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Footballer drawn by Northern hospitality

The Baltimore Sun

Like any good quarterback, Oakland Mills senior Justin Sottilare did his homework when it came to scouting his next assignment.

This time, though, it wasn't an opposing team, but the next place he will throw passes.

Last week, Sottilare accepted a scholarship to play football at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada. The liberal arts school is in Antigonish, a northeastern Nova Scotia seaside town.

The school reached out to Sottilare over the course of the season via e-mail, first taking notice of him through the recruiting company Sottilare signed up with. Sottilare, 6-foot-3, threw for 2,700 yards and 15 touchdowns, completing 59 percent of his passes in his final season.

At the end of February, he spent five days at the school, shadowing a current player to classes and activities, including a hockey game. By the time he left, he was sold, choosing the out-of-country school over his other top choices -- Dana College in Nebraska and Wesley College in Dover, Del.

"Out of the three schools, the [St. Francis] coaches kept the most in touch and showed they wanted me. It's a beautiful place with nice people," Sottilare said.

If moving to a different country isn't enough, Sottilare also will have to adjust to the different rules that come with Canadian football. There's 12 players on the field, which is 120 yards long and 65 yards wide.

"It's hard to throw an out pattern. I tried when I was there," he said.

Sottilare also liked the team's nickname: X-Men.

He added: "I'm a little nervous going on my own to another country. I'm a little scared, but I know I'll manage."

Centennial baseball -- Ben Winter has thrown back-to-back no-hitters for No. 3 Centennial, one short of the state public school record set by Towson's Andre Gardner in 2000. Winter, a senior left-hander who was an All-Metro pick last season, will pitch again this week for the 4-0 Eagles, who start five sophomores. Coach Dennis Ahearn is not sure which of the team's four games this week Winter will pitch. "Ben might pitch [today] at Glenelg or at home on Friday against Hammond," Ahearn said. "He has more confidence and consistency this season and is mentally more prepared, thanks to our pitching coach Brad Lovelace." Both of Winter's no-hitters have been five-inning games on the road, with eight strikeouts in each and by the identical score of 13-0. The first one came on March 28 against Atholton and the second one last Wednesday at Long Reach. Gardner's three no-hitters were in five, six and seven innings. The first one was a perfect game. His three in a season matches a state public school record set by Southwestern's Joe Sanford in 2005. Winter has also been swinging the bat well for the defending Howard County champs, going 4-for-6 last week with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs. Centennial has a tough stretch coming up next week with road games at Marriotts Ridge (5-0) next Wednesday and Oakland Mills (4-0) on April 17, before heading to New York for games on April 18 and April 19.

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