This past school year has been filled with all kinds of firsts for the athletic programs at St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy.
The first district playoff team win, first individual district champion and first state medallist are among the many milestones earned in the last nine months for a school that opened its doors in 2011.
Mike Jabco just picked up another “first” in the name of the small school in Boalsburg – the first to participate in an all-star football game.
Jabco is a receiver and punter for the North team in the 31st annual Lezzer Lumber Football Classic, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at Bison Stadium at Clearfield High School.
He is one of many Centre County products who will hit the field on the 40-man North roster, but the only one who sported the royal blue and orange of St. Joseph’s last fall.
“I didn’t even realize it until I got here,” Jabco said earlier this week at a team practice at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium. “I was the only one from my school, and people started asking where it was, what it was like.”
Jabco is from Bellefonte, and started his athletic career there, competing until he transferred as a junior. He knows some of the other Red Raiders on the North team, as well as a few from other schools, but it still has been an educational experience.
“I’m getting to meet people I’ve never met before,” Jabco said. “Even some from right down the road that I never got to talk to.”
“That’s the neat thing about this week,” State College and North coach Matt Lintal said. “You get to see you have a lot more similarities to the guys from Bald Eagle, Clearfield, Penns Valley, than you ever thought you would. This gives them a chance to see all the common grounds they have.”
Lintal has been overhearing conversations since the start of practices Sunday as players compared their schools, finding out there was much more in common than unique, regardless if they came from a school the size of State College, or the size of St. Joseph’s.
The Wolves football team, however, needed everything the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Jabco could give them as they finished the season 2-7. He completed 8 of 17 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, he had six carries for 10 yards rushing, caught nine passes for 110 yards and three scores, made eight tackles and had three interceptions on defense, was 1 of 3 on extra-point kicks, kicked the ball off for this team, returned a kickoff and averaged 35.2 yards per punt.
“Before this week I just knew his name, knew he was a heck of a punter,” Lintal said. “He’s come in and done a tremendous job as well. We put a lot on these kids to pick things up.”
Jabco also helped the Wolves’ basketball team reach the district semifinals last winter, and was planning on leaving his mark with the track and field team, but while training for the triple jump just before the season, an awkward step left him with a broken bone in his ankle.
He’s just now getting back into shape.
“Football shape is a lot different from basketball shape, a lot different from track shape,” Jabco said. “They’re all different shapes you have to be in. Since I haven’t been running, sprinting, in a while, my legs are getting sore when you’re out on the field. It’s hot out, and it’s tiring. But you get used to it.”
Despite being from such a small school, with just 18 boys on the roster last fall, Jabco is dreaming big.
He’s going to Penn State this fall, and he’s going to try out as a walk-on in September with the Nittany Lion football team.
“Going to school, when you’re driving down the road, you can see (the stadium) up on the hill,” Jabco said. “It’s always been a place I’ve wanted to go.”
He’s going to study engineering at the school, and he had a number of looks, and even scholarship discussions with schools both inside and outside Pennsylvania, but some of the schools couldn’t meet his academic wishes, and besides, his heart was set.
He will keep working hard all summer, and try to be ready to impress this fall.
But first he’s had the week to represent his school, and to savor a chance to make a little more history for the young program.
“I’ve missed playing under the lights,” Jabco said. “I want to get out there with all the other guys, just getting to play my last game in high school.”