Last Updated: Fri Jan 27, 2023 - 1:29PM
It was a historic year for the Hempfield Area Spartans football team this past fall, as they started 5-0 for the first time in 51 years. Behind that strong start was an incredibly stout defense that was guided by one of the top linebackers in the WPIAL, Eli Binakonsky.
“It felt great, especially when you know the culture is looked down upon,” Binakonsky noted on his team’s impressive start to the year. “Once we started rolling, people didn’t have a choice but to jump on board. We were beating teams big and winning important games.”
Despite commencing the year in undefeated fashion, the Spartans finished 1-4 through their final five games. The second half slide didn’t slow down Binakonsky as he finished the season with 105 tackles, seven for a loss, and two interceptions.
After an excellent senior campaign, Binakonsky received offers from several schools but ultimately decided to make his commitment to continue his football career at Mercyhurst University.
“It was a long process, a lot of visits, phone calls, text messages, but in the end, I feel that I found a good fit where I’d be happy as a student, not just a football player,” the standout linebacker noted on his decision to play for Mercyhurst next year.
Binakonsky was immediately blown away by the beauty of the Erie, PA campus, but he also saw something special in the football program.
“They have a good group of older guys who want to win some games and know how to put in the work to win those games and are ready to do it,” he added.
His football career began at Jeannette, where he first performed kicking duties for the Jayhawks. He then developed into the leading tackler on Jeannette's 2020 WPIAL championship team as a sophomore.
This year at Hempfield Area, Binakonsky lined up in a variety of positions including running back, tight end, H-Back and his natural position of linebacker which he will play at Mercyhurst. Getting snaps on offense was something new to the soon-to-be Laker, but he made a smooth adjustment to playing on both sides of the ball. He compiled seven rushing touchdowns and one receiving score last fall.
“I felt good this season knowing that I can play a couple different positions,” he mentioned about his versatility. “It was a fun year to play all of those positions. At Jeannette, I didn’t play much offense and coming to Hempfield and being a running back was a big change. It was pretty fun.”
He still has another season to complete before he makes his way to Erie, but it’s not on the football field, but rather, the wrestling mat.
Binakonsky wants to go out on a high note before he puts a close to one sport for his high school career. However, he’s excited for the next chapter in his football career, and what he will accomplish next at Mercyhurst University.