The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 7, 2013

Five Purple Dragons sign letters

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

— There wasn’t much doubt about Spencer Bernhardt’s choice for college.

“I’ve had my eye set on Pittsburg State for a while,” he said. “I guess they’ve had their eye set on me.”

And his tour around campus on his recruiting visit was shorter than most. It was conducted by Larry Garman, Gorillas assistant coach and Bernhardt’s grandfather.

“It was fun,” Bernhardt said with a smile.

Four of Bernhardt’s Purple Dragon teammates signed Wednesday afternoon with Kansas junior colleges — offensive lineman Dakota Taylor and wide receiver Zach Woods with Fort Scott, wide receiver Kaleb Owens with Coffeyville and defensive tackle Keenan Carter with Independence.

“Every one of them had 100 percent attendance all summer long,” Dragons coach Tom Nickelson said. “A lot of them never missed a workout in the four years they’ve been here. They’ve led by example.”

Bernhardt, a three-year letterman, played multiple positions for the Dragons, and his options are also many at PSU.

“Quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back, they haven’t really decided yet,” he said. “I’ll play whatever they want me to play.

“It’s a first-class program. It’s the best stadium in Division II. It’s a great school, great weight facility, great coaching staff. Everything about the program is awesome.”

Taylor, a two-year starter at right guard, was part of the offensive line that helped the Dragons average 32 points per game.

“Fort Scott has a great program, a great coaching staff,” Taylor said. “I got to know them real well, and they have good facilities. I looked into other schools, but there was a distance problem. I wanted to stay close to home, and Fort Scott was just the place to go.”

Owens, a two-year letterman, moved to Pittsburg from Joplin after the May 2011 tornado.

“I like Coffeyville’s program,” Owens said. “They have nice coaches. I like their school also. I really thought it would be a nice place for me to go to stay close to home. I had a few other offers, a distance from here, but I decided I wanted to stay close to home and play a year or two in juco.”

Woods averaged more than 30 yards per reception last season.

“They have a great program, a great weightlifting facility and a great coaching staff,” he said. “We have tough opponents in our league, but I’m hoping we can go up there and everyone can get on the same work level and hopefully go out and get one of those national championships.”

Carter started at defensive tackle last season after coming back to PHS.

“I went to Independence a couple of weekends ago, and it wasn’t really a big campus and I like that about it,” Carter said.

 “You can spend more time with teachers and coaches. It felt really homey for me. It’s not that far from here. It seemed like the right place to go.”