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Borsellino finally got to wear his Sandy Valley helmet

Knee injury first game of senior season kept him out of football

By JOE SCALZO GateHouse Ohio Media Published: July 21, 2017 10:00 AM
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Chances are, Lakewood St. Edward has a couple guys like Francesco Borsellino walking the hallways. Same with Cleveland St. Ignatius. Maybe even McKinley on a good year.

But Sandy Valley?

"It was rare for us to get a kid with that kind of talent," said former Cardinals coach Zach Gardner. "Right away, he was just a freak of nature in our program. With the size and the quickness and the agility he had, he definitely stood out."

Which is why, when Borsellino tore his ACL on the opening drive of his senior football season, it seemed so unfair. Fresh off a first team All-Ohio season, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Borsellino was set to be the linchpin on the offensive and defensive lines of a Sandy Valley team coming off its first playoff berth in school history.

Instead, Borsellino was on the field for about 10 plays and the Cardinals (7-3) finished ninth in Division V, Region 17, missing the playoffs by two-tenths of a point.

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"He got dealt a raw deal," Gardner said. "That was literally the first drive of the season and obviously it hurt us. Any time you lose a kid with his kind of talent, it definitely hurts the football team.

"You're always going to have a hard time replacing a first team All-Ohioan."

Fortunately, Borsellino's story had a storybook ending. He attacked his rehab, returned to the wrestling team just before the conference tournament and, a month later, stood atop the podium in the Division III heavyweight division, winning the first state wrestling title in Sandy Valley history.

This past Saturday, he got to put on the Cardinal helmet for another time when he played for the East squad in the 28th annual Canton Repository-Malone University East-West All-Star Football Game at GlenOak's Bob Commings Field.

"I think I played maybe 10 plays on defense the whole year, so it felt really good that the coaches still voted me in," said Borsellino, who is also planning to play in this week's Times-Reporter All-Star Game. "It felt good to finally put on full pads again."

Added Gardner, "For a guy like him, I know he's gonna treasure it (the opportunity). He worked very hard to have a good senior year, so it's exciting that he'll get to go out there and play the game one more time."

Borsellino will play football and wrestle next season at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, a one-year stopover to what he hopes will be a collegiate career in one of those sports.

No matter what school he attends, he said he'll always be grateful for the support he got at Sandy Valley, especially at his final high school wrestling tournament.

"It felt unreal," he said of winning the state title. "And to see how many of my fellow teammates from football and wrestling come down to Columbus, along with other friends and families, it meant a lot to me. I was at a loss for words. The community here is unreal."


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