Springstead graduate Joe Predoehl, 19, recently signed a letter of intent to join another former SHS defender, Nick Bailey, at Division III Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D.
Presentation College is a Catholic private college, with campuses located in Aberdeen and Eagle Butte, S.D, and Fairmont, Minn.
The college, founded in 1922, has a current enrollment of 786 students, and offers nursing, social work, business, communications and allied health.
The Saints are coming off back-to-back 3-7 seasons under third-year skipper Andy Carr.
The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Predoehl played football under Bill Vonada for four seasons, earning varsity letters as a sophomore, junior and senior.
To "stay in shape for football" Predoehl also competed in track and field for three seasons concentrating in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay while adding the triple jump as a junior.
He was born in Plattsville, N.Y, as the youngest of three brothers to Norman and Patricia Predoehl.
The Predoehl have called Spring Hill home for the past 16 years.
Predoehl narrowed his list for college to Heidelburg University in Tiffin, Ohio, Greensboro College in Greensboro, N.C., and Presentation College.
Interestingly, Predoehl did not visit Presentation College prior to signing.
"I didn't visit because they gave me a great deal," recalled Predoehl, who notched 161 career tackles for SHS. "They were the ones that kept in touch with me the most; they seemed to care more."
The other main reason was due to Bailey also inking with the Saints.
"With Nick going at least I'll know someone up there. We both report on Aug. 16. He's a close friend and teammate," explained Predoehl. "At least now I have a wing man."
Predoehl traced his athletic roots back to T-Ball at the Hernando County YMCA in Spring Hill.
He branched out to West Hernando Little League for "4-5 seasons" - mostly alternating between center field and first base.
Once Predoehl matriculated to Powell Middle School, he attempted the unknown - playing football for mentor Ron Blackwell and running track.
In football, despite his slight stature, he mostly played cornerback and linebacker.
On the oval as an eighth-grader he concentrated on the 100, 200 and 4x100. He remembers winning the Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference championship in the 4x100.
"It wasn't like I was bored with baseball, but one day my dad just asked me if I would like to try football," said Predoehl, recalling how he took the initial steps to play on the gridiron. "Up to that point, I really wasn't very big and I had never put pads on until making the team in sixth grade."
"Playing-wise, I love football," pointed out Predoehl. "But deep down, I always liked baseball. I kind of wish I hadn't stopped playing.
"I kind of got to a point of no return with it. My dad really kind of pushed me into football. It's weird but none of my other brothers played sports. I think it meant a lot to my brothers just seeing me do it."
Predoehl's tenure between the lines was well spent. He collected four fumble recoveries across four seasons and also swiped four interceptions.
Predoehl scored two touchdowns - both under defensive coordinator-turned-head coach Mike Garofano.
As a junior, he vividly recalls his first varsity touchdown.
"(Defensive tackle) Jesse (Cowan) picked up a fumble and rumbled some 40 yards with it against Sunlake," said Predoehl. "I was trying to block downfield when Cowan lost the handle. I didn't hesitate; I scooped the ball up at the 10-yard line and took it in. To this day, Jesse razzes me about saying it should have been his touchdown.
"The other touchdown came this year against Fivay. We had set up for a blocked punt. But the week before against Ridgewood, Pedro (Estrada) had blocked a kick. Fivay noticed that on film and tilted their line to defend him. Right before the snap, I remember Pedro pointing to me like 'You got this.' I split out wide and came in untouched.
"I remember blocking the kick and then picking it up in the end zone for a touchdown," said Predoehl. "The credit belongs to Coach Garf (Garofano). He saw something (in the pregame film study), that's why he had me line up so far wide - and it worked to perfection."
Predoehl looks back at his Springstead prep career with fondness.
As a freshman, he mostly served as a wedge-buster on special teams during onside kicks.
From that point on, Predoehl had a knack "for being in the right place at the right time. It seemed like I was always near the football."
He remembered his sophomore season when SHS not only earned a regional playoff berth, but pummeled host and favored Wiregrass Ranch, 40-8.
This past season, the Spring Hill gridders went out with a bang clinching the school's first-ever district title under Coach Vonada behind a school-record 9-0 run.
"I wouldn't trade it (his career) for anything in the world," said Predoehl. "Coach Vonada could be a mean guy, but it was a privilege to play for him. I don't think Coach Vonada really cared about the wins and losses as much as he did his players. For him, it was much more important to develop young men of character.
"When I was a sophomore, that was the year we blocked a field goal in the last 20 seconds against West Port (preserving a stunning 31-28 win)," recalled Predoehl.
"What I remember most was Coach Vonada lost his father that afternoon and still coached us with a heavy heart," said Predoehl. "That game was special because we found a way to win it for Coach and his dad."
"We had a real good fanbase and a real tight senior class," described Predoehl about his final season. "Our success was the school's success. Losing to Nature Coast (snapping a 9-0 run) broke my heart. I'd almost rather go 1-9 and just beat those guys.
"What was weird was seeing how other people got so affected by that loss," added Predoehl. "Going into last year, none of us going back to middle school had beaten Nature Coast or Hernando. At least we beat Hernando."
Predoehl will never forget his final contest at Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium.
"It was their homecoming game and their side was packed, but we couldn't put any more people in our stands either," Predoehl said. "That's the game I separated my shoulder. I thought I had just dislocated it, but I wasn't coming out for anything that night."
After the game, Predoehl went to the hospital.
"I couldn't lift my arm," he recalled. "That game meant so much to our guys. They (Hernando) had run over us as juniors. I didn't care (about the shoulder), I felt like all the other Springstead players - I played for my brothers."
In terms of ability, Predoehl believes he has improved in his ability to see the entire field.
"My vision across the field has come up so high," he remarked. "And I've tried to improve my quickness, too."
Predoehl believes he'll bring an emotional element to the field with the Saints.
"I'm an excitable guy by nature," detailed Predoehl. "And football is an emotional game. It's funny, but the ball always seems to find me. I'd describe myself just like my teammates - a grinder. Every day I just come out to work as hard as I can."
Predoehl graduated from SHS with a 2.5 grade point average. His favorite class was physics.
He aspires to become either an elementary or high school teacher.
"I had so much fun in high school, I'd love to pass that joy on to my future students," he said. "I realize everybody has to grow up at some point, but there's no reason why anyone can't enjoy high school."
Before making the nearly 27-hour, 1,800-mile drive to Presentation College, Predoehl thanked his parents.
"My dad is so excited for me and my mom is excited, too, but she's taking it kind of hard. She gets upset any time we talk about it," noted Predoehl. "And I can't say enough about Coach Vonada.
"Coach taught all of us the value of doing things right and not cutting corners," Predoehl said. "He was hard on all of us for a reason, so was the whole staff."?On how Predoehl would like to be remembered, "As a guy who never gave up," he said. "Quitter is not in Coach Vonada's vocabulary and it isn't in mine. Stats aren't as important as caring for the other guys on the team.
"I may not see Luke (McLeod), Pedro (Estrada), Ethan (Kemp) or Will (Allen) for 20 years, but we had a special bond I know I'll never forget."
By the numbers: Springstead's Joe Predoehl
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YR SOLO ASST TTK TBL SK QBP CF FR PB BLK INT
2009 01 02 03 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2010 12 20 32 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
2011 25 25 50 2.0 0 0 0 1* 0 0 1
2012 35 41 76 4.0 1.0 0 2 2 0 1* 2
TOTALS 73 88 161 6.0 1.0 0 2 4* 0 1* 4
* Denotes touchdown