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Area players sign college football letters

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JOHN N. BARRY
February 5, 2009

Michael Valentine, Ethan Bachinski and Andrew Keister were three of the most productive high school football players in the area.


Valentine was all-everything for Janesville Craig as a punter, place-kicker and stalwart in the offensive and defensive lines.


Bachinski led Milton in tackles and was one of the top receivers in the Badger South Conference from his tight end position.


Keister became a Back of the Year in the Rock Valley as three-time all-conference quarterback and standout in the defensive backfield.


That’s why it came as no surprise Wednesday that all three signed national letters of intent to play college football.


The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Bachinski signed with Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill. The Leathernecks play in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) .


Valentine signed with St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn. The Huskies represent a Division II school.


Keister will play at Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn. The Mavericks also are in Division II.


The 6-1, 195-pound Keister is expected to play cornerback for the Mavericks. He will join a program that went 9-3 last season and lost in the first round of the Division II playoffs.


Keister took his official campus visit last weekend, but he originally had toured the school and football operations when former UW-Whitewater offensive coordinator Stan Zweifel still was on the Maverick staff. Zweifel now is the head coach at the University of Dubuque.


“It came down to Mankato or (UW) La Crosse,” Keister said. “But when I visited the campus and got to know the players and coaches at Mankato, it was a pretty easy decision.


“The coaching staff hasn’t promised me anything as far as playing right away or not, so I’m just going to see what happens when I report. I know there’s a possiblity I could play as a freshman, or I could red-shirt.”


Valentine will give up his lineman duties to concentrate on punting. The 6-3, 265-pound standout also was drawing interest from Wayne State and Alabama A&M, but he decided on St. Cloud because of the opportunity to start as a freshman.


“I attended one of their camps over the summer, and I really liked it up there,” Valentine said. “It’s about six hours from home, and they’ve got a good criminal justice program, which is what I’m interested in.


“They also saw film on me from a couple of Kohl (Kicking) Camps that I had gone to, and told me I would have a chance to come in and earn the starting job as a freshman.”


Valentine averaged better than 40 yards a punt last season in being named the Big Eight’s first-team punter.


Bachinski, the son of Milton High head football coach Jeff Bachinski, will move from his linebacker position in high school to a flex backer at Western Illinois.


Western Illinois coach Don Patterson said Bachinski is a perfect fit for the team’s attacking defense.


“Our defensive coaches had their eyes on him for a long time,” Patterson said of Bachinski. “Defensive coordinator Thomas Casey knows exactly what type of player will be a successful linebacker in our system, and what players will complement our current lineup, and Ethan fits that job description we have for our linebackers.”


The Leathernecks play a competitive schedule that included Wisconsin in 2006, Illinois in 2007 and Arkansas in 2008.


Bachinski hopes to have an impact as a freshman, but is glad to have the whole recruiting process over.


“It’s a great school and a great program, and I know I’m going to get the chance to play against some big-time schools,” Bachinski said.


“I’ll work hard and do whatever they ask of me. I hope I can play right away.”



Parker’s Hewlett, Bailey pick WIAC


All-Big Eight Conference performers LaVell Hewlett and Jacob Bailey of Janesville Parker will play football in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.


Hewlett, a second-team running back, is joining the UW-Whitewater program. The Warhawks have played for the Division III Stagg Bowl championship the last four years, including a national title in 2007.


Bailey, a first-team linebacker, will play at UW-Stevens Point. The Pointers finished 9-2 last season after losing in first round of the playoffs and handed Whitewater one of its only two losses on the season.




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