Shadyside’s Banco headed to Wheeling Jesuit University

SHADYSIDE — After spending the last four years being a thorn in the side of offensive coordinators in Eastern Ohio, Connor Banco is ready to do the same in the Mountain East Conference.

Banco, the Shadyside High School special mention all-Ohioan a season ago, was part of a major haul of recruits who signed to National Letters of Intent last week by Wheeling Jesuit head football coach Zac Bruney.

The Cardinals will take the field this fall for their first official campaign after playing a junior varsity slate in 2018.

“I hope to push the kids ahead of me and make them work harder,” Banco said, moments after putting pen to paper. “I also hope to be a starter.

“I think I’m a competitive player and I think I’ll fit in well.”

Banco said he was smitten almost immediately by the culture at WJU, led by Bruney, the former Martins Ferry High School and Mount Union standout and ex-Ohio Dominican assistant coach who’s made it a point to bring in local talent.

The 6-1, 215-pound Banco made his name on both sides of the ball for Mark Holenka the last four years, helping lead the Tigers to another Ohio playoff berth last fall, which ended in the regional final. He rushed for 729 yards and 15 TDs last fall in 11 games.

Defensively, he made 58 solo tackles, 43 assisted stops, and 10 tackles for loss. He was also credited with 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble.

“I think we had a heckuva team,” Banco said, adding his entire prep career was truly memorable.

“The coaches always pushed me and didn’t quit on me. They always helped me get better as a player and a person.”

“Connor began as a raw talent at running back and finished as a polished product,” Holenka told The Times Leader upon Banco’s being named to the all-Times Leader squad in December. “As good as he was on offense, I felt he was even better as a linebacker when it was all said and done.”

And that’s where Banco will play as a Cardinal.

“Their defensive schemes aren’t that different than what I ran here,” Banco said.

Banco said he looked at some other schools, including Malone, which, last week, shuttered its program. In the end, the close proximity of WJU along with the opportunities of possible playing time were too enticing to pass up.

“I won’t get home sick,” Banco laughed. ” I can come home and do my laundry.”

The possibility of being involved with a fledgling program excites Banco. He’s looking forward to growing as a player in the collegiate ranks as the Cardinals grow as a program.

“Everyone will have a chance,” Banco, who’s undecided on his course of study, said.

“There’s lots of young players there and the coaches are amazing. They really take care of you and treat you like men.”

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