By Matt Popchock
Remember when we talked to Rushel Shell the morning he verbally committed to Pitt, and he mentioned speaking to other WPIAL stars to try and nudge them in the general direction of Oakland?
Well, the PIAA’s new all-time rushing leader has at least one follower.
Blackhawk quarterback Chandler Kincade just completed his sophomore season, but recently, he also pledged allegiance to the Panthers.
“I’ve known him since we were young,” Kincade said of Shell. “He wanted me to just make the decision that works best for me, but lately we have been talking a bit,” he affirmed.
Perhaps Pitt fans should instead credit Todd Graham for knowing his Parkway Conference football. That conference has produced one of the most celebrated Class of 2012 recruits in the nation, and possibly one of the better local stars of the Class of 2014, and both will be playing on Saturdays at Heinz Field.
“They offered me early…and I had already visited the program a few times and liked it. Being there for the Notre Dame game made me like it even more,” Kincade said. “I like where the program is going. The coaches are great, and it’s a great school.”
NCAA rules limit the kind of contact schools can try to establish with kids his age, but Kincade, in addition to Pitt, had also received letters from Ohio State and Penn State prior to his commitment.
According to Kincade, his venerable head coach, Joe Hamilton, one of the winningest football coaches in WPIAL history, has made him believe he can handle that commitment, even with a relative lack of varsity experience.
“The thing that sticks out the most about [Coach Hamilton] is that he’s made me work for everything. Every day, he’s held me to a standard that makes me want to work for everything, and I think that’s really going to help me as I get older,” Kincade said.
That includes working to overcome health issues that have dogged him on the football field–and the basketball court.
Kincade broke his foot toward the end of the previous basketball season. That and a shoulder injury that caused him to miss part of the ongoing football season are part of what has convinced him to forgo the upcoming basketball season and concentrate on getting in shape for another year on the gridiron.
It almost sounds heretical for Kincade to say that after making an immediate impact on Blackhawk’s varsity squad, which is coming off a shared section title and trips to the WPIAL Class AAA Semifinals and PIAA tournament. The good news for fans of both Blackhawk teams, though, is that Kincade believes his injury woes are over, and says a return to hoops in his junior year is “definitely a possibility.”
“I’m 6’5″ and I just turned 16,” he pointed out. “My body is finally catching up to me, and I think as I mature physically, those problems will slow down.”
In the meantime, Kincade is going to concentrate on something he hasn’t done in two years as a starter: lead the Cougars to the WPIAL Football Playoffs. It was another near-miss for them this year as he completed over 55% of his passes for 547 yards and three TD’s against just one pick in limited action.
“You can’t take any team lightly. Each week you know you have to work as hard as you can to win that week’s game,” Kincade said of Blackhawk’s always-brutal conference. “It’s definitely been frustrating, but I think it’s also something that can help us, because it’s motivated us.”
And after film study Saturdays, chances are he’ll be watching to see if Pitt gets back on track before he dons the blue and gold. Despite a difficult first season for the new regime, Kincade foresees a bright future.
“Once Coach Graham gets his recruits in, and they’re really familiar with that offense, they’re really going to take off there.”
Keep visiting the “Mr. High School Sports” blog for more recruiting highlights. In the meantime, here’s an amateur highlight reel of Kincade during his freshman year:
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)