EAST ROCKHILL >> It looked as though the Pennridge library had an extra wall put in.
Joel Hartzell, Brian Lafty and Zack Tarburton sat side by side, shoulder to shoulder, providing a glimpse of the kind of space they occupied on a football field.
But the three standout linemen were much more than that.
“Three great players, three great people,” said Rams coach Cody Muller, who joined the trio as they signed their national letters of intent. “They were three leaders on our team. You can’t say enough about the guys. This is probably one of the prouder moments as a coach.”
Hartzell (Duquesne), Lafty (Franklin & Marshall) and Tarburton (Bucknell) are all headed to the next level.
“Three great academic institutions as well,” said Muller, “so the future is bright for all three.”
The day served as quite a capper to what was a tremendous senior season for the trio. Hartzell (6-foot-5, 295), Lafty (6-0, 300) and Tarburton (6-5, 280) were all sporting shirts and hats representing the schools and programs they chose. They joined family members for photos and big smiles.
The shared memories go back quite a ways.
“I just remember Joel and ‘Tarby’ — we all went to the same middle school. We played pee-wee football together,” Lafty said. “I’m getting hit with flashbacks all of a sudden. I have a lot of love for all these guys.
“They really helped me through everything, through the ups and downs.”
Lafty, headed to Division III F & M, scored a defensive touchdown in Pennridge’s season finale, a commanding victory over rival Quakertown. He’s also known for squatting 640 pounds — three reps in fact.
“He was a social media sensation,” Muller said with a smile. “Every coach knew who he was based on what he did in the weight room. But what you don’t know about Brian is the kind of kid he is and the tremendous heart that he has.
“He gave everything he had and then some, every game. He’s gonna be in a great spot, great institution.”
Hartzell, meanwhile, was one of Pennridge’s best kept secrets.
“He’s a guy that nobody knew about. Nobody knew about him,” Muller said. “So then he stepped in this year at right tackle and became one of the best offensive linemen and one of the best players that we have.
“He really flipped the switch and matured as the season went on.”
Hartzell is ready to go.
“I definitely wanna see the field,” he said of looking ahead to his freshman year for the Dukes (Division 1-FCS). “Whether that be some series or maybe starting. I wanna get a lot stronger, a lot quicker.”
It’s the second year in a row that a Tarburton will be heading from Helman Field to the college scene — Zack will be lacing ‘em up for the Bucknell Bison (D-1 Football Championship Subdivision), with brother Nick at Penn State.
Zack fit right in at Bucknell, so well in fact that he was quickly labeled an “OKG.”
“Our kinda guys,” Tarburton said. “They’re all just a great group of guys that love to play football. They say they always sign ‘OKG’s,’ and I really like that. It got to me.”
Tarburton was Pennridge’s kind of guy as well.
“We knew that he was gonna be a ball player,” Muller said. “I knew that I had a special kid there. He was a great leader as a captain for us and really a solid piece of that offensive line.”