Anthony Maceo, Michael Scarsella

Rivals in high school, Valparaiso's Michael Scarsella, left, and Portage's Anthony Maceo will be teammates at Valparaiso University.

John J. Watkins, File, The Times

Valparaiso University's recruiting reach continues to extend nationwide, its current class covering nine states from coast to coast.

Coach Dave Cecchini also knows it's important to keep the homes fire burning, tapping into the Crusaders' own fertile back yard with Portage's Anthony Maceo and the Valpo pair of Michael Scarsella and Adrian Guzman part of a 27-player class confirmed Wednesday. They also picked up 6-foot, 310-pound nose guard Atanasio Sete of Mishawaka Marian.

"We're going to continue to recruit nationally, but we're always thrilled to get local prospects committed to us," Cecchini said.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Maceo was a quarterback best known for his running, racking up 1,388 yards on the ground as a senior, and Cecchini gives him a shot to compete right away in the backfield.

"He's a dynamic player, an all-around athlete," Cecchini said. "He has incredible change of direction, quickness, acceleration. You watch him on filnm, he's a dangerous player. We're thrilled to have him here.size,"

Scarsella, a 6-4, 200-pound safety, and Guzman, a 6-4, 215-pound defensive end, are redshirt candidates, as is much of the incoming class, given Valpo's depth and experience at those positions, though Cecchini is high on both of them and doesn't rule anything out.

"They have unbelievable upsides," he said. "Michael's an unbelievably gifted athlete with size. Adrian's a little of a late bloomer. He went from playing wide receiver at Andrean to defensive tackle at Valpo with the growth he experienced. He's raw. He's still growing into his body, but he has a ton of talent. They both can have great college careers."

Scarsella appreciated the Crusaders' interest in him coming after he tore his ACL late in the season.

"At first, I wasn't sure I was going to play football again, but they were telling me they've had players in the past who bounced back easily," he said. "I talked to the defensive coordinator who's also the (defensive backs) coach (Ernest Moore) and he knew what he was talking about. I like what they do. They're on the rise and I want to be a part of that."

VU ties run deep for Scarsella, whose mom Linda works there and his siblings Matthew and Emily attended or are attending the school.

"They said you can be as far as you want to be from home or as close as you want to be," he said. "My brother talked about the small campus, the professors caring about the students, being more involved."

Guzman also has extensive Crusaders connections. His mom Marcie is an administrative assistant with the football team, his dad, also Adrian, went to law school there and his sistser Alejandro, is a VU student.

"I've been around VU all my life," he said. "I like Valpo. It's a great place, a great town. I've always been around the team and coaches. They're great guys. Obviously, it helped that they're getitng better, but I didn't realize they were going to pick things up this quickly. Within a few years, I have a feeling we'll be close to if not in the playoffs."

With just five starters to replace, Cecchini said there was no position that was an urgent need, but linebacker was high on the priority list along with running back and offensive line.

"We've seen in the past few years a higher success rate of players coming to visit who are actually committing," he said. "That's an encouraging sign. We'll add to the list at the end of February, but we certainly are pleased with what we've seen so fat."

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Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.