NEW BETHLEHEM, PA (EYT/D9) — Three years ago, Redbank Valley football coach Blane Gold saw a new student walking down the halls of high school.

Gold approached Sharon’s transfer.

(Photos by Madison McFarland)

“Do you play soccer?” gold asked.

The tall, lanky man shook his head and said no, he only played basketball.

“It broke my heart,” Gold said.

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That second was Marquese Gardlock. Gold wasn’t done with his recruiting pitch and a year later Gardlock decided to join the football team.

After two stellar seasons on the gridiron for the Bulldogs, the newcomer who has only played basketball will now play college football at University of California, Pennsylvania, Division II.

Gardlock signed his national letter of intent to become a Vulcan on Thursday afternoon.

“It really is a great feeling,” Gardlock said, “especially preparing for the moment, touring the campus and seeing the school, and then everyone congratulating me.”

Gardlock was a sought-after commodity due to his 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame and athletic ability.

As a junior, he only played on offense for the Bulldogs, catching 17 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns during the COVID-shortened season.

This year he has played on both sides of the ball and turned into a real tight corner for Redbank Valley while remaining a dangerous receiving threat.

Gardlock had four interceptions and six passes defended. Teams started not throwing his way during the season.

“I was going to play it safe, but Coach Gold wanted me to play the corner,” Gardlock said. “At first I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know how good I can be on the corner.’ But then once I started training and playing there, it just became natural and I was playing better and better.

On offense, Gardlock also had a huge impact with 33 receptions for 569 yards and five touchdowns. He caught two touchdown passes against Bishop Guilfoyle in the PIAA Class A Championship game at Hershey.

Cal, however, sees Gardlock as a cornerback.

Gardlock takes his craft seriously, closely studying videos of his favorite NFL player, Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

“I kind of take his game and try to integrate it into mine,” Gardlock said. “With my length, I think I can be a very good man-to-man and in press coverage.”

Gardlock admitted that never in his wildest dreams would he have thought he would play college football.

He hadn’t buckled his chin strap since playing quarterback in the midget leagues in Sharon. Basketball was his sport and he excelled at it.

But he couldn’t pass up the chance to try football again ahead of his junior year at Redbank Valley.

However, just two days into camp, Gardlock admitted he had thought about quitting.

“After the first two practices I thought, ‘Maybe I won’t play football,’ Gardlock said. “It was camp so it was just a lot of running and I wasn’t having fun. really. But the older players told me to keep playing and I held on. Once the football stuff started, I absolutely loved it.

Gardlock looks back, grateful he decided to stick with it.

He said he was impressed with the attention he received from colleges trying to recruit him.

“It was a bit overwhelming, but I enjoyed it so much because I never thought I would have had this experience,” Gardlock said. “When I was at Sharon, I never thought so many college coaches would talk to me. I just tried to factor everything in through the process because you’ll never have that again.

Gold wasn’t surprised that so many schools were clamoring for Gardlock because of his size and ability to play.

Cal was still after her.

“We had coaches specifically from Cal and Clarion coming to our practices during the playoffs,” Gold said. “There were some things that Marquese did, especially with the Cal scout, in practice that they really liked. He has the natural build and the natural length. He knows he has to do certain things, like working on adding weight to that frame, but they really like the natural ability. There’s a huge ceiling there because he’s only played football for two years.

And cornerback for one.

Gardlock, too, is well aware that he has a lot of work ahead of him.

It has already started.

“I have a lot of room for improvement,” Gardlock said. “Especially adding muscle. They have already sent me workouts. They are going to make me play my best football because they said they don’t think I’ve done it yet.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone and Union/AC Valley sports coverage on Explore and brought to you by Wood Heeter.