By Scott Springer, Cincinnati Enquirer
On a recent sunny Saturday scrimmage at Paul Brown Stadium, a pair of bitter Greater Catholic League-South rivals stood side-by-side chatting with University of Cincinnati Athletic Director Mike Bohn.
St. Xavier High School linebacker Blake Bacevich and La Salle tight end Josh Whyle signed with UC but still have to finish their academic prep years. By June, the pair that often collided on the field will be roommates and in the fold for Coach Luke Fickell's Bearcats. With one on offense and the other defense, pads will likely crash again.
"We've butted heads a couple times," Whyle said grinning.
Added Bacevich, "It's a good rivalry. It's always good to compete with each other."
At a glance, the 6-4 Bacevich and 6-7 Whyle look promising in just their high school jackets. Each played three years of varsity in arguably the toughest high school league around. During their tenure, Bacevich's Bombers won in 2015 and this season, while Whyle's Lancers prevailed in 2016. Both were state champions with St. Xavier winning Bacevich's junior year and La Salle winning Division II in Whyle's sophomore and junior seasons.
The great-grandson of legendary Roger Bacon coach Bron Bacevich, Blake was a GCL-South First Team performer like Whyle and Second Team All-District. Among his accolades was a stellar Division I championship game against Cleveland St. Ignatius in 2016 where he recorded a career-high nine tackles and returned a fumble for a touchdown. The Bacevich family hopes for more of the same at Nippert Stadium (UC was scrimmaging at PBS April 7 due to an FC Cincinnati game at Nippert that night).
"Obviously that (family) was a big factor," Bacevich said. "Then, just really getting to know the staff. It's a great staff, they have a great vision for the program. Being able to make something special in the backyard appealed to me."
Whyle was First-Team GCL-South, First-Team All-District, and First Team All-Ohio. He caught 49 passes for 590 yards and four touchdowns as a senior and 40 passes for 546 yards and six touchdowns as a junior. He was a key performer on two of the Lancers' back-to-back-to-back Division II titles (2015, 2016, 2017) and had 30 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, or DI-A, DI-AA schools) offers, among those Georgia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisville and Auburn.
He could be the next great La Salle tight end to strike it big in college and the pros. Brent Celek of La Salle played for Mark Dantonio at UC and just earned a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles (along with former Bearcat Jason Kelce). La Salle's Garrett Celek followed Dantonio to Michigan State and has numerous years in the NFL.
"I've talked with both of them," Whyle said. "Just to be able to see UC's the place to be, it's the place for me. "