Hunter Penkal and Johnny Fike have their signing day!

Bradford’s Hunter Penkal commits to Hillsdale College football team

By Kyle Shaner


BRADFORD – Bradford senior Hunter Penkal achieved a major goal by committing to play college football at Hillsdale College.

Penkal, the son of John and Angie Penkal, has been working toward his dream of playing college football for years. The recruiting process really picked up after his junior season, he said, and on Thursday afternoon he committed to Hillsdale in front of his family and friends at Bradford High School.

“It’s always been a dream of mine,” Penkal said. “Getting the opportunity to do it coming from such a small school is … it just feels great. Not many people get this chance from Bradford.”

Penkal, whose ultimate dream is to make the NFL as a player or front office executive, was drawn to Hillsdale because of its strong academics and welcoming atmosphere.

“The people there are extremely nice and welcoming,” said Penkal, who plans to study sports management in college. “I can tell I’m going to fit really well with the locker room as soon as I get there.”

Penkal is very intelligent, Bradford football coach Chris Hawk said, which benefits him greatly in the classroom and on the football field.

“As a player, as a person, it’s the same thing,” Hawk said. “He’s very intelligent; that goes on and off the field. He’s almost a 3.99, 4.0 student in the classroom, and on the field he’s got the same type of mentality. Sometimes it doesn’t always carry over. In his case it did. Anything we wanted we were able to show him once and he was able to do it for us – not just then but continue through the season and do it.”

Bradford utilized Penkal at numerous positions including quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive back and punter. His versatility will be a big benefit in college, Hawk said.

“When he gets to college he’ll have a lot of opportunities to find the best fit for him,” the Bradford coach said.

Penkal expects to play running back for Hillsdale, which went 7-4 this past season. The Chargers were 5-2 in the conference standings in their first season in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, a NCAA Division II conference that also includes teams from Alderson Broaddus, Findlay, Kentucky Wesleyan, Lake Erie, Malone, Ohio Dominican and Walsh.

“It’s great,” Penkal said. “I think it’s top three Division II wins all time. So it’s one of the better Division II football programs.

“It feels great. It’s just a dream. I didn’t know I’d get this opportunity, and I worked for it so it just feels so good.”

Hillsdale was one of the first teams that started recruiting him, Penkal said, and he looks forward to contributing to the Chargers’ success.

“I just want to be successful there,” he said.

Hawk thinks Penkal is in a good position to be successful in college though he’ll have to adjust to the level of play just like every freshman does.

“He’s going to have his lumps and bruises like everybody else coming in as a freshman,” the Bradford coach said. “He’s going to have the learn the differences of the speed of the game, but with being so intelligent, with being a good athlete – he’s a heck of an athlete and he’s got a great work ethic – so I think he’ll do fine.”

Along with being great for him and his family, Penkal’s commitment also was a big moment for the Bradford football program and something Hawk hopes will benefit the Railroaders.

“It’s a big day for him and his family,” Hawk said. “It’s a big day for the program. This is my first scholarship as a head coach. It’s a great day for us, and we’re hoping to continue on that and build from him.”

Bradford’s Johnny Fike to run cross country and track for Notre Dame College

By Kyle Shaner


BRADFORD – Bradford senior Johnny Fike committed to run cross country and track and field at Notre Dame College on Monday afternoon.

Fike, the son of John Fike and Harmony and Raymond Clark, said the best part of the recruiting process was when he received a scholarship offer from Notre Dame, an NCAA Division II school that is located in South Euclid in Northeastern Ohio.

“When I was sent the package, it was a big weight lifted off my shoulders, knowing that all my hard work that I’ve put in through my four years of high school has finally paid off,” Fike said.

Fike has been one of Bradford’s top runners throughout his high school career. This fall he led the Railroaders’ cross country team with a personal-best time of 17:26.10. In track and field he’s competed in middle-distance and distance events, leading the Railroaders in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meter races this past spring.

“I think it’s a great thing for not only Bradford as a school but both running programs at Bradford and then obviously Johnny as well,” Bradford track coach Brian Schwieterman said of Fike having an opportunity to continue his running career in college.

Fike plans to study criminal justice in college and then become a member of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. He was drawn to Notre Dame because of its fit academically and athletically.

“I didn’t want to go to a school that was like Ohio State and like 500 kids a class,” Fike said. “The class sizes are small. And when we went and visited the first time, me and the coach really clicked. It was a fit.”

During his collegiate years, Fike hopes to become a nationally ranked runner and compete at the NCAA Division II national championships. He knows he’ll have to work hard to prepare for the longer races as college cross country races are 8 kilometers instead of 5 like in high school, but he thinks the change will only benefit him.

“I’m better at keeping a steady pace for a longer distance so I think that will help me,” he said.

His high school coaches said they’re confident Fike will work hard in college just like he has in high school.

“His hard work ethic and his determination,” Bradford cross country coach Rob Grillot said of Fike’s great strengths as a runner. “He’s a very determined individual.

“I think he’ll do really well at college. I know they’re going to work him really hard, but I think that he’ll rise the competition.”

Schwieterman also expects Fike to be successful at the collegiate level.

“I think he’s a great leader as far as no matter on the track or in the classroom,” Schwieterman said. “He’s always somebody that’s leading and people can follow. He’s hard work and dedication to what he’s does and then his leadership ability is really going to help him out at the next level.”