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Cortland Football Has Westchester County Feel

Steve Gruber said he chose Cortland because he was planning to major in physical education and become a gym teacher.

When Gruber arrived at the SUNY school, the Westlake graduate decided he would try to walk on to the football team. Once he earned a spot, Gruber continued what has been a successful path to Cortland for Westchester County football players.

Gruber, a senior and starter on the defensive line, is one of six players from Westchester County on the team and nine from Putnam and Rockland Counties. Gruber is joined by junior defensive lineman Connor Tompkins from Sleepy Hollow, running back Tre Spaulding from Woodlands, offensive lineman Korab Muriqi from Roosevelt, linebacker Lucas Myer from John Jay-Cross River and defensive lineman Quinton Witherspoon from New Rochelle.

The other three Section 1 players are Bill Smith and Gabe Ostrow from Nanuet and Justin Autera from Mahopac.

Cortland, which is annually one of the top-ranked teams in Division III, is currently 2-1 this season. Last week, in its win over Rowan, Gruber and Tompkins each had seven tackles, including 2.5 for losses, and Gruber forced a fumble.

“I had played with Anthony Giuliano at Westlake and his brother Andrew also played here,” said Gruber, who is third on the team with 17 tackles, including two sacks. “I liked what the team was doing and Anthony thought I could definitely play.”

Players from Westchester County have fared well. The Giulianos both had fine careers. Eastchester alumnus Lou Crispo was a fixture on the defensive line before graduating last May.

There is an adjustment period, though, considering many of the Westchester County athletes played against each other in high school.

“We have a bunch of guys here who have all become friends and it’s something we all want to be part of,” Gruber said. “It was definitely a little strange the first couple of weeks, but then you’re glad because you get to know each other and you’re playing on a great team.”

Gruber said he and his fellow Westchester players want to keep this going by trying to recruit former high school teammates.

“A couple of the guys stay in touch with their friends on their high school teams to see if they have interest in playing and coming to Cortland,” Gruber said.

The more players the Westchester County group can attract to Cortland, the better.

“It’s good to be with these guys because it makes you feel like you are at home,” Gruber said.

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