JACKSON TWP — Few people appreciate football more than 2016 Seneca Valley graduates Corey Laskey, Ben Bachik and Zach Wilson.
“We've become as close as family can be — without actually being family,” Laskey said.
“Those two guys will be my brothers for a lifetime,” Wilson insisted.
“What we've gone through together, we'll never forget,” Bachik said. “Growing up playing this game, the sport we love, together has been extra special.”
All three were two-year starters at Seneca Valley. All three wound up going to Allegheny College and were teammates for four years there.
The trio roomed together their senior year. At times, a combination of them were roommates in their earlier years at Allegheny.
Bachik, a wide receiver, and Wilson, a center, were four-year starters for the Gators. Laskey, an inside linebacker, lettered all four years, was a two-year starter and captain.
All three graduated this spring. Laskey carried a grade point average above 3.90 as a biology major. Wilson, an environmental science major, and Bachik, an economics major, had GPAs of 3.4.
“I committed to go to Allegheny first,” Wilson said of the trio. “My No. 1 priority was school and I loved it there academically.
“Originally, I was going to play baseball there. But since I played my last (high school) football game, I realized how much I missed it and didn't want to give it up.”
Also a team captain as a senior, Wilson received the 2019 George R. Coon Memorial Award for the Most Valuable Senior on the team.
Bachik caught 108 passes for 1,493 yards and 15 touchdowns in his 38 career games at Allegheny. He also made All-North Coast Athletic Conference in the high jump.
Wilson, Bachik and Laskey were part of a 64-member freshman class brought in to help turn around the football program. Allegheny had gone 1-29 the previous three years and had not produced a winning season since 2010.
“We knew what we were walking into, that it would take time,” Bachik said. “But we also knew how much talent was in that freshman class. And a whole new coaching staff was brought in.
“A lot of us started right away. One of the best receivers in Allegheny history was also part of our freshman group.”
The Gators were 1-9 their freshman year, 3-7 the following season and 6-4 their junior year.
B.J. Hammer was head coach during those three seasons. Hammer and much of his staff left after that 6-4 campaign. Rich Nagy was head coach their senior season, which resulted in a 4-6 mark.
“Being part of the class that turned the program around meant a lot to all of us,” Bachik said.
Wilson tore his ACL during his sophomore season. Two plays later, in the same game, Bachik separated his shoulder.
In the ninth game of his junior season, Laskey tore his ACL.
“I thought about giving it up at that point,” Laskey admitted. “Then I realized it wouldn't be fair to the other two guys or the whole team.
“We started together. I wanted us to finish together.”
Bachik and Wilson wanted the same thing. They practically insisted on it.
“Once it was clear Corey was going to be healthy enough to return, we decided that if he wasn't playing, we weren't playing. We were going out together,” Wilson said.
Laskey was cleared to return by the following May. He completed his rehab in five and a half months — two months ahead of schedule.
“I did physical therapy every day, lifted every day,” he said. “I was motivated by Ben and Zach. It was going to be our last season together.
“It would have been wrong to not put the final stamp on my career.”
Laskey had 20 tackles against Denison his senior season, fifth-highest single game total in program history. He tallied 153 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, four forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries in his college career.
He was winner of the 2019 Sam Timer Award for Commitment to Dedication & Excellence.
Now football is over. College is over. Wilson, Bachik and Laskey are going their separate ways — sort of.
“We still talk to each other or text each other every day,” Laskey said.
“We'll be in each other's weddings one day,” Wilson said. “I can't wait. That will be wild.”