­ing with a group of team­mates like those of his seni­or sea­son. Spatz spoke glow­ingly of former team lead­ers like Eric Con­dron, Con­nor Dono­hoe, Rob Daniels, Tim Mills and “pretty much all of those guys” for help­ing him learn how to be a cap­tain and lead by ex­ample.

“Play­ing at Judge and go­ing to school here has meant a lot to me,” Spatz said. “We were all good friends, which made the down­fall sea­son much bet­ter be­cause we were just en­joy­ing play­ing foot­ball and be­ing with our friends.”

Now, Spatz will get to keep do­ing so with one of his best friends. The duo con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion of Judge head coach Tom Coyle and his staff send­ing their play­ers to the next level. In fact, Judge had 21 alums play­ing some level of col­lege foot­ball in 2012 (in­clud­ing four in Di­vi­sion I), ac­cord­ing to a “Cru­saders in Col­lege” doc­u­ment that Coyle e-mailed the Times on Monday. 

“All of them have reaped the re­wards of be­ing com­mit­ted stu­dent-ath­letes,” Coyle said. “And I don’t mean just foot­ball, but the chal­lenges the school presents aca­dem­ic­ally. They take it ser­i­ously, which is why they can walk out the doors here and carry them­selves at a high level. The op­por­tun­ity to be a schol­ar­ship-level play­er is a unique ac­com­plish­ment, one they worked hard for. We’re proud of all of them.”

How Spatz and LoStracco will pro­ject at the next level re­mains to be seen, but both play­ers are ex­cited about the chal­lenge ahead. 

Coyle said Spatz has the abil­ity to play on both sides of the ball, though Spatz said he ex­pec­ted to trans­ition from a line­back­er to a strong safety. LoStracco said the coach­ing staff at West Chester is in­ter­ested in us­ing him as a cen­ter on the of­fens­ive line, which would be a new po­s­i­tion for him.

“My goal is to go in right away and com­pete for a start­ing job,” LoStracco said. “I’ll do whatever they ask of me.”

Said Spatz: “The col­lege level will be much faster, but I think I’m ready for it. I’m ex­cited for the new po­s­i­tion and what it will take to bet­ter my­self there. My broth­er and my coach at Holmes­burg grow­ing up all said they thought I’d play safety in col­lege, so it means a lot that this is how it turned out.”

Both Spatz and LoStracco talked about how thrill­ing it was to be able to sign a Na­tion­al Let­ter of In­tent. It’s an un­pre­dict­able pro­cess, one of­ten rife with more twists and turns than an epis­ode of Lost. They got through it due to the sup­port of each oth­er, as well as from those around them. Each play­er’s par­ents joined them at the sign­ing ce­re­mony — LoStracco spoke at length about how much it meant to him for his mom to be able to come to all of his fu­ture games, while Spatz re­ferred to his fath­er as “my agent” in help­ing make the right col­lege de­cision.

“Now we’re just happy it’s over and we can fi­nally re­lax and look back on it as a great memory,” Spatz said.

Spatz and LoStracco will en­joy a few more months of mak­ing memor­ies with their seni­or class­mates be­fore it’s time to move on. As each day passes quick­er than the one be­fore it, they spoke of cher­ish­ing the fra­gile time they have left at a school that has meant so much.

“I’m from Ben­s­alem, so I al­most didn’t go here,” LoStracco said of Judge. “I would have re­gret­ted it. We get to have fun at school, hanging out to­geth­er and just pre­par­ing each oth­er for the next step in life. Be­ing there is like be­ing a kid in a candy store.” ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­

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