By Frank Wolf
It was a proud day for the Williamsville North Spartans. Four seniors signed National Letter’s of Intent Wednesday in front of family, friends, school administrators, coaches and of course the North Squal.
Two of the student-athlete’s chose Edinboro University. Elli Stafford a four-year Varsity soccer player and Connor Kelly, nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback and Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly will continue his football career at the University that sits just outside of Erie, PA.
Mike Wells, a four-year member of the Varsity golf team will tee-off next year at Canisius College while Jake Zurat chose the University of Buffalo to further his baseball career.
All four are recognized NYS scholar-athletes and each spoke about their commitment to academics as well as athletics. “We make it one of our goals in the pre-season meetings” School AD Steve Ferenczy said. “We want them to be scholar-athletes, we’ve won the New York State School of Distinction three years in a row and these are the kinds of kids that are doing it.”
Wells is the golf team captain and has been in the Top 3 scoring average in the ECIC the past two years. “My Dad taught me how to play the game right” he said. “My swing coaches and High-School Coach Burns have really helped me.” Among the biggest accomplishments is making State’s. He missed last season but is gearing up to make a run at it this Spring when play resumes.
Stafford has been an inspiration to many of her teammates and it was apparent Wednesday afternoon as many gathered here in support. She has overcome spinal issues and knee surgeries. Recently she was awarded the Section VI Character Athlete of the 2016 Sectional Championship. “All the hardships I’ve gone through with my back, this is just great” Stafford said about signing to play at Edinboro. “I really fell in love with the school, it felt like home almost as soon as I walked in.”
Stafford is a 2-time ECIC All-Star and the recipient of the NSCAA Senior Excellence Award.
Zurat is a catcher and is viewed as one of the hardest working players at Full Circuit Athletics, a baseball training facility and travel baseball program. “This has been the best four years of my life, I’m going to miss it here” Zurat said. “I chose UB because it’s pretty much in my backyard, my parents can come and watch me plus the facilities are great.”
Kelly is looking forward to attending Edinboro in the fall and putting on the pads. He’ll have an opportunity to play against his brother Zac who attends Indiana University, just outside Pittsburgh. Kelly was a three-year starter for the Spartans. Last season he was named 2nd team All-State and 1st team all WNY. This past season he broke the single season record for solo tackles (63). After the season ended Kelly had successful surgery to repair a torn labrum that he was playing with since the first game of the year. “My Uncle Jim told me that I’ll have to play through a lot of adversity and at the next level it will get even tougher” Kelly said. “I’m looking forward to carrying on that Kelly toughness to Edinboro.”