THE NEXT LEVEL: Vandal, Hochhalter, Kennelly playing college football next fall
Paul Vandal wasn't originally on University of Jamestown football's radar when the recruiting process started in late fall. But once head coach Brian Mistro took over Jimmie football on Jan. 30, he talked to Vandal right away.
"At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to stick around town, but coach Mistro did a really good job of making me feel at home," Vandal said. "I didn't talk to many college coaches, but once coach Mistro was signed, he talked to me right away."
The Jamestown High School football standout announced via Twitter on April 16 he committed to continue his career collegiately for UJ football starting this fall. Vandal joins Blue Jay alumni Ross Monson and Aaron Mack on the UJ roster.
The Jimmies are scheduled to play at Valley City State University on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.
"I always try and get better," Vandal said. "When I was a freshman, I was small and we hit the weight room with coach (Bill) Nelson. I try and get better all the time and hoping to get big for college too."
The first-team, all-state selection played on the senior-heavy Blue Jay offensive line that limited opponents to 21 sacks during the 2018 season. Vandal played in two playoff games on defense, recording eight tackles and a sack.
Vandal broke his hand at the tail end of football season, which forced him to sit out the first 2 months of wrestling season. The 220-pound wrestler returned on Jan. 12, however, and rallied to be crowned the 220 Class A state wrestling champion Feb. 16 at the Fargodome.
Currently, Vandal is a thrower on the Jamestown boys track and field team.
UJ football is coming off a 3-8 record, but lost two games by a touchdown or less. The Jimmies were picked last their initial season in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, but finished ninth, ahead of Dakota Wesleyan.
Mistro took over for Josh Kittell as the head football coach, after Kittell resigned earlier in January to become the football recruiting coordinator at North Dakota State University. Mistro, a 2009 UJ grad, who grew up in Gilbert, Ariz., spent the last seven seasons at NCAA Division-III Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.
"I hope we can win a championship, honestly," Vandal said, who's planning on majoring in mechanical engineering.
Hochhalter, Kennelly sign with NDSCS football
When Marcus Hochhalter moved from Carrington to Jamestown three years ago—sophomore year of high school—one of the first people he met was fellow sophomore Carson Kennelly.
Now the friends will be roommates at college.
All-staters Hochhalter and Kennelly both signed their letter of intent to play football for North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) in Wahpeton on Feb. 6. The Wildcats finished 2018 with a 9-2 record and lost to Northland Community and Technical College 34-10 in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference Region 13 championship game.
"It should be pretty exciting," Hochhalter said. "Especially to be playing with a former teammate. We're excited to become a Wildcat and join what they've got going on down there."
Hochhalter was a force offensively and defensively for the Blue Jays in 2018. The 6-foot-2 tight end caught 14 passes for 222 yards, which was an average of 15.86 per grab. Defensively, Hochhalter made 33 tackles and recovered a fumble.
Kennelly was also part of the offensive line that held opponents to 21 sacks on the season.
But the duo made their way to NDSCS in different ways.
Kennelly met Wildcats head coach Eric Issendorf at a line of scrimmage camp in Valley City. Kennelly eventually made his way to Wahpeton for a visit and decided that's where he wanted to go.
"I really liked what I saw down there," Kennelly said. "They have a good thing going down there, so I'm excited to play. The culture is changing in the right direction."
Hochhalter was discovered after JHS coach Bill Nelson went some game film to NDSCS. Hochhalter toured the campus in December and met some of the players.
Hochhalter said he wants to get a construction degree from NDSCS, while Kennelly is going for his liberal arts degree. The state-run institution is only a two-year school, so both players would need to transfer to play another two years of football.
"We'll see. Maybe it takes me on another two years of football," Hochhalter said. "I haven't really thought that far ahead. We'll see how the first year goes."