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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Panthers’ Sobczak will play football at Virginia Tech
The thought of never playing football next to Vinny Mihota again was unsettling to Massaponax senior lineman Steven Sobczak.
Fortunately, it’s not something he has to worry about.
Sobczak, a 6-foot-1, 285-pound defensive tackle, committed to Virginia Tech on Monday, joining his high school teammate Mihota in the Hokies’ 2014 recruiting class.
Mihota, a defensive end who committed to Tech last spring, has been out for most of the season with a foot injury, and he said Monday a return to the field this season for the Panthers is unlikely.
But with Sobczak’s decision to join him in Blacksburg, the two will be reunited in the fall.
“It definitely feels good to know that I’ll be able to play with him again,” Sobczak said. “It would have been horrible to not be able to play with him almost my entire senior year and never be able to play with him again.”
Mihota is disheartened by the prospect of possibly not suiting up for Massaponax again, but he’s glad Sobczak will be joining him at the next level.
“It’s unbelievable I get the opportunity to play with him again, because he’s the one who pushed me to get better and better every day at practice, and I know I did the same for him,” Mihota said. “Knowing I’m going to be able to do that for five more years is going to be great for both of us.”
The commitments are nonbinding until Sobczak and Mihota sign their letters of intent in February.
Sobczak originally committed to JMU in the summer, but his change of heart was sparked when Virginia Tech offered him a full ride a few weeks ago.
Sobczak said Tech originally offered him a grayshirt in the summer, which would have required him to enroll in January of 2015 instead of next fall. The Hokies changed their tune in recent weeks, offering him a chance to join the program on time.
“Once I heard that, that was pretty much the last straw for me to pull the trigger,” Sobczak said.
Sobczak said JMU’s coaching shakeup Monday —head coach Mickey Matthews was fired after 15 years on the job—had no bearing on his decision.
“I pretty much knew what I was going to do about a week ago,” Sobczak said. “Knowing that I could play for one of the top defenses in the nation is good enough for me.”
Sobczak wasn’t on a lot of major schools’ radars after his junior year, when he played on both sides of the ball at 320-plus pounds. He slimmed down to 285 pounds this season and has played with the motivation of showing how consistently good he can be.
He has done that and more, anchoring both lines in Mihota’s absence, and playing at a high level while doing so.
“He’s always been explosive and made great plays but now this year the difference is he can do that almost every play instead of showing bursts of greatness,” Mihota said.
Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who handles most of the recruiting in the Fredericksburg area, had a pretty easy sell when he asked Sobczak to join his nationally-ranked defense.
“I’ve stepped up my game a lot since last year and I’m playing a lot lighter,” Sobczak said. “[Foster is] just telling me to keep that up. I’ve been playing with real high intensity, and he said me and Vinny are going to play next to each other and ball out pretty much.”
Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442